It was obvious that Mario Pender was a national talent when watching him on film. He is a running back out of Cape Coral (FL) Island Coast that displays great balance, good vision, the wiggle it takes to make guys miss, and the speed needed to be a homerun threat.
Pender committed to Florida State very early in the process and Eddie Gran and the Noles have landed another elite back in their home state.
Island Coast Head Coach Joe Bowen knows what has taken his back to this five-star level.
"His maturity level has really taken his game to new heights this season," said Coach Bowen. "He used to think he had to score every time he touched the football. He would reverse the field, run backwards, and do all those sorts of things trying to hit the homerun with every carry, but now he understands how to be a true running back.
"He knows five yards is a good run and that he does not have to go 80 yards each time he touches it. He would always try to make something out of nothing, but now he just understands the game, understands his position, and he has developed into a special player."
Five yards a carry is nice, but Pender is averaging triple that this year, that's right, three times that.
So far this season, the 6-foot-0, 210 pound running back has just over 1,300 yards on 86 carries. He is averaging an astonishing 15.3 yards per carry. He also has 14 rushing touchdowns, so he is averaging a touchdown about once out of every six carries.
Pender moved up just over 40 spots into the Top 50 and he is now the no. 44 prospect in America.
Keith Marshall has Company
There are now two running backs from the state of North Carolina in the Scout300. Keith Marshall is the number one back in the country and the no. five overall prospect in America, but not far from him in the Tar Heel State is Todd Gurley.
Marshall plays at Millbrook and a little over an hour east is Tarboro, the home of Gurley. They are two different backs and Gurley is starting to make a name for himself.
"It feels good to be recognized as one of the best, but I am not too concerned with that stuff," said Gurley. "I work hard and I feel like if I do my job, then that stuff will take care of itself. I do not worry about rankings and all that, but it still nice to see that my hard work is paying off."
Gurley is a 6-foot, close to 200 pound back that can run with a combination of power and speed. He is on track to rush for over 2,000 yards as a senior and he will be playing in the Shrine Bowl in December and then the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl on January 3.
Georgia and North Carolina are currently his top two.
A New Safety Emerging
Camden County is led by Brice Ramsey, a 2013 quarterback who Scout ranks in their early Top 100 for next year, but do not sleep on Shaquan Brock. The 6-foot-1, 190 pound safety is a player. He has speed, he can play in the box, and he can play in space.
He has a few offers, the biggest being Southern Miss, but look for more programs to give this senior a strong look as they see him live or on tape.
Scout saw him earlier in the season and he stood out immediately. He was asked to spy the very talented Travares Copeland from Treasure Coast (FL) and he did that well. He flies to the ball, he has shown good range, and he is a prospect out of the Peach State that could be making his case as one of the top defensive backs before all is said and done.
Brock was unknown and unranked before Scout found him, but now he is a solid three-star with the chance to move up even more as more film is evaluated.
Auburn Commit Rising Up
Mario Pender made the move into the top 50 and T.J. Yeldon is making that type of push this season as well. Yeldon is committed to Auburn and he is a running back that is ready to contribute on the next level right now. That has been said about Marcus Lattimore and Isaiah Crowell the last two years and we see what type of success they have had early in their careers.
Yeldon is a well put together running back that has very good balance and he has hands like a receiver. He is not a real burner, but he is fast enough to be a threat to take it the distance. He can run between the tackles, he can run outside the tackles, and he can catch the ball with the best of them at his position.
He had moved up in the rankings and is getting closer to that fifth star. It is a strong running back class in the South, especially at the top, and Yeldon is one of the best.
Daphne's Coach Mike Vickery told Scout on Tuesday, "We haven't had to throw it to him much this year." No kidding, Yeldon had 1,600 yards on 139 rushing attempts, that is a 11.5 yards per carry average. When you have one this good, just feed the horse.
Yeldon is now rated the no. 76 overall prospect in America.