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June 6, 2012

Power Positions: No stopping Florida trio

Greg Bryant and Marcus Davis were beginning grade school when they first teamed up in the backfield.

A decade later, Davis is still handing the ball off to Bryant as part of arguably the most star-studded offensive backfield in all of high school football.

Delray Beach (Fla.) American Heritage won a Class 3A state title and finished 74th in the RivalsHigh 100 national rankings last year with a backfield that featured Davis at quarterback, Bryant at tailback and Tyler Provo at fullback. Since then, Bryant has committed to Oklahoma, Provo has committed to Syracuse and Davis has received offers from several major-conference programs.

Before heading to college, they'll try to cap their high school careers by helping American Heritage win its fourth state title in six years.

Position: Running Back
Height/Weight: 5-foot-11 / 197
Rating: Four stars (No. 4 RB)
College: Oklahoma

Notable: Bryant rushed for 2,180 yards and 25 touchdowns on 224 carries last fall to help American Heritage win a Class 3A state title. He carried the ball 39 times for 243 yards and three touchdowns in a 30-3 state championship victory over Madison County.

Quotable: "He's just an excellent back with great vision, quick feet (and) good overall speed. He's not a burner, but he's got good top-end speed. He's a guy who runs as hard in the fourth quarter as he does in the first quarter. He wins ballgames for you because he wears down the other team. He may only get four yards and a cloud of dust for the first 10 or 15 carries, but eventually he's going to break that big one that breaks your back and puts points on the board."
- Rivals.com Florida Recruiting Analyst Chris Nee

Position: Athlete
Height/Weight: 5-foot-11 / 170
Rating: Three stars (No. 56 ATH)
College: Undecided

Notable: Although he quarterbacked American Heritage to a state title last fall, Davis is expected to play wide receiver or defensive back in college. He has received offers from Boise State, Boston College, Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Duke, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Georgia State, Illinois, Marshall, Memphis, Mississippi State, Temple, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, West Virginia and Western Kentucky.

Quotable: "I think he's probably a better defensive back, but he can play on either side of the ball. He's a really good athlete. He's a quick kid with nice length to him. He's not the tallest, but he's got nice long arms and good hands. He's a guy who can get down the field, whether it's flipping his hips and running with a receiver or forcing a DB to flip his hips and run with him. He's a guy who can do a lot of different things in a lot of different ways. The reason I think he could be such a good DB is because he does have those quick feet and quick hips. He's going to have to make a transition and figure out the position that's right for him wherever he ends up going to school. But he has so much athletic ability, I think it will be a relatively easy transition for him."
- Rivals.com Florida Recruiting Analyst Chris Nee

Position: Fullback/Tight End
Height/Weight: 6-foot-2 / 235
Rating: Three stars (No. 2 FB)
College: Syracuse

Notable: Provo alternates between fullback, tight end and H-back for American Heritage, but he expects to play tight end at Syracuse. He's the younger brother of Nick Provo, a first-team all-Big East tight end for Syracuse last fall.

Quotable: "Some people want to call him a tight end, but he's not really built like a tight end. He's built more like a fullback. He's a guy who can go down the field and do something in the passing game and be a candidate to receive the ball out of the backfield, but what he does for American Heritage that makes him so important for them, and why I think Syracuse values him so high, is that he's a devastating blocker."
- Rivals.com Florida Recruiting Analyst Chris Nee

"It's really hard to stop us," Davis said.

Last year, nobody did.

American Heritage's only loss in 2011 was an early-season 41-34 overtime showdown with Class 5A power Belle Glade Glades Central, which finished 52nd in the RivalsHigh national rankings. Bryant rushed for 202 yards.

Bryant went on to run for 2,180 yards and 35 touchdowns last season while leading American Heritage to a state title. He carried the ball 39 times for 243 yards and three touchdowns in a 30-3 state championship victory over Madison County.

"I just remember after the game, how good it felt," Bryant said. "I don't remember the plays, but I knew how good it felt.''

