Archive for September, 2009

Georgia’s handling of Branden Smith impresses recruits

Georgia freshman cornerback Branden Smith -- and several recruits -- learned about redemption on this 61-yard TD run against South Carolina. (Photo by Jim Hipple/UGA Sports Communications)

Georgia freshman cornerback Branden Smith — and several recruits — learned about redemption on this 61-yard TD run against South Carolina. (Photo by Jim Hipple/UGA Sports Communications)

What Georgia did with Branden Smith against South Carolina on Saturday helped them win the game against Gamecocks. But it may have also helped them win over minds of some recruits.

Smith had a couple of key plays in the Bulldogs’ 41-37 victory. First he fielded a kickoff four yards deep in the end zone and fumbled it over to South Carolina on the Georgia 8-yard line after he decided to bring it out. Just five minutes later, the freshman cornerback was back on the field, this time on offense. And this time he held onto the ball, taking a reverse pitch and showing blazing speed on the way to 61-yard touchdown.

While the touchdown play did wonders for Smith’s confidence — not to mention the Georgia scoreboard — it really resonated with the many elite recruits there to watch the game.

“I really …

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South Carolina game moves Dogs up with several recruits

Georgia appears to have reaped some recruiting rewards — at least in the short term –  during its thrilling 41-37 win over South Carolina on Saturday.

The Bulldogs hosted dozens of elite prospects for the game on unofficial visits, including a number of players that are also considering South Carolina. It appears that Georgia moved up at least a notch or two for virtually all of them.

The Bulldogs appear to have made some major headway with running back Marcus Lattimore, who is considered the No. 1 back in America. The Duncan, S.C., resident, who stars for Byrnes High School, did not previously have Georgia among his top five but does now after his unofficial visit.

“I have to say that they are back in it for me,” Lattimore told’s Chad Simmons. “Georgia has never pressured me and that meant a lot. . . . Me, my dad, and my cousins went down to the game and it was crazy. The atmosphere, the crowd, the game, it was all ridiculous. The students were so loud the entire …

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Other schools haven’t backed off Georgia commitment Ogletree

If you were to look up Alec Ogletree’s statistics, you might be tempted to say, “Super 11? What’s so super about that?”

The reality is, Newnan’s all-star free safety hasn’t had a whole lot to do. Manning the back line of the Cougars’ defense, Ogletree simply hasn’t gotten a lot of action, especially these last two weeks. On the year, Newnan has outscored its opponents 101-15, including shutouts in the last two games.

Alec Ogletree

Alec Ogletree

“The defense is pretty much the key part of our team,” said Ogletree, who has 14 tackles in the three games. “We’ve got a lot of returning players on the defense so we’ve got a lot of experience. As far as me, I haven’t been getting a lot of plays. It’s kind of hard because most of the time our defensive front and linebackers are pretty much making all the plays. I try to make the best out of it. The good thing is Zander is getting a lot of action. He’s been making some big plays and stuff.”

“Zander,” or Alexander, is Ogletree’s twin brother. He …

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Grayson’s ‘Pinball’ Pemberton out to prove doubters wrong

Grayson’s Ean Pemberton doesn’t play on a football field. For the Rams’ 5-foot-4, 155-pound dynamo of a running back, that 6,600-square-yard patch of grass is a giant green proving ground.

Every time he steps on it, he has something to prove.

Grayson's Ean Pemberton, who had more than 1,900 yards rushing as a junior last season, has 370 through three games this season.

Grayson's Ean Pemberton, who had more than 1,900 yards rushing as a junior last season, has 370 through three games this season.

“I’m still trying to show everybody I can play with the big boys,” Pemberton said with a big grin after showing it again this past weekend.  “I’m just trying to keep proving myself and make believers out of people that don’t believe it. I’m trying to prove them wrong.”

The general consensus is that a guy Pemberton’s size can’t play major college football. And to date, no BCS teams have come calling on the Rams’ senior star.

But all Pemberton does is keep putting up big numbers while playing in one of the toughest regions of the state’s highest high school classification, Region 8-AAAAA. That was the case again …

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Bama has many options in Super 11 commitment Blake Sims

Alabama commitment Blake Sims plays quarterback for Gainesville but is listed as the proverbial “athlete” by most of the recruiting services.

Friday night, the AJC Super 11 selection showed why.

On the Red Elephants’ third play from scrimmage, Sims shifted out to wide receiver and caught a short pass from running back Tyson Smith. After sidestepping an initial defender Sims turned it into a 71-yard touchdown reception. That was the first of two touchdown catches Sims hauled in from Smith during the 42-20 win over White County. He added another 77-yarder later.

Sims also showed off his skills under center by throwing three touchdown passes. His final numbers on the night: 88 yards passing, 148 yards receiving and 5 TDs accounted for.

