I’ll Take Both Please

Summary: I caught up with Defensive Ends Tyriq McCord of Jefferson and Dante Fowler of Lakewood recently at the Under Armour Combine for Underclassmen. Both young men are continuing this area’s tradition of elite talent on and off the field.

If you were to give me a choice between Coke or Pepsi, I’d probably say both.  If you were to ask me whether or not I was a Hooters or Wing House guy, you’d get the same response.  So it should come as now surprise then if you were to inquire about the services of Tyriq McCord and Dante Fowler, I’d say there’s plenty of room to add on to the house.

What college WOULDN’T want to have bookend tackles going 6’3″ 210 (McCord) and 6’3″ 235 (Fowler)?! Well, Florida State has already secured the verbal commitment of Mr. Fowler who racked up 20 sacks last year for Lakewood High School in St. Petersburg. Although verbals are in many cases nervously monitored until Nation Signing Day, this one should feel real nice to Coaches DJ Elliot and Jimbo Fisher.

Fowler has been a Seminole for as long as he can remember and told me so with a funny anecdote: “I’ve always been a Florida State Fan since I was a little baby. When I was younger, I remember watching them play against the Florida Gators, I had on a Florida State Helmet and my Little Brother had on a Gators Helmet.” Fowler’s Cousin, Chris Davis is a standout Wide Receiver from St. Pete Catholic and a Florida State Graduate himself. Fowler also lists him as his biggest influence even though they never played the same position.

McCord has not settled on a college yet, and that seem to be just fine with him. Notre Dame, Ole Miss, USF, Rutgers, South Carolina, and Oregon are all in the mix for him as well as a few others.  Asked whether or not the local school (USF) would get any sort of “special” consideration, he very profoundly answered, “I just want to keep it balanced. I grew up a UF Fan, but I would be silly not to look at all of the things that a school can offer regardless of the location or anything like that.”

These two young men also posses one of the intangibles that cannot be taught; and that is the willingness to not accept where they are at with their progress. I asked them both poignantly what they felt like they needed to do in order to make themselves better players, and they were both very forthcoming and honest with their answers.

McCord was critical of his skill in getting of his run blocks better. “I mean it’s just something I need to get better at. I feel like my pass blocking is okay, but I feel like I need to have more games like the Hillsborough one where I was getting quick starts off the ball and dominating.”

Fowler, a sack machine that sets a goal of 30 sacks each year feels like the only way to achieve that is to borrow the old cliche of basics. “If I’m going to make that goal of 30, I’ve got to work hard in the weight room, study more game film, and get my fundamentals straight.”

Both will be tested next year early and often when each school gets assigned to a new district. Ironically the two have been district rivals for the last two years. Jefferson gets the pleasure of facing a district schedule with teams that are considered to be some of the best in this area. Armwood, Hillsborough, Sickles, and King all are on the slate in addition to an upstart Strawberry Crest team that went 5-5 and returns many starters. Lakewood gets the area’s largest district with nine others including Jesuit who went 10-1 and Robinson, the 2A State 2A Semifinalists.