Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

After Golden Age, St. Johns Football Recruits Fading

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

After Golden Age, St. Johns Football Recruits Fading

Article excerpt


The streak is over.

There was one theme in college football recruiting that dominated the First Coast throughout the past decade - the stunning production of players from St. Johns County.

Before 2000, the county rarely received attention from college recruiters.

Then the boom came. The recruiting version of a gold rush.

It wasn't only lower-tier NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision teams (formerly Division I-A) navigating the county to find talent. Major programs were consistently restocking their rosters with players from Bartram Trail, Nease and St. Augustine.

In the past decade, a combined 34 players from the three schools were signed by a college program that played in a conference with an automatic Bowl Championship Series tie-in. Every recruiting class of the decade was represented with at least one player.

The peak began in 2006, otherwise known as the Tim Tebow year.

The Nease quarterback signed with Florida and went on to become one of the greatest players in college football history.

Tebow headlined a St. Johns crop that had seven BCS-level signees and included another future Florida standout, St. Augustine running back Brandon James.

Two years later, the '06 class was topped by a 12-man group that signed with BCS schools.

From 2006-09, St. Johns County produced 26 players who signed with BCS-level programs. In all, 39 players signed with FBS schools.

"That was a very special time for St. Johns County," said former Nease coach Craig Howard, who coached the Panthers from 2003-08 before being hired at Lake City Columbia. "I think that production is a credit to the schools' academic programs as well as athletic programs. You have to have that combination of success in the classroom and the athletic ability to be signed by the top colleges. I also think the level of coaching was so high. Each school had such a great offseason program and strength program."

Now, the wealth of talent in St. Johns County has faded. Barring a surprise from here until national signing day on Feb. 3, the county isn't expected to have any players sign with a team from the six BCS conferences. …

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