Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Holidays, and we're (temporarily) out

I’m off from now through next week, but I’ll be checking email if you need to reach me on a recruiting matter. Meanwhile, I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah or enjoyable Kwanzaa, and a Happy New Year.

Keep this blog bookmarked and check in occasionally—something might pop up. In the meantime, I hope Santa brings your school a 6-foot-3, 320-pound defensive tackle who can take up two blockers and stuff the run.

--Stan Olson

And how do the rest of the ACC's classes look?

While North Carolina slides in Scout.com’s rankings, the remainder of the league continues to slog along, with the ACC ranked fifth among all conferences.

After watching some of Clemson’s recruits at the Shrine Bowl (DeAndre Hopkins, Martavis Bryant, etc.), it’s possible the Tigers could finish higher than their current No.22 rating.

Clemson is second in the league, behind No.17 Miami. Then come Florida State (25), Virginia Tech (27) and improving N.C. State (33).

Boston College is 37th, followed by Georgia Tech (41), Wake Forest (46) and Maryland (48).

Bringing up the rear are the Tar Heels (53, down from 34 earlier this month), Virginia (62) and Duke (63).

The SEC, of course, is the No.1 league, and member South Carolina is ranked 30th overall. Our other non-ACC major, East Carolina of Conference USA, is rated No. 100.

--Stan Olson

Former Tar Heel Rhodes commits to Memphis

If you’re wondering what’s happened to running back Jerrell Rhodes since North Carolina decided it could not admit him because of disciplinary concerns, he has now committed to Memphis.

Apparently, those concerns didn’t bother the Tigers. Rhodes, according to Scout.com, becomes one of only two three-star recruits in Memphis's eight-player class at this point.

UNC, which has struggled to find a consistent RB in recent seasons, now doesn’t have one in the Class of 2010, which has slipped to 12 members currently.

--Stan Olson

Tar Heels' 2010 Class national ranking plummets

North Carolina’s recent loss of two highly rated recruits has pushed UNC into a dramatic fall in the Scout.com national rankings.

The Tar Heels had been gradually climbing the list and had pushed their way up to No.34 when last we blogged on this, back on Dec. 7.

Then, in the middle of the month, InsideCarolina reported that highly-rated Tar Heel commitments Johnnie Farms, a big offensive lineman, and running back Jerrell Rhodes were denied admission to North Carolina.

Hargrave
Military Academy
, where both players were attempting to improve their academics, dismissed Farms from school, prompting UNC to refuse to admit him. And Rhodes was also turned down by North Carolina, for unspecified conduct violations.

The result of all this turmoil?

The Tar Heels’ Class of 2010 has plummeted all the way down to No.53 nationally, and 10th in the 12-team ACC, ahead of only Virginia (No.62) and Duke (No.63).

Ironically, both players were originally signed for the Class of 2009, helping make that group a top ten bunch.

North Carolina
still has a number of key targets out there (Kareem Martin, Ethan Farmer, Sharrif Floyd, etc.) that could dramatically improve that standing. But if coach Butch Davis doesn’t finish strong, this could be a class to forget.

--Stan Olson

Got inside recruiting info? Pop me a line at
solson@charlotteobserver.com

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Virginia LB picks Stanford over Pack, Heels

Ed Reynolds, a linebacker from Woodberry Forest (Va.) committed to Stanford, according to scout.com. He had considered North Carolina and N.C. State.

Nine N.C. players invited to U.S Army combine

We already told you that RB Jalen “Scoot” Simmons of West Charlotte High has been invited to the U.S. Army National Underclassmen’s Combine Jan. 7-9; now eight more North Carolina athletes have been selected as well.

Also picked—in alphabetical order—are Juston Burris of Raleigh Broughton; Justus Hoffman of Raleigh Millbrook; Ryan Magnum of Raleigh Leesville Road; Montese Overton of Winterville South Central; Jordan Pineda of Watauga; Jeremy Reynolds of Greensboro Dudley; John Scott of Knightdale and Jarrod Spears of Angier Harnett Central.

The combine is part of a week of events tied to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, Jan.9 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

All I can say is the selection committee must have a lot of connections in Raleigh.

--Stan Olson

The Major is one more Shrine Bowl surprise

Greensboro Dudley LB Major Bryant wasn’t the biggest or fastest guy on the North Carolina Shrine Bowl team last week, but Saturday, he was one of the more effective. He finished with five tackles, including a 14-yard sack, and also recovered the key SC fumble near the end of the game.

I talked with Bryant earlier in the week, and, at 6-feet and just over 200 pounds, he felt like he had to have a strong set of Shrine practices and a productive game to increase his recruiting profile.

A number of schools have shown interest in Bryant from time to time, but he said Marshall is the only Division I program to offer so far. There was some worry about his grades, but he said they are shaping up fine. He would love to hear more from area schools, N.C. State in particular.

It may happen after his strong week down in Spartanburg. He has 4.6 speed in the 40 and a good nose for the ball, and if he doesn’t get much bigger, might be a strong safety at the next level.

--Stan Olson

Shrine Bowl footballs: Slip-sliding away

After all the talk about how slippery the new Reebok balls were in Saturday’s Shrine Bowl game between North and South Carolina, we found some pretty convincing evidence of that in a last go-over of the official stat sheet.

The game, a 24-14 victory by the Tarheels, featured a dozen fumbles, seven by the Sandlappers. But according to the stats, there were only four forced fumbles in the game, three by NC and one by SC.

That means eight balls were simply dropped in one way or another.
Six of the 12 fumbles were lost, and the recovering team went on to score points every time.

--Stan Olson

Tar Heels, Gamecocks still on Floyd's list

Massive and highly-rated DT Sharrif Floyd of George Washington High in Philadelphia took an official visit to North Carolina over the weekend and has since cancelled a planned visit to South Carolina that had been scheduled for Jan. 15.

Floyd, a five-star recruit according to several services, is already familiar enough with the Gamecocks, a source told S.C. recruiting expert Phil Kornblut. Floyd has made two unofficial trips to Columbia.

In addition to S.C. and the Tar Heels, Floyd has narrowed his finalists to Ohio State and Florida.

The source said that since Floyd is planning to announce his decision at the Army All-American Game Jan. 9, there was no sense making another trip.

South Carolina is still in the loop," the source said. "He already knows it all about them...the facilities, the coaches...it's a good thing.”

Floyd, who is 6-foot-2 and 310 pounds, has yet to indicate a favorite. He reportedly enjoyed his trip to Chapel Hill.

--Stan Olson

Got recruiting news (offers, visits, commitments or a kid we’ve missed)? Send it to me at solson@charlotteobserver.com.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Shrine Bowl to be replayed three times on ESPNU

In case you want to see the Shrine Bowl and haven’t yet, ESPNU will replay it three times. First, on Dec. 28 at 2 p.m. Then, for insomniacs and late-night revelers, at 3:30 a.m. Dec. 29—watch the game and the sun come up.

Finally, at 7 p.m. on Jan. 7. That would be next year, and we’ll all have moved on to basketball by then. Anyway, now you know

--Stan Olson

With Edwards, someone should 'shoot the Moon'

There’s a problem with playing at a small school; often many scouts simply assume you can’t play, at least not at a high level. Coming into Shrine Bowl week, that was the case with Delarius “Moon” Edwards of Chesterfield High, a 1A school in South Carolina.

