THE TEN AT 10:
1. Wide receiver Tai-ler “TJ” Jones of Gainesville, a 2009 AJC Super 11 player, will become the first true freshman since Milt Jackson in 1982 to start a season-opening game for Notre Dame. This is a matter of more than a little pride for his father, Andre Jones, who played for the Fighting Irish 1987-91.
“I am at a lost for words,” Andre Jones told me in an e-mail exchange this week. “It’s nostalgic and very surreal all at the same time. I think most dads can confess the joy of seeing their sons play Division-1 football. But to play at your alma mater is another caveat I never imagined.”
Andre points out that his son, who is going by TJ instead of his given name Tai-ler in South Bend, is also the first “legacy child” from Notre Dame’s 1988 national championship team to start for the Irish. Jones’ godfather is none other than Raghib “Rocket” Ismail.
“That’s definitely one thing I can one-up him on,” TJ Jones said in a story in the Kalamazoo Gazette. “But there’s also things he can one-up me on as well.”
Of course, the fact that TJ will now be playing every week all over America makes for a bit of a travel challenge for the Jones. They have other children who also excel in athletics and academics.
“I will attend as many games as their schedules allow me to make,” Andre Jones said. “I will be there for the season opener and for Michigan next week. I will also catch the game versus Navy at the new New York Jets stadium and the game vs. Army at Yankee Stadium. After those games, I will have to travel as opportunity permits.”
TJ had 76 receptions for 1,399 yards and 18 touchdowns as senior at Gainesville last year.
2. Andre Jones is not the only one with travel challenges this fall. I’ll have a separate blog post up about this later this afternoon, but Flowery Branch coach Lee Shaw will be running all over the place the next few days.
This afternoon Shaw will be missing a practice for the first time in his coaching career so he can leave at 1 p.m. for Columbia, S.C. That was he’ll be able to catch South Carolina’s season opener tonight against Southern Miss. Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier is on record saying Lee’s son Connor Shaw, a true freshman quarterback, will definitely play in tonight’s game.
“I’ve never missed one before but I have to be there for my son’s first college game,” Lee Shaw said of missing his team’s walk-through this afternoon.
After getting home at about 3 a.m. Friday, Coach Shaw will lead his team that night against Winder-Barrow. After breaking down film following the game, he will hop back in his car and make the three-hour drive down to Statesboro where his older son Jaybo Shaw is slated to start for Georgia Southern.
3. Another local product expected to see a lot of action in his first collegiate game is Stone Mountain’s Raymond Sanders. The all-star running back from Stephenson High has drawn a lot of praise from first-year Kentucky coach Joker Phillips for both his ability and his moxie during preseason camp. Sanders (5-8, 179) is expected to be rewarded in Saturday’s opener against Louisville as a kick returner and possibly some carries out of the backfield.
“I think I can help the team,” Sanders told the Danville (Ky.) Advocate. “I want to take it slow and learn from the older guys, learn the system and learn how the coaches work. I want to fit in and excel from there, but I do think I can help the team in different ways.”
Sanders, who rushed for nearly 1,600 yards and 25 touchdowns as a senior at Stephenson last year, surprised UK fans when he said he intended to take over kick returning duties from senior derrick Locke, one of the nation’s best.
“I didn’t say I was going to take it. I said I was going to relieve him of his duties,” Sanders said. “We are good. He told me he came in the same way with the same confidence. I have to have that confidence to get on the field. He told me to just keep it up. He has been teaching me a lot.”
4. Sanders, who played youth football in Tucker, is one of three running backs who came out of DeKalb County’s parks who will play in their first college games this week. Miami’s Storm Johnson (Loganville) and Florida’s Mack Brown (M.L King), who played in the Central DeKalb Youth Association, are also expected to see action.
