This time last year no one expected the Maximum Exposure 7-on-7 team from Michigan to head south to Bradenton, Fla. and win the IMG Madden 7-on-7 National Championship. Led then by rising junior quarterback Shane Morris (Warren, Mich./De La Salle Collegiate) they beat Team Tampa in the finals.
Now Morris and Max Ex are back and ready to defend their title at this weekend's IMG Madden 7-on-7 National Championship
"We have been playing together and working hard," said Morris, a Michigan commitment. "We expect to go down there and win and repeat. We know we are not the most talented team. There are some great teams and players from Florida and the rest of the country. But we play as a team and we want to keep it going and repeat."
This event is loaded, especially with the teams and players from the Sunshine State. South Florida Express Elite, Team Tampa and Central Florida Top Recruits are just a trio of teams that should make a lot of noise.
"Team Tampa is looking forward to the tournament and competition," said Woodrow Grady, Team Tampa's coach. We are looking forward to competing against Shane Morris, the South Florida Express and all the other teams and players that will be there. We have a lot of respect for those guys and teams. The key is to take all the talent and put it together. It presents a challenge for everyone."
25 teams will participate in this event. Here's a closer look at some of the key teams and players.
South Florida Express Elite
The South Florida Express is typically one of the favorites of every 7-on-7 event they enter. It's no different this weekend, as they have as good a chance as any to win the championship trophy come Sunday. The SF Express has two teams entered – Elite and Pro. They will both make a lot of noise but it's the Elite team to watch for. Offensively, they are led by quarterback Troy Cook (Miami, Fla./Palmetto) and 2013 receivers Jordan Cunningham (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./University School) and D.J. Taylor (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./University School) and '14 wideouts Ermon Lane (Homestead, Fla.) and Tyree Brady (Homestead, Fla./South Dade). Then you have a big and talented tight end in Wendell Dunn (Miami, Fla./Palmetto).
There's never a shortage of secondary talent from south Florida and the Elite team is loaded here. Florida State commitment cornerback Sojourn Shelton (Plantation, Fla.) is one starter while his opposite is Rashard Robinson (Pompano Beach, Fla./Ely). The safety spot is manned by Jamal Carter (Miami, Fla./Southridge) and Lamar Robbins (Miami, Fla./Southridge). Keep an eye on 2014 cornerback Marcus Leslie (Miami, Fla./Coral Reef). He will have an opportunity to shine this weekend.
"We think we have the talent to win it," said Brett Goetz, South Florida Express coach. "We have some great kids and great coaches. We just have to stick to assignments and minimize mistakes. After five years of playing in these events we know what kind of teams are out there. It's gonna be another talented tournament. We just need to limit interceptions and come up with two defensive stops per game."
Team Tampa has a great group in the secondary, led by two of the nation's top defensive backs in cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III (Tampa, Fla./Wharton) and safety Leon McQuay (Seffner, Fla./Armwood). Hargreaves is a five-star prospect and the country's top ranked cornerback while McQuay is the No. 7 ranked safety. Keep an eye on McQuay's high school teammate, Kyle Gibson. He will be considered one of the top cornerbacks in next year's class of 2014. Offensively, Tampa has some very good prospects at the receiver position like Alvin Bailey (Seffner, Fla./Armwood), Miami commitment Travis Johnson (Tampa, Fla./Jesuit) and an elite '14 standout in Artavis Scott (Tarpon Springs, Fla./Eastlake).
Central Florida Top Recruits
This is a talented Orlando based team led by quarterback Asaiantii Woulard (Winter Park, Fla.). This USF commitment has great tools and could make a big name for himself with a big time showing this weekend. Two very talented players he will be throwing to Florida State commitment, wide receiver Tony Stevens (Orlando, Fla./Evans) and recent Vanderbilt commitment Dominic Walker (Orlando, Fla./Evans). On the other side of the ball, safeties Marcel Harris (Orlando, Fla./Dr. Phillips) and Gator commitment Keanu Neal (Bushnell, Fla./South Sumpter). Central Florida Top Recruit cornerback Blake McLain (Winter Park, Fla.) just committed to Kentucky on Wednesday.
Scout 100 quarterback Shane Morris is as good as it gets at this position in this class. He's a hot and cold signal caller and when he's on, look out. This kid can make all the throws and carry a team. Morris has some very talented teammates that can play on either side of the ball. Khalid Hill (Detriot, Mich./Crockett Vocational Tech) is a Michigan commit and a very good pass catching tight end. Two other receivers are Jourdan Lewis (Detroit, Mich./Cass Tech) and C'Sonte York (Harper Woods, Mich./Chandler Park Academy). Like Morris and Hill, they are committed to the Wolverines. Lewis is a quick slow receiver and very good corner while York is an outside threat at receiver with nice size and great in the air.
Teo Redding (Warren, Mich./Michigan Collegiate) may not have the same offer list as the others but this is a kid who's made for an event like this. He can also jump through the gym. A guy that could make an impact at cornerback and receiver is Damon Webb (Detroit, Mich./Cass Tech). He's a major '14 recruit who already holds offers from Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin others.
