Coming next season to a high school football field near you: "The Year of the Quarterbacks."
Here's The Observer's first list of the top college football prospects in North and South Carolina among high school juniors (we've been listing seniors since the 1980s). The most noticeable thing is that there are quality quarterbacks everywhere.
Consider that our current list of Top 50 senior prospects for the two states includes one player widely considered to be a quarterback at the collegiate level - Waynesville Tuscola High's Tyler Brosius.
Our smaller group of juniors - 20 ranked in each state for a total of 40 - includes 11 fairly certain to play the position and several more of the "athlete" variety who could.
To cull this group, we've left out a bunch of other quarterbacks, some of whom could be among our Top 50 seniors next spring.
Anyway, the only thing certain about this list is that it will change. So Happy Thanksgiving. Our postseason Top 50 Seniors list will be in your stocking on Christmas Day.
1. Christian LeMay, QB, Butler, 6-foot-3, 200 pounds: Already has 17 offers from major schools, most recently getting one from Alabama. LeMay has confidence in the pocket, is strong and accurate and has 35 touchdown passes with two interceptions.
2. Stephone Anthony, OLB, Wadesboro Anson, 6-3, 220, 4.65 time in the 40: A top-100 player on all the recruiting service lists, Anthony's speed and strength make him ridiculously hard to block. He has already scooped up a bushel of offers, from as far away as UCLA.
3. Norkeithus Otis, LB/DE, Gastonia Ashbrook, 6-3, 205, 4.6: Tremendous speed and pursuit ability, a prospect drawing more interest every day. Offers from South Carolina, Florida and Maryland. "His motor won't quit," coach Mike Briggs said. "He's got long arms, big hands, a long stride and a big frame."
4. Marquise Williams, QB, Mallard Creek, 6-4, 220: This guy has been shooting up the recruiting ladder, and is now receiving interest from every ACC school and most of the SEC. Strong-armed and quick for his size.
5. Nigel King, WR, Raleigh Wakefield: 6-3, 185, 4.55: Despite missing half of this season with a hip injury, King returned to his dominant receiver form. He has a half-dozen offers, including North Carolina and N.C. State.
6. Drew Owens, TE, Ardrey Kell: 6-5, 230, 4.75: Blessed with good speed for his size and an ability to go up and get the ball, Owens already has seven offers, with more expected.
7. Eric Ebron, TE, Greensboro Smith, 6-5, 225, 4.75: This big guy didn't play football as a sophomore because of transcript problems after transferring from Rhode Island. Once back in action, everyone noticed him.
8. K.J. Brent, WR, Marvin Ridge, 6-4, 185, 4.65: Finished the season with 44 receptions for 679 yards and six TDs. North Carolina offered first, and East Carolina, Duke and South Carolina have followed.
9. Brandon Ellerbe, RB/S, Wadesboro Anson: 6-1, 205, 4.5: This early Clemson commitment was shifted to RB after three games, and has produced more than 1,400 yards and 11 TDs since. Probably a college safety.
10. Brian Taylor, QB, Harnett Central, 6-3, 200: Passed for 1,783 yards and ran for 861 more for an undefeated team. Also a standout baseball and basketball player, and already offered a scholarship by North Carolina.
11. Eric MacLain, TE, Fayetteville Britt, 6-5, 265: An early commitment to Tennessee, MacLain is a solid blocking tight end who has the size to shift to offensive line for the Vols.
12. Christian Russell, RB/LB, Fayetteville Westover, 6-0, 210, 4.55: He finished the season with 1,729 rushing yards and 23 TDS. He also totaled 120 tackles at middle linebacker. North Carolina was his first offer and is considered the early leader.
13. B.J. Sherrill, QB, West Rowan, 5-11, 220, 4.8: Has the Falcons on track for a second straight state 3A title. Sherrill, solid and muscular, has thrown for 1,853 yards, 20 TDs and 6 interceptions. But how will he do without RB K.P. Parks next year?
14. Garrett Leatham, QB, Apex Middle Creek, 6-5, 230: This guy has blown up quickly and is starting to attract considerable attention. Through 12 games, he passed for 3,400 yards.
15. Vad Lee, QB, Durham Hillside, 6-0, 194, 4.5: Moved from WR to QB this season and had a strong year, throwing for 1,700 yards and rushing for 700 more.
16. Brian Riggins, WR/DB, Tabor City S. Columbus, 6-1, 185: Quick and sure-handed, and impressive enough that as soon as official offers were permitted, North Carolina, East Carolina and Virginia Tech jumped in.
17. Maurice Harris, WR/CB, Northern Guilford, 6-3, 205, 4.6: Harris had 14 regular-season TD receptions. "Everybody's interested in him, and he gets better each week," coach Johnny Roscoe said. Harris is still growing and could morph into a TE or DE in college.
18. Price Litton, QB, Providence Day, 6-3, 209, 4.64: After a slow start, Litton finished strong, justifying the major prospect status that was bestowed on him after excellent camp showings.
19. Zeek Bigger, LB, Gastonia Ashbrook: 6-3, 215, 4.7: Almost a carbon copy of teammate Otis, Bigger is, well, slightly bigger and not quite as fast. "He's mission-guided; a hard worker who won't quit," coach Mike Briggs said. South Carolina has offered.
20. Kyle Kinnaird, QB, Alexander Central, 6-1, 175, 4.75: Coach Tom Harper thinks Kinnaird has a chance to be special. "He does not get rattled, and he's also a threat running-wise." This year, on a running team, he rushed for 1,139 yards.
