Football is almost all the way back, and we’re trying to keep our head on a swivel when it comes to keeping up with the recruiting game. National recruiting analyst John Garcia Jr. has some thoughts on a few young high school quarterbacks who have been headliners in the Southeastern region, a few former prep stars that are poised to make a big impact at the college level and how we all need to take a moment and relish the return of college football.
MORE THREE-POINT STANCE: Five-star surprises, No. 1 QB, realignment awkwardness
1. Young QB recruits are slingin’ it in the Southeast.
Beyond the senior class of 2024, in the state of Florida many young passers have emerged with huge numbers next to their names in their first game or two out of the gates this fall.
Ennio Yapoor: The 2020 state champion has been starting at the varsity level since the eighth grade, and he continues to show improvement as a true dual-threat talent. One of his career-best showings came last week on the road at storied Lakeland (Fla.) High School. The Miami Norland triggerman accounted for six total touchdowns (five passing) against the defending state champions, racking up more than 500 total yards (43 rushing) in the process of putting the state on notice. Yapoor has since picked up an offer from Florida A&M as he pushes for four-star status.
Locklan Hewlett: An early commitment to Wake Forest, the Deacons coaching staff continues to evaluate the position quite well if Hewlett’s start to 2023 is any indication. The junior piloted St. Augustine (Fla.) High School’s upset of state power Jacksonville (Fla.) Bolles with 376 yards and four touchdowns on just 21 completions. He made it look easier the week prior in throwing for 290 yards and three more scores on an absurd 13 attempts. Hewlett has a quick trigger to go along with easy third-level range, flashing mobility and off-platform success as well.
Noah Grubbs: Just a sophomore in the class of 2026, Grubbs has created quite the buzz during his first year and change in the high school ranks, and his numbers during Week 1 were jaw-dropping. Already 6-foot-4 and north of 200 pounds, he led Lake Mary (Fla.) High to 76 points in accounting for eight touchdown passes on 25 of 37 passing. The scores and his 528 yards are school records he now holds with almost three varsity seasons still to play.
Neimann Lawrence: Want to go even younger? Down in South Florida one young passer’s name continues to pop up in conversations, whether professional or casual, and it’s that of the eighth-grade star Neimann Lawrence. The class of 2028 passer has been a known name since middle school, and he added an offer from Miami this offseason to ratchet the pressure up even more. A dual-threat, he kicked off his varsity career with a casual 19 of 24, 314-yard performance capped with four touchdown tosses in his first high school game. Lawrence, who is already taller than 6 feet, has a smooth, over the top release.
2. College freshmen poised to splash.
Sticking with the theme of youth, looking to the collegiate level has become easier with top-level prep talent, and projecting impact college football freshmen isn’t the guessing game it may have once been. Still, we’ll toss out a trio beyond the consensus or obvious preseason All-American picks.
Cedric Baxter Jr.: The Orlando native is still early in his running back development but he rose to near five-star status last cycle as a senior. Texas is, of course, trying to replace one of its best backs in school history, and Baxter will be able to lean into that as a true dual-threat out of the backfield at a head-turning 6-foot-1, 218 pounds.
AJ Harris: When you have 6-foot-1 size and present one of the most technical cornerbacks Georgia has brought in during the Kirby Smart era seeing the field isn’t such a long shot. Smart plays the best players on his roster, and Harris has all the tools to be the next great cover corner in Athens, and we’ll see as much early this fall.
Anthony Colandrea: Colandrea is listed as a backup to open the 2023 season, but an early struggle for Virginia could lead to a youth movement for Tony Elliot. Colandrea is a relatively refined product for a prep freshman. He is heady, confident, mobile and plenty comfortable with the lights shining the brightest. It won’t be a national story, but the Floridian won’t sit very long.
3. Taking time to enjoy the moment.
It’s the end of talking season and all the predictions and lookaheads have been posted and tagged. So, allow the greatness that is college football to take us on that weekly journey like nothing else can. I’m guilty of being curious about the College Football Playoff as much as anyone, but when bowl season and coaching carousel season dominate the headlines, it’s also a sign that the college football campaign has passed us by.
So, let’s enjoy funky matchups week to week, like JT Daniels and Luke McCaffrey as they team up at Rice against mighty Texas on Saturday. Let’s make fun of how long some of these guys have been in the sport, all while wishing we could turn back the clock and strap it up one more time. Make a wild bet for or against a directional Michigan school and live on that line for three hours – because you can.
Welcome back, ball.
John Garcia Jr., National Recruiting Analyst