That dominant individual effort from Bryant didn't surprise Davis.

He's been seeing those kinds of performances from the time they started playing football.

Davis said he was six or seven years old when he started playing alongside Bryant on a Pee Wee football team coached by Bryant's father, who now works as a defensive line coach at American Heritage. Even then, Davis was at quarterback and Bryant at running back.

They continued playing together for much of their childhood, and that background helped them develop a winning formula in high school.

"We just have a vibe on the field," Bryant said.

They reunited as high school sophomores when Davis transferred from Boynton Beach (Fla.) High to join Bryant, who already had played on a state championship team his freshman year at American Heritage.

Big name

American Heritage runs an offense that makes the most of Bryant's talents, as evidenced by his 39 carries in the state championship. Rated as the No. 4 running back and the No. 28 overall player in the 2013 class, Bryant committed to Oklahoma after receiving offers from Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Notre Dame, Ohio State, USC and Penn State.

"He's just a very explosive, powerful, strong and fast kid," American Heritage coach Doug Socha said. "He's a freak of nature. I've seen him drag defenders three or four yards. I've seen him make people miss. And I've seen him outrun people. He's got the combination of everything -- speed, strength, size, power."

Bryant's the only guy in this backfield working at the same position he'll play in college.

Secret weapon

Provo is a jack-of-all-trades who lines up at fullback, H-back and tight end for American Heritage, but he estimates that he's in the backfield for about 75 percent of his team's snaps. He's looking forward to playing tight end for Syracuse in 2013.

He's hoping Syracuse uses him the same way it utilized his older brother, Nick Provo, who earned first-team all-Big East honors and caught 51 passes for 537 yards and seven touchdowns last season.

"He was a great weapon at Syracuse," Provo said. "That's kind of what I want to be. I don't want to play straight fullback in college."

Provo hasn't been able to get the ball in his hands nearly that often at American Heritage. Socha said Provo had about 12 catches and four carries last year, though the Stallions will attempt to get the ball in his hands more often this fall. When Provo lines up in the backfield, he generally serves as a blocking back for Bryant.

But that hasn't stopped him from catching the attention of recruits.

Provo is a three-star prospect rated by Rivals.com as the No. 2 fullback in the 2013 class, even though he plans to play tight end at Syracuse. He has received offers from Boston College, Louisville, UCF and Florida International as well as Syracuse.

Switching spots

As we head into the summer, we've decided to look ahead to the 2012 fall football season by rating which high schools have the best prospects at each position unit. Here is the series schedule:

Wednesday: Offensive Backfields (QB/RB)
Thursday: Pass-Catch Duo (QB to Ind. WR)
Friday: Receiving Corps (Entire Group)
Saturday: Offensive Line
Sunday: Defensive Line
Monday: Linebackers
Tuesday: Secondary

Davis also will be witching positions in college, though he isn't sure whether he will be playing offense and defense. Davis has played quarterback most of his life because his coaches wanted to utilize his athleticism at that spot, but most colleges believe he's best suited elsewhere at the next level.

They just can't agree exactly where he fits best. Some schools are recruiting this three-star all-purpose athlete as a wide receiver. Others like him as a defensive back.

"It's like 50-50 right now," Davis said.

Davis' offer list includes Boise State, Boston College, Cincinnati, Duke, Illinois, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest and West Virginia among others.

He still has plenty of time to decide what position he wants to play in college. Until then, he's intent on helping American Heritage try to win one more state title. Davis should have an expanded role in American Heritage's rushing attack his fall.

"Marcus Davis rushed for 271 yards (last year), and in the past we've had quarterbacks rush for well over 1,000," Socha said. "Part of that was he was a little dinged up and (we) didn't want to run him as much. He's ready to go now. We want to get it back to where we have a dual-threat quarterback with 1,000 (rushing yards) and 1,000 (passing yards).''