Then the Sandlappers O-line spent all week trying to block him. And North Carolina had trouble as well, despite the fact that Edwards was playing DT at 6-foot-1 and 242 pounds.

“He was the biggest surprise on our team,” said a South Carolina coach after the game. “North Carolina was having to block him with two people.”

The Shrine Bowl folks asked each kid who was recruiting him before the week began, and Moon listed South Carolina, Appalachian, Wake Forest and Coastal Carolina, a group not often found in the same breath.

After watching him, though, maybe some of the big boys should start paying attention. Otherwise, App or Coastal will wind up with a steal.

--Stan Olson

Should Gamecocks’ hoops commit play football?

Moncks Corner (S.C.) Berkeley athlete Bruce Ellington is a remarkable basketball point guard, one of the nation’s best. And he loves the sport, and has committed to play it at South Carolina. Which means an end to his football career, and many people think that’s a mistake.

Ellington is also an outstanding quarterback/receiver/defensive back/you name it on a football field, good enough to make the Shrine Bowl and start at wide receiver. Last week, three different coaches told me his choice of basketball over football was not a wise one.

As one coach put it, “What is he; 5-10, 5-11? How many NBA point guards do you see who are that size? Meanwhile, there are a zillion NFL cornerbacks that big. His chances of playing in the pros in basketball are just about zero. He needs to get better advice.”

Ellington won’t be playing both sports at South Carolina—the basketball program doesn’t want him getting banged up on the football field.

--Stan Olson

Smith, Martin offer Shrine Bowl sparkle for N.C.

North Carolina, which wasn’t supposed to win this 73rd annual Shrine Bowl Game, did, hanging on to a 24-14 decision. In large part, that can be credited to coach Jim Oddo’s dogged faith in the Wing-T offense, a scheme he installed in one week and one that the Tarheels ran steadily, if not brilliantly.

But you also have to look at the performance of two vastly underrated members of the North’s defense.

They would be the still-uncommitted Kareem Martin (UNC, Duke, Virginia Tech) of Roanoke Rapids and Chris Smith (Arkansas) of West Rowan.

That the Razorbacks were able to steal Smith, the game’s NC defensive MVP, happened largely because West Rowan played him out of position at DE, despite his size. But he has been growing, most recently measured at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds.

Arkansas stole him early, and area schools whiffed. With tremendous speed and instincts, he showed on Saturday why he could make any program in the nation better.

He finished with eight tackles from his DE slot, tying Martin for game high. Two of those were sacks, for a total of 28 yards in losses. And when Martin smashed into SC quarterback Cody Craig, forcing a fumble, Smith took it 67 yards for the game’s first score.

As for the 6-foot-6, 240-pound Martin, his eight tackles included a TFL for 11 yards and two forced fumbles, plus the recovery of another. That, and a lot of intimidation.

*The ball-handling was atrocious in this game (12 fumbles), but that may have been in large part due to the new Reebok footballs the teams were using. A number of players committed on how slick the balls were, and it showed.

--Stan Olson

Got recruiting info? You know where I am, at
solson@charlotteobserver.com

Saturday, December 19, 2009

North Carolina up at the half, 17-0 in Shrine Bowl

All of the Tarheels' points in the game at Wofford College have come following SC lost fumbles.

Key factors have been NC DEs Chris Smith and Kareem Martin, who have been almost unblockable. Smith is going to Arkansas. Everybody in the world should start recruiting Martin, who is considering Duke, UNC, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech.

--Stan Olson

Marcus Lattimore: Clemson, LSU still trying

Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes’ Marcus Lattimore may be the best running back in the nation, and as such, received 32 scholarship offers. He’s narrowed his choices to five—South Carolina, Auburn, Penn State, Oregon and Georgia.
But everyone hasn’t given up.
“LSU is still recruiting me, and Clemson—those two, mainly,” Lattimore said.
So how does he handle it?
Lattimore grinned and said, “I really just don’t pick up the phone.”
He said saying no to so many teams has been the hardest part of the recruiting process.
“That’s been very tough. I mean, they’re all great schools, and all great coaches. But some of them were just not the right fit for me. I could go to any of those schools and be happy, so it’s hard.”
Any school get mad when he dumped them?
“They didn’t get mad; they just said they’re not gonna stop recruiting me,” he said, smiling again.
“I can’t wait until it’s over.”

--Stan Olson

Friday, December 18, 2009

Tennessee Vols added to Farmer's mix

Cleaning up some final Shrine Bowl recruiting leftovers from the N.C. team:

*DT/TE Ethan Farmer from Tabor City S. Columbus was believed to have narrowed his choices to North Carolina, Clemson and N.C. State, but he threw Tennessee back into the mix after one practice. He said he doesn’t currently have a favorite.

*DB Lamar Ivey from Eastern Alamance has official visits lined up with N.C. State, North Carolina and Kentucky. Ivey doesn’t plan to commit until he has taken all three. Ivey, one of the team’s better athletes, has also gotten work at QB and WR.

*Butler S/WR Nate Charest is currently looking at Pembroke, Catawba, Wingate, Gardner-Webb and possibly Wofford, he said. A big Shrine Bowl—if he winds up with enough playing time—could boost his stock a bit.

--Stan Olson

N.C. State recruit Teal could make Shrine splash

I was impressed with Bennettsville (S.C.) Marlboro County DT Thomas Teal during my day at Shrine Bowl practice earlier this week, and apparently he has kept up the good work.

“Thomas has a very good combination of size and speed,” Boiling Springs (S.C.) OL Logan Stewart told the Spartanburg Herald Journal. “He's also very smart and is always around the football. I don't see North Carolina being able to block him one on one at all. He'll be double-teamed automatically.”

Stewart should know; he’s had to block him. And not always successfully. In the same article, Boiling Springs QB Dylan Thompson said, “There have been two or three times where I've turned to hand it off and he's hit me before I can even do it.

“I think he can shut down their inside game for sure. You've got to be alert where he is at all times, he makes that kind of impact.”

Teal is a 6-foot-2, 325-pound load who just missed making our SC Top 25 Prospects list. After the Shrine Bowl, we may have to reevaluate.

--Stan Olson

NC Shrine team secondary crowded with stars

While just about everyone agrees that South Carolina’s Shrine Bowl team has more talent than the N.C. squad, the Tar Heels are loaded in the defensive backfield—particularly at safety.

That’s where Northern Guilford’s Keenan Allen, possibly the best prospect in the state, and Greensboro Dudley’s David Amerson cover the back end of the NC defense like a blanket.
Allen is bound for Alabama and Amerson for N.C. State. The two are so good that they pushed another remarkable safety, Wake Forest commitment A.J. Marshall of Southern Durham, over to cornerback, which is a plus for the North.
All three of these guys are long, lean and remarkably athletic. And, stopping after practice earlier this week, Allen said he’ll help out at CB as well.

“I’ll play both in the game,” he said, and then talked about lining up at safety with former area rival Amerson.

“We’re real friendly. It’s pretty cool. We’ve both covered about the same amount of ground on the field.”

He added that he, Amerson and Marshall have been working on a celebration dance together if it comes to that. Allen wouldn’t give us an early peek, though.

I believe one of the reasons these monster safeties will get corner time is Butler safety Nate Charest, not a big guy but one scrappy football player.

My bet is that South Carolina—which has two remarkable receivers in Clemson commitments DeAndre Hopkins and Martavis Bryant--will have to focus on a short and quick passing game to avoid too many one-on-one deep confrontations with the big boys.