5. ESPNU released its watch list of top prospects for the Class of 2012 and 25 of the players on it were from Georgia. That was fourth among the states represented. Texas (44), California (41) and Florida (40) led the way. ESPNU’s list will continue to grow through the season before being whittled down to the elite ESPNU 150 sometime next year. Georgians to make the list so far are Vadal Alexander, Dakota Ball, Deoin Bonner, Carnell Boyd, Josh Clemons, Imani Cross, James DeLoach, Kenyan Drake, Chaz Elder, Leonard Floyd, Joe Harris, Quavon Hicks, Jordan Jenkins, Jarontay Jones, Greyson Lambert, Jafar Mann, Devon Miller, Kaleb Nobles, Demarco Robinson, Artimus Samuel, Geno Smith, Dalvin Tomlinson, Jordan Watkins, Jedarius West and Quinteze Williams.
6. Not surprisingly, several true freshmen are expected to make an impact for Georgia State when the Panthers open their inaugural season of football tonight in the Georgia Dome. According to GSU publicist Allison George two in particular to keep an eye out for are a pair of Port St. Lucie, Fla., products: Speedy defensive back Justin Hughes and receiver and return specialist Albert Wilson.
7. The NCAA enforcement staff’s current fixation on North Carolina is starting to impact the Tar Heels’ recruiting. Demetrious Nicholson, a defensive back from Virginia Beach, Va., told PalmettoSports.com he was close to committing to North Carolina before the NCAA investigation caused him to rethink his plans. “I’m kind of holding off on everything and I’ve opened the doors back wide open,” Nicholson said. Closer to home, Georgia Tech commitment Vad Lee of Durham, N.C., recently posted a Facebook comment to UNC commitment Romar Morris asking him “do you want to re-think UNC now?”
8. Wednesday was the first day college coaches could begin communicating with prospects entering their junior seasons. Sept. 1 used to be the first day official written offers were extended but that is no longer the case due to an NCAA legislative change earlier this summer. Now written offers cannot be sent until Aug. 1, which goes into effect in 2011. What it means now is the phones of top-shelf recruits are starting to light up. “And it starts, the first day of many days that coaches will be calling me,” Colquitt County offensive tackle Xzavier Ward said on his Facebook page Wednesday. ” I didn’t think it was serious like that. Coaches are really blowin’ me up.”
9. The coach of Monroe Area all-star defensive end Stephon Tuitt said Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham didn’t bail out “at the last minute” on a speaking engagement at a school fundraiser as has been reported on some fan websites.
“That’s not true,” coach Matt Fligg said. “What happened is we had Coach Grantham lined up to come talk to our people for a little fundraiser we have down here every year. It’s true that he had to back out. But they called three or four weeks beforehand and said Coach Richt had moved practice and he wasn’t going to be able to make it.”
Even though Grantham’s name was on the tickets sold to the event, Georgia Tech team chaplain and life coach Derrick Moore filled in and “did an absolutely awesome job,” Fligg said.
This incident aside, Georgia Tech is expected to win the sweepstakes in the recruitment of the 6-foot-5, 260-pound Tuitt, the No. 22-ranked prospect in the country, according to Rivals.com. Georgia is “just outside” his top five, Tuitt says.
10. THIS & THAT: Earlier this week I wrote stories on the true freshmen expected to make impacts on their teams at Georgia and Georgia Tech. As of Thursday morning, here’s who you said would be the freshmen of greatest impact at the respective schools with voting your on polls (which remain open): S Alec Ogletree took 67 percent of the votes (670) over DE T.J Stripling and QB Hutson Mason, with 13 percent each. At Tech you favored S Isaiah Johnson with 38 percent of the votes (96) ahead of ATH B.J. Bostic (28 percent) and RB Charles Perkins (17). . . .
Tucker’s Aaron Epps, a 6-foot-6, 240-pound offensive lineman, committed to Louisville on Wednesday, coach Franklin Stephens said. . . . Rashad Cunningham, a 6-foot-4, 200-pound speedster from Mobile, Ala., committed to Kentucky. The three-star prospect, who has been clocked at 4.4 in the 40, had offers from Arkansas, Mississippi State, Memphis, UAB and South Alabama. He is the 19th commitment for the Wildcats 2011 class. . . . 2012 graduate Avery Johnson, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound wide receiver from Pompano Beach, Fla., committed to LSU on Wednesday. He had an offer from Georgia as well as Alabama, Florida, FSU and Miami. . . . OL Justin Bell (6-3, 320) of Jackson, Miss., committed to Ole Miss, according to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reported.