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July 28, 2012
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- It's a constant debate in recruiting circles. Which state, Florida, California or Texas, produces the best high school talent?
Depending on who you ask and where they're from, you're likely to get a different answer every time.
But for players participating in the Gridiron Kings competition in Orlando this weekend, the answer is within reach. The tournament consists of four all-star teams, each representing a section of the country.
Every team will play each other at least once in the 7-on-7 tournament, with one region walking away with bragging rights for another year.
Team Southeast is made up of mostly Florida players, with Team Southwest consisting of mostly Texas stars and Team West is mostly California stars. Also competing is Team Midwest, made up of players from 10 different states.
While the championship wasn't yet decided after Saturday's play (Team Southwest went 3-0 during pool play), players from each of the big three states had their own opinion on which state has the best high school football talent.
'It's a lot of trash talk but it's all in good fun," said Ocala (Fla.) North Marion defensive back and 2013 Georgia commit Reggie Wilkerson. "Everybody knows that Florida has the best athletes and that's it right there."
Players from Texas and from Team Southwest, which won last year's Gridiron Kings crown, had a different opinion than Wilkerson.
"I think Texas has the best athletes," Dallas Jesuit wide receiver and 2013 Texas commit Jake Oliver said. "We come out and everywhere we go we represent. We just do the best we can and try to compete with everyone else."
Redlands (Calif.) running back Craig Lee, a four-star prospect, was a little more low-key in his endorsement of California stars.
"There's a lot of talking about who is the best," Lee said. "But there's talent everywhere and there's always going to be somebody better than you."
One thing the participants did agree on, players from the Southeast are the most vocal in defending their region.
"I've noticed that a lot since I've been out here," Lee said of the Florida trash talk. "But the competition is good and that's all part of it."
Plano (Texas) Prestonwood Christian and Rivals100 linebacker Mike Mitchell grew up in Florida, before moving to Texas after his freshman season. He's faced competition in two of the three states and gave a very diplomatic answer.
"Texas is probably the biggest football state but Florida has a lot of speed," Mitchell said. "The guys probably aren't as big because the schools are so much bigger out there in Texas but Florida definitely has a lot of speed."
Even when the title is inevitably settled on Sunday afternoon, don't expect the debate to end. The only thing that's for certain is the players will keep talking up their home states.
"Everywhere I go I always here that Texas or California breeds the best football," Plantation (Fla.) cornerback Sojourn Shelton said. "I feel that Florida does have the best and we need to win this thing to prove that we do breed the best football players in the nation -- it's a must-win."