--Stan Olson

If you want to go to the Shrine Bowl...

And aren't afraid of a little cold rain...here's the poop

WHAT: The 73rd annual Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas, a game that for years was played in Charlotte, pits the top 44 senior high school players in North Carolina against their counterparts in S.C.
TIME: 1 p.m., today.
PLACE: Wofford College’s Gibbs Stadium.
TICKETS: Advance tickets were $5 cheaper, but at the gate today, reserved seats are $25 and general admission, $15.
DIRECTIONS: From the Charlotte area, take I-85 South to exit 72 (I-585). At the end of the exit ramp, turn left toward Spartanburg. Cross over Business I-85. I-585 becomes Pine Street into Spartanburg. After crossing over Business I-85, turn right onto Twitty Street at the second stoplight.

--Stan Olson

Is RB Max Elliott this year's Shrine Bowl surprise?

South Carolina’s team brought three RBs to the game—Marcus Lattimore, perhaps the best at his position in the nation; Mustafa Greene, also a prominent national recruit, and Max Elliott.

Who?

Max Elliott is a 5-foot-8, 165-pound speedster from Clover High.

And on a team loaded with stars, hardly anyone seemed to know who he was. Until practice started, that is.

On Monday and Tuesday, he rapidly grabbed attention. As the three running backs ran their plays, there seemed to be no noticeable falloff in speed and quickness from the top two to Max, although the size difference is obvious.

“Max Elliott has been a very nice surprise,” said South Carolina head coach Lewis Lineberger, who already had to like him enough to put him on the squad in the first place. "I didn't know he was this good."

Keep an eye on the kid. If he plays this well in Saturday’s game, Division I offers could follow.

--Stan Olson

College Recruiting Blog: We're back!!!

After Google’s screwup yesterday yanked our blog, ostensibly because its famed computer software thought it was spam (I’ve heard that from fans as well on occasion). We have been reestablished in good standing, just in time for Saturday’s Shrine Bowl. Now that you know, more blog posts will shortly follow.

--Stan Olson

Email me any recruiting info you have at solson@charlotteobserver.com

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

S.C. Shrine DE Henderson lost to concussion

South Carolina squad defensive end Justin Henderson suffered a concussion Tuesday and has been ruled out for Saturday’s game. Henderson is from Bamberg-Erhardt High, and is committed to Kentucky.

He is being replaced by Midland Valley DL Bryan Hadden.

Players cannot be replaced after Tuesday, which means if North Carolina players keep injuring themselves at their current pace, the game may have to be seven-on-seven.

Despite South Carolina’s loss of Henderson and James Island offensive lineman Chad Hamilton (sprained ankle), the Sandlappers are in much better shape.

--Stan Olson

Clemson Tigers land N.C. Shrine pick Tra Thomas

The Tigers are again doing well in North Carolina, and picked off talented Anson Senior defensive tackle and Shrine Bowler Tra Thomas Tuesday, when he called his Clemson recruiter Dan Brooks to commit between practices.

No word on whether he will still take an official visit to Duke on Jan. 15, but you can bet against it. Although he visited Michigan State in November, he has been a Clemson lean for some time now.

Thomas, who is 6-foot-1 and 275 pounds, had also been offered by West Virginia and East Carolina, among others.

--Stan Olson

Gamecocks add linebacker Qua Gilchrist

Qua Gilchrist, who played this season for Butler (KS) Junior College is to sign with South Carolina this afternoon in Abbeville, S.C., his hometown.

“It's a blessing," Gilchrist told Columbia recruiting expert Phil Kornblut. “When an SEC school gives you a chance, you've got to take it.”

Gilchrist, who is 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, had been committed to Houston, and also had offers from Kansas State, Kansas, Toledo and Northern Illinois.

South Carolina defensive coordinator defense Ellis Johnson offered him Monday, and he was quick to go with his home-state school.

Gilchrist, who will have three seasons of eligibility, is a former North-South Game participant who had 54 tackles, including 5½ sacks this season.

--Stan Olson

Got recruiting info? Drop me a line at
solson@charlotteobserver.com

NCAA should let big schools attend Shrine practice

The NCAA continues its mistake—begun several years back--of not letting FBS (Division I) college coaches attend Shrine Bowl practices. For years, the Shrine Bowl was a place where an under-recruited kid, perhaps from a smaller school, could prove that he could play with the big boys and make a name for himself.

I always called it the “Sam Aiken effect,” in honor of a player from a small school in eastern North Carolina who had a great Shrine week and by Monday had an offer from North Carolina. He took it and went on to play in the NFL.

But with the proliferation of combines and all-star games everywhere in recent years, the NCAA cracked down, and refused to let the big boys attend those events. The Shrine game got swept up along with all the others.

And borderline kids are practicing in front of Division II coaches only this week, schools that would have offered them anyway in many cases.

“It hurts a lot of those kids,” said Scout.com’s Miller Safrit as he watched North Carolina’s team practice Tuesday. “There are a lot of players that would be, if not at the BCS level, a I-A or I-AA (FCS) that could help a team like an Appalachian get back deep into the playoffs.

“So there are a lot of guys that may not have those offers, and the 1-A schools and the 1-AA schools that are trying to fill up their rosters in the last two months, they would come here and they would find their team at the Shrine Bowl.

“It’s helping Division II schools that are out here and able to watch players, but Division I (FBS) coaches have to read reports and follow up after that; get film. And it’s a long process, whereas if they were out here they could offer on Monday—today if they really wanted to.”

--Stan Olson

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

North Carolina Shrine team loses more players

First, the Tar Heels lost OT Kane Sherrill—a replacement himself for Robert Crisp—to a shoulder injury. Then, Tuesday, down went Independence OL Ryan Thompson, with a high left ankle sprain. We blogged on that earlier only to see, later in the afternoon practice at Roebuck (S.C.) Dorman High, another N.C. player in sweats, standing beside Thompson.

That turned out to be a very downcast Anthony Kilgore-Parker, the third Charlotte-area player to be knocked off the roster in three days.

Kilgore-Parker, a defensive back from North Mecklenburg, aggravated a stress fracture, and after having it examined Tuesday morning by doctors, was told not to play on it, ending his season.

N.C. coach Jim Oddo said following the afternoon session that Thompson’s replacement would be Carson Moss of Leesville Road High. Moss is 6-foot-2 and 275 pounds, with one official offer—from Brown—so far but a lot of interest from Ivy League schools.

Oddo said with Moss not there yet Tuesday, Anson Senior defensive lineman Tra Thomas filled in on the O-line and did some nice things. He could play at least some on both sides of the ball in Saturday’s game at Wofford.

Lots more coming on the Carolinas' all-stars later this week.

--Stan Olson

Independence OL out of Shrine Bowl

Independence High offensive lineman Ryan Thompson's stay at the Shrine Bowl was a short one. He suffered a high left ankle sprain during Tuesday morning's practice and by the time he returned for the afternoon session, he was on crutches with the lower left leg heavily wrapped.

Thompson said it would keep him on the sidelines "for two or three weeks."

His replacement has not been named.

North Carolina already had lost offensive tackle Kane Sherrill from Lake Norman High to a shoulder injury. He was replaced by Kevin Alphonso of Richmond Senior.

-- Stan Olson

Wilkins committed to Pack ... sort of

N.C. Shrine Bowler Reggie Wilkins, of Boiling Springs Crest High, first committed to North Carolina, then recently switched to N.C. State. Now he may be up in the air again.