Don't sleep on the team from Louisiana. They have some special players like 2014 running back Leonard Fournette (New Orleans, La./St. Augustine). He will be one of those guys who will be able to name his school. LSU commits, athletes John Diarse (Monroe, La./Neville) and Jeryl Brazil (Loranger, La.) and defensive backs Tra'Davious White (Shreveport, La./Glen Oaks) and Jeremy Cutrer (Kentwood, La./Jewel) are all part of the Bootleggers squad. Tight ends tight end Desean Smith (Lake Charles, La./Barbe) and Standish Dobard (New Orleans, La./Edna Karr) will be key targets for sleeper quarterback Brandon Fields (Baton Rouge, La./St. Michael).
Cam Newton All-Stars
2014 standouts, Evan Berry and Elliot Berry from Fairburn, Ga./Creekside, have been talked about recruits for a few years now. These twins are the younger brothers of Kansas City Chiefs safety and former Tennessee Volunteer Eric Berry. Evan will play receiver and safety this weekend while Elliot will play linebacker and tight end. They are as good as advertised. Another standout in this class is Clemson quarterback commitment Deshaun Watson (Gainesville, Ga.)
West Tennessee Express
This is a potentially sneaky good team. They have a trio of signal callers in Al Cobb (Pulaski, Tenn./Giles County), Luke Ward (Parsons, Tenn./Riverside), and Devlin Hodges (Morris, Ala./Jordan). Running back Mark Dodson (Memphis, Tenn./Whitehaven) has a slew of BCS offers. The same can be said for athlete Jalen Reeves-Maybin (Clarksville, Tenn./Northeast). This team has two of the better younger prospects in 2015 wide receiver Rico McGraw (Nashville, Tenn./Ensworth) and 2016 athlete Gabe Angel (Lebanon, Tenn./Wilson Central).
AWP Sports Performance
Jaylon Smith (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers) is the No. 1 ranked outside linebacker in the nation and five-star who has committed to Notre Dame. He's very athletic and can cover well. He will be tested. Two slot receivers who could do some damage this weekend are Indiana commitment Isaac Griffith (Fort Wayne, Ind./Homestead) and Miami of Ohio commitment Jared Murphy (Columbia City, Ind.)
Jalen Banks (Harvey, Ill./Thornton Township) is a defensive back with offers from Oregon, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan State and more. He has good size and instincts. Three linebacker recruits in the Class of '14 to watch for on Core 6 are Clifton Garrett (Plainfield, Ill./South), Nyles Morgan (Crete, Ill./Crete-Monee) and Nile Sykes (Oak Park, Ill./Oak Park and River Forest). All have BCS offers.
Body By Tra is one of the newer teams out West, and they have a couple of elite prospects in Scout 100 defensive end Joe Mathis (Upland, Calif.). Mathis plays linebacker on the 7-on-7 circuit. He was the MVP at the SoCal NFTC and is an excellent defender. Terin Solomon (Murrieta, Calif./Valley) is overshadowed in his own town by the nation's top safety, Su'a Cravens (Murrieta, Calif./Murrieta Vista), but this kid is a top-level safety himself. This big hitter has committed to Oregon State.
Team Pro Sport
Team Pro Sport has won a number of 7on7 tournaments out West this year, and they have one of the top 2014 quarterbacks in the region in K.J. Carta-Samuels (San Jose, Calif./Bellarmine College Prep), the younger brother of Vanderbilt quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels. He's joined by his prep teammate, linebacker Kenneth Olugbode (San Jose, Calif./Bellarmine College Prep), who's been great all spring and summer on the camp circuit, and is the younger brother of Stanford safety Kyle Olugbode.
This southwest Florida team has some big time playmakers like Ryeshene Bronson (Ft. Myers, Fla./Dunbar). He's a big and athletic 2014 receiver that just committed to Florida. Running back T.J. Johnson (Cape Coral, Fla./Island Coast) has BCS offers. Tight end Michael Heuerman (Naples, Fla./Baron Collier) has committed to Notre Dame. Duke pledge Johnell Barnes (Ft. Myers, Fla./Dunbar) just had a great 7-on-7 tournament performance at USF's Sling and Shoot. Athlete Jayron Kearse (Ft. Myers, Fla./South) first committed to Auburn and then Miami and now he's open. This team has some very good college football recruits.
Pro Impact is a Jacksonville area team led by a couple of SEC commitments in safety Nick Washington (Jacksonville, Fla./Trinity Christian) and cornerback/receiver Reggie Wilkerson (Ocala, Fla./North Marion). Washington is headed to Florida and Wilkerson to Georgia. Damonte Jones and Jamonte Jones are twin cornerback prospects from (Ocala, Fla./St. John Lutheran). 2015 running back Jeffrey Holland (Jacksonville, Fla./Trinity Christian) will be one of the top rising sophomores there. He already has BCS offers.
Martin Luther King, Jr. High School (Lithonia, Ga.)
Linebacker Jacarthy Mack has committed to Louisville while Jeremy Tyler has a few SEC offers. Wide receiver DeMarquis Polite-Bray has offers from Tennessee, Ole Miss and many others. 2015 cornerback Wesley Green will be one of the most coveted defensive backs from the Peach State next year. Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Vandy and Virginia Tech have all offered already.
Brandon Huffman and Allen Trieu both contributed to this preview.