HALLANDALE, Fla. -- With last year's South Florida Express team focusing heavily on the talents of Louisville signee Teddy Bridgewater, this year it appears that the strength of the team lies on the defense -- most notably the secondary.
From the minute Miami commit Amos Leggett (Miami/Gulliver Prep), Tracy Howard (Miramar, Fla./Miramar) and Deon Bush (Miami/Christopher Columbus) stepped on the field, it was evident that this was going to be a different team in 2011.
"I think we have the ability to shut teams down," Bush said. "I mean my job is easy because I have [Leggett] and Tracy on the corners. All I have to do is wait for the ball to come to me and make a play."
Actually, Bush, who was nearly impossible to miss during 7-on-7 drills, is doing a lot more than that and he is getting noticed fast.
Nebraska is the latest school to join the list of offers that the 6-foot-1, 175-pounder has received in the last few weeks. Miami, FSU, Florida, LSU, Louisville, Ole Miss, Ohio State and Boston College have already jumped on board.
"He is just blowing up right now," said Brett Goetz, the founder and chief organizer of the South Florida Express. "Everyone wants him right now, and it's a great situation because he's a terrific kid and a terrific talent."
Even though it's hard to keep the eyes off of Bush during the drills, to his left is Leggett, a Miami commit who recently flipped back from FSU.
Leggett was one of the top sophomores in the state while he was at Booker T. Washington and now he is locking down receivers at Gulliver Prep and eventually hopes to do the same thing for the Hurricanes.
"Miami is the place I always wanted to be, and it's nothing bad toward Florida State," Leggett explained. "I just always want to be close to home and I think coach [Al] Golden is good for the program."
On the other side is Howard, a 6-0, 170-pounder who has played many positions for his high school team but seems most comfortable at cornerback and playing next to his two friends.
"We are all different players with different types of games but we complement each other very well," Howard said. "I'm not even worried about teams scoring on us. To be honest, most of them will be happy to get a first down."
As strong as Howard is in coverage, he takes more pride in the physical game.
"I think my jam is my strength and I have one of the best jams you'll see in the nation," Howard said. "I'm a man-to-man coverage guy. I like that challenge."
Howard has offers from Miami, Alabama, South Carolina, West Virginia and several others but is leaning toward two in-state programs.
"Florida and Florida State are showing me the most love right now," Howard said. "Growing up, I've been fan of those two schools but I'm still pretty open."
Cameron makes the trip
Quarterback Tyler Cameron (Jupiter, Fla./Jupiter) was among several quarterbacks at the South Florida Express tryout, but the 6-3, 215-pounder traveled over 90 minutes from Jupiter to make the event.
"I talked with Coach Goetz, and he told me about the opportunity to come out here," Cameron said. "I wanted to have a chance to compete with these guys and see what the competition is like."
Cameron was going to play with the South Florida Blur team -- another 7-on-7 squad made mostly of Palm Beach County players.
"I already knew a lot of the players in my area so I wanted to experience something new," Cameron said.
He said he was impressed with the talent he saw right away.
"There are a lot of good receivers down here," Cameron said. "Ricardo [Louis] and Avery [Johnson] are terrific, and I like throwing to Duke Johnson, as well. He's something special."
Cameron has already received offers from South Florida, Rutgers, Louisville, Illinois and Florida Atlantic.
In the state that produced the nation's top-rated quarterback in the Class of 2011, Cameron understands that all eyes are on him but he's going to take everything in stride.
"You take it how it is," Cameron said. "It's a lot of fun right now."
Cameron said he's planning on going to junior days at Florida and Miami in the near future and will be working on his game with the rest of his downtime.
"I'm going to be working on my footwork and explosion," Cameron said. "I'm trying to work on the release and getting the ball out quicker."
Still the prodigy
Even though he's just a freshman, there's a lot expected of running back Sony Michel (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage) at these events.
Of course that's the result of a career that already has seen the 5-10, 180-pounder rush for over 3,500 yards and 30 touchdowns as an 8th and 9th grader.
"People pretty much treat me like a veteran out here now," Michel joked. "I still look up to a lot of these guys though."
Even though it's very early in the process, Michel's name is one that fans will be tracking until the 2014 national signing day. For his part, Michel said he grew up a Miami fan and has verbal offers from Miami and FSU already.
"I was definitely a Miami fan growing up and I'm still keeping up with the program," Michel said. "I like Coach Golden a lot."
Auburn and Florida also interest the future star, but he is still trying to get many things accomplished at the high school level.
"I just want to get better as a player, get faster and stronger," Michel said. "Work on catching passes, too. Anything to make my team better and win some state championships."
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.