Football recruiting: Top individual matchups to watch during Kickoff Classics

·6 min read
Damon Wilson, Venice High football
Damon Wilson, Venice High football

The Kickoff Classic weekend is headlined by one of the best games in the nation: IMG vs. Venice.

It also provides two of the premier individual matchups that should have recruiting fans salivating.

Let’s start in the trenches where IMG offensive tackle Francis Mauigoa will face off against Venice edge rusher Damon Wilson.

Mauigoa, a Miami commit, is the No. 1 offensive lineman and No. 2 overall player on the USA Today Florida Network top 100. Wilson is the No. 2 edge rusher and No. 5 overall player on the top 100.

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Both seniors have prototypical size for their respective positions – Mauigoa is 6-foot-5, 330 pounds and Wilson is 6-4, 230. Both have natural athletic ability and play with technique.

Wilson has narrowed his list to Alabama, Georgia, Miami, Ohio State and Texas.

On the outside, it’s the future Big 10 matchup of IMG wide receiver Carnell Tate (Ohio State commit) and Venice defensive back Elliot Washington (Penn State commit). Tate is No. 4 on the top 100; Washington is No. 25.

Ascender receiver Carnell Tate hauls in a touchdown pass Friday night at IMG's home game against the Miami Northwestern Bulls football team 9/10/21.
Ascender receiver Carnell Tate hauls in a touchdown pass Friday night at IMG's home game against the Miami Northwestern Bulls football team 9/10/21.

Washington can play cornerback or safety, so it will be interesting to see how Venice uses him against IMG. But it’s a pretty safe bet that Washington will be in the vicinity wherever Tate lines up.

Here some of the other top individual matchups featuring top recruits to watch this week.

Fleming Island 2023 RB Sam Singleton vs. Westside 2023 DL Jordan Hall

Jacksonville-Westside defensive lineman Jordan Hall goes up against Neil Sledge, from Georgia, at the FBU Top Gun Showcase on Saturday at the Paradise Sports Complex in Naples.
Jacksonville-Westside defensive lineman Jordan Hall goes up against Neil Sledge, from Georgia, at the FBU Top Gun Showcase on Saturday at the Paradise Sports Complex in Naples.

Hall (No. 16 USA Today Florida Network top 100) and Singleton (No. 24 top 100) are two of North Florida’s top senior recruits. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Singleton, who committed to Florida State earlier this month, has elite speed and averaged more than 105 yards per game last season. Hall, who has narrowed his list to a top 10, is 6-foot-4½, 300 pounds. He recorded 34 tackles and five sacks in 2021.

More: Recruiting news: FSU lands 4-star 2023 running back Samuel Singleton

More: Recruiting: Top performers from the first two days of FBU Top Gun Showcase

Norland 2023 RB Javin Simpkins vs. Dillard 2025 DL Anthony Smith

Simpkins, who verbally committed to Georgia Tech in late July, is an elusive runner with an elite spin move and is a strong pass catcher out of the backfield. Smith is one of the premier defensive tackles in the class of 2025 and already has offers from Arkansas, Miami, Texas A&M and others.

Edgewater 2023 RB Cedric Baxter Jr. vs. Seminole 2025 ATH Ethan Pritchard

Edgewater's Cedric Baxter rushed for 1,651 yards and 22 touchdowns during his junior year.
Edgewater's Cedric Baxter rushed for 1,651 yards and 22 touchdowns during his junior year.

Baxter, who committed to Texas last week, is the No. 1 running back in the state on the USA Today Florida Network top 100. Baxter is a big back (6-foot-1, 215 pounds) who also can catch the ball like a wide receiver. Pritchard is a fast-rising athlete who can play both safety or linebacker. The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder already has offers from Florida State, Iowa State, Kentucky, Miami and others.

More: Texas lands commitment from Orlando Edgewater 4-star RB Cedric Baxter Jr.

Tampa Bay Tech 2025 WR Santonyo Issac vs. Sarasota-Riverview 2024 CB Charles Lester

Defensive Back Charles Lester of Riverview High School.
Defensive Back Charles Lester of Riverview High School.

Two of the state’s premier underclassmen face off in this one. The 6-foot, 160-pound Isaac caught 18 passes for 501 yards and five touchdowns as a freshman and will be poised for a bigger role in the offense this season. His offers include Florida State, Ole Miss and Penn State. Lester, a five-star recruit, is one of the top junior cornerbacks in the nation. The 6-foot-2 Lester has been offered by Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Miami, Michigan, Oklahoma, UCF and many others.

