Battle of Florida was a great experience for everyone who attended as well as participated. All this week players were able to showcase their talents in front of over 140 Professional Scouts. There were tons of NFL players, NFL Agents, and professors here watching their family members, clients and students play in the first inaugural Battle of Florida. Boca Raton, Florida was such a beautiful place that was very easy to get in and out of the stadium.
The McNeely Family did an extremely amazing job at putting together the game, and had the coaching staffs of two legendary coaches with Bobby Bowden (FSU) and Howard Schnellenberger (University of Miami) coaching both the North and South.
Although it was a blow out with the North squad blowing out the South squad 51-3, the game had a pretty good turnout. The FAU stadium was such a beautiful place, the stadium was the right size to hold the game, and there was a pretty good turnout. When I was pulling in they had a bunch of fans tailgating wearing the garb of Florida Gators, Florida State and miscellaneous teams. The band at halftime was terrific and the national anthem on the Saxiphone gave me goosebumps. You had fans cheering for their local players and even Gino Torretta play calling the game. So next year when you are looking for a bowl game to go to, you should select the Battle of Florida, because the event will only get stronger. The Battle of Florida to me was a great turnout, if you have never had the experience to work with an All Star game; the Battle of Florida staff truly did a terrific job. Everyone was pleased; here are a few quotes from the fans, players and coaches.
Jon, Fan of FAMU said
“This game was great, I remember watching these kids in high school and now I had the pleasure to play against some of the highest rated kids coming out of the state a few years back. They were able to put on a great event at a decent price and I was excited to be here.”
Jermaine Thomas, RB, Florida State University said
This was a great experience, I was really happy to get this opportunity and I believe that the game is on the right path, I had a great time.”
Donovan Varner, WR, Duke University said
“It truly was amazing, I loved playing in the State of Florida again, and was excited to play in another game to showcase my talents.”
Legendary Coach Howard Schnellenberger said
“I think we made a real statement, for this game. It has a great future, and there were more fans then we had expected. To put the game on in as little time as the Battle of Florida staff had, I was impressed. There are more good football players from this state than any, besides maybe Texas and California and the people of Florida love their football. The stadium was a perfect fit for this game, and it was a terrific experience, the field is a fast field, the only grass field in the Sun Belt conference, and it is beautiful. You have to love the Valet Parking, and all the amenities that Boca has. I couldn’t be more excited with the turn out and can’t wait to see how the next 4 years of the lease turn out.”
There were some football players who really stuck out to me as a scout, and who were getting some raves from the NFL scouts surrounding me.
The North Squad Highlights
• Josh Bellamy – WR – Louisville, had a great week of practice and was able to get open a very nice touchdown pass by Stephen Garcia were Bellamy hit a double move on the South CB and was wide open for a 60 yard score. Bellamy has great hands and is able to make a move after the catch.
• Dominique Davis – QB – ECU, looked a bit rusty, he threw a strike on his first throw to Bert Reed of FSU but after that was throwing too much off his back foot and on the run. He has the size and arm strength to play at the next level.
• Stephen Garcia – QB – South Carolina, Didn’t come in til the third quarter but when he did he didn’t slow down, he had two touchdown passes, and looked comfortable in the pocket. He is not the biggest QB, but could be a good fit in a CFL system.
• Kevin Elliot – WR – FAMU, Kevin Elliott was running good routes, could have had two touchdowns if the ball in the 4th quarter was thrown better. He was good across the middle and had a terrific catch in the middle of the field to get in the end zone.
• Josh McGregor – QB – Jacksonville, McGregor was the most impressive QB at the Battle of Florida, he led the North down the field on the first three drives and scored, he finished the game 11-12 and looked very good. Just remember that McGregor’s coaching staff was calling the plays and he was familiar with the playbook.
• DeAndre Pressley – CB – Appalachian State – Pressley was a QB before turning CB, and had a few good plays in coverage, but his best play came on special teams where he was able to burn everyone with a few amazing moves to score on a 65 yard punt return.
• Lamont Bryant – TE – Morgan State – This kid is a tweener, who could be a WR at the next level, at 6’5 and 228 he is faster than any TE at the game. He could block and catch, he is a blazer he had a nice catch in the middle of the field and was able to pick up the first down.
• Jermaine Thomas – RB – Florida State – Thomas looked like a big back in the beginning of the year, but boy was he hitting the hole with velocity. He was the most impressive runningback at the game and showed great vision. He found a way to get outside and was able to follow his blocks. He had a 1 yard touchdown run as well, finishing the game with 70 plus yards on very limited carries.
•Patrick Hampton – DE – USF, This kid was all over the place, he was causing problems in the backfield the entire game. He started the game as a RDE and was in the backfield, both him and Ryan Davis were beating the tackles all game.
