American Heritage (Fla.) stakes claim to Best Backfield in Nation
Delray Beach (Fla.) American Heritage boasts a trio of star recruits in its backfield
Greg Bryant rushed for more than 2,000 yards in 2011 before pledging Oklahoma
Marcus Davis is a dual-threat athlete; Tyler Provo is a touted fullback and tight end
Greg Bryant and Marcus Davis were beginning grade school when they first teamed up on the gridiron. A decade later, Davis still hands the ball off to Bryant as part of arguably the most star-studded backfield in all of high school football.
Delray Beach (Fla.) American Heritage won a Class 3A title last year behind 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, including Boise State, Boston College and Cincinnati.
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.
"It's really hard to stop us," Davis said.
American Heritage's only loss in 2011 came during an early-season showdown with Class 5A power Belle Glade Glades Central, a 41-34 overtime thriller. Bryant rushed for 202 yards in defeat.
In fact, it was a sign of things to come. Bryant went on to rack up 2,180 rushing yards and 35 touchdowns. He carried the ball 39 times for 243 yards and three touchdowns in the Stallions' 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.''
Bryant's dominant individual effort didn't surprise Davis, and for good reason. He's been witnessing similar performances for the better part of 10 years.
Davis was just six years old when he started playing alongside Bryant on a Pee Wee football team. The squad coached was by Bryant's father, who now works as a defensive line coach at American Heritage. Even then, Davis played quarterback and Bryant running back. They continued together for much of their childhood, and that foundation bred success in the high school ranks. After a few years apart, they reunited as high school sophomores. Davis transferred from Boynton Beach (Fla.) High to join Bryant, who already captured a state championship during his freshman season at American Heritage.
"We just have a vibe on the field," Bryant said.
American Heritage runs an offense that makes the most of Bryant's talents, evidenced by his 39 carries in last year's state championship triumph. Rated as the No. 4 running back and the No. 28 overall player in the class of 2013, 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 is likely the only prospect in the Stallions' backfield filling the same position that he'll play in college.
Provo is a jack-of-all-trades -- lining up at fullback, H-back and tight end -- but he estimates he's in the backfield for about 75 percent of offensive snaps. That will change at the next level: He's looking forward to playing tight end for Syracuse in 2013.
Provo is hoping that the Orange use him in a similar capacity to his older brother, Nick, 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 an abundance of touches at American Heritage, as Socha said Provo amassed just 12 catches and four carries last year. The Stallions will attempt to feature him more frequently this fall, however, a reward for his success as the lead blocker for Bryant.
But Provo has no complaints. And his secondary role hasn't stopped him from catching the attention of national scouts.
Provo is a three-star prospect and the No. 2 fullback in the 2013 class, even though he plans to play tight end at Syracuse. He received offers from Boston College, Louisville, UCF and Florida International before pledging to the Orange on May 15.
Davis will also likely switch positions in college, though he isn't sure whether he'll be used primarily on offense or defense. Davis has played quarterback for most of his career, but most experts believe he's best suited elsewhere at the next level.
Problem is, they can't agree where he fits best. A three-star all-purpose athlete, Davis is being targeted as both a wide receiver and 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 make his decision, but that's not what he's focused on. Instead, he's intent on leading American Heritage to one more state title. He should even have an expanded role in the Stallions' rushing attack this 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 highly touted backfield, American Heritage faces a tough challenge. The Stallions face a demanding schedule that includes at least three games against nationally ranked opponents: Seffner (Fla.) Armwood, Glades Central (Fla.) and West Monroe (La.). The program is also attempting to set up a game with Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) William T. Dwyer, while other matchups include Cocoa (a Florida Class 4A state semifinalist last year) and Class 7A program Delray Beach Atlantic (Fla.).
American Heritage must also 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). The school 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 of those losses to graduation could prevent the Stallions from dominating, but don't count on it. American Heritage looks to have the backfield talent -- and the chemistry -- to rise to the occasion in 2012.
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