Wilkins, who quarterbacked Crest but will be a wide receiver in college and in the Shrine game, said during a water break during Tuesday's morning practice that he will take three more official visits after all. He's going to Louisville Jan. 8, to North Carolina on Jan.15 and to N.C. State on Jan. 22.

"Right now I'm committed to N.C. State," Wilkins said. But when asked if the visits meant he was still open to being recruited by other schools, he hedged his bets behind a big grin.

"I don't think I want to answer that one," he said. "Signing day is Feb. 3, so we'll find out then."

Then he darted back onto the practice field.

--Stan Olson

South Carolina Shrine Bowl team is beastly

Sorry this is a little late, but the Shrine Bowl Game—which ostensibly pits the best seniors in North Carolina against their counterparts in S.C., ran late with its morning practice at Roebuck Dorman High, near Spartanburg. I’m down here, so I was late with them.

You would have to say the Tar Heels are behind their rivals on this Tuesday, because head coach Jim Oddo (of Charlotte Catholic) is installing his Wing-T offense, and most of his players come from systems that ran pro-style or spread offenses.

It needs to work for North Carolina because South Carolina has a bigger and more talented team, from what I saw at practice.

I love the practice setup; the two teams work out on fields side by side. So you can see North Carolina wide receiver Lamar Ivey make a sparkling diving catch, then turn around and watch South Carolina cornerback John Fulton bat the ball away from receiver Martavis Bryant on the other field.

It’s very informal here; I spoke to a number of players during water breaks in the middle of the workout. Fulton, for instance, took a drink and then said he has his college choices down to South Carolina, Alabama and Florida. He would not name a favorite from among the three.

One of N.C.’s quarterbacks, Anthony Carrothers of Independence, missed much of Monday’s afternoon practice with a shoulder injury, but was back today and looked fine.

Lots, lots more to come from here, but I’ve got to grab some lunch and get back for the 2 p.m. session.

The game, by the way, is Saturday at 1 p.m., at Wofford.

--Stan Olson





Monday, December 14, 2009

Clemson's Swinney looking like a closer

Remember when Clemson invited coach Tommy Bowden to step down in the middle of last season and made then-39-year-old assistant Dabo Swinney the Tigers’ interim head coach?

I’m sure school officials agonized over whether or not they should remove that interim and give a young guy with no head coaching experience the job.

After all, arch-rival South Carolina was led by Steve Spurrier, one of the great names in college coaching history.

Then Swinney whipped the Gamecocks 31-14, and was given a five-year contract on Dec. 1.

It was the right move. Swinney showed he can coach, but maybe even more importantly, he’s looking like a recruiting closer, one of those guys kids instinctively like who can seal the deal.

He landed three more quality players (two seniors and a junior) over the weekend, and his class of 2010 is climbing into the top 20 on recruiting service rankings.
That’s tough to do at Clemson, which competes with SEC programs for many prospects.

Swinney, though, is rolling.

Which means the Tigers are as well.

We’ve found another freshman phenom in S.C.

Piedmont (S.C.) Wren Coach Jeff Tate was watching his ninth grade team play near mid-season when RB Levi Bufford scored 7 TDs on 9 carries.

“I was thinking, ‘Playing down here is not going to be helping him get better anymore,” Tate said. “He already knows plays 20, 21, 24 and 25. That’s enough. We promoted him to the varsity.”

Although the coaches broke him in slowly, Bufford exploded. In seven games, he rushed for 788 yards and 9 TDs on 90 carries, an 8.8 yards-per-carry average.
And in his team’s 56-55 loss to James Island in the playoffs, Bufford carried 15 times for 300 yards and 3 touchdowns.

“I should have given it to him more,” Tate said.

Watch out for this Class of 2013 member. He’s already 5-foot-9½ and 190 pounds. He hasn't been timed in the 40 yet, but Tate said, "Nobody on our team can catch him.”

--Stan Olson

Junior Clemson commit Anthony a huge catch

The commitment of Shaq Anthony, a junior offensive lineman, to the Tigers probably couldn’t have gone any other way.

“He grew up in a Clemson home; both of his parents are Clemson graduates,” said his coach, Jeff Tate of Wren High in Piedmont, S.C., a few minutes ago. “He’s been to camp there several times, and he knows several people who played there.”

That would include dad Vernie Anthony, a defensive lineman on the 1981 national champions, and a brother who currently attends the school.

Shaq Anthony committed in church Sunday morning, on a day when Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was addressing the congregation.

“Shaq started as a 15-year old sophomore for us at right tackle, and got beat every which way you can think of,” said Tate. “But he kept working and fighting. This year, he played left tackle and did a great job.”

Tate said Anthony, currently 6-4½ and 260 pounds, had also been offered by South Carolina, Georgia, East Carolina and Duke, with many others looking forward to having him at camp.

“He can pass-set as well as anybody I’ve ever had, and he’s quick enough to pull a lot,” Tate said. “He’s got those long arms, and he’s got some things that we can’t instruct.”

Anthony would have been a national recruit next season.

--Stan Olson

Clemson Tigers add three more quality recruits

Two Hargrave Military Academy linemen—OL Laurence Gibson and DL Josh Watson—have dramatically strengthened the Tigers’ 2010 recruiting class with their commitments after visiting Clemson over the weekend, according to several sources.

And the Tigers have also landed one of the better in-state players in the Class of 2011, OL Shaq Anthony of Wren High in Piedmont.

While Watson was already a known quantity, Clemson and everyone else were impressed with Gibson at Hargrave’s recent winter combine, and the offers began pouring in.

Gibson measured 6-foot-6 and 296 pounds while running a 4.77-second 40-yard dash. He bench-pressed 225 pounds 23 times.

He picked Clemson over earlier offers from Virginia Tech and Auburn. Georgia, Mississippi St., Syracuse and Utah all offered after seeing him at the combine.

Watson, already highly thought-of, cancelled his last official visit—scheduled for North Carolina this weekend—after the Clemson trip.

He’s 6-5 and 260 pounds, and could play either defensive end or defensive tackle in college. Clemson, though, needs DTs.

Watson had already visited Boston College and Duke, and also had offers from Florida State, Virginia, West Virginia and Michigan State.

Anthony, who is 6-5 and 255 pounds, also had early offers from South Carolina and Georgia, according to CUTigers.com.

Clemson now has 20 commitments for 2010, and five for 2011.

--Stan Olson

Got recruiting news (visits, offers, commitments)? Pop it to me at solson@charlotteobserver.com.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Farmer's Top 3: Tar Heels, Wolfpack, Clemson

Tabor City South Columbus TE/DT Ethan Farmer, the highest-ranked uncommitted player on our NC Top 25 Prospects list at No.9, has narrowed his choices to three schools, South Columbus coach Jake Fonvielle said moments ago.

“He’s got it down to North Carolina, Clemson and N.C. State.” Fonvielle said. He added that he didn’t believe Farmer had a favorite from among the three, although the player has said that he grew up a UNC fan.

That means schools like Alabama and Tennessee, who had also offered, are out of the picture. Farmer will remain uncommitted for some time, though.

“He plans to wait until February to sign,” Fonvielle said.

Farmer, who is 6-foot-2 and 260 pounds, is athletic enough to be a high-scoring forward on the basketball team. He finished his senior football season with about 80 tackles and eight sacks. Offensively, he had six receptions for over 100 yards.

