High school football: Who are the top 10 Pensacola-area prospects entering the 2022 slate? (2023)

Lucas Semb|Pensacola News Journal

With the sun starting to set on the preseason and beginning to show on the horizon of the 2022 regular season, the local talent pool is as good as it's ever been.

It seems that every team in the area has at least a couple guys fielding Division I offers, and others that could say the same thing with a strong performance in the new year. But there are some clear top dogs who already have a lot to show at this point.

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From the offensive line to skill positions, the football crop in the Pensacola area has strength across the board. There are guys committed to Power 5 programs, and one's still debating where to pledge their allegiance.

Here's a look at which Escambia and Santa Rosa County athletes are looking like the best next-level recruits to come out of the Panhandle (they are listed in no specific order):

Jonathan Daniels, Jr., OT, Pine Forest

247 Sports Rankings (2024) - National No. 216, Position No. 14, State No. 38

A mountain of a young man, Daniels blossomed into the high-level recruithe is during a magical 2021 season in which Pine Forest finished as the Class 6A state runner-up.

At 6-foot-5, 295-pounds, the Power 5 offensive line recruit was the driving force in a veteran front as the youngest player.He pancaked anyone who stepped in front of him, opening holes for the Eagles' run-first offense to go for 3,707 rushing yards, more than double the national average.

Pine Forest's nearly three 1,000-yard rushers also benefited from Daniels' second-level blocking abilities. After planting a defensive lineman, he can use his 4.93 40-yard dash speed to go and pick up a linebacker.

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Offers: Georgia, LSU, FSU, etc. (18 total)

247 Sports Rating: 4 stars

Koby Howard, So., WR, Catholic

247 Sports Rankings (2025) - N/A

Unfortunately, fans will have to wait until late this season or perhaps 2023 before seeing the quick-rising wide receiver take to the field. During a University of Miami exposure camp this summer, the sophomore fractured his leg. However, he was visited in the hospital by Hurricanes head coach Mario Cristobal, who made him an official offer.

That adds to the lengthy list of schools recruiting Howard for his receiving services, and rightfully so. As the 2021 PNJ Offensive Newcomer of the Year, the then-freshman recorded 808 yards with eight touchdowns, making jaw-dropping catches all season long.

He has an innate ability at high-pointing balls for catches over the top, and contorting his body with control for difficult receptions. The sooner he's back, the better it'll be for lovers of good football.

Offers: Georgia, Florida, Miami, etc. (20 offers)

247 Sports Rating: N/A

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Raymond Cottrell, Sr., WR, Milton

247 Sports Ranking (2023): National No. 103, Position No. 15, State No. 24

Another season, another year of being named to the PNJ's preseason best lists.

A mainstay at Milton since his freshman season, Cottrell is finally gearing up for his final season before heading to the collegiate level. He's been nothing short of fantastic in his first three seasons, totaling 1,592 receiving yards for 17 touchdowns.

In his junior season, he even proved to be a jack of all trades. With opposing defenses doubling and sometimes triple-teaming him, the coaching staff mixed it up to get him more touches. He came out of the backfield with 311 rushing yards and seven scores, and even passed for two touchdowns.

Offers: Georgia commit (12 offers)

247 Sports Rating: 4 stars

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Emory Williams, Sr., QB, Milton

247 Sports Ranking (2023): National No. 595, Position No. 30, State No. 101

Responsible for part of Cottrell's success, Williamsalso be looking to go out with a bang in the duos' farewell season.

The quarterback was a mid-major recruit leading into the summer, but Miami proved to know something that other Power 5 schools didn't. After receiving an offer from the Hurricanes, Williams was extended an invite to the Elite 11 quarterback showcase in California. He ended up finishing third and later committed to Miami.

In nine games last season, his first as a starter,the 6-foot-4 gunslinger passed for 2,168 yards and 16 touchdowns. Mainly a pocket presence, this Panther can throw it with the best of them.

Offers: Miami commit (12 offers)

247 Sports Rating: 3 stars

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Elijah Douglas, Sr., DL, Pine Forest

247 Sports Rankings (2023): National No. 1,121, Position No. 124, State No. 158

A late bloomer by default, Douglas now leads the area in total scholarship offers. He was in the shadow of now-Nicholls State defensive linemen Rasheed Lovelace and Jaquan Fank last season, but is the standout himself for the Eagles this season.

