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August 13, 2011The recruiting process has slowed down a bit as high school football players are in the midst of rugged two-a-days in the punishing August heat and focusing on their upcoming seasons. But as much as you can learn about a prospect from summer camps and 7-on-7 tournaments, names are truly made on the gridiron in the fall.
For Gators fans, this could mean keeping up with the junior and senior seasons of some of Florida's top commits and prospects. For this article, I have narrowed the overwhelming list of must-see games down and ranked them in order of importance for fans of the Orange and Blue.
5. Stone Mountain Stephenson (Ga.) at Ellenwood Cedar Grove (Ga.), Sept. 2
Players to watch: UF RB commit Mike Davis (Stephenson) and UF DT commit JaFar Mann (Stephenson)
Although Stephenson is one of the most talented high school teams in the country, the Jaguars will play a largely underwhelming schedule in 2011. While Stephenson will field 11 Division 1 commits this fall, Cedar Grove is one off the only teams they will play during the regular season that has a major college prospect. That prospect is Alabama offensive tackle commit Brandon Greene who will have a tough test going against a stacked Jaguar defensive line. This will also be UF commit Davis' second game in his new role as Stephenson's feature back.
4. Jacksonville Trinity Christian at Yulee High, Oct. 28
Players to watch: 2013 S Nick Washington (Trinity) and 2013 UGA RB commit Derrick Henry (Yulee)
In the never-ending cycle of football recruiting, it's never too early to look at the next year's class. This game features a clash of two of 2013's top prospects in Washington and Henry. The big back is coming off a sophomore season in which he rushed for 2,689 yards and 38 touchdowns. But if he wants to make it to the end zone against Trinity, he'll likely have to make it past the ferocious 6-foot-1, 180-pound Washington.
3. Charlotte Mallard Creek (N.C.) at Matthews Butler (N.C.), Aug. 19
Players to watch: UF OT commit D.J. Humphries (Mallard Creek), 2013 WR Uriah LeMay (Butler), 2013 OLB Peter Kalambayi (Butler) and 2013 QB Riley Ferguson (Butler)
There will certainly be plenty of Gainesville eyes on the senior season of coveted five-star lineman commit D.J. Humphries in 2011. The big offensive tackle's game film speaks for itself and it will be interesting to see where he's currently at after largely avoiding the summer camp circuit. On the other side, Butler is loaded with young 2013 talent. LeMay and Kalambayi will be of particular interest to the Gators over their next two seasons. The outside linebacker already has noted Clemson and Florida as his top two while LeMay will likely get an offer whenever he is able to make a trip to Gainesville.
2. Bradenton Manatee at Olney Our Lady of Good Counsel (Md.), Sept. 2
Players to watch: Rivals100 WR Stefon Diggs (OLGC) and 2013 QB Cord Sandberg (Manatee)
For those who have been desperate for another glimpse of Diggs since his standout performance at Friday Night Lights, a Maryland road trip may be in order. Our Lady of Good Counsel opens its season at home against a Manatee program that Florida fans are familiar with. Diggs' senior season will be one of the most closely watched in high school football this season as access to the five-star playmaker has been heavily cut down in preparation for the school year. Not to be overlooked here is Sandberg, who could easily be a top option for the Gators when they reopen quarterback recruitment for 2013.
1. Seffner Armwood at Tampa Jefferson, Sept. 30
Players to watch: UF RB commit Matt Jones (Armwood), 2013 S Leon McQuay III (Armwood), three-star OT Kevin McCoy (Armwood), Rivals100 defensive end Tyriq McCord (Jefferson), three-star WR Adrian Jenkins (Jefferson)
When all is said and done after National Signing Day 2013, this game could easily feature three future Gators. After Jefferson's impressive 2010 state title run, Armwood-Jefferson is looking to overtake Armwood-Plant as the Tampa Bay Area's premier high school football rivalry. Those in attendance will get to see Jones run against good friend and fellow top prospect McCord, but they will also see McQuay try to continue to make a name for himself and a big night in a make-or-break senior season for Jenkins.
Miramar High at Pompano Beach Blanche Ely, Sept. 9
In one of the best cornerback/receiver matchups of the season, Rivals100 corner Tracy Howard will go against Rivals100 receiver Avery Johnson. The fact that Florida is currently on the outside looking in for the top two prospects in the game keeps this one off the list.
Bradenton Southeast at Bradenton Manatee, Sept. 30
What could be UF cornerback commit Brian Poole's toughest quarterback test of the season comes when Southeast faces city rival Manatee and 2013 signal caller Cord Sandberg.
Ramsey Don Bosco Prep (N.J.) at Bradenton Manatee, Sept. 16
Manatee's top notch national schedule continues when the Hurricanes welcome Rivals100 defensive end Darius Hamilton and a loaded Don Bosco Prep team just two weeks after facing Stefon Diggs and Our Lady of Good Counsel.
Largo Pinellas Park at Clearwater Countryside, Oct. 28
UF outside linebacker commit Jeremi Powell received mixed reviews over the summer. This will be a chance to silence his critics against Miami quarterback commit Gray Crow.