A closer look at Georgia’s U.S. Army All-America nominees

Whitefield Academy's Kennard Backman is interviewed by Ken Rodriguez during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl luncheon Monday at Fox Sports Grill. (Photo by Chip Towers)

Whitefield Academy's Kennard Backman is interviewed by Ken Rodriguez during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl luncheon Monday at Fox Sports Grill. (Photo by Chip Towers)

Like I mentioned in yesterday’s Ten at 10, I attended the U.S. Army All-America luncheon at the Fox Sports Grill at Atlantic Station Monday as the 2011 nominees from Georgia were introduced.

I’d like to thank Dennis Caniglia, president of the Atlanta Touchdown Club and the Greater Atlanta Chapter of the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame, and Erik Richards of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and Football University, for the invitation and for the tremendous hospitality.

I interviewed a few of the guys afterward and you’ll see updates on them in the coming days and weeks. In case you missed it, I already posted a story on North Gwinnett quarterback C.J. Uzomah.

Meanwhile, Fox 5’s Ken Rodriguez served as Master of Ceremonies for the event and he actually interviewed all 20 nominees in attendance at about a minute or two at a time (Dalton OT Watts Dantzler and Buford RB Dominique Swope couldn’t make it). I took notes during that session and following are some quick recaps (listed alphabetically) on each of the nominees (thumbnail photos are courtesy of Rob Saye of SpeedTracs.com):

  • Kennard Backman, TE/LB, Whitefield Academy: Backman might be the best prospect you don’t know about. He’s nearly 6-foot-4, weighs 220 pounds and ran a 4.62 40 at the Atlanta MVP Camp last month. And he’s very intelligent. He told Rodriguez he’s leaning toward Vanderbilt. Of course.
  • Sterling Bailey, DE, East Hall: As I reported earlier this week, Bailey will announce his decision from a final five of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech and South Carolina on May 14 at 6:30 p.m. at his school. Bailey said that decision will be based on “comfort with coaches and players and feeling a spiritual connection with the coach.”
  • Quan Bray, ATH, Callaway: Bray plays quarterback at his Hogansville high school but could play almost anywhere in college. “Some say running back, some say DB, some say slot receiver,” Bray said. “I’m trying to weigh my options and see.”
  • Austin Brown, QB, Flowery Branch: Brown transferred from Habersham Central in order to play in coach Lee Shaw’s dynamic offense. “They’re working me hard and teaching me all kinds of stuff,” Brown said of his new school. “I think it’s going to help me with the recruiting process.”
  • Chris Conley

    Chris Conley

    Chris Conley, WR, North Paulding: Conley said he is peaceful about his commitment to Georgia last month and is concentrating on preparing for his senior season. Rodriguez asked what kind of receiver Conley saw himself as. “I like to think of myself as a possession receiver but I have the speed to get downfield.”

  • Tarik Cook, C, Stephenson: Cook said he has narrowed the focus of his still-growing list of offers to Kentucky, Central Florida and Ole Miss. “They have my major, which is physical therapy, and my mom likes them, so that’s important,” Cook said, drawing a big laugh from the crowd. He hopes to make up his mind this summer.
  • Xzavier Dickson, DE, Griffin: Rodriguez commented about how tall Dickson was and correctly guessed his 6-foot-4 height. A Top 10 recruit in the state, Dickson said he was “enjoying as of right now” the intense recruiting process. He said his decision will come down to “how fast I can get on the field and academics.”
  • LaMont Hardy (Photo by Rob Saye of SpeedTracs.com)

    LaMont Hardy

    Lamont Hardy, OL, Lovejoy: I didn’t realize how truly massive this kid is until meeting him in person. North Carolina State is the only official offer Hardy is holding but he said he’s getting interest from Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Ohio State, Virginia and “a lot more,” including Oregon. “I was surprised by that one,” he said.

