BRADENTON, Fla. -- Watch List athlete Brian Poole (Bradenton, Fla./Southeast) is already considered one of the top defensive backs in the nation, and now the 5-foot-10, 195-pounder can call himself an Under Armour All-American.
Poole was offered and accepted an invite to participate in the 2012 Under Armour All-American game last month. He is the second player from Southeast High to participate in the game. Defensive back Jon Dowling, now at Western Kentucky, played in the 2010 All-American Game.
"It's really a great honor. I remember watching Jon play in the game a couple of years ago, and he talked about how much fun he had," Poole said. "Playing on ESPN with the greatest high school players in the nation is really special. It's hard to express how I feel right now."
Poole plays quarterback, running back and defensive back for Southeast. He accounted for nearly 1,000 yards of offense and 18 touchdowns as a junior.
His abilities as a defensive back, however, are what many of his rivals notice. Rising junior quarterback Cord Sandberg (Bradenton, Fla./Manatee) is already thinking about facing Poole in the annual clash between the cross-town rivals.
"Brian is probably the best athlete I'll face in high school," Sandberg said. "There aren't too many people that are really natural cornerbacks in high school, but he's one of them. As a quarterback, you have to be aware of where he is on every play."
Poole is among the best athletes ever to come from Southeast – a great accomplishment considering who has played there. Peter Warrick won two state championships for Southeast in 1993 and 1994 before going to Florida State and winning a national championship in 1999.
Quarterback Adrian McPherson was the state's first student-athlete to win Mr. Florida Football and Mr. Florida Basketball in the same calendar school year.
It's no surprise that Poole has offers from nearly every major program in the Southeast and the top programs nationally.
"I'm definitely trying to remain open with my choices and talk with as many coaches as a can," Poole said. "I grew up around college football in the Southeast so I like the SEC schools and the in-state schools a lot. However, I'm not ready to narrow down my list right now."
Martin enjoys combine
Wide receiver Ray Martin (Sanford, Fla./Seminole) was a late invitee to Sunday's Under Armour Combine in Tampa. But it was the opportunity the 5-10, 170-pounder had been waiting for.
"I'm just excited to be out here with another chance to compete against some good players," Martin said. "I got the call to come out a couple of days ago, and I appreciate the opportunity."
Martin has offers from more than a dozen programs, including Virginia, North Carolina, Iowa, Wake Forest, West Virginia, Indiana and Memphis. He is hoping to make a decision before the start of his senior season and will use the summer to trim his list of possible destinations.
"I really don't have a leader right now and over the summer I'm going to get to Iowa and UNC and West Virginia for sure," Martin said. "I'm just looking for the place that has solid education, a comfortable environment and a place that I can get on the field and compete. It's a blessing to have these schools interested in me."
Hope comes to Miami
Defensive back Larry Hope (Hialeah, Fla./American) surprised many with his commitment to Miami this week. Hope decided to pull the trigger a few days after winning the defensive backs MVP award at Miami's camp.
"We got to the camp a little bit late and Larry had to run the 40-yard dash without warming up," Larry Hope Sr. said. "But it was obviously a good time because a lot of the coaches came over to check the stopwatch."
The 5-11, 175-pounder had seen his offer list grow from two to nearly 15 in the past two months and received offers from Kentucky and Middle Tennessee State in the past week.
But after sitting with his family and discussing all the options, Hope decided to make the call for Miami.
"He received an offer from Coach [Al] Golden after the camp, but he didn't pressure us to make any decisions," Larry Sr. said. "We talked about things for a few days and Larry felt good about making that choice."
Hope will be heading into his third year as a starter for American and is also the starting point guard on the basketball team. His other offers included Wisconsin, Louisville, Duke, Nebraska and South Florida.
In other recruiting news
• Watch list defensive back T.J. Davis (Tallahassee, Fla./Godby) says Florida State, Miami, Auburn, Louisville and Ohio State are among the schools that made his first cut.
• Defensive back Drew Madhu (Tampa, Fla./Plant), one of the MVPs of the NFTC camp at Duke, has offers from Florida International and UAB.
• Iowa State offered defensive back Chris Bivins (Gainesville, Fla.), offensive lineman Duaron Williams (Orlando, Fla./Jones) and tight end Sean Culkin (Clearwater, Fla./Indian Rocks Christian) this week.
• Watch list defensive back Lucas Thompson (Winter Garden, Fla./West Orange) added Louisville to his growing list of offers.
• Defensive lineman Dwayne Hoilett (Vero Beach, Fla.) says his top five are Miami, Illinois, Minnesota, Rutgers and Michigan State.
• Kentucky was the most recent school to offer offensive lineman Robert Conyers (Miami/Braddock).
• Defensive back Denzel Conyers (Gulfport, Fla./Boca Ciega) was offered by UConn this week. Conyers will miss part of his senior year with a knee injury but remains a rising prospect. The Huskies also offered talented athlete Marcus Allen (Hilliard, Fla./Hilliard).
Q: Hello Corey, It seems like there's been a big rush to receive early commitments this year. I don't remember the last time I've seen Florida, FSU and Miami with double-digit commitments this early. Why is that?
Fort Pierce, Fla.
A: Hey Bobby, the recruiting process is starting earlier and earlier every year and because each school has only so many slots to fill you are starting to see recruits commit earlier instead of letting things drag out into their senior year. The increase in January enrollments also has a lot to do with it as recruits who are planning on graduating early need to focus on their grades in that fall semester of high school.
Q: Hey Corey, I'm an Ohio State fan in Florida. I know that the program always picked a few top recruits from Florida under Coach Tressel and I'm wondering if that will be the case this year again?
A: Hey Jameson, I expect the Ohio State target list hasn't changed because the rest of the Buckeyes staff will remain in place this season. Coach Taver Johnson recruits Florida for the Buckeyes, and I expect he will continue to do so for the rest of the cycle. However one of their main targets in this class, Ricardo Louis, committed to Auburn this week.