Posted: 12:23 am Thursday, May 29th, 2008

Who will be 2008’s football stars? 

By Jason Lieser

In Thursday’s sports section, there is an article on four football players expecting breakout seasons in 2008: QB/WR Nu’Keese Richardson (Pahokee), LB/RB Jon Bostic (Palm Beach Central), LB/FB Kareem Jones (Okeechobee) and QB Darius Milines (American Heritage).

But those four are not the only stars-in-the-making this area has to offer. Here is a look at some of the top recruits and players who appear to be on the brink of stardom heading into next season:

Rantavious Wooten, Glades Central, WR
Wooten (6-1, 190) was one of several players to try their hand at quarterback under coach Willie Snead last season, but new boss Jessie Hester has shifted him to full-time wide receiver for the 2008 campaign. Receiver is a much more natural spot for Wooten, who caught four passes for 128 yards and three touchdowns in the Raiders’ spring game. He said he has been offered scholarships by Miami, Michigan, Georgia, West Virginia and Arkansas, among others.

Lonnie Pryor, Okeechobee, RB
Pryor (6-0, 195) rushed for over 1,600 yards last season and averaged 8.4 per carry. He scored 19 touchdowns and was a dominant free safety as well. He doesn’t really qualify as an up-and-comer, but he is always worth updating. He has drawn interest from college programs nationwide and appears to be choosing between LSU and FSU.

Vincent Smith, Pahokee, RB
Nu’Keese Richardson will do plenty of rushing out of the quarterback position, but Smith (5-9, 190) will play a big role in the Blue Devils’ run game as well. Pahokee coach Blaze Thompson said Smith could join Richardson as an early commit, and he has drawn the interest of Tennessee, Michigan and Minnesota already.

Toney Moore, King’s Academy, LB/TE
Moore will be a staple in Craig Dobson’s multiple I-formation offense as a tight end, and showed it with three catches for 39 yards in the Lions’ spring game. But his real value is at linebacker, where he has BCS coaches drooling. “Believe me, he is the real thing,” a Division I coach told the Post. His first offer came from Syracuse, but Moore (6-2, 215) also is considering USC, LSU, Oregon, Texas and Oklahoma among his favorites.

Jayron Hosley, Atlantic, DB
Hosley (5-10, 170) is a speedy player in the Eagles’ secondary and could make an immediate contribution at the next level as a kick/punt returner. He could end up at Georgia, LSU, USF, UCF, Alabama or Auburn, and other offers could be rolling in once the season begins.

Henry Orelus, Glades Central, C
On a team loaded with highly sought prospects, Orelus arguably is the Raiders’ most coveted player, and defending champion LSU has already secured his verbal commitment. Orelus (6-6, 315) is a hulk on the offensive line and will be a key factor in Glades Central’s high-powered offense.

Luther Robinson, Ft. Pierce Westwood, DT
Robinson (6-2, 270) had 62 tackles and eight sacks last season. He was chased by Florida and Florida State, but has given a verbal commitment to Miami.

Bradley Wallace, Dwyer, QB/DB
Wallace (6-2, 195) is a dual-threat quarterback and his speed makes him attractive to programs at several positions. Miami, Auburn, Rutgers, UNC, Iowa St. and Virginia are considered possible destinations for him at this point.

Antonio McCloude, Glades Central, RB
First McCloude sat behind Deonte Thompson in 2006, then he was hampered by nagging injuries last season. This spring, McCloude (5-8, 165) looks fully healthy and has drawn the eye of coaches at Florida, Miami, Florida State and Pittsburgh.

Antione Kirkland, Olympic Heights, RB
Lions coach Mitch Hengold feels Kirkland (5-11, 190) could be the best running back in Palm Beach County this fall, and one reason behind that thinking is his 4.49 time in the 40-yard dash. Kirkland has no major offers yet, but has been recruited by
UCF, Louisville, UNC, Iowa St., Central Michigan, Liberty and others.

Khalil Mack, Ft. Pierce Westwood, LB
Mack (6-2, 215) was slowed by a knee injury the last two seasons, but looks strong this spring. UCF, Notre Dame, Louisville and Cincinnati have been recruiting him.

Brandin Hawthorne, Pahokee, LB
Hawthorne (6-1, 181) is strong against the run and quick enough to fall into coverage against the pass. Possible options for him include Michigan, USF, Clemson, Louisville and Buffalo.

Joe Vaught, Jensen Beach, OT
Vaught (6-4, 265) has remained injury-free in his three years starting at Jensen Beach, and could be one of the top recruits the school has ever produced. So far, USF, FAU, FIU and the Citadel have shown interest.

Percival James, Atlantic, DT
Coach Andre Thaddies believes James (6-0, 280) would be one of the area’s premier recruits if he was slightly taller, but he is already an impossible matchup for opposing offensive lines. He is in the class of 2010, but Kansas St., Miami (Ohio), Marshall, Arkansas St., Howard and the Citadel are all in the mix for him.

Tyler Wilhelm, Seminole Ridge, QB/FS
Could Wilhelm be the next Joe Flacco? He might get the chance if he signs with Delaware. For now, he is working on boosting his velocity as he prepares to lead the Hawks into next season. Wilhelm (6-3, 180) has been pursued by UCF, FIU, Air Force, Tulsa, Delaware, Penn, Miami (Ohio), LeHigh and Liberty.

Joe Gaudet, Benjamin, MLB
Gaudet is a three-year starter and prototypical high school middle linebacker. His coaches believe he has the ability to be a first-team all-state linebacker this year and will be one of the very best small school players in the area. So far, he has been looked at by Bucknell, Washington & Lee, Gettysburg, Franklin & Marshall, Dickinson & Union, and Hiram.

Darris Hughes, Clewiston, RB
Hughes (5-7, 175) came on strong last season and should be even better in 2008. Top-flight programs have asked for information and highlights on him, but he will need to produce early in the season to generate big buzz.

Jeff Luc, Treasure Coast, LB
Luc scored five touchdowns as a fullback and tight end last year, and was one of the team’s top tacklers at linebacker. He is very quick and will anchor Treasure Coast’s defense next season.

Other players to watch: James Potts, Park Vista, RB; Brett Swider, Spanish River, RB; Willie Walker, South Fork, FB; Emmanuel Rathell, Santaluces, QB/FS; Daryl Thomas, Seminole Ridge, DL; Andrew Schoenfeld, Park Vista, OL; Chris Dunkley, Royal Palm Beach, WR; Kyle McGee, Okeechobee, OL; Sidney Jean-Baptiste, Centennial, OL; Fred Pickett, Glades Central, WR; Artavious Dowdell, Glades Central, DL; Brendan Gibbons, Cardinal Newman, P/K; Bo Schlechter, Glades Day, QB; Alex Hardrick, King';s Academy, DL; Will Powers, Jupiter Christian, LB/FB; Johnny Lance, Berean Christian, QB.