  • A.J. Johnson, LB, Gainesville: Johnson, one of the top linebackers in the state, was once a Tennessee commitment before Lane Kiffin bolted for Southern Cal. Now the Trojans are among the programs in hot pursuit. But would his parents be OK with him going to Los Angeles for college, Rodriguez asked. “They’re like, ‘that’s pretty far.’ But they say I can go visit,” Johnson said. As for when he’ll decide, Johnson said it’s “not going to be anytime soon.” He plans to “narrow it down to a final five this summer and take some visits this fall.”
  • Marcus Mack, LB, North Atlanta: This under-the-radar prospect doesn’t have any major offers yet. But between his athleticism and academic acumen, they figure to come. Mack has a 3.6 GPA and is getting a lot of interest from Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Notre Dame, Stanford and Vanderbilt. His size (6-2, 210) makes him a versatile football player. “I can play anywhere,” Mack said.
  • Ira McCune, TE, Hillgrove: McCune (6-2, 250) is another versatile athlete who could play on either side of the ball and in fact is being recruited both as a tight end and defensive end. Right now he seems to be focusing on Tobacco Road in recruiting. “I love the campus at North Carolina and the academics at Duke.”
  • Will Monday, P, Flowery Branch: Monday, who averaged 45 yards a punt for the Falcons, has already accepted a schoarship offer to Duke. “I like the education, the coaching staff, and I think I can succeed up there,” Monday said.
  • Corey Moore, DB, Griffin: The Georgia commitment said he hopes to be able to enroll in college early. He said new secondary coach Scott Lakatos was a big reason he chose the Bulldogs. But, he added, his total focus is on helping the Bears win a state title because they were not at all happy with losing to Sandy Creek in the Class AAAA final four last year.
  • Thomas O’Reilly, OG, Pope: The Auburn commitment told Rodriguez he chose the Tigers because of “the family atmosphere and being only two hours away from home.” He said he’s looking forward to senior season and thinks this will be Pope’s best team since he’s been there.
  • Brian Randolph, S, Kell: Randolph said he is down to Georgia Tech and Tennessee and said his immediate objective is getting to know the Vols’ coaches a lot better. His brother attends Tech and was a walk-on there, so he knows the Jackets’ coaches very well. As for the recruiting process, he said “it’s been kind of stressful, but it’s good to be wanted. I know I’m blessed.” As for a decision timeline, he said, “I’m hoping to do it before the season, but I’m not going to do it until I’m ready.”
  • Chris Sanders, DB, Tucker: Sanders, the first commitment of Georgia’s 2011 class, said he’s focused on getting Tucker back to the state championship. Asked what makes Tucker such a powerful program, Sanders said “because we work hard. We just try to out-work everybody.”
  • Damian Swann, ATH, Grady: Rodriguez acknowledged Swann’s distinction as the top cornerback prospect in Georgia and asked him how he handles all the recruiting attention. “I just take it one day at a time. I’m just looking for a place I can call home,” Swann said. Swann said he’s getting the most intense recruiting interest from Alabama and Georgia.
  • Stephon Tuitt, DE, Monroe Area: Tuitt, one of the most sought-after recruits in the state, said he never imagined garnering the type of attention he is getting, “especially considering my first year of football was in the ninth grade.” Tuitt (6-5, 252) has tons of offers but is focusing his attention mainly on Georgia, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Florida and Miami. The winner, he said, may be the one that best prepares him from his desired career path of sports medicine.
  • C.J. Uzomah, QB, North Gwinnett: One of the top prospects in the state, said he doesn’t have a list of favorites but when asked who was recruiting him he rattled off “Georgia, Auburn, Clemson, LSU and USF.” Asked what he was looking for, Uzomah said, “just a place I came be comfortable at for four years; a place where I can wake up in the morning and feel good about being there.” Uzomah’s timeline is also undetermined but, he said, “my dad wants to get it out of the way. Every morning he’s like, ‘have you picked one yet?’”
  • James Vaughters

    James Vaughters

    James Vaughters, LB, Tucker: Rodriguez called Vaughters “the No. 1 prospect in Georgia,” and he might well be right with Vaughters have more than 30 scholarship offers. Rodriguez pointed out Vaughters’ left wrist being in a cast, which is opposite of the one he had in a cast last season. Vaughters said he didn’t want to talk about it but it was “no big deal.” He told me afterward it was a similar wrist surgery as he had on the other one and joked it was from “hitting people so hard.” He said the decision between his final eight of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Ohio State, Southern Cal and Stanford will come down to “which ones can compete for national championships, give me the best academic opportunities and the best opportunities to get to the NFL.”

