10 elite 2020 recruits Southern college football fans should know

Henry Gray

These names will be the college football stars of 2021 and 2022.

Background: Tuesday, I covered elite Southern recruits in the class of 2019.

Over the weekend, talent from all over the southeast descended on the state of Florida for some 7v7 competition. On Saturday, I drove up to the IMG Academy in Bradenton for the NFA 7v7 Southeast Championship. On Sunday, I headed over the the Adidas East Championship in Homestead (very South Miami).

Wednesday, it’s underclassmen, made up primarily of 2020 prospects.

Usual disclaimer: I am only one person. With two fields being used simultaneously, I am only seeing half of the plays. It is entirely possible that some other players had great performances when I wasn’t watching, or that players on this list performed less great when I wasn’t watching. I can only relay what I see.

Quarterbacks!

The QB class in 2019 so far is seriously lacking compared to the awesome group in 2018. That chasm only widened when J.T. Daniels, the unanimous best player in the class of 2019, reclassified to the 2018 class and enrolled a full year early, looking to fill the spot vacated by Sam Darnold. But from what I have seen, the 2019 QB class is also lacking compared to previous years.

But for the 2020 and 2021 classes, I saw two encouraging prospects.

The first is 2020’s T.J. Finley. From Ponchatoula, LA (Northeast of New Orleans, where I-55 meets I-12). Finley is 6’6, 230 pounds, and doesn’t turn 16 until March 25. Physically, Finley stands out. He is a giant, and has a young body. His dad joked with me that they had to carry his birth certificate around when he was a kid.

Finley has a big arm, which you’d expect from a kid of his size, but he impressed me with his combination of zip and touch. That’s not something you always see. And he had a good idea of where to go with the football.

T.J. Finley

Finley is currently unranked (as are most players in the class of 2020), but claims offers from Alabama, Auburn, LSU, and the Mississippi Schools.

Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher was in attendance Sunday (permissible under NCAA rule, as his son plays on a Tallahassee-area 7v7 squad), and I couldn’t help but think he was having flashbacks to another huge QB he coached: JaMarcus Russell.

Another young QB who really impressed Sunday was Aaron McGlaughlin, of Buford (Ga.). He is actually seven months older than Finley, but is in the 2021 class. McGlaughlin is 6’4, 205 and like Finley, throws the ball with plenty of RPMs and touch. He seems to know where to go with the ball. He was one of the best QBs at the event. Plus, he simply looks like every Georgia QB ever. Offers include Auburn, Florida State, Georgia, Michigan, USC, and Texas A&M.

Aaron McGlaughlin

Special pass catchers

If you read Tuesday’s piece, you saw the absolutely ridiculous catch by Marcus Rosemy.

Unlike figuring out who was the best player, this best play decision was easy. It was Marcus Rosemy, a 2020 WR out of Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas, making a ridiculous catch against one of the better corners in his grade. It was good coverage, and an even better catch. Just watch.

Rosemy is 6’1, 180 pounds, and has big hands. He has a good understanding of setting up routes for someone his age, and he plucks the ball well. I spoke with someone who has watched him at Aquinas, and they said the only thing he needs is confidence. He is certainly coming into his own, and claims early offers from Florida, Georgia, Ohio State, and Texas. I have to think Florida State and Miami will come soon.

  • Another star receiver to watch out for is Marcus Fleming of Miami High. Fleming is 5’11, 170, and is just always getting open. He has good top-end speed, but it is his quickness and change of direction that put distance between him and other defenders. Fleming reliably catches the ball with his hands and shows a good feel for finding space and sitting down in it. I have seen him three times so far in 2018 and am sold. He can play slot in the upper half of the Power 5. So far, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisville and NC State have offered.
  • Aydin Henningham, Deerfield Beach (Fla.): Henningham is 6’1, 200, and has a balanced game. He is not the biggest, nor the fastest, but he makes tough catches, knows how to get open, and does the little things right. Florida, LSU, and Ohio State have offered. Henningham is a serious student and told me he is interested in hearing from Stanford.
  • Ja’Corey Brooks, Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington: Brooks is the only freshman on this list, but he’s actually been known in recruiting circles since the 8th grade, when Tennessee offered him. Eyeballing, I’d say he is 6’3, 190, and uses his big body to shield defenders. He is adept at going up and getting the football, and for his size and age, he is not slow. Florida, Georgia, and Miami have already offered.

Long cover guys aplenty

In the past, it seems like many receivers moved to defensive back later in their careers. But more and more, I am noticing that players who look like receivers are playing defensive back at a younger age. Here are a few who caught my eye. With two years before they play college ball, it’s possible some of these corners grow into safeties, but they are all ballers.

  • Dwight McGlothern, New Caney (Texas): I’ve long been a fan, and whether corner or safety, the 6’3 defensive back continued to make plays. McGlothern is one of the few players in this piece who are already rated (four stars). LSU, Texas A&M, Texas, and all the SEC powers have offered.
  • Henry Gray, Miami (Fla.) Central: 6’1, 175, good speed, good body control, good instincts, and a great mentality for the position? Sign me up. Gray just picked up a Miami offer, so expect his recruitment to take off.
  • Ja’Marquis Johnson, Nashville (Ga.) Berrien Co.: If Johnson played in a bigger town, he’d be more well known. But he’s blowing up anyhow. He is 6’3, 208, with an 80-inch wingspan. He plays receiver and cornerback in high school, but played QB when his team’s QB got hurt. He looks like Vince Young running and Josh Harvey-Clemons in the secondary. With his frame, I expect he will either turn into an elite jumbo safety, linebacker, or hybrid tight end/receiver. So far his offers are Florida State and Southern Miss. Junior day visits to Clemson, Georgia, and other Southeastern powers are planned.
Ja’Marquis Johnson
  • Fred Davis and Miles Brooks, Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian: Davis (6’2, 170) is a little longer and lankier, while Brooks (6’1, 175) looks a little more filled out. Both are going to be fought over by the elite of the elite, and good luck throwing against TCA in the coming years. Davis has already been offered by Alabama, Florida, Nebraska, UCLA, and Virginia Tech. Speaking of the Hokies, they offered Brooks when he was a freshman, and Florida, Miami, Nebraska, South Carolina and UCLA have all followed.
  • (Bonus player who is not from the Southeast) — Luke Hill, Washington (D.C) St. Johns College Prep: Hill has some stickiness to him at 5’11, it’s easy to see why Hill has picked up offers from Boston College, Maryland, Penn State, South Carolina, and both Virginia schools. Hill has a great short memory for a cornerback; he is the player against whom Rosemy made the ridiculous catch (above), but bounced right back to make several plays of his own.

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