Rivals has hit the ground running alongside kick off to the 2023 high school football season throughout the country, with a bevy of games already under our belt in the Southeastern region, in particular in the state of Florida.
Through kickoff classics, Week 0 and Week 1 of the prep season in the Sunshine State, we’ve laid eyes on dozens of future Saturday standouts. Here are 10 that especially captured out attention during a live look.
Class of 2024
For four years now, the North Carolina running back commitment has been as steady a running back force as their is in the nation, playing against top-tier competition — yet Gause continues to feel under-discussed among the top backs in the country. He has trimmed his frame for the long haul and kicked off his senior season with a bang on national television, initially keeping Hollywood (Fla.) Chaminade-Madonna in the game against Baltimore (Md.) St. Frances Academy before two long runs took the game over for the Lions for good. Cause ran for nearly 200 yards on one of the nation’s top defenses with great vision, bounce and efficiency as he so often seems to do.
The season opener wasn’t the prettiest game for the potential future face of Virginia Tech football, but Belfort showed onlookers three elements that make for intriguing elements to the evaluation ahead of college ball. On a rainy night against a strong Milton (Ga.) High School defense, Belfort showed true toughness in both standing in the pocket and absorbing contact as a runner. His mobility allowed Davie (Fla.) Western to muster just enough offense to pull off the win, and his creativity on top of it created the Wildcats’ longest play from scrimmage when he avoided tacklers and shoveled the ball to Koby Howard to get in scoring range in the easy call for play of the game.
As Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas tried to hang around with Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco, its secondary was allowed to flex its muscle against a steady and efficient Brave passing attack. Frederique, the Miami commitment, showed a complete game on the back end, making plays at the catch point and flipping his hips in coverage well — all after giving up the initial long score of the afternoon. The future Cane showed athleticism, maturity and some of the high-ceiling traits that make his long term projection a versatile one.
CMHS is loaded with five-stars, three to be exact, and a bevy of other players who draw more headlines than Crothers but the Pitt commitment again showed up on the big stage coming off the edge. Coming off of a 15-sack junior campaign, he picked up right where he left off with wins via speed and power on the outside. His length and mass has come together to formidable fashion, leading to four more stops behind the line of scrimmage last week, including one sack. Crothers’ hands and edge-setting ability are helping to round out his game ahead of college ball.
Another versatile showing for a future Miami player at St. Thomas, Mack worked multiple positions with success on Saturday. He showed up in run support as a boundary cornerback, with great read and react skills to help set the edge. Working inside and near the goal line, he skied for a pass breakup against a back-shoulder ball at a critical stage in the game and he looked fluid at various points in the process. Mack may have a future at nickel or safety come time to play in the ACC.
Each time we get eyes on James he seems to out-perform his ranking and it was true again in Week 0 against Homestead (Fla.) The Maryland commitment does a nice job working sideline to sideline and in coverage, transitioning well towards the football following play diagnosis. Where he is most visible, though, is at the contact point as his short-area explosion creates movement on the ball carrier, as James forced a fumble in the open field, leading to a defensive score for Clearwater (Fla.) Academy International in the exhibition. James will rack up tackles in droves in the Big Ten, that’s if other colleges don’t come in to make a flip bid before the 2023 campaign wraps.
Class of 2025
The comeback story is writing itself with Howard. After a major knee injury all but ended his 2022, he has rehabbed, transferred and looked as strong as ever for Western High. In his first two outings, the junior has tallied north of 300 yards with multiple scores. In the process, Howard has showcased true explosiveness down the field, strong hands and dynamic ability after the catch despite being the focal point of the WHS offense for every defense it lines up against. The rainy game last week showed the durability, toughness and grit Howard works with, serving as an extension of the run game for much of the night before some of his breakout plays. Miami, Tennessee, Florida State and many others could be in line to host Howard for games this fall.
The recent Miami commitment worked near his college town last week and made strong impressions to just about all seeing him for the first time. From sheer size to toughness, mobility and running ability, Nickel was able to work the entire skill set on the damp and humid night. He handled the football well and looked accurate both in the pocket and on the move against an active pass rush. Nickel also showed some maturity in facing a large media contingent with elaborated answers despite a long and gritty game in which his team came up short despite a valiant comeback attempt. It looks like Miami’s evaluation and push for an early Nickel commitment could be on the money.
New to the country after kicking off his prep ball career in his native Canada, Raymond has hit the ground running in the United States. In the Week 0 game against Homestead, he was the offensive identity for CAI, accounting for 166 yards and a pair of long scores against the state runners-up. Raymond runs with great balance and power, shifting through arm tackles, while also able to open it up in the open field and leave back-seven defenders behind him. Also showing toughness and durability as the program’s workhorse, Raymond followed the breakout up with more than 300 total yards and three more scores against another elite south Florida program in Miami (Fla.) Columbus. Working that well against a unit loaded with Power Five and FBS commitments in the front seven should help Raymond’s offer list expand some soon.
That muggy night in Davie featured head-turners on both defenses, including Redmond, who was often tasked with keeping Howard at bay from a big play perspective. With strong linear speed and great length, he did his job on that night and looked comfortable and competitive in doing so. Willing to get physical and support the run in the process, Redmond looks like a complete cornerback who may still be on the front end of his recruiting boom despite double-digit offers to his name. Tennessee, Ohio State and NC State are doing the best job courting the lengthy cover corner early on.
John Garcia Jr., National Recruiting Analyst