FlaVarsity.com has compiled a team of regional experts across the state of Florida. We will introduce each expert during the summer, and we continue with the Tampa Bay area.
We have FlaVarsity.com publisher Mike Singer to cover the area, and here's his quick bio.
Mike Singer graduated from Dunedin High School in Pinellas County, and has lived in the area ever since. He has a passion for high school prospects and football in the state of Florida. He started writing for Rivals.com in March of 2013 and served as the recruiting analyst for Runningthebulls.com (USF) and for FlaVarsity.com. He transitioned to become the recruiting analyst for CardinalSports.com (Louisville) in December of 2013, and took over as the publisher for FlaVarsity.com in May of 2014.
To get ready for high school football this fall, we asked Singer several questions about what to watch for in his area.
Who is the top team in your area and why?
MS: It's hard to argue against Armwood. Maxpreps has them rated as the 25th best team in the country, and they were dominant in 2013 before running into a loaded Miami Central squad in the 6A state final. They lost Kyle Gibson to UCF, but return a lot of familiar names to the 2014 roster. Byron Cowart is obviously the headliner, but linebacker Jordan Griffin and defensive backs Aaron Covington and Dedarallo Blue are solid players as well. The Hawks defense will be stingy once again this fall, but the offense isn't too shabby either. Quarterback Noah Johnson has impressed me every time I've seen him. He is a confident passer and takes good care of the ball through the air and on the ground. Other teams in the area that are on Armwood's level are East Lake, Plant, and Tampa Catholic.
Who might not be getting enough attention in your area that you think will breakout this season and why?
MS: I saw Lake Wales knock off Jesuit in the second round of the 5A last year, and I was really impressed with what I saw from them. This spring, they played a tough game against a loaded Miramar as well. With Xavier Gaines transferring from Frostproof to Lake Wales, the Highlanders have a potent offense. Gaines has Kentucky commit Marcus Walker to throw the ball to, and he's a very capable deep threat. Four-star Kentucky commit Luke Hiers and 2016 lineman Ean Biancardi will open up holes for Justin Henderson, who is a smaller, but very underrated running back in my estimation.
Who is the top 2015 prospect in your area? 2016?
MS: Well, this is a really easy answer. Armwood defensive end Byron Cowart is the nation's best playerfor the 2015 class, and Tampa Catholic wide receiver Nate Craig is the best player in the 2016 class, all according to the Rivals.com rankings. Cowart is just one of those freak, athletic defensive ends that is a quarterback's worst nightmare. Some question if Cowart is just a really good "camp player" but his tape definitely backs up his ranking. For Craig, he looks ready to play division one football this fall at a high level. He has everything you want for in a top flight wide receiver - great hands, speed, route running, and playmaking ability.
What will be a key storyline to watch in your area this fall?
MS:One interesting storyline for me will be the 3A powers in the Tampa Bay area and how far they can make a run. Tampa Catholic and Clearwater Central Catholic both made the final four last year. Tampa Catholic lost a tightly contested battle to Trinity Christian, who went on to beat Clearwater Central Catholic in the state title game. Berkley Preps and Brad Mayes will hope to reach the final four as well. Can anyone knock off Jacksonville's Trinity Christian? Watch out for Miami Westminster as well.