By DARRYL MAXIE / firstname.lastname@example.org
There’s a mess brewing at USC and Fayette County forward Noel Johnson wants no part of it.
The slender 6-foot-7 Fayette County basketball star has been granted a release from his letter of intent while the university braces itself for the fallout from accusations that coach Tim Floyd funneled cash to former star player O.J. Mayo through one of his handlers.
“Any time you have a kid that is starting his freshman year, you want him to go into a calmer setting rather than having a cloud over [his] head,” Noel’s father, Lynbert Johnson, told Scout.com. “[USC] was his No. 1 choice because he liked the school, coach Floyd and [assistant] coach [Bob] Cantu. But the fact remains that you can’t move that cloud.”
Johnson’s about-face is just the latest blow for USC. Its top three scorers left school. Its top three recruits — of which Johnson certainly was one — aren’t coming. Renardo Sidney signed with Mississippi State instead after USC started feeling queasy about the center’s background. Solomon Hill reversed course and signed with rival Arizona instead.
Where Johnson ends up now is anybody’s guess, though rivals.com has speculated that Georgia Tech — which landed another player released from an LOI (Daniel Miller, thanks to Georgia’s coaching change) — will be considered.
SOUTH PAULDING’S AYERS TO VISIT GEORGIA THIS WEEKEND
South Paulding cornerback Ryan Ayers is making it clear that, although Georgia Tech has recruited him first and best, he has not committed to any school. He has visited Georgia Tech, but will finally have something to compare it to this weekend.
“Georgia has turned it up on me this spring, and that is going to be my first trip this weekend,” Ayers told ugasports.com. “I do not know much about the program, but I am going to ask the questions that I need to.”
WOODWARD A WORTHWHILE STOP FOR RECRUITERS
Woodward Academy hasn’t won a football state championship since 1980, hasn’t recorded back-to-back, double-digit-win seasons since 1996-97. But astute college recruiters seldom confuse team results with individual talent, which is why more than a few have made their way to College Park.
On the private school campus, Henry Anderson, Juwan Thompson and Delino DeShields have combined for 31 scholarship offers, according to assistant coach Ryan Davis. More are all but certain to come.
Anderson, a 6-foot-7, 245-pound defensive end/tight end, leads the way with 17 offers. The most recent to offer are Boston College, Vanderbilt and Wisconsin. There’s an ample market for a guy who had 70 tackles, including seven sacks, and helped his team to the second round of the Class AAAA playoffs.
Thompson, a 5-11, 212-pound running back, rushed for 1,210 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. He has nine offers, with Minnesota, Syracuse and Wake Forest his most recent suitors.
Georgia Tech is among the five schools who have offered DeShields, a fleet-footed 5-9, 185-pound athlete who can outrun just about anything except his name. Not that he should want to: He is the son of the former major league second baseman of the same name, and like his father possesses outstanding baseball skills. Even as a 12-year-old four years ago, the young DeShields drew raves from Baseball America: “There’s not another player in the country as athletic as this kid. He is one of the strongest 12-year-olds … and he is the fastest.”
SOUTHWEST DEKALB STARS WAIT
At least four Southwest DeKalb players are being courted with scholarship offers, but don’t expect any commitments any time soon. “It’s a tradition around here to wait,” defensive end T.J. Stripling told rivals.com. “Coach [Buck] Godfrey doesn’t want us to commit early because he wants us to stay humble.” Running back Kendrun Malcome, cornerback Jonathan Mincy and safety Sharrad Golightly likely will take their time, though Malcome has expressed a desire to visit West Virginia.
Malcome is among three Peach State running backs being pursued by Florida. The highest-profile ball carrier of those Florida is after is M.L. King’s Mack Brown. But the Gators are also after Loganville’s Storm Johnson, too.
KIFFIN’S A FUNNY GUY
Somebody at the SEC spring meetings actually asked Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin how his 2010 recruiting class was looking — as if the man whose program stumbled across two minor NCAA violations for being too publicly forthcoming in such matters was really going to answer. Well, Kiffin did, according to The State: “Obviously, that would be another violation [if he were to talk about specific players]. I’m trying to go one week without that.”