*Lake Norman O-lineman Kane Sherrill, who had previously been a Shrine Bowl alternate, has been added the North Carolina roster. Sherrill, by the way, did not allow a sack while blocking for 622 varsity passing plays.

--Stan Olson

Duke, Tar Heels, Deacons make graduation list

At first glance, this isn’t about recruiting, but look again and it most definitely is. A total of 41 FBS schools have been honored by the American Football Coaches Association for graduating at least 75 percent of their football players. And that can be a big selling point when coaches are visiting those mamas and daddies. Even if the kids are more concerned with what’s being served at the training table.

So who made the list from the ACC?

Duke, North Carolina and Wake Forest, none of which was a surprise. N.C. State, though, did not. And neither did that academic icon just to our north, Virginia.

Boston
College
and Miami also made it.

No other ACC school was on the list. But then, the league still zipped ahead of the SEC.

Who made it from the best football-playing conference in the land? Alabama, Florida and Vanderbilt. You knew the SEC kept those Commodores around for something.

East Carolina
and South Carolina, our other area majors, failed to qualify.

By the way, the Big Ten led all leagues with six schools, and all three service academies, plus the usual suspects like Stanford, Notre Dame and Rice, made the list.

--Stan Olson

Oregon Ducks OC hits area schools this week

Oregon offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich zipped through Charlotte Monday, hitting a number of area schools on the only day he planned to be in North Carolina.

He went to Wadesboro’s Anson High to see big-time junior linebacker Stephone Anthony, hit Marvin Ridge to check out wide receiver K.J. Brent and linebacker Vinnie Sunseri--both also juniors—and also stopped by Butler to look at the championship game’s raft of young talent lead by juniors Christian LeMay (QB) and Kris Frost (LB).

All this came from a helpful and very reliable source.

Apparently, the Ducks don’t plan to be one-quack wonders in the Carolinas; they hope to stick around for awhile.

--Stan Olson

Got recruiting news? Pop it to me at solson@charlotteobserver.com

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Gamecocks to offer Brantley along with Tar Heels?

We wondered how our old friend Tehvyn Brantley, the Durham Mt. Zion Academy kid who toured the country hitting camps and combines last summer, was doing, so we called dad Leroy to check in.

He was, as always, enthusiastic.

“We just finished making his highlight tape, and it’s incredible, just incredible,” the elder Brantley said.

He added that South Carolina is considering offering Tehvyn but is waiting for his transcript.

“They will have it in a couple of days,” Leroy said. “Everything’s good. He has a solid B average, he’s taken the ACT and has qualified on that; everything is in order.

North Carolina
has offered Brantley, whose 5-foot-8 height has been a deterrent to many schools. Leroy said that Eastern Michigan has also called recently. The Tar Heels, though, are currently the only BCS school with an offer on the table.

--Stan Olson

Vols commit Willis will visit Miami, Cal Bears

Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes DE Brandon Willis said during a break at the North-South all-star game ijn Myrtle Beach that he plans to take two more visits, to Miami and California. Byrnes committed to Tennessee at mid-season, but then decided to take visits elsewhere after all.

Since then, he’s taken officials to North Carolina and UCLA.

“I'm still committed but I'm still open," Willis told our buddy Phil Kornblut. “I'll take two more visits to Miami and Cal. After that, I'll really for sure make my decision."

Willis was also asked about the NY Times story that “recruiting hostesses” from Tennessee showed up at a Byrnes game during the season.

“Yeah, I've heard about it but the things that happened weren't illegal,” he said. “We've already sat down (with the Vols’ staff) and talked about it. We'll see what happens.

"Nothing that happened was inappropriate. Of course, they are going to investigate because things like that happen.”

Willis said the investigation will not affect his thinking concerning Tennessee, adding that his commitment is “medium. I wouldn't say soft, I wouldn't say firm. It's in between.”

--Stan Olson

Clemson football recruit suffers stroke

Clemson football recruit Jake Nicolopulos, a linebacker from T.L. Hanna High ranked No. 24 in the Observer's S.C. Top 25, suffered a stroke Wednesday morning and is in Charleston today for further evaluation.

An excerpt from today's article in the Anderson Independent Mail:

Hanna football coach and athletics director Kenya Fouch, who visited Nicolopulos on Wednesday morning at AnMed Health Medical Center where he was in critical but stable condition, said Nicolopulos would be treated at the Medical University of South Carolina where a team of doctors who specialize in the symptoms that Nicolopulos is experiencing can further diagnose treatment.

“Right now there aren’t many answers,” Fouch said. “Everybody’s trying to find out what happened.”

Our best wishes to this young man for a speedy recovery.

More on the Ducks’ Carolinas’ recruiting surge

Yesterday, I mentioned that surprisingly, Oregon was kicking up dust in the Carolinas’ recruiting wars. I checked a bit further into it and a number of factors come into play.

While virtually all the Ducks’ coaching staff have west coast ties, then there is defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro, hired this year after coaching the same group at Marshall in 2008. More importantly, Azzinaro was Duke’s defensive coordinator from 2004 through 2006, giving him a familiarity with the Carolinas.

There’s more, though; Oregon is tied tightly to Nike and its co-founder and chairman, Phil Knight. Knight is an Oregon graduation, and in 2007 donated $100 million to the school’s athletic program.

The Ducks have used that money well when it comes to upgrading football.

“Their facilities are possibly the best in the country,” says a veteran area college coach. “They have a TV in every one of the players’ lockers, and I understand the kids get a new jersey for every game.

“Oregon is, in a sense, being marketed by Nike.”

But despite all that, the coach said, Oregon still has to compete with schools like Southern Cal, UCLA and Stanford on the west coast.

“They come around here and maybe they’re a little more exotic,” he said. “A lot of these kids have never had a chance to go to the west coast.”

As in, those five-hour plane flights are exciting the first couple of times you take them, but for some folks, they get old fast.

Meanwhile, the Ducks are making a splash.

--Stan Olson. Pop me recruiting news at solson@charlotteobserver.com

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Vols' traveling hostesses get unwanted attention

If you haven’t read the NY Times story about Tennessee’s “recruiting hostesses” that editor Mike Persinger linked to on this blog this morning, you should. The NCAA is investigating—among other things—charges that these hostesses have been showing up at the games of Volunteers’ recruiting targets.

The story reads in part:

Marcus Lattimore, a running back who made an unofficial visit to Tennessee but said he would not enroll there, said multiple Tennessee hostesses attended a game at James F. Byrnes High School in Duncan, S.C., in September. He said they brought signs, including one that read, “Come to Tennessee.”

“I haven’t seen no other schools do that,” he said. “It’s crazy.”

The hostesses are considered representatives of the university, which would mean they could not recruit players off campus. Therefore, the visits may be considered violations of N.C.A.A. recruiting rules.

Two of Lattimore’s teammates, Brandon Willis and Corey Miller, have orally committed to Tennessee. Lattimore described the hostesses as “real pretty, real nice and just real cool.” He said he thought they had “a lot” of influence in Miller’s and Willis’s commitments to Tennessee.

I’ll bet.

People often wonder why the NCAA has all its rules and regulations. It’s because in trying to get an edge, many people will do whatever they think they can get away with—we’ve seen it in sports with everything from hitters on steroids, pitchers doctoring baseballs, NASCAR drivers “adjusting” their engines.

The bottom line on this hostess thing is that I can’t see college girls giving up their Friday nights and driving four hours from Knoxville to watch a high school football game without some encouragement from someone.

