Scouting Notes: Future St. Thomas Aquinas and Deerfield Beach Prospects

Brian Smith

Two of Florida’s most talented high school football programs are located near one another, and often play against one another. Elite college football programs are not strangers to recruiting either program.

If you are in the game of recruiting Broward County, Florida, then you are in the game of recruiting Deerfield Beach and St. Thomas Aquinas. Any argument to the contrary is utter failure. From just the class of 2020, the combination of the two programs’ netted 15 players that signed with Power Five programs.

Moving forward, much of the same should be expected for the Florida Gators after securing STA's Derek Wingo in the class of 2020. Both rosters are loaded. 

I went to watch seven on seven with some of Deerfield’s best 2022 and 2023 prospects on February 23rd, as well as stopped by STA on February 24th to meet numerous prospects. Neither stop disappointed.

Deerfield Beach

This was not a full roster situation. Even so, three players were in attendance that can play at the highest level of college football. Let’s start with the player that deserves a lot more attention, and he’s going to be a household name.

WR Jo Jo Kennerly, 5-8, 161 lbs. - Class of 2022

Kennerly deserves to be called more than a slot wide receiver, although that’s his primary position. Point blank, nobody consistently stays in front of him once he receives the football.

Second, unlike most smaller wide receivers, Kennerly proved to be adept at making catches during ‘jump ball’ situations. That’s rare for a slot wide receiver. Kennerly made the catch of the day when he coyly came back to the football, while the cornerback kept running, and made a sliding catch from an underthrown deep ball.

Additionally, Kennerly went up the ladder and grabbed a jump ball. Maryland became his first Power Five offer, but that’s just the beginning. This young man is dynamite in a small package. Kennerly’s film also showed how he can return kicks and catch passes over the middle.

QB Peter Zamora, 6-0, 180 - 2022

I’ve watched plenty of Zamora’s film over the last six months, but watching him throw the football helped me better understand just how technically sound this signal caller already is.

Zamora's compact, over-the-top throwing motion produces tight spiral after tight spiral. He just warmed up and threw for a short while, but it was apparent he could spin it. Zamora transferred to Deerfield Beach from Monarch, and he will have a plethora of weapons to throw to for the next two years.

His best fit would be the Air Raid offense, at schools such as Mississippi State, USC, Texas Tech, Arizona, etc. As Zamora becomes bigger, expect his stock to rise.

RB Jaziun Patterson, 5-11, 193 - 2022

One of the nation’s premiere 2022 prospects, Patterson still loves to compete despite offers from programs across the country. Florida, Florida State, Auburn, and Oregon represent just a few of his offers. Just learning how to play in the passing game, Patterson’s powerful leg drive makes him the traditional I-Back that hammers opposing defenders.

For him to be the complete package, he will need to continue to grow in the passing game. Patterson is a solid wide receiver for now. As a pure one-cut runner, Patterson is elite, and welcomes contact as he fights for yardage. He's a thumper.

St. Thomas Aquinas

Listing every Raiders’ prospect would be a four-part article by itself. The program is more loaded than usual, seriously. With that, here are a few of the prospects that I briefly met, courtesy of head coach Roger Harriott and his coaching staff. The plan is to be at St. Thomas Aquinas for a spring practice in May to better evaluate what talent is truly there.

DE Tyreak Sapp, 6-3, 260 - 2021

Already committed to Florida, Sapp looks like a grown man. He’s the definition of ‘first man off the bus’ during a road trip. Jacked up, rocked up, whatever you want to call it, Sapp is a monster. He's a nice young man, and he’s crazy about football from what everyone inside St. Thomas Aquinas had to say about him.

Sapp is starting to learn the nuances of block destruction by way of good hand use. Combining those traits with his incredible natural skill, and one can see why he’s one of Dixie’s most coveted recruits. The Gators have a great talent in their hands in Sapp, who committed to Florida in December of 2018 and has held firm. The highlights below are against Deerfield, so these highlights display Sapp’s true upside.

DE/OLB Dallas Turner, 6-4, 230 - 2021

It’s rare these days to find a high school prospect listed as a linebacker that is already 230-pounds. Turner’s physical gifts make him a defensive coordinator’s dream and quarterback’s nightmare. With a quick-twitch ability that allows him to move laterally like a WILL linebacker, Turner could play in space in college. Despite that, he’s an incredibly talented pass rusher.

Turner definitely looks the part, with a long, lean, and athletic build that could easily fill out to 255-pounds. He already possesses a spin move, and his ability to close on a quarterback is as good as any defensive end in America.

This young man has an incredible future ahead of him. Turner can be as good as he wants, and he might be the key to St. Thomas Aquinas defending its 7A state championship. He just transferred in from American Heritage, so it will be interesting to see how quickly Turner adjusts to the Raiders’ schemes and culture. Florida, among other SEC schools, are all over Turner.

CB Jaden McBurrows, 5-11, 175 - 2021

If there was ever a player that his so-called recruiting ranking did not match the plethora of Power Five offers, McBurrows would be the player. Alabama, Penn State, Michigan, Ohio State, and LSU have all offered since late January, yet McBurrows is unrated in the 247Sports Composite. That says it all right there.

As for meeting McBurrows, he was as advertised, in very good shape and well spoken. This young man’s recruitment is about to go into hyperdrive. McBurrows the most instinctive off-ball cornerback I’ve watched for the class of 2021. I lost count of how many pick-six interceptions he earned. The film doesn't lie!

MLB Jaydon Hood, 6-1, 215 - 2021

Few players look the part more than Hood. Hood’s frame just screams linebacker. 25-years ago, he might have been a prospect SEC teams would look at to play tailback as well. Well spoken, very quiet, and down to earth. That’s Hood’s demeanor. On the field, it’s a different story.

Hood recently transferred from Cardinal Newman to STA. It would not be surprising if he ended up taking over the defensive play-calling after that void has been left by Wingo, and his physical attributes speak for themselves. He’s a three-down linebacker at the FBS level.  A 3.8 GPA does not hurt either.

QB Zion Turner, 6-1, 185 - 2022

Turner already assumed a leadership role; that’s rare for a young man just old enough to begin learning how to drive a car. After leading the Raiders to the 2019 state title, what’s next for this ultra-talented prospect? Well, he will now be a player that teams scheme for week-in and week-out.

Just briefly meeting with Turner told me quite a bit. He’s not taking his role lightly, and he wants to win. On Monday, Turner got up at 3 a.m. just to make it to an early morning workout. He lives in Miami and makes the long commute to the St. Thomas Aquinas campus located in Fort Lauderdale. That’s dedication. Another year in the weight room and there’s no telling how many offers this kid will receive.

RB Anthony Hankerson, 5-10, 180 - 2022

Confident, yet laid back, Hankerson provides high-level talent in multiple ways. Hankerson’s speed is underrated, and he’s just now growing into his body. He could be a 210-pound running back as a college senior.

Hankerson was quiet, but did show a good amount of confidence while I was there. I really like his demeanor. As for recruiting, he will be a national recruit. Florida is one of several teams in his recruitment early on.

OT Julian Armella, 6-6, 315 - 2022

One of the most mature young players I’ve ever been around. He understands the St. Thomas Aquinas culture, and he in fact embraces that culture. A Florida State legacy recruit, Armella earned offers from numerous programs like Florida, Oregon, Notre Dame, and Alabama just recently.

Armella continues to learn technique while growing into his 6-6 frame. He could be a potential five star recruit if he takes the necessary steps. Armella has a long way to go, but he’s a special talent.

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