When discussing the top running backs in the state of Florida the two names most often mentioned first are those of Mike Bellamy and Marlin Lane. However, there's a new name entering the discussion. Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee all-purpose back Mike Blakely had as good a junior season as any player in the state and he is starting to see his offer list explode.
The 5-foot-9, 195-pound back has already been seen by two Southeastern Conference programs so far this week. One (Florida) he already had an offer from, while the other (Tennessee) was impressed enough to extend an offer after evaluating him.
With over 20 offers to date, including programs such as Michigan, Miami, Florida and Clemson, Blakely is no longer one of the best kept secrets in the Sunshine State. While recruitniks may just be learning about him, college coaches have been well aware of what Blakely brings to the table.
When asked about which coaches he has seen this spring, Blakely started naming them off one-by-one.
"Stan Drayton, Jay Boulware, a coach from Ole Miss, coach Darrin [Hinshaw] from Tennessee," replied Blakely. "Those are the names I remember. There have been more. North Carolina, South Carolina and Clemson are supposed to be coming in. Florida and Auburn are going to be coming back in again."
If you're looking for the reason coaches are beating a path to Charlotte High School this spring, simply check out what Blakely was able to accomplish during the 2009 football season.
Last year, though Blakely shared offensive touches along with South Carolina signee Ace Sanders, he was still able to rack up over 1,400 yards rushing to go with 35 receptions and 19 total touchdowns.
This year he will have to carry more of the burden, but he looks forward to meeting that challenge.
"I knew that with my talent something good would happen to me if I worked hard," Blakely explained. "There's people out there with a bigger name than me, but that's because they don't have as much talent on their team. Me, I had to share the ball with Ace Sanders and Brion Carnes (Western Kentucky). I don't have them now. I have to step up even more."
Not only did last year's seniors share the load with Blakely on the field, they've given him some advice on how to handle the recruiting process off of it.
"Me and Ace are like brothers and Brion is my cousin. Ace was stress free during recruiting while Brion [who was once committed to South Florida before the coaching shakeup in Tampa] had something going on every day. What I learned from them is don't make any commitment until I'm sure [of] what I want to do."
What Blakely says he is 'sure' of at the moment is that there is one leader and several programs in hot pursuit.
"Auburn is leading right now," said Blakely. "I know Florida and Ole Miss will be there for sure until the end. Clemson has a butt-load of running backs, but I still like them. South Carolina, I like them because my brother [Sanders - not actually related] is going there. I want to say I'm open to the rest until I make my visits and see what the schools have."
One thing Blakely said he will be actively seeking out is how many running backs a program has on scholarship.
"Today (Thursday) I looked up most of the schools that I like and looked at their depth charts," explained Blakely. "Like North Carolina, they have nine running backs. Florida has seven running backs. I know coaches all tell you the same thing, but you have to learn how to tell what's the truth from what's not true. I want to play early. I'll be looking at all the depth charts.
When asked what are the most important factors in his decision - Blakely responded, "Playing early and graduating. I want to play football and get my degree."
As for his summer camp plans, Blakely had this to say: "I'm going to Clemson for a one day camp on June 9th and then I'll be going to South Carolina for a one day camp. I might be going to Ole Miss and Big Cat (Auburn) too."