Ask yourselves just who that would be.

--Stan Olson

Oregon Ducks are quacking through Carolinas

What the quack has gotten into Oregon?

Suddenly, the Ducks, from ‘way out on the west coast, are a factor in battles for some of the best players in the Carolinas. They’ve already landed two of the best players in North Carolina in DE Chris McCain and CB James Scales of Greensboro, and have been in the hunt for several others.

Most notably, DE Gabe King, No.1 on our preseason list, moved to Eugene, Ore., just as the season was starting. Since the University of Oregon is located there, where do you think he’ll wind up playing his college ball?

And if you’ve forgotten, King is an unblockable beast coming off the edge.

It’s likely that the Oregon has an assistant coach with ties to the region, sort of like Alabama and former Carolinas Panthers assistant Sal Sunseri; I’ll check into it when I have a little more time.

Anyway, suddenly Oregon’s Ducks are more popular around here than that AFLAC fowl.

--Stan Olson

Junior LB gets college offer based on one play

Butler linebacker Kris Frost (4) makes a tackle against Richmond Senior.
(Jeff Siner/jsiner@charlotteobserver.com)


Don't miss today's Charlotte Observer story on Butler linebacker Kris Frost, who was so impressive on film one college coach offered him a scholarship based on one play.

Hampton hopes to choose between SC, Volunteers

Darlington cornerback Victor Hampton, who 6 months ago was committed to Florida and being counted on to lead Independence’s defense, now says he is planning to choose between South Carolina and Tennessee.

Patriots coach Tom Knotts kicked Hampton off the team prior to the season, and sources said the player simply had run out of chances to follow the rules there. With that, Florida backed off as well.

Hampton
has avoided problems at Darlington, and recently told South Carolina recruiting expert Phil Kornblut that he will take no more visits. He plans to announce his pick between the Gamecocks and Volunteers at January’s Army all-American all-star game in January.

“I've seen all the schools I've wanted to see, so I don't see any reason to set any other visits," Hampton said. He added that Tennessee has increased its recruiting pressure recently.

Still, he said he doesn’t currently have a favorite between the schools.

--Stan Olson

Got recruiting news? Pop it to solson@charlotteobserver.com.

Vols 'recruiting hostesses' draw NCAA scrutiny

Tennessee's recruiting practices are under scrutiny by the NCAA, the New York Times reports, with the focus on recruiting hostesses.

From the Times:

The N.C.A.A. is conducting a wide-ranging investigation into the University of Tennessee’s football recruiting practices, according to interviews with several prospects, their family members and high school administrators. A significant part of the investigation is focused on the use of recruiting hostesses who have become folk heroes on Tennessee Internet message boards for their ability to help lure top recruits. ...

Interviews with multiple recruits and their family members revealed that the N.C.A.A. has strong interest in Tennessee’s use of recruiting hostesses, students who are part of a formal group at the university that hosts all manner of prospective students at campus visits, including athletes. It is not clear whether the university sent the hostesses to visit the football players.

In one case, hostesses traveled nearly 200 miles to attend a high school game in South Carolina in which at least three Tennessee recruits were playing.

Marcus Lattimore, a running back who made an unofficial visit to Tennessee but said he would not enroll there, said multiple Tennessee hostesses attended a game at James F. Byrnes High School in Duncan, S.C., in September. He said they brought signs, including one that read, “Come to Tennessee.”

“I haven’t seen no other schools do that,” he said. “It’s crazy.”

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Patriots' Carrothers getting attention at QB

While the bigger schools won’t take many quarterbacks shorter than 6-foot-1 or so, the smaller ones—with shorter offensive lines to see over—often look at the whole package. So it is with Independence senior QB Anthony Carrothers, who set a bushel of school records this season while pushing the Patriots deep into the playoffs.

Carrothers has been offered by Charleston (W.Va.), Southern and Grambling, and Pembroke has considerable interest in him as well.

Carrothers may be small at 5-foot-9, but he can run and he can throw. It’s now obvious that he—like Appalachian State’s Armanti Edwards before him—will get a chance to prove he can do so at the college level as well.

--Stan Olson

Lattimore eliminates Tar Heels from his list

Marcus Lattimore. (Jeff Blake/jblake@thestate.com)


Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes’ Marcus Lattimore, No. 1 in our S.C. Top 25 and considered by many the top running back in the country, has dropped North Carolina from his list of schools.

“He wanted to trim his list to five, and the Tar Heels were the team that he cut,” said Byrnes athletic director Bobby Bentley moments ago. “Now he’s down to South Carolina, Penn State, Auburn, Georgia and Oregon.”

Bentley did not offer a reason why UNC got the axe, but Lattimore’s loss was a huge blow to the program, which—like South Carolina—is in dire need of a game-changing running back.

Lattimore, who has scheduled visits to Georgia and Oregon in January, has been to South Carolina unofficially many times, and it was thought that he might visit the other five officially. Now with the Tar Heels out of the picture, he can take an official to Columbia as well.

--Stan Olson

Report: Lattimore trims Tar Heels from list

The Sporting News says Byrnes running back Marcus Lattimore, No. 1 in our S.C. Top 25, has trimmed North Carolina from his finalists, cutting the list to five. TheBigSpur.com, a South Carolina website, is reporting the same thing, in a subscription-only story that includes the basic news in the free blurb.

See the Sporting News story here.

Duke Blue Devils pick up junior college TE

The Blue Devils have added the commitment of 6-foot-4, 235-pound tight end Cooper Helfet of Santa Rosa (Cal.) junior college. Helfet was also offered scholarships by Iowa State, Utah State and Texas State, and was being recruited by Louisville.

“Duke has this big passing game,” Helfet said. “The junior college I was at, all we did was throw the ball. Even in high school I was a receiver. I’ve got to learn how to get in a three-point stance and block, but the position I played in junior college was like a tight end for the pass routes.”

Helfet has remarkable 4.52-second speed for his size in the 40-yard dash. He plans on enrolling at Duke for the second semester this school year and participating in spring practice. He’ll have two years of eligibility.

As a junior college sophomore, he caught 40 passes for 657 yards and seven TDs while part of a four-receiver offense. Duke, though, recruited him to play TE.

“I’m a good-sized kid,” Helfet said. “I can certainly match up with linebackers; I can beat them with my speed. And with safeties, I can normally use my body to shield them off and catch balls. That’s why (Duke coach David) Cutcliffe said he wanted me.”

--Stan Olson

Please send recruiting information (visits, offers, commitments) to solson@charlotteobserver.com

Monday, December 7, 2009

Martin down to Hokies, Tar Heels and Blue Devils

Roanoke Rapids DE Kareem Martin, one of the best players in North Carolina yet to commit, has narrowed his choices to Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Duke, his coach said today.

Martin is coming off a remarkable senior year, coach Russell Weinstein said.

“He had 163 tackles, and that’s with people running away from him,” Weinstein said of the 6-foot-6, 235-pound Martin. “Sometimes we’d stand him up at linebacker so they couldn’t do that.”

“He also caused eight fumbles and recovered three, had 25 tackles for loss, had 11 or 12 sacks, blocked two kicks and had an interception.”

Martin was the defensive player of the year in his league for the second straight season.

But there’s more. Used sparingly at receiver, he caught 14 passes for 320 yards and five TDs.

Now it’s basketball season, and in his first game, he had 22 points, 17 rebounds and 12 blocked shots.

