HOLLYWOOD — Somehow, Edwin Joseph is a player college coaches have had on their radar for years but haven’t really noticed until the past month or so.
Things started to change after Chspanminspande-Mspandonnspan, the No. 1 team in Class 1M, beat Dillard in the second week of the season. Joseph’s play on both sides of the ball — especially on defense — finally made some of the state’s top programs take notice.
“A lot of college coaches were texting me,” Joseph said. “I was very excited because I think it’s something I deserved because of how hard I’ve been working. It was a very fun experience, definitely.”
Miami offered three days after Chaminade’s 49-28 come-from-behind win against Dillard. Florida State and Louisville offered a day after the Hurricanes did. South Carolina and Auburn offered a few weeks later.
Suddenly, Joseph is a hot commodity in recruiting circles.
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It happens every year. Players who didn’t receive a ton of attention before their senior season quickly become desired. Last year, it was lineman such as Cardinal Gibbons’ Ahmspand Moten and Creekside’s Matt McCoy.
But colleges had some excuse the last few years as restrictions because of the coronavirus pandemic limited their ability to see players, especially in the spring. College coaches were out this year though and considering the depth of talent at Chaminade – juniors Jeremiah Smith and Joshisa Trader are two of the premier players in the nation – it’s not like they didn’t know what Joseph brought to the table.
He’s felt the apathy from colleges before.
“To be honest, Ive been to (colleges) a couple times where I felt like I wasn’t a priority,” Joseph said. “I was just there as an add-on. Definitely times where I felt like, ‘What else do I have to do? What am I not doing that they’re doing?’ But I just kept my head down, kept grinding stay hungry.”
And it’s not like they didn’t want to be his first offer – a bizarre reality in the recruiting game. Joseph came into the spring with offers from Georgia Tech, Indiana, Penn State, Utah and others.
So, what changed? What made him so desirable to schools who had already seen him and didn’t offer before but felt the need to now?
The 6-foot, 180-pound Joseph started to get to show what he can do on defense. For some schools, just seeing the film of Joseph at defensive back during the first few weeks of the season was all they needed to see.
“He was only playing wide receiver before,” Chaminade coach Dameon Jones said. “The kid can play DB. He just didn’t have it on film. It started coming into fruition during the summer. It just wasn’t a need last year because we had one cornerback go to Kansas and one go to Ohio State.”
With the starting cornerbacks from last year’s Class 3A state championship team – Ryan Turner (Ohio State) and Brian Dilworth (Kansas) – graduated and playing at the next level, Joseph had the opportunity to show what he could do as a defensive back.
He had started playing defensive back again with South Florida Elite during the 7-on-7 season and it snowballed from there.
“My 7-on-7 coach at SFE, he thought I was very talented on both sides, so he told me to try both sides,” Joseph said. “I told my parents and they loved it. That’s something they wish I would have done a long time ago. Then I got the greenlight from coach Jones and it’s been successful.”
Joseph has looked right at home at defensive back, in part because he gets to work with some of the nation’s premier high school receivers every day in practice.
“I go against the best every day in practice on offense or defense,” Joseph said. “Them two, Jeremiah Smith and Joshisa Trader, help me a lot training for DB. On the offensive side I have Zaquan Patterson, Chris Ewald, D’Angelo Ponds and a whole bunch of DBs make me grind.”
Because of that, Joseph hasn’t looked out of place against the elite receivers Chaminade already has faced this season. The list includes American Heritage’s Brspanndon Inniss (Ohio State commit), Gulliver Prep’s Jspanlen Brown (LSU commit), Miami Northwestern’s Andy Jean (Florida commit) and Dillard’s Tastean Reddicks (Oregon State commit).
During the first half of the season, Joseph had 12 tackles, one interception and three passes defended to go along with 22 catches for 368 yards and four touchdowns. He also recovered the last-minute onside kick to seal Chaminade’s win over American Heritage on Sept. 16, capping a night in which he scored a receiving touchdown and intercepted a pass.
It’s all helped raise Joseph’s stock in recruiting circles. So much so that Jones’ claim that Joseph is the most underrecruited player in the nation is becoming less true each week.