No wonder nobody’s sure what to do with Sims in college. projects the 6-foot-183-pounder as a safety and rates him No. 29 in the country at that position.

“There’s a little bit of doubt about that,” Gainesville coach Bruce Miller said of …

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Bama’s NCAA troubles a concern for North Gwinnett’s James

JaWuan James’ phone has been ringing off the hook lately. But for now at least, he’s not answering.

Everybody wants to know why the 6-foot-6, 300-pound, four-star offensive lineman from Suwanee decided to reopen his recruitment after being committed to the Alabama Crimson Tide since May. And, of course, they want to know where he might be leaning now that he’s again on the free market.

“They’re probably in hunker-down mode because they’re trying to figure out what the heck they’re doing,” said North Gwinnett coach Bob Sphire, who is fielding a lot of the questions for James in the meantime.

Sphire was asked if anything happened that facilitated James’ change of heart. “No. I don’t there’s anything on Alabama. It’s all on JaWuan,” he said.  “It’s just him being confused as far as being sure what he really wants to do when it’s all said and done. I’m not real happy about it but I do want him to be happy about it at the end of the process.”

Sphire theorized that Alabama’s …

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N. Gwinnett’s James backs off Alabama commitment

I’m here at Dacula’s Barron Stadium watching the Grayson Rams put a bow around their good night’s work. It’s 37-0 Rams late in the fourth quarter and they haven’t had their starters in since midway through the third.

It was a good night for the college prospects I came here to see. Grayson running back Ean Pemberton left the game early in the third quarter with 148 yards rushing on 25 carries and three touchdowns. Defensive tackle Shawn Green, the Georgia Tech commitment, dominated the middle of the field and finished with an interception and a fumble recovery. I’d been hearing lately about Grayson’s senior safety Kori Gaines, who has committed to BYU. He had three interceptions on the night, which tells you a little bit about how the Falcons’ night went.

Wait a minute, touchdown Grayson. — 44-0 now.

But the big recruiting news Friday night wasn’t here but over at North Gwinnett, where they were shellacking South Forsyth. Bulldogs’ offensive tackle JuWuan James, an Alabama …

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Billy Henderson honored by Clarke Central lettermen

In typical Billy Henderson style, the legendary Clarke Central coach deflected credit for helping close to 200 players go to colleges on football scholarships while coaching the Gladiators from 1973 to 1998. He said something about it being “a team effort.”

Charles Bellflower, one of my first students, deserves a lot of credit for that,” said Henderson, now 81 and long since retired. “Every year he would put a brochure together with all our players’ names, height, weight, bench press and 40 time. He mailed it to every college and we’d tell them what we thought when they called us about somebody. . . . We were blessed with a lot of great talent and I had a lot of great young coaches working with me. We were just blessed; that’s all there is to it.”

Well, those players were also blessed to have been coached by Henderson, a member of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame who coached the Gladiators to three state titles. And Friday night, they’re going to do their best show Coach …

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Grayson-Dacula game headlines ‘Prospects on Parade’

It’s Friday afternoon and that means it’s almost time for “Friday Night Lights.”

A lot of good games are on tap tonight as far as getting a look at the best prospects in the city and state. Me, I’ll be attending Grayson at Dacula.

I’m looking forward to getting a firsthand look at the Rams’ dynamic little tailback, Ean Pemberton, and what they’re calling their “three-headed monster” on defense — DT  Shawn Green (Georgia Tech commitment) and DE Joe Champaign and LB Terry Williams.

Being vertically challenged myself, I’m eager to see what happens to the 5-foot-4 or 5-5 Pemberton  in recruiting. I talked to Chad Simmons, Southeast regional recruiting analyst for, about what he’s seen and heard regarding Pemberton.

“He may be the best running back in the state pound for pound but he’s not getting that kind of attention yet,” Simmons said. “Obviously his size hurts him, but I think he could be a running back or returner in the SEC. Georgia and Florida, somebody …

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Kell’s Randolph feeling the pull of both Tech and Georgia

Brian Randolph was NOT among the recruits to crowd the sideline at the Georgia Tech-Clemson thriller Thursday night at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Then again, there was not a whole lot he needed to see down on The Flats.

No, Randolph, a star safety at Marietta’s Kell High and one of the top junior prospects in the state, is quite familiar with Georgia Tech. His brother, Justin Randolph, is a walkon A-Back for the Yellow Jackets. Brian is also good buddies with a Tech B-back — some guy named Jonathan Dwyer — who also attended Kell.

But intimate familiarity was not the main reason Randolph passed on taking in the sights and sounds of one of the great Tech traditions — Thursday Night Football.

“I have homework,” he said with a sigh.

Apparently Randolph never skips that. Among the multiple scholarship opportunities that have been pouring in to Randolph  since  Sept. 1 (first day juniors could receive official offers) were letters from Vanderbilt, Duke and Stanford. So let’s just say …

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