Even with such a star-studded backfield, American Heritage faces a tough challenge this fall. The Stallions have a demanding schedule that includes at least three games with teams that finished last season in the RivalsHigh national rankings: No. 3 Seffner Armwood, No. 52 Glades Central and No. 83 West Monroe (La.). American Heritage also is attempting to work out a game with No. 62 Palm Beach Gardens William T. Dwyer. Other opponents include Cocoa (a Class 4A state semifinalist last year) and Class 7A program Delray Beach Atlantic.

Replacing recruits

American Heritage also must replace five FBS recruits from last year's team: offensive tackle Arthur Crouse (Florida Atlantic), tight end Blake Davis (UCF), running back Jeremy Gaskins (Florida Atlantic), offensive tackle Kelly Parfitt (UCF) and wide receiver Cameron Posey (Purdue). American Heritage does return three-star offensive tackle Roderick Johnson, who has verbally committed to Florida.

"We've got some younger guys in there, and they know the role they've got to fill," Socha said. "They're working really hard in the weight room. It's going to be tough -- very tough."

All those graduation losses could prevent the Stallions from dominating opponents at the line of scrimmage quite as thoroughly as they did last season, and that will put more pressure on American Heritage to make the most of its star power in the backfield.

Runners-up (in alphabetical order)

Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee: QB Cord Sandberg (four-star prospect, 5.8 rating, No. 10 dual-threat quarterback), RB Anthony Lauro (three-star prospect, 5.5 rating)

Cape Coral (Fla.) Island Coast: QB Kurt Benkert (three-star prospect, 5.5 rating), RB T.J. Johnson (three-star prospect, 5.6 rating, No. 14 all-purpose back)

Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas: QB John O'Korn (three-star prospect, 5.6 rating), RB Fred Coppet (three-star prospect, 5.6 rating), RB Mardre London (2014 prospect in Rivals.com database, though he doesn't have any reported offers), RB Marquis Magwood (2013 prospect in database, though he doesn't have any reported offers)

Kingsland (Ga.) Camden County: QB Brice Ramsey (four-star prospect, 5.8 rating, No. 9 pro-style quarterback, No. 163 overall recruit, committed to Georgia), ATH J.J. Green (high school running back who could play either offense or defense in college, three-star prospect, 5.6 rating, committed to Georgia), RB Commie Spead (listed in Rivals.com database, though he doesn't have a rating or any reported offers)

Marietta (Ga.) Walton: QB Parker McLeod (three-star prospect, 5.6 rating, No. 29 pro-style quarterback), RB Tyren Jones (four-star prospect, 5.8 rating, No. 1 all-purpose back, No. 146 overall recruit, has made a soft verbal commitment to Alabama), QB Price Wilson (2014 prospect with an offer from FCS program Eastern Kentucky)

Memphis (Tenn.) Whitehaven: QB Patrick Smith (two-star prospect, 5.4 rating), RB Mark Dodson Jr. (four-star prospect, 5.8 rating, No. 4 all-purpose back, No. 218 overall recruit, committed to Ole Miss)

Orlando (Fla.) Boone: QB Alton Meeks (three-star prospect, 5.5 rating, has made a soft verbal commitment to Cincinnati), RB A.J. Turman (four-star prospect, 5.8 rating, No. 18 running back, No. 206 overall recruit)

Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame: QB Kelly Hilinski (three-star prospect, 5.5 rating), RB Khalfani Muhammad (four-star prospect, 5.8 rating, No. 14 running back, No. 180 overall recruit)

Statesville (N.C.): QB Carlis Parker (three-star prospect, 5.7 rating, No. 17 dual-threat quarterback, committed to Virginia Tech), RB Tristan Mumford (three-star prospect, 5.5 rating, No. 5 fullback, committed to East Carolina)

Stockton (Calif.) Lincoln: QB Zack Greenlee (three-star prospect, 5.6 rating), Justin Davis (four-star prospect, 6.0 rating, No. 5 running back, No. 41 overall recruit, committed to USC), RB James Davis (listed in Rivals.com database, though he doesn't have a rating or any reported offers)

Steve Megargee is the national college columnist for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.

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