THE TEN AT 10:
1. If you find yourself hearing a lot about Stephenson High School and wondering if there could be any school anywhere that produces more college football talent than that school, you’re not alone. The Jaguars’ football program has long been suspected of being among the nation’s bests in that regard and that was confirmed this week. ESPN RISE online magazine listed Stephenson No. 7 in the country for producing college football players. That was right behind DeMatha Catholic High in Hyattsville, Md., which produced the country’s No. 1 player in Cyrus Kouandjio, and just ahead of Orlando’s Dr. Phillips High, which sent five-star running back Dee Hart to Alabama.
ESPN RISE credits Stephenson for 11 FBS signees in 2011, alludes to the many players it expects to send to college in 2012 and references several of its alums playing in the NFL. Here’s the most interesting part: The Jaguars are expected to have as many as 15 of its players ink FBS scholarships this year, which several national analysts believe may be the most in the U.S. And I didn’t see the list from last year, if ESPN Rise did indeed produce one, but Stephenson had to be among the top few nationally with 29 total signees in 2010.
By the way, Miami Central (18 signees) and St. Thomas Aquinas (13) were listed one and two, respectively, on this year’s list.
2. Speaking of Stephenson, Florida apparently is planning on raiding the Stone Mountain school this season. At least that’s what this story in the Gainesville Sun implies. In fact, the newspaper produced a photo illustration to drive that point home. It features the Gators’ team logo carved in the side of Stone Mountain in place of the Confederate heroes.
Hyperbole aside, Florida already has received a commitment from Stephenson running back Mike Davis, who is expected to be one of the toop backs in the state state this season. The Gators also have offers extended to three other Jaguars, including DE Jarontay Jones (6-3, 240), LB Raphael Kirby (6-2, 200) and OL/DL Jafar Mann (6-4, 285). All those guys and some other Stephenson players traveled to Gainesville, Fla., with assistant coach Corey Johnson this past weekend to tour the Florida campus and meet the Gators’ coaches. That’s when Davis ended up committing. The Stephenson crew will be making a similar trip to Knoxville, Tenn., this weekend.
Florida knows all about one-stop shopping in recruiting. Remember former coach Urban Meyer made a living out of Lakeland High School a few years back, landing Chris Rainey, the Pouncey Brothers, Ahmad Black and Steven Wilks, among others, out of the school.
3. Davis, by the way, was one of three elite running back prospects in the state to make a commitment in the last eight days. Hillgrove’s Kenyan Drake and Washington’s Justin Taylor committed to Alabama a week apart. That means three of the city’s best tailback prospects are off the board more than 11 months before national signing day.
But there are several other good prospects still uncommitted, including Columbia’s Kenno Loyal and Brookwood’s Nick Thompkins. Both Loyal and Thompkins are drawing intense recruiting interest from Georgia Tech. In fact, Loyal told JacketsOnline.com this week that the Yellow Jackets are “at the top” of his list. Georgia is also recruiting Loyal.
4. While the Bulldogs’ recruitment of running backs may seem to be lagging a little this year, that’s to be expected just three weeks removed from signing the No. 1 back in the nation in Isaiah Crowell of Carver-Columbus. Crowell’s addition gives Georgia five tailbacks on the roster for next season, if both Washaun Ealey and Caleb King return for their junior seasons, which is the expectation at this point.
But don’t expect Georgia to take a pass on recruiting a running back this season. In fact, Georgia is in on arguably the top back in nation for 2012 in Keith Marshall. The 5-11, 190-pound back from Raleigh is known for both his grade-point average and his speed — which both happen to be 4.3 — according to ESPN recruiting analyst Jamie Newberg. If you want to get a first-hand look at what all the fuss is about, check out Marshall’s highlight video at YouTube.com.
5. Drake and Taylor are among nine players that have already committed to Alabama so far. That’s the most 2012 commitments of any one team, according to a report at ESPN.com. Texas, which always seems to lead the way in early commitments, has six at this point. The SEC’s 25 commitments so far leads all conferences. Florida and LSU have five each.
