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Chris Hays, The Prospector: Broward leads the way as state's top football county

When it comes to producing college football players, there are certain schools around the state that are veritable conveyor belts churning out fresh talent every year. They reload each season without missing a beat.

Some are private schools and some are public schools, and sure, there are always allegations of recruiting, but that's not the topic today as we look at the schools with the best senior talent across the state.

There are always the mainstays of Florida's high school talent production. Tampa Plant coach Bob Weiner runs a factory. Families move into the Plant district just so their kids can play for Weiner and get the solid education Plant offers.

Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, is a private school often accused of recruiting, but honestly, they don't have to. Players knock on coach Rocco Casullo's door begging to play for the Raiders.

Delray Beach American Heritage has been dodging its own recruiting accusations lately, but the Stallions have been producing top players for several years and this season is no different. However, it's worth noting the recent firing of coach Doug Socha and more scrutiny could trigger some changes at the school in the near future.

Those are just three of the state's top programs known for producing talent and it should come as no surprise that two of them — Plant and Heritage — won state titles a year ago. Heritage and Aquinas could be just as strong this year. Both boast nine senior prospects with NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision scholarship offers. Plant, in a down year for Coach Weiner's bunch, has seven.

For Broward, football prospects have become a top county export. It is the state's football hotbed.

Miami-Dade County used to rule the state prospect lists, but Broward County is far and away the leader now with Aquinas (9 major prospects this year), University High (10), Miramar (5), Plantation American Heritage (4), Cypress Bay (6), Plantation (5) and South Plantation (3). Lately, Everglades, South Broward, North Broward Prep, McArthur and Hollywood Chaminade Madonna have gotten in on the mix. And that's not counting the old-school mainstays such as Dillard and Boyd Anderson.

Palm Beach County coaches could argue they the have most talent, and they can make good points, but when it comes to dominating programs, Aquinas, Miramar, University and Plantation American Heritage have been the top dogs lately. Palm schools are more spread out with talent and not isolated to select schools. You can look at Atlantic (7), the Belle Glade schools (6), Dwyer (4) and Palm Beach Central (2), just to name a few, but they are still playing second fiddle to the Broward schools.

Miami-Dade schools, usually led by Miami Northwestern and Miami Central, will always have talent, but Northwestern has fallen on hard times after a few scandals and the prospects list is not as deep as what it used to be. Some schools have benefited and have risen from the ashes such as Booker T., Norland, Hialeah, Carol City, Homestead, Columbus and Jackson.

South Florida is no longer in a different league like it used to be. State programs such as Daytona Beach Mainland, Orlando Dr. Phillips, DeLand, Sanford Seminole, Jacksonville Trinity Christian, Jacksonville First Coast, Tallahassee Lincoln, Bradenton Manatee, Fort Pierce Central, Orlando Jones, Orlando Olympia, Tampa Hillsborough, Tampa Jesuit, East Lake, Winter Park, Cape Coral Island Coast, Seffner Armwood, have all established themselves as talent producers in the state's football mill.

Edgerrin James' alma mater, Immokalee, which plays at Sanford Seminole Friday night, is back and has seven legit FBS prospects for 2013. Immoklaee won the state title in 2004. Orlando Evans has burst back onto the scene lately, too, and the Trojans have six prospects this year.

Breaking down the counties based on numbers of seniors with scholarship offers this year, Broward's 65 players offered so far edges out Miami-Dade's 62 in a database search of Rivals.com. Hillsborough is next with 49 offered seniors, followed by Orange County (42), Palm Beach (38), Duval (26) and Pinellas and Leon round out the counties with at least 20 players with scholarship tenders.

Locally, within the Orlando area, Seminole has nine, Volusia has eight, followed by Lake/Sumter (5) and Osceola (2).

All of this — as well as the state's new classification system — is why we've seen such a variety of participants at the Citrus Bowl during the past few years vying for the state championships. Florida has always had good football players. Amazingly, they are just getting better across the state, and not just in Broward, Palm and Miami-Dade counties.

The Tampa and Orlando areas have seen huge improvements in talent, recently, and some coaches say it's not so much the improvement as it is the awareness of colleges across the country, which have started to hit Florida high schools even harder than ever before.

Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at chays@tribune.com. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting and now on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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