  • Avery Walls, DB, Union Grove: Walls, who has more than 20 scholarship offers, is generally considered a safety, even though, at 5-10, 185, he doesn’t have the traditional body type for the position. He was asked which secondary position is prefers. “I prefer safety,” Walls said. “I like kind of being the quarterback of the defense and seeing the whole field.” Walls’ has many offers faraway offers, including California, UCLA, Stanford and Michigan. “Distance is no factor for me,” said Walls, who plans to be an early enrollee.

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69 comments Add your comment

The D

May 5th, 2010
12:00 pm

Dawgs need Vaughters and Dantzler to come

The D

May 5th, 2010
12:06 pm

Anybody else scared Lemay is going to jump ship if Murray has a great season?

Toph

May 5th, 2010
12:32 pm

The D, I thought I read that he said that he wasn’t afraid of competition. I don’t think he’ll jump ship even if Murray does great.

RxDawg

May 5th, 2010
12:33 pm

The D, I guess I’m indirectly hopping for Lemay to jump ship then. Because I hope Murray throws for 10k yards and 100 TD’s next year :)

alligator

May 5th, 2010
12:37 pm

I guess Stephon Tuitt, DE comments will eliminate UGA since they don’t have a medical school and Vaughters also since there is the competing for Natl, Championship comment. oh well…

The D

May 5th, 2010
12:53 pm

Well I agree with you both, I guess the question should be, is Murray the type of guy to leave after two good seasons?

alligator-Vaughters like Grantham b/c he can get him to the NFL, and Lemay me be the next Chris Leak in Vaughters eyes, so UGA would be a great fit, and academics are not lacking at UGA, if Stephon is going to play in the NFL, them med school is way down the road for him, and Medical College of Georgia isn’t a bad place to go.

alligator

May 5th, 2010
1:05 pm

Yea the d, jawja gets em all and then they underacheive. Maybe all these kids will just skip all the years between 1980 and 2011 and sign with you. pretty funny.

memphisdawg

May 5th, 2010
1:10 pm

Dawgs need to keep pushing the dream team. #1 class this year.

alligator

May 5th, 2010
1:11 pm

They better memphis, because they will lose a bunch of starters after the 2010 season.

cattledawg

May 5th, 2010
1:19 pm

I think the Vaughters kid is going way out of state. I also hope Murray plays good enough that Lemay thinks about not coming.

Moops

May 5th, 2010
1:35 pm

I dont think Lemay would be scared of Murray, unless something really crazy happened and he won the heisman. Which I know wouldn’t happen. Especially for any freshman. There is competition at all major programs, especially at QB. If he’s a competitor, he’ll be fine coming here. WIth that being said, I don’t see Murray as the type to leave after 2 seasons. 3 maybe, even then I think it’s a longshot. He’s good, but not the prototypical NFL type, ala Stafford.

alligator

May 5th, 2010
1:35 pm

If Murray plays as all the Dawgs hope he does, then I would doubt the Lemay kid would come here and sit. Murray seems like a real good kid and some in Tampa compare him to having leadership skills like Tebow. If all thats true, I see him playing all 4 years. Lemay also said that one of the reasons he dropped Florida was because of the Driskell kid who commited to them. This leads me to believe that he wants playing time. just sayin…..

eastside

May 5th, 2010
1:44 pm

vaughters will probably pick uf or bama, but i hope he goes to uga. we need a great lb and cant afford to lose one of the states best players

eastside

May 5th, 2010
1:50 pm

alligator, uga does have a sports medicine program

alligator

May 5th, 2010
1:51 pm

eastside, it’s not for a degree in medicine though, that would be at the Geogia College of Medicine Campus in Augusta.

Delbert D.

May 5th, 2010
2:04 pm

“feeling a spiritual connection with the coach”

Well. Scratch Saban, Johnson and Spurrier for those kids. I don’t know of anyone who joined the Marines or went to one of the service academies because of a “spiritual connection.” Recruits looking for that “spiritual connection” really ought to check out UC-Berkeley, or U of Colorado in the lovely Peoples’ Republic of Boulder.

idiots

May 5th, 2010
2:06 pm

you just get whatever degree you want in undergrad then go to med school. Most med schools do not even require any certain major. Biology is the traditional choice tho. And just so you know, “sports medicine” does not always mean being a dr. Some people say that meaning physical therapist or other similar things.

dawg26

May 5th, 2010
2:25 pm

Alligator-

UGA actually has a wonderful sports medicine program. We’re a science school, and SM is actually one of our more popular areas.

