Posted: 12:40 am Thursday, August 28th, 2008

Smith, Hawthorne, Wooten headed to BCS powers 

By Jason Lieser

Three of the county’s top recruiting prospects plan to commit at the end of the week, and college football’s rich will get richer.


Glades Central wide receiver Rantavious Wooten will announce his decision between Georgia and LSU this week. Wooten told the Post he has already made his choice, but has kept it secret from coaches, teammates and the media.

He is 5-10, 165 pounds and runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds. In addition to offers from Georgia and LSU, Wooten drew heavy interest from Miami, Michigan, West Virginia and Arkansas, among others.

Wooten is widely considered the No. 2 receiver prospect in Palm Beach County, behind Pahokee’s Nu’Keese Richardson. Richardson will start at quarterback this year, meaning Wooten is should be the county’s top receiver on Friday nights. He has benefitted tremendously from the insight of new coach Jessie Hester, a former Glades Central and Florida State wide receiver who went on to a decade-long career in the NFL.

Pahokee has a press conference scheduled for Friday as running back Vincent Smith and defensive end Brandin Hawthorne plan to announce their choices. Smith narrowed his list to Michigan and Tennessee, while Hawthorne will go with Michigan or Louisville. Defensive back Jarvis Byrd originally planned to announce Friday, but opted to postpone his decision.

In interviews with the Post on Wednesday, Smith and Hawthorne hinted they would like to play together — meaning Michigan is the choice for both — but did not reveal their plans explicitly.

Smith’s versatility makes him an ideal fit in Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez’ spread offense. He is 5-9, 170 pounds and runs the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds. Smith has a great first step, loves to initiate contact with potential tacklers and has shown great ability as a receiver out of the backfield.

Smith has chatted frequently with Michigan wide receiver Martavious Odoms, Pahokee’s top threat last year, but said Odoms has not tried to persuade him. Smith has also talked with Hawthorne constantly throughout the recruiting process and said both of them like the idea of sticking together in college.

Hawthorne might be slightly undersized at 6-2, 200 pounds, but he runs the 40-yard dash in 4.6 second and is one of the county’s most vicious hitters. He will start at defensive end this season, but has been recruited as an outside linebacker. Either way, his role will not change much.

Pahokee’s coaching staff refers to him as a “psycho” because of his propensity to run all over the field, drive through blockers and level whoever has the ball. Two years ago, that was a problem because Hawthorne was not playing within the system, but Pahokee defensive coordinator Rick Lammons now credits him as one of the team’s most disciplined players.

Hawthorne hinted at Michigan by calling himself a “cold weather player.” Last I checked, the coldest temperature at a Pahokee game last season was 103 F.

Both Hawthorne and Smith said they are on track to graduate early and plan to enroll in college in January.

Verbal commitments are not binding — Glades Central offensive lineman Henry Orelus recently switched his pledge from LSU to Florida State — and players still can make official campus visits to other universities.

If these three players truly are off the board, however, the attention increases on several other standouts in the county. Palm Beach Central linebacker Jon Bostic is the consensus top recruit, but his list of destinations stands at 11.

Atlantic’s Jayron Hosley (Georgia, LSU, Alabama and several others), Dwyer’s Bradley Wallace (Miami and Auburn, among others) and King’s Academy linebacker Toney Moore (offers from FAU and Syracuse) are some of the top “free agents” available.