As the defensive front's third horse last year, he collected 69 tackles, 10 of which were for loss. He added three sacks and two quarterback hurries onto that stat line.

His recruiting took a sharp incline this summer when he was invited to the Rivals New Orleans exposure camp. There, he performed as one of the better rushers in attendance, garnering some national publicity.

Offers: Georgia Tech commit (25offers)

247 Sports Rating: 3 stars

Donielle Hayes, Sr., WR, Pine Forest

247 Sports Rankings (2023): National No. 713, Position No. 94, State No. 110

On a team that's primary focus is to run the ball down the opposition's throat, Hayes was the only wide receiver the Eagles needed to keep defenses honest.

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With next-level speed and quick reflexes, the future Golden Gopher had 722 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. But he had the biggest game of his career on the grandest of stages, reeling in four catches for 92 yards and a touchdown.

His kick-returning prowess showed too, returning two kicks for 182 yards. That doesn't include another kickoff return that he took all the way to the house, but got called back due to a penalty.

Offers: Minnesota commit (17 offers)

247 Sports Rating: 3 stars

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Jabril Rawls, Sr., DB, Catholic

247 Sports Rankings (2023): National No. 1,010, Position No. 98, State No. 146

The versatile Rawls is the epitome of a top prospect, with at least one offer from every Power 5 conference: SEC, ACC, PAC 12, Big 12 and Big 10 teams all tried their luck in landing him.

He's also cando whatever is asked of him, with lots of experience in different roles under his belt. During his junior season, he served as a special teams, offensive and defensive weapon.

However, he's being recruited as a defensive back, where he will likely profile as a high-level zone corner. With great instincts and a high IQ, Rawls will be exceptional in being in the right spot to thwart away passes.

Offers: Florida State commit (23offers)

247 Sports Rating: 3 stars

Zavier Hamilton, Jr., LB, Navarre

247 Sports Rankings (2024): N/A

Starting his career with the Raiders and then transferring to Andalusia in Alabama, Hamilton is back withhis hometown team and has yet to formally introduce himself to area opponents.

At 6-foot-1, 200-pounds, Hamilton has great size and speed for the linebacker position. Additionally, he was facilitated as a running back last season and Raiders head coach Jay Walls plans on using him that way as well.

An unknown to the area at this point, he'll quickly show why he's getting all the attention he is.

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Offers: Georgia, LSU, Auburn, etc. (15 offers)

247 Sports Rating: N/A

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John Michael Ward, Sr., OL, Northview

247 Sports Rankings (2023): N/A

At the end of his junior season, Ward had nothing in the way of scholarship offers. Fast forward nine months later and he's one of the best linemen prospects in Northwest Florida.

College coaches have been thrilled with his aggressiveness this summer at various camps. His high school head coach, Wes Summerford, said his physicality and sense of "meanness" have propelled him into college consideration.

Playing both sides of the ball for 1RNorthview, Ward had 73 pancake blocks and 57 tackles last season, but has astronomical goals this season. He's hoping for triple-digit pancake blocks and 60 sacks.

Offers: South Florida, Florida International, Florida Atlantic, etc. (7offers)

247 Sports Rating: N/A

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Reed Robinson, Sr., WR, Washington

247 Sports Rankings (2023): N/A

Last, but certainly not least, Robinson profiles as a high-major player with a little bit more fine tuning ofhis game. At 6-foot-4, 210-pounds with a 40-inch vertical, the physical metrics are already there.

In a breakout junior campaign that was carried out on pure athletic capability, Robinson pulled down 41 passes for 737 yards and nine touchdowns. Learning the nuances of the game, which Wildcats head coach Ryan Onkka said has been a priority of Robinson's this offseason, could lead him to much bigger offers.

He'll now have a chance to prove that he's quarterback-proof, too. His quarterback last season, First-Team All-Area player Ammiel Steele, transferred to Escambia. Robinson will have to quickly build a repertoire with new QB Davis Sherman.

Offers: UCONN, Florida International, Florida Atlantic, etc. (19 offers)

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247 Sports Rating: N/A

Lucas Semb can be reached at Lsemb@pensacol.gannett.com or 850-281-7414. Follow him on Twitter at @Lucas_Semb for stories and various Pensacola area score updates.

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