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December 4, 2012

Sunshine State glowing with RB talent


MORE: The new Rivals100

Since 2002, Florida has produced a total of nine five-star running backs.

For the class of 2013, Greg Bryant is the only five-star. But that doesn't mean the battle to be the state's top-ranked back is over. With others rising fast and the all-star season ahead, Bryant is not necessarily a lock.

Here's a look at what Bryant brings to the table and why three others are still in the mix.

GREG BRYANT

The aforementioned Bryant, out of Delray Beach (Fla.) American Heritage, is the highest-rated tailback of the group.

"Bryant is on top because he has a good combo of size, strength and amazing feet," Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said. "He's an inside runner who can bounce it outside and he can catch the ball. He's the most complete of the backs."

Bryant's father, Greg, Sr., coaches the defensive line at Heritage and he has taught the younger Bryant to read the defense on his pre-snap look. He has a great football IQ and understanding of the game.

This fall, Bryant ran for more than 1,400 yards and 17 touchdowns while adding 308 yards receiving and three touchdowns.

Notre Dame is getting an official visit this weekend. Bryant also has Auburn, Florida State, and South Carolina on his list of favorites.

KELVIN TAYLOR

Kelvin Taylor, meanwhile, had one of the most productive high school careers in state history. He would have gone down in national record books had it not been for Derrick Henry, our next RB candidate.

"Taylor is about what we expect him to be in college, which is very good. But he has a lot of mileage on him, so durability at the next level will be interesting to track," Rivals.com Southeast recruiting analyst Kynon Codrington said. "He is low to the ground, powerful and has great cutback ability he's not too far off from Bryant."

What we like about Taylor is his ability to get stronger as the game goes on. The Florida pledge had best games on the biggest stages. He set a Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) record in the state finals with 44 carries for 248 yards in the 2010 title game.

The son of former NFL All-Pro RB Fred Taylor, Kelvin Taylor led his team to two state championships. The younger Taylor ended his career with 12,019 yards and a state-record 192 touchdowns.

DERRICK HENRY

Our third candidate is listed as an athlete, but no one can deny Derrick Henry's accomplishments at running back.

This year, Henry rushed for 4,260 yards on 464 attempts while scoring 55 touchdowns.

He broke the national high school record for career rushing yards with 12,121. The record had been held by Sugarland (Texas) RB Ken Hall.

However, Farrell thinks the 6-foot-3, 245-pounder will need some refinement at the college level.

"Henry will be limited at running back when he takes that big step up in competition and can't just overpower people or outrun them," Farrell said. "He's a huge runner and a great one-cut guy with power, but he's upright and a big target and I just think he's too tall and big to be as successful as he was in high school."

The Alabama commit is a rare athlete with superior size-to-speed ratio. He runs a consistent 4.4 (laser-timed) 40 to go with a 40-inch vertical. Make no mistake about it, the Tide are getting a special talent.

ALEX COLLINS

Plantation (Fla.) South Plantation running back Alex Collins missed some time with injuries this year, but still managed to rush for 1,276 yards on 154 carries and 14 touchdowns. Last year, he led Broward County in rushing with 1,725 yards and 27 touchdowns.

"Collins is talented and probably the guy who hasn't tapped his potential yet, so his upside is excellent," Codrington said. "He's not quite at the elite level of Bryant and Taylor yet, and Henry is a better athlete. But it wouldn't surprise me if Collins has a better career than at least one of them."

The 5-foot-11, 207-pounder has great top-end speed and functional running strength. He de-committed from Miami in late October is still considering the Canes along with Florida, Florida State, and Wisconsin.

VERDICT

All of these players have video-game numbers and special talent. At the moment, Bryant stands out above the rest and can end any debate with a strong week at the Army All-American Bowl.

The others are no slouches, of course.

Taylor is right behind Bryant, and Henry is one of the best athletes in the class and perhaps one of the best the state has ever produced. Collins has a high ceiling at the next level and should be an All-Conference-type player in college.

So the battle to be the top-ranked back in Florida is still a race worth watching.



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