Today is a rare opportunity for The Prospector to play Santa Claus, sorta, and so it is time to dole out some much deserved gifts to the prospects of Central Florida.
It would be nice for several members of this year’s Sentinel Central Florida Super60 to receive some gifts from the scholarship Santa under the tree this morning.
One of the prospects who first comes to mind is Malik Smith, one of the most deserving players of college attention in the Orlando area. It was nice to see him in the Central Florida All-Star Game two weeks ago, running around the field with all of the other top players, a big smile on his face like he had finally arrived.
Smith, who is ranked No. 54 in the Super60, has been mired in obscurity at Orlando Cypress Creek, a program that has gone 2-28 over the past three seasons and has struggled to even keep a decent number of players on the roster in recent years. He could have transferred to another school. Freedom High was even in the back of his mind. His friends go there. Freedom was district runner-up and made the playoffs this past season. But Smith stayed put.
The 6-foot-2, 240-pound defensive end/tight end has but one Football Bowl Series school offering a scholarship in Indiana, but it would be nice to see a few more scholarship offers under the tree today for Malik. He’s one of the good guys and a gifted athlete with whom someone is going to be quiet happy at the next level.
UMass could be close to offering and Smith is expecting more communication with the Minutemen staff.
Probably the best two players on the board without FBS scholarship offers, ranked Nos. 30 and 31, are tight end Trey Hendrickson of Apopka and safety Chris Board of Orlando Timber Creek. Hendrickson (6-4, 225) got his opportunity to shine in the state playoffs, helping the Blue Darters to the Florida Class 8A crown and he’s started gaining attention slowly with offers from such schools as Weber State, Portland State, Wofford, Furman, Eastern Kentucky and Florida Tech, according to his father Collie Hendrickson.
Board, however, whose season was ended by Hendrickson’s Apopka team, has not gotten the attention he deserves, perhaps partly because he transferred his senior season from Orlando East River and also because this was his first year playing safety. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Board had a phenomenal year. He ended up with four interceptions and 109 tackles, an average of almost 10 tackles per game.
FAU and FIU were close to offering but he has still yet to receive his first FBS tender. Vanderbilt has also come into the picture, but so far he still has just FCS schools Jacksonville U. and Bethune-Cookman, which are good programs and nothing to be ashamed of should he end up at one of those schools. BC-U is a perennial MEAC contender and JU was a couple of plays away from being 9-2 this past season, during which the Dolphins went 7-4.
Board was named the West squad Defensive MVP for the Central Florida All-Star Game. He will make an FBS coach happy, if one of those coaches could just send in a nice little Christmas gift.
“I’m just waiting. We’ll see what happens,” said Board, who will visit JU on Jan. 18 and B-CU on Jan. 25.
The other remaining Central Florida Super60 players without FBS offers this holiday season are Orlando Lake Highland Prep TE Casey Irish, Kissimmee Gateway RB Zach Smith, Daytona Beach Mainland ATH Cameron Hadley, South Daytona Warner Christian RB Marcus Dixon, Orlando First Academy LB Colten Plante, Apopka C Dazzie Morris, Orlando Edgewater TE-DE Keith Dilley, Orange Park Spruce Creek WR Michael Colubiale and Orlando Evans QB Levar Robinson.
A lot of prospects will still be waiting this Christmas, like all those before them and all of the many to come in the future. No matter what, players are always overlooked. The hard work many of these players have already put in was just the beginning. It doesn’t come easy for everyone and for some, it never will.
Here’s to hoping that at least a better portion of those deserving get to realize their dreams. Unfortunately for many, their dreams are left up to others to fulfill.
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting and now on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.