NFL FACTORY

May 5th, 2010
2:26 pm

Anyone who want to attend the school that best prepares them for the NFL should go to Southern California. In a down year for them; they have 14 sign contacts. 7 players drafted, and 7 more have signed contacts as NDFAs.

Paddy

May 5th, 2010
2:38 pm

sports medicine is offered at many schools. It is not a medical degree alligator.

Gillislee

May 5th, 2010
2:49 pm

How many of the boys that make the team will leave the state to play ball? This past year there were three players from Georgia and two are leaving the state to play. At the Under Armour Game there was 12 players from Georgia and nine of those will be playing out of state. UGA and Tech fans should be a little angry at their coaches for those results.

DaRICKsterTD

May 5th, 2010
3:09 pm

Tennessee is in fine shape with several on this list!

Kevin

May 5th, 2010
3:24 pm

alligator you are a complete D.A. UGA is about to have a medical school on campus. That’s more than beautiful-girl-less Gurgia Tech or lame jort ass florida can say

The Idiot Trolls!!

May 5th, 2010
3:32 pm

Watch out Dawg fans, the trolls are our today in force. Don’t believe them, the top talent will stay in state. You realized it here first.

Harmons Wages

May 5th, 2010
3:34 pm

Sports Medicine is learning how to be a trainer.

Harmons Wages

May 5th, 2010
3:36 pm

Kevin you are a dumba$$, UF has had a Medical School on Campus for about 50 YEARS, as far as dumba$$ dawg comments about jorts; how about 400 lb men walking around in overalls wearing G on their caps. Would they be jawja fans?

Delbert D.

May 5th, 2010
3:40 pm

Gillislee – I think some of them are going for “better academic opportunities,” which has dual meaning. Not all are the Stanford types. Some are looking for programs like Theory of Recreation.

Delbert D.

May 5th, 2010
3:44 pm

Correcting myself, I’m not saying that applies to the group of US Army AA selectees, just some guys leaving the state.

Delbert D.

May 5th, 2010
3:55 pm

Georgia Tech has a College of Biomedical Engineering, created jointly by the Emory University School of Medicine and the Georgia Tech College of Engineering

Harmons Wages

May 5th, 2010
3:58 pm

Now thats funny Delbert:Theory of Recreation

Delbert D.

May 5th, 2010
4:01 pm

Harmons Wages – When you take the time to look on university web sites, it’s a sometimes a shock what you can find.

19th Hole Dawg

May 5th, 2010
4:01 pm

Wow — I love seeing all these Georgia Haters. I guess they are Tech and Florida fans with nothing to do but troll UGA articles and make angry comments. Are any of them employed? Shouldn’t they be doing something besides making multiple comments on AJC articles during the work week? I guess I’d be surprised if they are employed because they seem to have trouble with grammar and spelling.

Well, good luck hating to these Professional UGA Haters.

While you’re busy hating, we’ll be enjoying a fine state and watching these exciting players come up to play ball and stay in-state — hopefully — with UGA.

There are a lot of DAWGS in this list. Good luck to these Georgia players.

Tech

May 5th, 2010
4:14 pm

Um, 19th hole, this isn’t a UGA article. In fact, Tech is in the running for a majority of these players just like UGA.

BAMA STAN

May 5th, 2010
4:16 pm

13 NATIONAL TITLES – 22 SEC TITLES!!!

Vaughters will go to EITHER ALABAMA, FLORIDA or USC. He wants a National Title and these three schools will give him the best.

Richt has had nine years and his best years were his firt 5 – when Alabama was on probation – and Florida was being Zooked – (which still was beating UGA). Kiffin covets Vaughters as well.

HARMON WAGES – keep it classy – UGA may have some crazy fans – so does Bama – and Florida has plenty of fans sporting a Mullet and wearing Jorts. know what i’m saying???

