Viera, Holy Trinity football players attract attention of college recruiters


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Viera's Davis Mallinger has offers from South Carolina, Illinois amd Toledo, but ultimately committed to UCF last month.

Carl Kotala

The coronavirus might have shut down sports all across the country, but it certainly hasn’t stopped college football programs from recruiting high school players.

In just the past few months, Viera High School defensive tackle Jamari Lyons has received offers from schools such as Florida, Miami, Auburn, Penn State, West Virginia and Illinois.

“His ability to get off the football is extremely high,” Viera coach Derek Smith said. “Plus, he’s got a large body with long arms. At 300 pounds, you don’t see that every day.”

Lyons isn’t the only Viera player to be getting some love by college recruiters.

Safety Zak Sedaros already had offers from Florida Tech and Ithaca when Army and Navy both made him an offer late last month.

Then there’s receiver Davis Mallinger, who recently committed to UCF.

Holy Trinity’s Ja’Lon Hudgins has offers from William & Mary and Tusculum and could be in line for more come the fall when he transitions from quarterback to wide receiver.

The most highly-sought out recruit in the county is Holy Trinity wide receiver James BlackStrain. Ranked No. 193 in ESPN’s Junior 300, BlackStrain has more than 40 offers from schools such as North Carolina, Florida State, West Virginia, Penn State, USC and Mississippi State.

“They love the body,” Tigers coach Nate Hooks Jr. said. “He’s 6-2 and some change with wide shoulders, long arms and big hands. And he catches the ball. He’s not a blazer, but they love his length, his hand size, his height and the wide shoulders.”

BlackStrain, who said he is 100 percent after missing last season with an injury, said the recruiting process never seems to stop and that at this point, it’s all about building relationships.

“I’m just thankful for Coach Hooks and Coach Cam (Matt Cammarata) for putting me in the position to have these many offers,” BlackStrain said.

While the coronavirus hasn’t stopped BlackStrain and others from getting offers — the Mississippi State offer came last month — it has prevented the wide receiver from making visits to schools such as USC and Penn State. Still, BlackStrain said he hopes to make his decision before his senior season begins.

For Mallinger, the decision to pick UCF over offers from South Carolina, Illinois and Toledo was an easy one for several reasons.

“UCF was at the very top of my list since the beginning,” Mallinger said “I like their style of play on offense and I feel like I’m an instant fit.”

Mallinger, who intends to enroll early, will be the third receiver to play at UCF. Tre Nixon will be a senior on the 2020 Knights team and figures to be one of the top offensive threats after scoring seven touchdowns last season. His older brother, Devin, was a redshirt sophomore on the 2019 team after transferring from Western Kentucky.

“Davis is a unique combination of length and speed,” Smith said. “He has a physicality that comes with that. He’s not a finesse player. He’s more of a physical player with speed.”

Speed also is a big part of Sedaros’ game. He recently ran a 4.48 in the 40-yard dash.

“Zak’s a smart, intelligent player who legitimizes himself with speed,” Smith said.

While Hudgins is generally listed as an  “athlete,” Hooks believes that will change this upcoming season when the rising senior moves from quarterback to receiver.

“When they say ‘athlete,’ they pretty much don’t know if you’re going to play on the offensive or defensive side,” Hooks said. “He’s going to play receiver this year and I guarantee that athlete thing is going to change to receiver. They’re going to see him catch it a lot.”

BlackStrain expects to have a big year, too. He is the third player since Hooks has been at Holy Trinity to be ranked in the ESPN 300.

“For us to have 20 kids on the roster every year, I think it’s an exceptional accomplishment,” Hooks said. “We even had, two seasons ago, the county Defensive Player of the Year with Sully Altman. I’m pretty sure people are aware of what’s going on.

“We’re the second-smallest school in the county that plays football, behind Merritt Island Christian. We’re 16th out of 17, but we’re right there with everyone in accomplishments.”