Stephenson’s Michael Thornton, arguably the top uncommitted prospect in the state, heads into the season with a giant chip on his shoulder.
Thornton didn’t like the fact that he was left off the AJC’s Super 11 team.
“I feel like I’m the top defensive tackle in the state,” said the 6-foot-2, 280-pound senior, who holds scholarship offers from Georgia, Georgia Tech, Auburn, Alabama and at least two dozen other schools. “But that’s just my opinion; that’s coming from me. So it kind of ticks me off a little bit, yeah. I felt like I deserved to be in there. But it doesn’t mean that much to me. I’m still going to college somewhere. I just want to make sure my team and my teammates get what they deserve.”
And so, Thornton said, he’s not in a hurry to make a commitment before the season starts as he once pledged. His plan now is to extend his recruitment into the season, take some visits and have some college coaches come to his games.
“The main reason I’m holding out is I’m trying to bring in all these colleges for my teammates,” said Thornton, whose only definite trip is to Penn State. “I’m trying to help them get what they want and deserve. The guys I feel like have a chance to do something, I want to bring them along with me. That’s the whole point.”
Thornton has plenty of teammates that fill the bill. In all there are at least 16 Stephenson players that are drawing interest from college teams, a dozen from Division 1 schools.
Three Stephenson players have already announced commitments: LB Tyrone Cornileus to Miami, RB Raymond Sanders to Kentucky and DB Kenneth Ladler to Vanderbilt. Cornerback Chris Sharpe confirmed Monday he’s leaning heavily toward Louisville.
DE Joshua Polk, DE Malcom Strong, OL Kevin Billups, RB/DB Denzel Hartley, LB Franchot West, LB Jabari Johnson, WR/CB Nathan Benford and TE Ronnie Shields are being targeted mainly by Big East and Conference USA schools. CB Martin Adebowale, OL Quentin Spencer and OL/DL Doral White are getting looks from the MAC, Sun Belt and Southern conferences.
I made the trek over to Stone Mountain Monday afternoon to get a first-hand look at all these Stephenson prospects and at Thornton in particular. I also wanted to take a picture of all these guys together. The Jaguars’ coaches were kind enough to let me do it with the stipulation that it needed to be quick and not very fussy. So assistant coach Corey Johnson hurriedly gathered up the guys I asked for and I snapped a photo, which you see above.
It wasn’t until later that I realized that Thornton rather notably was not in the shot. My questionable skills as a photojournalist aside, I called him later to find out why.
“To be honest, I feel like my team is getting overlooked, my teammates are getting overlooked,” Thornton said. “I’ve got all I need.”
Attention, that is.
Later I’ll share some more details about Thornton’s recruitment and I’ll also let you know what Stephenson coach Ron Gartrell said about recruiting and the Jaguars’ secret to developing such a deep talent pool.