There are few things in football more exciting than watching a major showdown between a top-flight wide receiver and a highly-touted defensive back. While Friday night's showdown between Miramar (Fla.) High School CB Tracy Howard and Pompano Beach (Fla.) Ely WR Avery Johnson features two highly-ranked players, that might be where the comparisons end.
Howard, who is No. 18 in the ESPNU 150 and the No. 1 CB, has little to prove. The 6-foot, 170-pounder is one of the nation's most coveted recruits, with Florida, FSU, Miami, LSU and Notre Dame at the top of the list of suitors.
"He's as good as a gets for defensive backs in high school," said Miami Herald writer Larry Blustein, who covers South Florida high schools and has watched Howard regularly. "He's got the skill set and more importantly he's got the work ethic."
But for Johnson, an LSU commit, there is plenty to prove. Despite catching over 50 passes for 700 yards as a junior, the 6-3, 190-pounder is often criticized by observers. There's even a local coach who dedicates much of the commentary on his twitter account to Johnson's mishaps.
"He definitely faces some scrutiny, as do a lot of the top local players," said South Florida Sun-Sentinel high schools writer Christy Cabrera Chirinos. "There were people that said his brother, Patrick Peterson, wasn't very good either."
Johnson, who is No. 43 in the ESPNU 150 and the No. 5 wideout, for his part doesn't pay much attention to it.
"There is always going to be someone out there that has something negative to say," Johnson said. "You try to block all of that out and not worry about it. I just go out there and compete against whoever is front of me."
And Howard isn't listening to what people say about Johnson either. He knows he will have his hands full.
"Avery is a real talented player and you never know what type of routes he runs because he does them the same each time," Howard said. "He's very smooth and it's going to be a fun challenge."
There isn't much history between Howard and Johnson. Miramar and Ely are rarely matched against each other and Howard played youth football at Miami Gardens while Johnson played in Pompano Beach.
Still, according to Blustein, there's a lot to be gained from this matchup from Johnson's standpoint.
"I think he's got a lot to live up to because Avery hears it from a lot of different directions," Blustein said. "No one questions his talent but his work ethic and his on-field production are always being questioned."
Ely has other receivers that could also occupy Howard's time.
"I expect they will line up against each other early for the publicity and the photo opportunities," Blustein said. "But don't be surprised if Howard shifts to cover Darrien Allen as the game goes on because he's been Ely's top receiver earlier this season."
There could also be more gamesmanship at work as Howard has said in the past that he feels his teammate, ESPN 150 wideout Malcolm Lewis, is the best receiver he's faced.
"I've always thought a lot of my success comes from facing off against Malcolm during practices," Howard said. "He is one of the best in the nation as one as I'm concerned."
Things won't get any easier for Howard next week as Miramar takes on Oakland Park (Fla.) Northeast, which features FBS prospects Kevis Jones and Jeremy Glinton as well as top Class of 2013 prospect Stacy Coley.
"It's always a challenge down here because you are going up against major talent each week," Howard said. "It's a great thing for me because I love to compete."
Taylor talks Tennessee
Last weekend defensive end Trenton Taylor (Lakeland, Fla./Lake Gibson) followed up his team's 34-7 victory over Jenkins with an official visit to Tennessee.
The 6-2, 245-pound Miami commit left very impressed.
"I liked it a lot," Taylor said. "I loved the coaches and the fans, the fans were real wild."
Taylor quickly noticed one difference from the high school game to the college game.
"Everybody is real fast," Taylor added. "Everybody was moving at serious speed. It's a lot different from high school."
Taylor says Tennessee is recruiting him as an end but have said they would move him to the inside depending on how much weight he put on.
The lineman says his status as a soft commit to the Hurricanes hasn't changed and he's just "taking it all in" right now.
He plans on taking an official visit to Miami soon.
Fowler must sit
Under Armour All-American Dante Fowler (St. Petersburg, Fla./Lakewood) will miss Friday game against Tampa (Fla.) Blake after an altercation with his coaches during last week's game against Seminole.
Fowler says the situation was an isolated event and he has made amends with the coaching staff.
"There was some back talk and some things said but it's all over now," Fowler said. "I made the mistake and I have to deal with the consequences."
The Florida State commit says he will take all five official visits after the season.
"I haven't set up the dates yet but I will take all my officials in December and January," Fowler said. "I know that I'll be going USC first and I'll end the visits with Florida and Florida State."
Despite the visits, Fowler said he's a solid commit to FSU.
Unfortunately the hits keep coming for some of the state's top athletes.
Sad to report that three-star offensive lineman Duaron Williams (Orlando, Fla./Jones) will miss the rest of his senior season with a torn ACL suffered in last weekend's loss to Lake Wales.
"I just planted hard on my leg and got hit from the side and it buckled," Williams said in a text message. "I got my MRI [Wednesday] morning. My senior season is over just like that.
"I wanted to get an invite to the Under Armour All-American game and this injury ruins that."
Williams has over a dozen offers including Arkansas, Ole Miss, Rutgers, Marshall and Kentucky.
Also three-star defensive back Sam Green (Plant City, Fla./Plant City) suffered a broken leg last week after scoring a touchdown. It's hopeful that Green will return to the lineup later in the season, before the team's final playoff push.
Green has offers from South Florida, Cincinnati, Memphis, Purdue, Kentucky and South Alabama.
Corey Long has been covering high school football and recruiting in the Sunshine State since 1995. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.