Maybe Roy Williams should join Butch Davis on his next recruiting visit to Roanoke Rapids.

--Stan Olson

ACC football recruiting's improving

While still getting hammered in the southeast by the SEC, the Atlantic Coast Conference’s recruiting is slowly improving, according to our friends at Scout.com.

The SEC has five of Scout’s top eight recruiting classes for 2010, and the ACC can’t challenge that.

But the league now does have 10 of its 12 programs ranked in the top 50, led by Miami at No.14. The Hurricanes are followed by Clemson (No.22), Virginia Tech (26) and Florida St. (27).

Surprisingly, the Seminoles have added five commitments since long-time coach Bobby Bowden announced his retirement.

N.C. State has a solid group at No.30, followed by improving North Carolina at No.34.

The rest of the league lines up as follows: Georgia Tech (37), Boston College (38), Wake Forest (39), Maryland (47), Duke (63) and Virginia (66).

The Deacons have moved up nicely in recent weeks, while the Blue Devils have faded after a strong start.

--Stan Olson

Coach: Matt James still committed to Deacons

Despite an over-the-weekend internet report that Raleigh Sanderson WR Matt James had switched his commitment from Wake Forest to Duke, Sanderson coach Tony Lewis said moments ago that that isn’t the case.

“I had dinner with Matt yesterday and obviously talked with him then,” Lewis said. “And he was just in here for weight-lifting. From everything I understand, he’s sticking with his commitment to Wake.

“As far as I know, Duke hasn’t even offered him a scholarship.”

James finished his senior season at Sanderson with 720 receiving yards, 270 rushing yards and 300 more on returns, Lewis said. The 6-foot-5, 205-pound James also scored six touchdowns.

--Stan Olson

Got recruiting info? Email it to me at
solson@charlotteobserver.com

Friday, December 4, 2009

Another missed junior stirring up recruiters

This one is 6-foot-2, 195-pound Monroe Parkwood wide receiver Marcus Leak. Despite a high ankle sprain that slowed him for four games, Marcus finished with 630 receiving yards and 5 TDs, along with 2 rushing scores and a punt return TD.

"The big fish are starting to swim now," said Parkwood coach Nelson Rowell today in reference to the pickup in Leak's recruiting. "He's a special, special kid.”

Leak also plays on the basketball team, and was fourth in the state in the high jump with a leap of 6-4 as a sophomore.

Leak was at the same UNC camp as Marvin Ridge wideout K.J. Brent last summer, and Rowell said, “Carolina offered Brent right there, and he’s a heck of a player. But I thought Marcus out-played him.”

I wasn’t aware of Leak until an alert reader tipped me off, and now he’s a candidate for our Top 25 list for 2011. So let me know about under-the-radar players.

*Marcus, by the way, is the younger brother of Parkwood senior QB Maurice Leak. Because of his 5-10 height, most schools want the elder Leak as a slot receiver or a defensive back. But Charleston (W.Va.) College thinks he can start four years for them under center, Rowell said.

“They run the spread and triple-option, so it should be a good fit,” Rowell said. “We’re excited about it.”

Maurice throws and runs well—his senior season produced 1,293 passing yards and 12 TDs, along with 420 rushing yards and 8 scores.

--Stan Olson

Football Recruiting Database 5.0 is active today

Our new Football Recruiting Database (or FRED) is active, thanks to tech guru Dave Enna. Since 4.0, we’ve added about 65 more players from seven or eight schools.

The new additions that I can remember are Asheville, Belmont South Point, Union (S.C.) and North Rowan. Also, we’ve added a number of players to our Charlotte Country Day list.

If your school is in North or South Carolina but not in our database, either get your coach to email me at solson@charlotteobserver.com, or send me his cell number (or school office number) and I’ll get up with him and get your recruitable players in the FRED.

Most coaches have been great. A few, not so much. But FRED wants everyone. Help us out.

Check out the database.

--Stan Olson

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cavaliers’ Parks will prove in-state schools wrong

West Rowan RB Kevin Parks, who has broken about every rushing record North Carolina has to offer while scoring 50 touchdowns so far this year, was told by at least one in-state program that he was too slow.

Of course, a lot of recruiters looked at his time at the Scout.com combine in Charlotte last April, which I attended. Parks ran a 4.73 40 at that one, and that’s the time Scout lists for him on its site.

The problem with that is that the 40 course was on grass, and also on a very bumpy West Charlotte High practice field that was not in game shape.

There were lots of 4.7s turned in by speedy athletes that day.

Parks’ 5-foot-6 height also hurt him, but he’s a 195-pound bowling ball. Watch him on tape and see how often he is caught from behind. It doesn’t happen much.

Parks, K.P. to his friends, wanted to play in the ACC. N.C. State, Clemson, North Carolina and Wake Forest didn’t offer. East Carolina and Stanford did, but he chose Virginia.

And next year, he will start making those schools who dissed him regret it.

--Stan Olson

Byrnes RB Lattimore up for top national player

Things just keep getting better for Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes RB Marcus Lattimore; he’s been named one of seven finalists for the U.S. Army’s National Player of the Year award.

Lattimore, the nation’s top-ranked running back on several recruiting services and the No.1 overall prospect in S.C. on The Observer’s list, should have a strong shot at the award—for one thing, he’s led his team within shouting distance of yet another state title.

None of his fellow finalists is from the Carolinas. In alphabetical order, they are San Diego RB Dillon Baxter, St. Paul (Minn.) OL Seantral Henderson, Moreno Valley (Cal.) DL Ronald Powell, Hillside (Ill.) WR Kyle Prater Stamford (Conn.) RB Silas Redd and Gardenia (Cal.) WR Robert Woods.

--Stan Olson

Got recruiting skinny (visits, offers, commitments)? Send it to me at solson@charlotteobserver.com.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

All-star games land local Buckeyes' commitment

Charlotte Christian linebacker/fullback David Durham, a longtime commitment to Ohio State, has been invited to participate in two more post-season all-star games. He’s already played in the independent schools’ Shrine Bowl, and was voted a captain of the N.C. squad.

There's more to come for the NCISAA all-state selection, though.

Durham is one of 40 players in the U.S. chose to participate in the Aloha Prep Bowl in Hawaii Dec. 12. He has also been selected to participate in the Offense-Defense Bowl in Myrtle Beach on Jan. 2.

Oh, and he’s getting a bit of high-profile company today—Buckeyes head coach Jim Tressel and linebackers coach Luke Fickell are stopping by for an in-home visit today, according to Durham’s dad, Ken.

All that means Durham can’t wrestle for his school until January—unfortunate because he was an all-state wrestler in Texas as a sophomore and junior.

--Stan Olson

Wolfpack, Tar Heels offer a junior we missed

His name is Jeoffrey Pagan, and he plays for Asheville High. He’s a junior DE we had not heard of when we offered our list of the state’s top 20 juniors on Thanksgiving Day. We have now.

In the past week, both North Carolina and N.C. State have offered him scholarships, and Cougars coach Danny Wilkins says Maryland might not be far behind.

What makes Pagan, who was offered earlier by Western Carolina, such a big deal?

Well, he’s already 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, and runs the 40 in 4.58 seconds.

N.C. State assistant coach Andy McCollum was just in here a few minutes ago, and he said Jeoffrey was State’s No.1 target in the state of North Carolina for next year,” said Wilkins. “It’s gonna snowball from here.”