More: Herald-Tribune Super 20 high school football recruits: Nos. 2-5 revealed

Trinity Catholic 2023 OL Tommy Kinsler vs. Buchholz 2023 DL Gavin Hill

Buchholz Bobcats defensive end Gavin Hill (6) tackles University Titans quarterback Tazz Figueroa (9) during the first half at Citizens Field in Gainesville, FL on Friday, November 19, 2021.
Buchholz Bobcats defensive end Gavin Hill (6) tackles University Titans quarterback Tazz Figueroa (9) during the first half at Citizens Field in Gainesville, FL on Friday, November 19, 2021.

A future Hurricane vs. Gator matchup early in the season. Kinsler, who flipped from Florida to Miami in July, likely will play guard in college but will play tackle for the Celtics. Hill the No. 45 player on the USA Today Florida Network top 100 and a Florida commit, can line up on the edge or inside.

More: Florida lands pledge from 2023 DL Gavin Hill; he joins Buchholz teammate Creed Whittemore

More: Ocala offensive tackle Tommy Kinsler, who originally picked UF, commits to Miami

Eustis 2023 WR Tyree Patterson vs. Vanguard 2024 DB Fred Gaskin III

Eustis’ Tyree Patterson (11) runs with the ball during a 2021 game against South Sumter at Inman Sherman Field in Bushnell. [PAUL RYAN / CORRESPONDENT]
Eustis’ Tyree Patterson (11) runs with the ball during a 2021 game against South Sumter at Inman Sherman Field in Bushnell. [PAUL RYAN / CORRESPONDENT]

The 6-foot-2 Patterson was the first Florida player in the class of 2023 to commit to Billy Napier and the Gators. Patterson caught 53 passes for 1,078 yards and 13 touchdowns last fall. Gaskin has a lot of responsibility as the Knights’ quarterback and safety, but it’s a safe bet that he’ll be close to Patterson on defense. Gaskin's offers including Alabama, Florida State, Michigan State and South Carolina.

More: Eustis' Tyree Patterson makes verbal commitment to Florida football

Osceola 2025 RB Taevion Swint vs. Apopka 2023 DL Kaven Call

Two loaded Central Florida teams face off in this one. Swint burst onto the scene as a freshman when he rushed for more than 600 yards and led the Kowboys with 12 rushing scores. He has several Power 5 offers, including Florida, Florida State, Michigan and Ole Miss. The 6-foot-3, 245-pound Call, a UCF commit, can play multiple positions along the front seven. He had 52 tackles and seven sacks in 2021, when Apopka reached the Class 8A state championship game.

More: Football recruiting: Osceola four-star DL John Walker commits to UCF

Wiregrass Ranch WR Bryson Rodgers vs. Clearwater Center Catholic ATH Nate Johnson III

Wiregrass Ranch High School Bulls’ Bryson Rodgers catches a pass at the Florida High School 7v7 Association state championship in The Villages on Friday, June 24, 2022. [PAUL RYAN / CORRESPONDENT]
Wiregrass Ranch High School Bulls’ Bryson Rodgers catches a pass at the Florida High School 7v7 Association state championship in The Villages on Friday, June 24, 2022. [PAUL RYAN / CORRESPONDENT]

Rodgers, an Ohio State commit, is No. 53 on the USA Today Florida Network top 100. The 6-foot-2, 170-pound receiver can play outside or in the slot and has scored 24 total touchdowns the past two seasons. Johnson, a 5-foot-11, 165-pound Boston College commit, plays both receiver and defensive back for the Marauders. He had 13 tackles and three interceptions last season.

Northwestern 2023 WR Andy Jean vs. Jones 2023 DB Jayden Gillens

The game is loaded with elite talent (Northwestern 2023 DB Rayquan Adkins, Northwestern 2023 RB Jamari Ford, Northwestern 2023 TE Adam Moore, Jones 2023 LB Malik Bryant, Jones 2023 TE Dylan Wade, Jones 2024 DL D’antre Robinson), but we’ll focus on Jean vs. Gillens. Jean is verbally committed to Florida. Gillens has a handful of Power 5 offers, including Ole Miss and Kentucky.

More: Florida football's big recruiting weekend: 4-star receiver Andy Jean from Miami commits

More: Exclusive: Jones 3-star TE Dylan Wade announces college decision

American Heritage 2023 RB Mark Fletcher Jr. vs. Lowndes (Ga.) 2025 LB Coleman Lewis

The 6-foot-1, 225-pound Fletcher, an Ohio State commit, is a bruising runner who scored 13 touchdowns in 2021. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Lewis is a multi-sport athlete who holds offers from Auburn, Iowa State and Purdue.

This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Recruiting: Florida individual matchups to watch in Kickoff Classics