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The Prospector: Florida athletes just keep getting better and better

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Each year, nearly 400 prep football players from the Sunshine State sign National Letters of Intent to play NCAA Division I-A football. Even more players sign at lower NCAA divisions, as well as junior college or NAIA schools.

The thing about Florida football, however, is that by all things considered, it looks like the talent-rich state is just getting better and better each year.

Coach Dwight Thomas, former football coach of more than 30 years at various Florida high schools, including Escambia, where he coached Emmitt Smith, tries to document every football player in the state who takes his talent to the next level, whatever level it might be.

“I’d say about 15-20 years ago, when I started doing combines, I would leave and think, ‘Man, they can’t get any better than this … they can’t get any bigger, faster, stronger,” said Thomas, a recruiting specialist for LRS Sports for the past 11 years, “and then as soon as I went to the next combine there they were.”

Every time I see Coach at a combine, he tells me his progress on tracking college commitments. His magic number was 1,000 Florida football players moving on to play at the next level. That number is in the rear-view mirror.

“I know there are at least 1,056 players who committed to play college football in the state of Florida last year,” Thomas said. “Now there could be even more, but I know that number is legit, 1,056.”

Florida gives states like California and Texas a run for top talent every year. Twenty-six players in the ESPN 150 are from Florida, 34 are in the Rivals 250 and in the recently released AL.com Southeast Super 120, Florida accounted for 44 players (1 in every 3).

AL.com also ranked a Florida player as the No. 1 prospect – Jacksonville Bolles OL John Theus (6-6, 292) -- for the first time in its nine years of ranking the region of Alabama (13 players), Arkansas (3), Florida (44), Georgia (25), Kentucky (1), Louisiana (12), Mississippi (7), South Carolina (7) and Tennessee (8).

“My favorite stat is still that one in every 111 Florida high school players not only signs a scholarship, but a D-IA scholarship,” Thomas said. “That backs up what we’re talking about .. and then everybody sees that and wants to work harder … it’s a cycle. I’m just proud to be small part of it.”

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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