In the world of college football recruiting, it’s no hidden secret that the state of Florida may produce more P5 talent than any other in the nation. FootballStudyHall.com calls Florida, California and Texas ‘The Big Three’ because they produce the most FBS recruits per state on a yearly basis. Recruiters from football programs on every level converge onto the Sunshine State looking to land top-level talent. It’s a yearlong melee that doesn’t end until the ink is dry on the players’ national letter of intent.
Four Floridians were added to the Panthers’ 2018 recruiting class: Clearwater (FL) Clearwater International Academy defensive end Habakkuk Baldonado (6-foot-5 inches, 230 pounds), Fort Myers (FL) Dunbar High School wide receiver Shocky Jacques-Louis (6-foot, 170 pounds), West Palm Beach (FL) Oxbridge Academy defensive back V’Lique Carter (5-foot-11 inches, 170 pounds) and Fort Lauderdale (FL) Cardinal Gibbons High School cornerback Marquis Williams (5-foot-9 inches, 165 pounds).
To gain better perspective on Pitt’s Floridians, Pittsburgh Sports Now spoke with the most definitive voice in Florida high school football recruiting: Larry Blustein. He has nearly 50 years of experience in the south Florida media and he’s the senior writer for SFHSSports.com (@SFHSSports). Blustein, known for his encyclopedic knowledge of almost every prospect in Florida, can be found on Twitter at @larryblustein.
West Palm Beach (FL) Oxbridge Academy defensive back V’Lique Carter
Carter was a standout performer for Florida Class 3A runner up Oxbridge Academy as a safety, running back and return man. He was named All-Palm Beach County. Carter registered 31 tackles and two interceptions on defense. He had 428 yards on 18 total returns for an impressive 23.8 average.
“(Carter) finished at Oxbridge Academy. He started out at Palm Beach Lakes High School. He was a youth football kid. Back in the day, everyone used to say ‘Wait until V’Lique gets to this grade or that grade.’ He’s just a physical kid with quickness,” said Blustein. “V’Lique has got major football skills and you live or die if you don’t have football skills. He’s one of those guys that looks the part and is the part. He’s a football player. He’s been around it. You could say he’s relaxed in most situations because he has the ‘I got this’ attitude. His play speaks for itself and he’ll stick it to you.”
“The last time I saw him he was in the state title game, they played Chaminade-Madonna. Oxbridge Academy is only like 38 miles from Chaminade-Madonna so everybody knew each other. It was a bit odd. V’Lique had a monster state championship game. He was in on almost every play. I think he was playing safety. He covers well and he’s extremely physical. (Pitt) may try him at cornerback because everybody wants a physical cornerback. Everybody wants the next Patrick Peterson or something like that. It wouldn’t shock me if he plays himself into a safety.”
Fort Lauderdale (FL) Cardinal Gibbons High School defensive back Marquis Williams
Williams is a highly competitive cornerback prospect from Broward County. He compiled 34 tackles, four tackles for loss, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery last season. Marquis averaged 35 yards per kickoff return. His Uncle, Tyrone Carter, was a two-time All-American at Minnesota and won the 1999 Thorpe Award as college football’s top defensive back.
“I have watched Marquis play since the 7th grade. I remember the summer before his 9th grade, he was playing with Coconut Creek High School. He was there at the time. Marquis was playing against Binjimen Victor (currently at Ohio State) and Calvin Ridley (currently at Alabama),” said Blustein. “Marquis was giving up nearly a foot to Victor and he kicked his butt all day long. I walked over to one of the coaches and asked, ‘Who is that?’ He told me ‘Marquis Williams and he’s going to be really good.’ I then asked, ‘What grade is he in’? He responded, ‘He’s in 8th grade soon to be in 9th.’ That was my first introduction to Marquis and I have watched him throughout high school.”
“Marquis is a quality young man. He’s one of those guys that, before anything else, he’s one of those guys that I could vouch firth now is a quality guy. He’s thankful for every single thing that he gets… and that’s important.”
“Marquis can play! If (Pitt) has to press him into playing early, he’ll pick it up. That’s the one thing about south Florida kids, they don’t hold back. They’ll throw to the wolves as soon as you can breathe, you know? Ideally Pitt gives him time to get a little bit bigger and stronger,” said Blustein. “He’s not the biggest cornerback but he plays bigger than he is. That comes from being where he is. Think about the receivers he’s going to have to go against in south Florida? They are all playing big time college football. He’s used to competing against top competition.”
Clearwater (FL) Clearwater International Academy defensive end Habakkuk Baldonado
A tall, athletic defensive end that played three years of American football in his native Italy before moving to Florida in 2017. He accrued 83 tackles, 30.5 sacks, nine forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries on defense.
“(Baldonado) is a good one. I had the opportunity to watch him. We go a lot during the summers to the line camps. I watched him at the USF (University of South Florida) camp. I went over to his school and they had a really athletic team,” said Blustein. “This kid is a really defensive guy. He has that mentality. If the coaching staff gives him time to learn and get used to college life, he’s going to make a big impact.”
“(Baldonado) is a lot like former Panther Greg Romeus. They were both under-the-radar kids coming into their senior seasons. Greg played at a school that wasn’t really known as a football hotbed, so people didn’t get a chance to watch him. Baldonado is probably as far along as Romeus at the moment and we saw Greg’s high ceiling. In time, I think he could have a major impact. He just needs to get to Pitt, learn the defense and continue to develop.”
Fort Myers (FL) Dunbar High School wide receiver Shocky Jacques-Louis
Jacques-Louis was considered one of Southwest Florida’s top prospects. He compiled 65 receptions for 966 yards (14.9 avg.) and scored 13 touchdowns over his final two seasons. Shocky had 45 catches for 652 yards (14.5) and six touchdowns as a senior.
“I was talking with Naples High School Head Coach Bill Kramer at The Opening last week. Shocky’s name came up. He’s just a guy that’s just a sponge. I mean he wants to learn things. I’m sure he’s up (at Pitt) doing that now. He’s a weight room guy as well. Shocky loves to work out,” said Blustein.
“Shocky is very fast. You can’t teach fast. He’ll become one of the quickest guys on Pitt’s team. He’s a deep ball threat but he could stretch the field from the slot position as well. A lot of schools are moving receivers, even big 6-foot-4 inch receivers, to the slot. They are usually defended by a linebacker or safety and it’s often a mismatch. Most wide receivers zoom by both of them. I can see Shocky in that role as well.”
“Pitt ran the ball well last year. Their offensive system sets itself up by using receivers (like Shocky),” added Blustein. “(Pitt offensive coordinator Shawn Watson) used slot guys and put a lot of guys in motion. Shocky is quick and has great hands. I watched him through his second and third year and he just got bigger and wiser. He wasn’t getting jammed at the line as much. He’s going to be a really good one for the Panthers.”
Harry Psaros can be found on Twitter at @PittGuru