In 2009, Pagan made 54 tackles, including 11 TFL and four sacks. He also had 15 QB hurries, forced three fumbles, deflected five passes and intercepted two more. He returned one of those picks 85 yards for a key TD.

“He’s very explosive, just a great pass rusher,” Wilkins said.

And late in the season, with their fullback injured, the Cougars turned to Pagan.

“He carried 18 times and gained 137 yards,” said Wilkins. “He’s just so athletic.”

Wilkins said Pagan is a “great kid, sweet and a bit na├»ve,” and plans to shepherd him through the recruiting process.

If the past week is any indication, it’s going to be a rowdy one.

--Stan Olson

Gamecocks continue push for CB John Fulton

Fulton, the Manning (S.C.) high standout, has South Carolina with a slight lead over fellow finalists Alabama and Florida, and Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier, a noted recruiting closer, visited Fulton at home Monday night.

He went in with heavy support, joined by defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson and assistants Shane Beamer and Lorenzo Ward.

Fulton, who is ranked 5th on our SC Top 25 Prospects list, attended the Clemson game last weekend. He said he will announce his choice on ESPNU on Dec. 17.


--Stan Olson


Got recruiting news? Pop it to solson@charlotteobserver.com

Coach: Shembo likely to stay with Notre Dame

After talking Tuesday with Notre Dame commitment Kendall Moore of Southeast Raleigh High and learning that he will now look at other schools in the wake of the firing of Irish coach Charlie Weis, I also called fellow linebacker and ND commitment Prince Shembo of Ardrey Kell.

I haven’t reached Shembo yet—he texts but apparently doesn’t check his voice mail—but I just spoke with Ardrey Kell coach Marty Woolbright. He thinks Shembo will stick with Notre Dame.

“He committed to Notre Dame, the school, not to Charlie Weis,” Woolbright said. “He wants to be a Notre Dame guy. His family likes the school as well.

“Back when recruiting was going on, I told him to look around as much as he wanted, but when he committed, ‘You’ve given your word, and that’s your bond.

“When you make that decision, that’s it.”

--Stan Olson

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Crest's Wilkins flips from Heels to Wolfpack

Boiling Springs Crest High athlete Reggie Wilkins has switched his commitment from North Carolina to N.C. State.

Wilkins, a three-year starter at QB for the Chargers, will be used at wide receiver by the Wolfpack.

“I wanted to play for (NCSU coach Tom) O’Brien,” Wilkins said in a statement released by Crest football coach Roy Kirby. “I’ve become pretty good friends with this year’s recruits and some of the guys that are already there.”

Wilkins attended Saturday’s come from behind N.C. State victory over the Tar Heels, and liked what he saw in Wolfpack QB Russell Wilson.

“He believes he can have something special with Wilson, both on and off the field,” Kirby said moments ago.

Another factor may be that North Carolina already has a large number of young wide receivers, while N.C. State as fewer.

“State told Reggie he was the No.1 receiver on their board for their Class of 2010,” Kirby said.

--Stan Olson

Irish commitment Moore now looking around

Southeast Raleigh linebacker and Notre Dame commitment Kendall Moore, the No.8 player on The Observer’s Top 25 NC Prospects list, is opening up his recruiting again, he said a few minutes ago.

He’s doing so because of the firing this week of Irish head coach Charlie Weis.

“I guess I’m still a commitment to Notre Dame, but I’m going to be looking around,” Moore said. “Right now, I don’t really have a backup plan and I’m trying to put one together.

“I’d have to say that the schools that would currently make up my top five would be Florida State, South Carolina, N.C. State, North Carolina and Georgia Tech. But I’m thinking I may have to open it up beyond that. My coach says that a lot of schools have been calling him.”

Moore and Ardrey Kell’s Prince Shembo, the state’s top two linebackers, both committed to Notre Dame. I’ve got a call into Shembo and if I get him, I’ll pass along his thoughts on the subject.

--Stan Olson

Appalachian State adds a fourth O-Line recruit

And this one, 6-foot-6, 270-pound Dylan Bostick, picked the Mountaineers site unseen. He just finished his prep career at Neptune Beach (Fla.) Fletcher High.

Bostick is a quality player who had been drawing interest from Florida State, Tennessee and a number of other majors. He had a handful of offers from FCS-level schools.

But he picked Appalachian without ever having visited Boone.

He studied the recruiting materials the school sent him, and saw all kinds of pictures of the university on the internet.

“I talked to my family, and we just felt like it was a really good option,” he told MountaineerIllustrated.com. The coaches were really excited when I told them I was coming to Appalachian.”

As well they should be. The Mountaineers are putting together a remarkable group of offensive line recruits in their class of 2010. All four of their commitments are huge, and all four have drawn some interest from FBS schools.

Expect their future O-line to be a key in the school’s annual quest for the national championship.

--Stan Olson

Tar Heels receive P.J. Clyburn’s commitment

North Carolina was the school that West Iredell senior LB/S P.J. Clyburn had always been waiting on.

“It was my dream school; I grew up loving them,” Clyburn said moments ago. “They offered me last Friday and I’ve been excited ever since then.”

He accepted, and Tar Heels coaches will visit him this afternoon to present him with the official offer.

“They offered last Friday and I’ve been excited ever since then,” Clyburn said.

Clyburn was slowed late in the season by a torn meniscus, but played anyway.

“The most frustrating thing is that I won’t be able to play in the Shrine Bowl (he was selected),” but I still have my career in Chapel Hill to look forward to.”

He chose North Carolina over Illinois, South Carolina and East Carolina, all of whom had offered earlier.

Clyburn said he is now 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, and while he would prefer to play safety, he understands that OLB makes for sense as he fills out.

He’s a remarkable athlete; he has returned two punts and two kickoffs for scores this year.

“I had about ten sacks and around 60 tackles,” Clyburn said.

He’s ranked No.17 on our NC Top 25 prospects list.

One sticking point remains—a math class he must complete to qualify. He plans to try to take it over the summer, and if that isn’t possible, he’ll attend prep school for a semester. But Clyburn said regardless of what he has to do, he’ll eventually be a Tar Heel.

“It’s where I’ve always wanted to go,” he said.

--Stan Olson

If you have any recruiting information, pop it to me at
solson@charlotteobserver.com

Deacons, Tar Heels, Wolfpack checking out WR

I couldn’t find Winston-Salem Reynolds junior wide receiver Jake Gainey mentioned on any of three national recruiting sites I checked, but that doesn’t mean that young Mr. Gainey hasn’t recently been discovered by the big boys.

“His recruiting really picked up during the second half of the season,” Reynolds coach Mike Propst said. “All the ACC schools and East Carolina are looking at him.”

And for good reason; Gainey had an amazing season, finishing with 49 catches for a whopping 1,308 yards, a stunning average of 26.7 yards a catch. Even more remarkable was that Gainey turned 23 of the 49 receptions into touchdowns.

“I’ve never heard of a stat like that,” Propst said.

Gainey also returned two kickoffs and a punt for scores before teams began regularly kicking away from him.

“He’s a legitimate 4.5-second (in the 40-yard dash) guy,” said Propst. “And he can catch everything you throw at him. He had one drop all year.”

Gainey is 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds, so he can add muscle before next year. Right now, his three favorite schools are Wake Forest, North Carolina and N.C. State, in that order, according to Propst.

The sudden interest by so many schools shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, game-breakers are in short supply.

--Stan Olson