DELBERT D. – Agree – and the NANO TECHNOLOGY CENTER – along with the COLLEGE OF BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING just KICK ASS. Georgia Tech is a heck of a great school – but a school that has limited pool to choose from – which makes the schools academic success very amazing.

Delbert D.

May 5th, 2010
4:19 pm

Clemson has a major, “Community Recreation, Sport & Camp Management” (8 Football players on 2009 roster), but by far the footballers’ leading choice is Sociology.

Delbert D.

May 5th, 2010
4:29 pm

Bama Stan –
I did a listing a couple of weeks back of the majors of Ga. Tech’s football upperclassmen in response to a really acrimonious post. I compiled one for Georgia, too. I think I’ll look at some Big 12 schools next.

hunkerdown

May 5th, 2010
4:31 pm

Did Dominuque Swoops transfer to Buford? Last year he played at Sequoyah HS. Also there is a school whitfield academy but never heard of whitefield. Is this a typo or a school I am not familar?

Delbert D.

May 5th, 2010
4:36 pm

“Tech and Florida fans with nothing to do but troll UGA articles” – The topic is Georgia’s US Army All-American Nominees. That would be the state of Georgia, not the University of Georgia. Of course this is of interest to fans of numerous schools.

yeah c'mone

May 5th, 2010
4:41 pm

Please, can bama stan ever get any new material. Those teams cannot get you to the NFL any faster than UGA. GO LOOK IT UP FOOL! UGA has more players in the League than all that you mentioned except USC. Also, the state of Georgia plays better high school ball than alabama, so if all stays instate, better LOOK OUT!Go Dawgs!!

t_height

May 5th, 2010
5:05 pm

I thought the headline states A Closer Look At Georgia’s U.S. All-American Football Nominees. It looks like the Atlanta area U.S. Army Football Nominees.

Delbert D.

May 5th, 2010
5:16 pm

hunkerdown – Whitefield Academy, in Mableton. Mark Price used to be basketball coach there.

Vick=Dog killing Thug

May 5th, 2010
5:20 pm

Dawgs have a good shot at most of these kids. Gotta love it. Something else I love is 30-24 baby…

Delbert D.

May 5th, 2010
5:32 pm

The 2010 Under Armor AA Team # of selectees, by state:

FL – 19
TX – 15
GA – 12
CA – 7
AL – 4
VA – 4
PA – 3
AR – 2
MI – 2

States with 1 – CO, HI, IN, KA, MA, MD, MS, NC, NJ, NV, NY, OH, OK, TN, UT, WI

Delbert D.

May 5th, 2010
5:35 pm

Drat. Forgot the Brit spelling. Under Armour.

obomaisaclown

May 5th, 2010
6:45 pm

Why is Auburn beating bama in the state of Ala. this year? I guess some of Sabans ways are catching up with them. How many will he cut after over signing. Saban believes in that one year scholarship so he can cut his plays after his tryouts.

Shawn

May 5th, 2010
7:30 pm

How are Isaiah Crowell, Gabe Wright or Nick Marshall not nomiees?

Bulldog59

May 5th, 2010
7:33 pm

You guys have really run out of topics to fight about. A 30-second peruse of comments and I find you are arguing which school is better academically, Georgia or Florida?

Pull ANY rankings for the last several years…. U.S. News and World Report, Princeton Review, etc. BOTH schools are consistently rated in the top 25 in the nation. Vandy is excluded from the rankings since it’s a private institution, but, academically, UGA and UF are consistently the class of the SEC.

Bulldog59

May 5th, 2010
7:34 pm

Shawn, Good question!

Jethro

May 5th, 2010
7:47 pm

“How are Isaiah Crowell, Gabe Wright or Nick Marshall not nomiees”

Maybe they are going to be on the U.S. Army All American team…..maybe

DAWGLOVER

May 5th, 2010
7:56 pm

LeMay has said he loves competition, is a quality individual with a great spiritual belief and upbringing. Based on that, I am not the least bit worried that he will bolt because of Murray. Murray was never one of the reasons he gave for possibly changing his mind. Those were Richt or Bobo leaving, something dramatic.
Do you guys who obsess over this, worry about your girlfriend or wife? Your insecurity and lack of judgement regarding these athletes is unbelievable. The difference in the values between DaRick Rogers and Christian LeMay is like the difference between night and day. Grow up.