Recruiting ‘23: OP’s Kearney to Florida State, Jackson’s Howard to South Carolina, Bartram’s Denson to UF

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It’s been a big two days for two of the area’s top recruits in the Class of 2023.

Orange Park offensive tackle Roderick Kearney and Jackson linebacker Grayson Howard verbally committed to college programs.

Kearney committed to Florida State and head coach Mike Norvell. Howard committed to South Carolina on Monday afternoon after a weekend official visit to Columbia.

Howard’s commitment to the Gamecocks was big for Jackson. He’s the first major recruit at the program since the school shifted to a magnet program in 2016. Howard had 157 tackles, 14 for loss in an All-News4JAX junior season that saw Jackson qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2010. Howard picked the South Carolina over Florida, which had been heavily recruiting him.

Kearney is the area’s top-rated recruit in the Class of 2023, coming in at No. 115 in the On3 consensus rankings.

Should Kearney’s commitment hold through signing day, it will mark the third straight season that Norvell has signed a player from the coverage area. Linebacker Shyheim Brown (Columbia) signed with the Seminoles in 2021. Defensive end Aaron Hester (Fletcher) and guard Kanaya Charlton (Brunswick) both signed with Florida State last season.

“It’s really impacted my school a lot,” Kearney said. “It’s also helped a lot of people on the team for their recruiting and stuff. You know, I’m just trying to make sure everybody eat.”

Orange Park first-year head coach Marcus Wimberly said that Kearney is a big time player for the Raiders and that he’s continuing to improve.

“Work ethic. Work ethic,” Wimberly said of Kearney’s best quality. “He had to get a little better when we got here but he’s getting there, he’s working hard, he’s buying in to what we’re doing.

Just hours after Howard chose South Carolina over Florida, the Gators received a commitment from Bartram Trail defensive back Sharif Denson. Denson follows Tre’Vez Johnson who will be a junior for the Gators in the fall. Denson was the 196th-ranked player in the country and the fourth-rated prospect from our area.

Denson chose Florida over Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech and others. He is considered a four-star recruit. Teams rarely threw his way during his junior year. He had only one interception as a result, but he made his presence known making 34 tackles and returning kickoffs. He has played 32 games for the Bears dating back to his freshman season.

Denson made his announcement with a video on social media that included former Jacksonville-area players who starred for Florida, Fred Weary, Ciatrick Faison, Lito Sheppard, Guss Scott and Denson all proclaimed Jacksonville as “Gators country.”

Top local recruits in the Class of 2023

The rankings are the On3 consensus rankings, a metric that combines grades from On3, ESPN, Rivals and 247 Sports.

Rankings, Position, Player, High school, Ht., Wt., College

115. OL Roderick Kearney, Orange Park, 6-4, 290, Florida State

132. DL Jordan Hall, Westside, 6-4, 300, Uncommitted

163. RB Treyaun Webb, Trinity Christian, 6-0, 188, Uncommitted

196. CB Sharif Denson, Bartram Trail, 5-11, 170, Florida

240. RB Sam Singleton, Fleming Island, 5-11, 180, Uncommitted

247. LB Grayson Howard, Jackson, 6-3, 223, South Carolina

377. LB Jaden Robinson, Columbia, 6-1, 212, Uncommitted

479. S Kenton Kirkland, Raines, 6-1, 176, Uncommitted

535. QB Marcus Stokes, Nease, 6-2, 185, Penn State

567. S Amare Ferrell, Columbia, 6-2, 192, Indiana

598. RB Mike Mitchell, Middleburg, 6-0, 200, Uncommitted

677. TE Connor Cox, Bolles, 6-5, 225, South Carolina

752. WR Darion Domineck, Fleming Island, 6-4, 185, Uncommitted

781. OL Jamal Meriweather, Brunswick, 6-6, 261, UCF

811. OL Brendan Black, Bolles, 6-2, 266, Iowa State

834. WR Jeremiah Shack, Mandarin, 6-3, 191, Liberty

852. RB Manny Covey, Bradford, 5-11, 175, Cincinnati

866. DB Jarvis Lee, Clay, 5-11, 165, Virginia

897. LB Abram Wright, Fleming Island, 6-2, 220, Rutgers

974. DL Ka’Shawn Thomas, Brunswick, 6-3, 280, Wake Forest

1,208. OL Kyland Armstrong, Oakleaf, 603, 285, Wake Forest

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.