Georgia has two so far, wide receiver C.J. Curry of North Hall and kicker Marshall Morgan of Ft. Lauderdale. Georgia Tech got its first 2012 commitment from Junior Gnonkonde of Lanier County last Friday.
6. AJC correspondent S. Thomas Coleman tells me Buford junior defensive back Ryan Dillard is about to hit the road to visit some of the nation’s most prestigious schools — Stanford (Friday, Feb. 25), Cal (March 5) and Harvard (April 23). All three have already offered him scholarships. Recruiting interest in Dillard has slowly heated up after he had an interception and shut down Da’Rick Rogers in the 2009 AA state final and grabbed another interception and returned a fumble for a touchdown in the 2010 AA final. He has a 4.0 GPA at Buford and writes a regular blog ESPN Rise magazine. He also has a new junior highlight tape on YouTube.
7. Georgia is among the final four for wide receiver Shaq Roland of Lexington, S.C. Roland (6-2, 180), who is generally considered the top prospect in South Carolina for 2012, recently cut down his list to four finalists. The others are Alabama, Florida and South Carolina, according to a report in The Charleston Port and Courier.
8. Georgia Tech is reaching deep into Gator territory in its recruitment of defensive backs this year. One prospect the Yellow Jackets have targeted is Chris Bivins of Gainesville (Fla.) High School. Bivins (6-0, 170), who recently received an offer from South Florida, attended Tech’s junior day this past weekend. While he did not come away with an offer, he expects one eventually and told the Gainesville Sun he likes the Jackets.
“I like them a lot,” he told Edward Aschoff. “I love the fact that they stress academics, because football doesn’t last forever. They have a very qualified school and I think they’re close to offering me, so hopefully they do.”
9. Bivins was just one among a huge number of impressive prospects in Atlanta this past weekend for Tech’s junior day. These were just some of the players being put through the paces on The Flats (listed alphabetically):
DiAndre Atwater, Peachtree Ridge; Ray Buchanan Jr., Peachtree Ridge; James DeLoatch, Jenkins County; Faith Ekakitie, Lake Forest, Ill.; Pat Gamble, Central Carrollton; Shaq Huff, Eastside; Larry Jefferson, Banneker; Jordan Jenkins, Harris County; Jonathan Jones, Carrollton; Kenno Loyal, Columbia; Chris Moody, Henry County; Robert Nkemdiche (2013), Grayson; Johnny O’Neal (2013), West Laurens; Jonathan Taylor, Jenkins County; JoJo Wynn, McIntosh Academy.
10. THIS & THAT: One of the biggest showcases of recruiting talent from all over the country returns to Atlanta next month. The second annual MVP Camp will be conducted March 26 at Lovejoy High School. This was the camp, organized by recruiting analysts Rusty Mansell of 247Sports.com and Chad Simmons of Scout.com, that last year discovered the previously hidden talents of Stephon Tuitt. Tuitt, who won most vaulable player honors, ended up signing with Notre Dame. Registration for the event begins on Monday at TheMVPcamp.com. Once again, some of the top prospects in the country are expected to participate. The first stop for the camp is taking place this weekend in Orlando at Dr. Phillips High School. . . . .
Woodward Academy defensive lineman Jordan Watkins added two more schools to his growing list of offers over the weekend — Auburn and Oklahoma. . . . Lovett running back Zach Boden has decided to play football at Harvard. . . . Central Gwinnett sophomore linebacker Trey Johnson received his seventh scholarship offer over the weekend. He added Mississippi State to a list that included Auburn, Cincinnati, FSU, Georgia Tech, Illnois and Southern Cal. . . .
Six seniors from St. Pius X High School will be signing national letters-of-intent to attend colleges on soccer scholarships on Wednesday. They are Bryana Gold (Villanova), Kelsey Keown (Rhodes College), Elizabeth Kinsel (Georgia State), Andrea Papania (University of Dallas), Grace Raines (West Point) and Andrew Wolverton (Penn State).
By Chip Towers, The College Recruiting Blog