“I knew it was there, so I’m not surprised at all,” Jones said. “He’s having a breakout year for everybody else. He’s just been doing it on both sides of the ball this year. That’s the biggest difference.”
Joseph isn’t the only player who’s seen his recruiting improve with a strong first half. Here’s a look at some of the others.
ATH Leon Washington Jr., North Florida Christian
The 5-foot-7 playmaker has done it all in North Florida Christian’s 6-0 start to the 2022 campaign. On 43 offensive touches, Washington has 653 total yards and 12 touchdowns. Defensively, he’s made 27 total tackles with three interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown. Add in a kickoff return touchdown and a couple punt return appearances and the Eagles have a weapon opponents simply can’t avoid on Friday nights.
Venice High quarterback Brooks Bentley
Venice High senior quarterback Brooks Bentley is following in the long line of successful signal callers at the school. A transfer from Gaither High School in Tampa, Bentley helped engineer come-from-behind victories over Naples High and Seminole High in Sanford. After leading Venice back from a 17-0 deficit against Seminole with a 31-yard touchdown with 2 minutes, 6 seconds left in regulation to break a tie, Venice coach John Peacock said of Bentley, “He’s a winner. That’s how winners are. That’s how (2017 state champion QB) Bryce Carpenter was. He’s a winner and you can see it. When the chips are down, what quarterback did you want on your team tonight? I guarantee it’s No. 9.” —
WR Ajai Harrell, Mainland
Mainland’s passing game has been worth the price of admission thus far — with senior quarterback Damarcus Creecy at the controls, four-star junior James Randle on one side and Harrell emerging as a real weapon on the other. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound senior leads the Volusia-Flagler-St. Johns area with 33 receptions for 495 yards and seven touchdowns, and he’s added a further 119 yards rushing with four more scores. Bowling Green has maintained interest, and Appalachian State has inquired as well, per Bucs head coach Travis Roland. Expect a flurry of Group of Five and FCS suitors to make their move in the coming weeks.
S Harlem Howard, Ely
Pompano Beach-Ely us off to a hot start this year so far posting a 5-0 record. Their leader and local neighborhood favorite, Harlem Howard has been the key to this early success. Howard has six interceptions (three returned for touchdowns) in just five games this season. With that ball hawking stat line, he has given himself a huge recruiting boost in the process. He was once a lock to head to a Group of 5 school, now he has the looks of Oregon State, Vanderbilt, and Louisville eyeing him for a commitment. —
ATH Chalil Cummings, Bradford
The offers for junior athlete Chalil Cummings started rolling in during the offseason, but as Cummings has continued to help the Bradford Tornadoes get out to a 4-0 start, the offers have continued to roll in for Cummings. Heading into his junior campaign, the 4-star prospect had fielded offers from UCF, South Carolina and FSU, among others. But since the 2022 season has kicked off, Cummings has added the SEC’s Tennessee and Kentucky to his list of offers.
WR Miles Burris, Trinity Christian
Not many players around Jacksonville have had an opening month quite like Burris, who transferred to Trinity from a 1-9 Ridgeview team and has watched his numbers explode. Forming an ace combination with sophomore quarterback Colin Hurley, the junior wideout has grabbed 19 passes for 395 yards and four touchdowns, punishing opponents who load the box in a bid to contain running backs Treyaun Webb and Darnell Rogers. Burris picked up an offer Friday from Florida A&M and added his first Football Bowl Subdivision offer Wednesday from Ohio University, and all signs point to many more in the future.
QB Keyone Jenkins, Miami Central
The leader of the top-five nationally ranked Miami Central Rockets, Keyone “Lyghtz Out” Jenkins has been literally “lights out”. The nickname that has been attached to him since little league is in full effect for his senior year. Besides the massive Week 1 upset of national powerhouse IMG, Jenkins is on pace to hit 30 total TDs and a a possible third state championship as a starter. An early pledge to FIU may be in jeopardy as multiple power 5 schools are now calling about the gunslinger out of Dade County. —
DL Markus Strong, Union County
It’s been a meteoric rise for the 6-5, 270-pound combination end/tackle, who has long had athleticism but not necessarily the offers. Those have come rapidly since the first week of September: FAU, FIU, South Alabama, UAB and Western Kentucky in speedy succession. What’s changed? Health. Strong missed his junior season with a knee injury, and he’s not only back but better than ever with nine tackles for loss and six sacks in the Fightin’ Tigers’ first three games.
