The inaugural Burger King State Champions Bowl Series kicks off in some 48 hours, and the anticipation for the first-ever self-styled national championship event (even if it won’t crown a true champion) is palpable. As one might expect, with a series of terrific teams there are plenty of top prospects to keep an eye on. Here are the best of the best from Saturday’s three big matchups:
No. 3 Booker T. Washington (Fla.) vs. No. 8 Bingham (Utah):
The most anticipated of the three games brings a host of top players. Booker T. is home to four members of the ESPN 300 for the Class of 2015, with tight end Devonaire Clarington and running back Mark Walton the biggest names on the list. Clarington is a 6-foot-6, 230-pounder who has scholarship offers from practically every major program in the country. He has speed — a 4.80 40-yard-dash — and major explosiveness and leaping ability which stands out in a position that boasts a deep field of recruits. Walton boasts a similar skill set in a more compact package, with the 5-foot-10 speedster clocking a 4.68 40-yard dash and recording a 37.0 on the power throw. He is slightly more settled in his college prospects, having accepted a scholarship offer to Miami, but until he signs on the dotted line nothing can be certain. Coaches from programs like Florida State, Louisville and West Virginia certainly haven’t given up hope.
As for Bingham, the Miners thrive on depth and consistent football more than star power, but they do have their own share of talented teens. Top among them is linebacker Daniel Langi who, while not a member of the ESPN 300, is a highly sought after prospect. He’s likely to attend Utah or another late charging Pac-12 program.
No. 6 Miami Central (Fla.) vs. No. 16 Bothell (Wash.):
The Rockets have been beaten just twice in the past three years, both times by the Tornadoes of Booker T. That has hardly dimmed their rose, with plenty of recruiting hype following year-on-year. The 2014 Rockets are headlined by wide receiver Da’Vante Phillips, which might just be the most explosive player on display in any of the three games. Holding offers from virtually the entire SEC, not to mention Florida State and Miami, Phillips is considered one of the top wide receivers still openly available on the recruiting market.
Bothell was a relatively surprising addition to the series from Washington, thrown into the fire when longtime state power Bellevue was upset in its state title game. The Cougars don’t have a bona fide ESPN 300 star, but quarterback Ross Bowers is widely considered one of the nation’s best. He’s a California commit and was an Elite 11 standout. At 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds, he’s a bit small for a prototypical, dominant pocket passer, but that has hardly slowed him down in Washington state.
No. 23 Eastside Catholic (Wash.) vs. Trinity Christian (Fla.):
Eastside Catholic won 13 straight games, including a state title upset against the aforementioned Bellevue squad, to stun the Pacific Northwest and the prep football cognoscenti around the nation. The biggest x-factor in that run was Brandon Wellington, a Washington commit listed as an athlete by the recruiting services. Calling him an “athlete” is a bit like calling a Swiss Army knife “versatile”. Wellington does everything, from flattening a wide receiver when crashing over from a free safety role to leaping to catch an overthrown pass. He is a true equalizer every time he steps on the field.
It was always likely that the Burger King games would have to feature at least one unranked team. If you’re going to go the way of anonymous prep football squads, it would be hard to do better than Trinity, which boasts no fewer than five members of the ESPN 300, including three in the Top 100. Four of those five studs are on the defensive side of the ball, and safety Kevin Toliver II and linebacker Jeffrey Holland are the most notable pair in the group. Toliver II has already committed to LSU and may just be the most explosive defensive back prospect in the country. Holland is 6-foot-2, 226 pounds and could easily play at Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State or just about anywhere else he so well deems fit.