• Ryan Davis – DE – Bethune – Cookman, This kid again was the player I have seen all year long, He was in the backfield constantly. He contains his are very well and started the game at LDE. He had a huge sack in the first quarter and the first sack of the game. He looks the part and did a tremendous job.
•Elliot Hennigan – DT – UAB, What a big boy, he was able to clog the middle and was a major part that the South couldn’t run the ball well. He was eating up defender s in the middle and allowed the edge rushers to get pressure.
•Adam Nissley – TE – UCF, He was one of the guys that I thought was really impressive. He was very good at blocking and was able to get off the blocks and run a good enough route to get open. He was hit in the flats a couple times and could be used as a full back.
• Claude Davis –DE, USF, This kid is special, I think he could be a guy that gets the most looks from any scout at the game. You knew when number 90 was in the game, he came off the edge so hard that he was too hard to get a hand on. He is only 6’2 but his first step is very quick. Teams were talking about him a ton in the Scout room.
•Josh Long – DT, Webber International , Long and Hennigan in the middle of the field were the answer to the North’s run defense. They showed great push and were not giving up. They had a very good showing and Long could be a sleeper, he finished with a few good tackles in the backfield.
South Squad Highlights
• Marcus Dowtin – LB – North Alabama, He was given Defensive MVP because they were on the field the entire game. He had a few nice tackles but to me was not the MVP on defense. He was good in the run support but lacked the coverage skills.
• Chris Hart – QB – Webber International, The kid can make all the NFL throws, has a cannon, for an arm, but is very inaccurate. He had a few good throws, but will have a huge uphill battle to get to the next level.
•Deonte Thompson – WR – Florida, Deonte runs a very good route, he has decent hands and good moves. He is not the tallest guy in the world, but showed his skills on both returns and as a wide out.
• Travaris Cadet – RB – Appalachian State, he was very impressive on kick returns and showed his ability to make a cut. This kid seems like a really good athlete, he couldn’t get any running lanes because the line had a very poor game for the South.
• Jean Fanor – S – Bethune Cookman, On the first drive the Bethune Cookman boys were ballin. Fanor was a very hard hitting safety who put his shoulder into a few guys in this game. He had a chance for an interception but Fenelius tipped the ball away from him at the last second.
• Beau Relliford – TE – FSU, This kid had a good week of practice per the NFL scouts, he looked good on a few pass plays, but was totally blown up on a run blocking play. He was pushed about 5 yards off the ball and caused a big play for loss.
• Antonio Fenelius – CB – Wisconsin, This kid had a good game in coverage, and came down with one interception. He knocked a pass away as well, he was a good player for the South.
• Reggie Sandilands – ILB – Bethune Cookman, I don’t know how he wasn’t the player of the game for the South, it seemed at the end of the game that Sandilands was the only one still hustling, even though his team was down by a ton. He never gave up and fought all the way til the end. You saw number 11 in on tons of plays.
• Donovan Varner – WR – Duke, When the QB was able to get him the ball he looked the most fluid at the WR spot. His route running is better than anyone here, but just couldn’t get the ball to him. He caught the only ball thrown to him and made a pretty catch on the sidelines to get his feet in.
• Sean Ferguson – DE – Mississippi State – He was a good player for the South, and had the only sack for the South. He knocked the ball out of Garcia’s hand and came off the edge extremely hard. He looked like a good DE who had the size to do it at the next level.
•Michael Williams – S – Bethune Cookman , Both the Bethune boys started the game at safety and boy they looked good. They were lowering their pads and hitting the players. They didn’t shy away from contact, Williams did a great job but needs to remember to keep his head up on tackles. On a few I though he was going to get hurt because his head was down.
Player that I was disappointed with and thought I would see more was
Adewale Ojomo – DE – Miami, he was non – existent, I couldn’t believe that he was ate up the way he was by the Offensive line of the North. He did not look good at all, I can’t even remember him making a play.
Best Story of the game
Darius Nall – DE – UCF, This was his last time to showcase his talents before he was going in for Chemo therapy for cancer that he had in his lung. He had half of his lung removed and was still out there doing the best he could. One scout who talked with him said, he was the most positive player in the interviews, and they give him tons of credit for that. The scout went on to say, that most people would be devastated but Darius wasn’t because he knew he could overcome the problem, like he has already done in the past. I wish him the best of luck and may God Bless him in his treatment.
That is all I have from the Battle of Florida but I would like the personally thank the Battle of Florida staff for making me feel right at home and Optimum Scouting for the wonderful opportunity to scout for the game. This was the first of many scouting ventures I will be on, but I must say it will be hard for the next All-Star game to fill the shoes of the Battle of Florida.
RETRACTION FROM THE EDITOR: There was some misinformation in the above note about Darius Nall's treatment. Darius went under Chemo-therapy after the game for the first time. He did NOT have a lung removed prior to the game nor is that a future possibility. He is undergoing treatment now but the prognosis seems to be bright. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused, and feel free to contact me with any questions about Darius or anything else we've written before.