Sleeper: Cory Hunter, RB, Fuquay-Varina, 5-10, 180, 4.5: You might not have heard of him yet, but he rushed for 1,993 yards and 34 TDs this season. Also had 463 rushing yards in a game, second-highest in state history.
1. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, Rock Hill South Pointe, 6-6, 240, 4.6: Clowney could well be the No.1 prospect in South Carolina next year. "That dude could very well be a first-round NFL draft choice a few years from now," coach Bobby Carroll said. Clowney has tremendous speed and a burst off the edge that often has him arriving at the QB untouched.
2. Charone Peake, WR, Roebuck Dorman, 6-4, 190, 4.4: Coach David Gutshall called Peake "big-time, one of the best prospects in the nation." As a freshman on the varsity, Peake turned the first four passes he caught into TDs.
3. Justin Worley, QB, Rock Hill Northwestern, 6-5, 190, 4.85: Coach Jimmy Wallace said Worley was "the most mature 10th-grade player I've had in 37 years of coaching. He has tremendous potential." Worley is also a standout in baseball (pitcher) and basketball (forward). He has 3,819 passing yards and 37 TDs.
4. Shon Carson, RB, Lake City, 5-9, 195, 4.4: Blazing speed and surprising power have translated into numerous offers for Carson, whose team is still alive in the 3A playoffs. Scholarship offers have come from most major Carolinas schools, and even UCLA is in the hunt. Also an outstanding baseball shortstop and center fielder, he wants to play both sports.
5. Everett Golson, QB, Myrtle Beach, 6-0, 175: A remarkably strong arm, and he played well at the spring camps. Piling up huge prep numbers, as well as offers - North Carolina (leader), South Carolina, Clemson, Florida and Virginia Tech, among others.
6. Brandon Shell, OL, Goose Creek: 6-7, 310: Good quickness to go with massive size. Shell already has offers from Clemson and South Carolina, along with SEC powers Florida, Georgia and Louisiana State.
7. Phillip Dukes, DT, Manning, 6-3, 280: A prep DE, he has forced six fumbles and had seven sacks among about 60 tackles. Expected to move to DT in college, and Dukes is already collecting offers from the likes of South Carolina, Clemson and Alabama.
8. Lateek Townsend, LB, Marlboro County, 6-2, 215, 4.7: Clemson, N.C. State, South Carolina, Illinois and Maryland have already offered. He moved from suspect to prospect with a monster junior season. Projected as a linebacker in college, he also was a dominant RB.
9. Dexter Staley, LB, Williston-Elko, 6-2, 220, 4.6: A powerful hitter who's probably a linebacker in college, although also a RB as a high school star. Offers from Clemson, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Maryland.
10. Tony McNeal, QB, Chester, 6-2, 165: Although he missed four games to injury, McNeal still put up stellar numbers, finishing with 1,732 passing yards and 18 TDs, and helping Chester finish with a 10-2 record.
11. Shamir Jeffrey, QB/WR, Calhoun County, 6-3, 220, 4.55: Shifted from WR to QB in the middle of the season and didn't miss a beat. "Everybody's recruiting him, and I mean everybody," coach Walter Wilson said.
12. Ronnie Martin, CB/WR, Spartanburg, 5-11, 170, 4.3: "He's just faster than everybody else," coach Freddie Brown said. "He'll be able to pick from places like Miami, Oklahoma, Florida State, Michigan and Southern Cal. He'll be that good."
13. Roderick Byers, DL, Rock Hill Northwestern, 6-4, 250, 4.8: "Rod has tremendous potential," coach Jimmy Wallace said. "He's played very well this year." Playing mostly in the middle, Byers has 65 tackles, two sacks and 10 QB pressures.
14. Robert Smith, QB/ATH, Dorchester Woodland, 5-11, 190, 4.7: Smith has been offered by Clemson, and a number of ACC schools are interested. If he doesn't grow, expect him to be a safety in college.
15. Dominique Cooper, RB, Darlington, 6-1, 195, 4.4: "That speed is legit," coach Justin Danner said. "When he breaks out, you might as well go ahead and warm up the band." Despite two nagging injuries, Cooper rushed for 1,200 yards and 11 TDs.
16. Gerald Dixon, DE, Rock Hill South Pointe, 6-3, 245, 4.6: "A great young man who obviously has great genes," coach Jimmy Wallace said. "His dad - also Gerald Dixon - played for South Carolina and in the NFL."
17. Gerald Dixon, DT, Rock Hill Northwestern, 6-4, 275, 4.9: Playing DT and DE in high school, but likely to wind up at DT in college. Strong and powerful, with a burst capable of collapsing the pocket. Brother of South Pointe's Gerald Dixon.
18. DeShaun Williams, DT, Central Daniel, 6-1, 290: Clemson made an offer in the summer of 2009 and Williams accepted. He's been good but not great as a junior, and height could be an issue at the highest level.
19. Robert Joseph, WR, Rock Hill Northwestern, 5-10, 170, 4.55: Holds the state record with 128 receptions, and should expand that Friday. Worley's favorite target (Think Manning-to-Harrison) also has 1,596 receiving yards and 15 TDs.
20. Hakeem Flowers, WR, Greenville Hampton, 6-3, 180, 4.4: He has already passed two dozen offers - you don't often find a kid as tall as he is who can run as fast as he can.
Sleeper: Craig Weick, WR/TE, Duncan Byrnes, 6-6, 220, 4.8: "He's probably a TE in college," coach Chris Miller said. "He can put on a lot of weight, and he has good hands."
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