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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
By JOE SMITH, Times Staff Writer
Published December 7, 2007
To recruiting analyst Larry Blustein, tonight's Class 4A state football semifinal between Armwood and Miami Booker T. Washington could be a coup for college football coaches.
The teams, each ranked nationally Booker T. No. 4 by ESPN.com and Armwood No. 10 by the National Prep Poll, boast many top prospects: There are four of the state's top 50 seniors. There's the Gatorade state player of the year, Booker T. corner Brandon Harris. There's Armwood senior tackle Matt Patchan, one of the nation's top linemen.
That means big-time star power meets big-time stakes tonight at Miami's Traz Powell Stadium. The game could draw as many as 10,000 fans.
"There's about 20 legitimate Division I prospects playing there," Blustein said. "It's loaded."
The Times breaks down each school's top recruits, each expected to have his own special role in the game.
Recruiting analyst Larry Blustein and the Times rate the top recruits playing for Armwood and Miami Booker T. Washington in tonight's Class 4A state semifinal.
Ht./wt.: 6-8, 275
Skinny: Rivals.com's No. 10 prospect in the nation, Patchan offers the complete package - toughness, explosiveness off the ball. Patchan has narrowed his college choices to LSU, Florida and Miami, where his father, Matt, played.
Blustein's take: "He's just a freak. What can't he do? Offensively and defensively, he's got a mean streak. He overpowers people on both sides of the ball."
Ht./wt.: 6-4, 230
Position: Defensive end
Skinny: The rivals.com four-star recruit has tied a school record for sacks in a season (18). Giddins has an offer from Florida and interest from Auburn, FSU and Miami.
Blustein's take: "He doesn't have the 6-foot-4, 260-pound measurables, but he'll be a major college player and a sack guy. He's super quick, he anticipates, he reads. He never takes himself out of the play."e_SClB
Ht./wt.: 6-1, 240
Skinny: One of the nation's top junior linebackers, Smith shocks scouts with his speed at his size. Smith missed five games this season because of two abdominal surgeries. He has offers from Florida, FSU, Miami, LSU and Ohio State.
Blustein's take: "He's like having a nose tackle at linebacker. He's a beast. He covers ground and is good in pass coverage."
Ht./wt.: 6-0, 225
Skinny: The nation's fourth-best tailback prospect is a prototypical Auburn back - a power runner between the tackles who can break it outside. He has nearly 1,200 yards and 15 touchdowns and has narrowed his choices to Auburn and Clemson.
Blustein's take: "Like his brother, he's big, but he can move. He's a really, really tough runner."
Ht./wt.: 6-1, 182
Skinny: Hard-hitting defensive back sparks one of the Hawks' most unheralded units - their secondary has shut down the state's top passing offense (Plant) twice. Now they take on two receivers bound for Miami.
Blustein's take: "He sticks in your pocket. He'll have to go one-on-one (tonight) with two tough receivers."
Miami Booker T. Washington
Ht./wt.: 5-10, 170
Position: Running back
Skinny: Tornadoes coaches think they might have a future All-American in Clements, a speedy and strong back who can break the big one (770 yards, 6.4 yards per carry, 15 touchdowns).
Blustein's take: "This kid has got great vision and can really lower his shoulder and run through you."e_SClB
Ht./wt.: 5-10, 175
Skinny: The nation's 10th-ranked corner won the Gatorade state player of the year for being Mr. Everything for the Tornadoes. Harris has 50 tackles and a team-high four interceptions - two returned for touchdowns. He has more than 40 offers, including Miami, Florida, Ohio State and Oklahoma.
Blustein's take: "He's the Gatorade state player of the year for a reason. He can do everything - he's got a 3.9 GPA, a super kid. He's going to be special."
Ht./wt.: 6-0, 170
Position: Defensive end
Skinny: The ball-hawking defensive lineman has been huge in the Tornadoes' stingy defense, which boasts eight shutouts and gives up 3.1 points per game.
Blustein's take: "He's a playmaker. He's fast. He's strong. And he doesn't back down."e_SClB
Ht./wt.: 5-9, 150
Skinny: The Miami commitment leads the team in receiving with 30 catches for 660 yards and six touchdowns.
Blustein's take: "He's got better hands than (Davon Johnson), and at Miami, those are the guys that are going to win out."
Ht./wt.: 5-9, 135
Skinny: Johnson has 21 catches for 510 yards and seven touchdowns, and he has returned two punts and two kicks for touchdowns.
Blustein's take: "He's a little bit quicker than (Collier), a deep threat. He's also dangerous at kick returns."
Can't make the game?: Catch 47 will air live updates during its coverage of the Class 5A semifinal between St. Thomas Aquinas and Largo. The Times will provide live scoring updates at highschool.tampabay.com.