OL Joe Hanson, Niceville
The Niceville right tackle had been long overshadowed by teammates Kimo Makaneole and Austin Firestone, now at LSU and Northwestern, but no more.
The 6-foot-4, 290-pound two-way star is the face of an offensive line that’s helped the Eagles average 26 points per game and find the end zone 20 times behind a yet-to-be-stopped heavy package. Hanson has 8 pancakes this season and has picked up offers from Kansas, Air Force and Appalachian State in the process.
WR/LB Chris Presto, Cardinal Newman
The Crusaders had a tough task this offseason in replacing Georgia commit Tovani Mizell, who eclipsed 1,000 total yards last fall before transferring to Dematha in Maryland. Presto, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound wide receiver, has made the most of the production opportunity, already establishing new career-high’s in receiving yards (409) and touchdowns (6) after the Crusaders’ first six games. Presto has caught touchdown passes in five straight games and also chips in on defense with 18 tackles at linebacker. Presto is unrated with no collegiate offers according to 247 Sports. —
RB Tayshaun Balmir
We said Pasco’s Tayshaun Balmir would be the hidden gem from Pasco County and he’s been everything you could ask for and more. His recruitment interest has soared since starting to play games this season, with the running back rushing for 840 yards on 69 carries and scoring 12 touchdowns. He’s rushed for over 200 yards in three out of four games. Balmir may end up at a smaller school when it’s all said and done but he’s one of the most dynamic players on the North Suncoast and definitely boosted his stock since the season kicked off versus East Ridge in Week 1. —
OL Jonathan Daniels, Pine Forest
Following a slew of offers from some of the best programs in the country this past summer, the area’s most sought-after offensive lineman has added two more Power 5 offers since the start of fall practice. The junior received an offer from Louisiana State on Aug. 3 and another from Kansas on Sept. 28, bringing his Division I total to 19. With Daniels planted at offensive tackle, the top-rated Eagles are off to a 6-0 start. —
WR Carl Jenkins Jr., St. Augustine
Four games into his sophomore season, and the 6-foot-3, 164-pound Jenkins has just as many touchdowns to date — including a 40-yard grab in a Monday night makeup game versus Matanzas. He’s a big play waiting to happen, averaging 27 yards per reception. The only game Jenkins played in which he did not score was against Bartram Trail as he was shadowed by Florida commit Sharif Denson, but Myles Simmons (11 receptions, 73 yards) and Trenton Jones (six catches, 132 yards, TD) benefitted. Florida A&M is the first school to offer Jenkins, but many big schools have him on their radar.
QB Greg Smith III, Sumner
Not having Kylen Webb, a Clemson commitment, was thought to make things a lot tougher for the Sumner Stingrays. Instead, it showed how solid of a signal caller Smith III is out of Hillsborough County. The junior quarterback has completed 31-of-55 passes for 652 yards, nine touchdowns and he’s also rushed for 359 and added five more scores. The University of South Florida offered Smith III just before the season started and other schools have ramped up interest in the Sumner quarterback, including Syracuse. With just over 1,000 total yards of offense, Smith III is a player that will continue to see his stock rise. —
QB Gio Cascione, Jensen Beach
Coming into the season, Jensen Beach had a couple options at quarterback they were considering but Cascione being a senior with experience was who the Falcons turned to and it’s paid off.
The program had never started 4-0 until 2022 and Cascione has been a big reason why. At 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, Cascione has thrown for 1,109 yards and 10 touchdowns against just two interceptions.
From a scouting perspective, Cascione has the mobility to extend plays when the pocket collapses and has a quick release while working the ball to different quadrants of the field.
Spreading the ball around to a number of different targets has helped Jensen Beach succeed and also shows Cascione doesn’t lock onto one read within the offense.
Cascione has been hearing from a number of schools at the Division 1-AA level and if his strong play continues to help the Falcons reach the state playoffs, expect him to have some options to decide from to continue his career at the next level.