Sunday, January 31, 2010

Olympic's McMahan picks Mississippi State

Olympic High School place-kicker Tyler McMahan will play his college football at Mississippi State.

In an e-mail message Sunday night, Olympic coach Barry Shuford reported that McMahan will sign with the Bulldogs. McMahan once had a string of 57 consecutive extra points made, third-best in North Carolina High School Athletic Association history.

He also considered Jackson State.

Another former Olympic player, wide receiver Anthony Henderson, has committed to West Virginia Tech, an NAIA school. He had 47 catches – 12 for touchdowns – this season.

Ken Tysiac

Friday, January 29, 2010

Heels grab coaching carousel victims

After Notre Dame fired Charlie Weis, there was a small amount of speculation that North Carolina coach Butch Davis might be a candidate with the job.

Anyone familiar with the Notre Dame-Miami rivalry during the 1980s and early 1990s would scoff at a Jimmy Johnson disciple getting the Notre Dame job. Sure enough, Davis didn't emerge as a target of the Golden Domers.

But the fallout from the Notre Dame coaching turnover did reach Chapel Hill late this week, to the Tar Heels' benefit. First, highly touted running back Gio Bernard of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., committed to North Carolina. He had been committed to Notre Dame.

"I don't know why North Carolina wasn't in my thinking last fall," Bernard said.

Then wide receiver/cornerback Tre Boston of North Fort Myers High in Florida committed to North Carolina on Friday. Boston had been committed to Cincinnati. But then Bearcats coach Brian Kelly left to take the Notre Dame job, and Boston reopened his recruiting.

"He wouldn't have even considered North Carolina if there hadn't been a change," said Barry Goettemoeller, Boston's high school coach.

These weren't the only commitments the Tar Heels have received from recruits who balked at the coaching carousel. After Lane Kiffin left Tennessee for Southern California earlier this month, defensive tackle Brandon Willis of Byrnes High in Duncan dropped the Volunteers and picked North Carolina.

This is why athletics directors often pay amounts that seem obscene to keep coaches from leaving for other jobs. Changing coaches can lurch a program into instability that takes years to recover from. When top recruits leave a team this close to signing day, a program is bound to suffer.

That doesn't justify having coaches like Nick Saban and Mack Brown earn salaries that would make many captains of industry blush. But it does help explain the phenomenon.

After a huge week in recruiting as signing day looms Wednesday, North Carolina has rocketed up in the recruiting rankings. The Tar Heels' class was ranked 48th in the nation last weekend by

It was up to 29th as of Friday night. And after the coaching turnover, Notre Dame and Cincinnati didn't have any right to complain that their committed players went elsewhere.

Goettemoeller summed it up best.

"That's all part of the game," he said.

And Butch Davis is playing it as well as anyone.

Ken Tysiac

Boston adds to flurry of UNC commits

Tre Boston, a former Cincinnati commitment from North Fort Myers (Fla.) High, added to North Carolina’s flurry of recruiting commitments from Florida on Friday.

Boston, who’s 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds, was the Class 3A player of the year in Florida and could play wide receiver or defensive back.

“He’s got incredible ball skills,” said North Fort Myers coach Barry Goettemiller, “and everybody that’s recruited him has recognized that he could play on either side of the football.”

Boston re-evaluated his commitment to Cincinnati after coach Brian Kelly left the Bearcats to coach Notre Dame.

“He wouldn’t even have considered North Carolina if there hadn’t been a coaching change,” Goettemiller said, “but that’s all part of the game in college football. He’s very happy, and I’m happy for him."

Boston joined running back Gio Bernard of Fort Lauderdale and defensive end Tim Jackson of St. Petersburg as late-week commitments from Florida for North Carolina with signing day approaching Wednesday.

Ken Tysiac

Goodbye from Stan Olson

Good afternoon and goodbye.

This is my last post, because of staff reductions at The Observer.

I think I’ll miss the Tar Heels fans the most—while I criticized their class, in-state and out, they were right that Butch Davis would finish strong—he and his staff are killing it today, and I’d like to be available for my verbal whipping.

Anyway, take care, send all your tips to Ken Tysiac, who is a great guy and a talented writer, and I’ll be around.

--Stan Olson

Irish change helps Heels land talented back

Gio Bernard committed to Notre Dame last fall, but said after the school's coaching change he didn't think Notre Dame was the best place for him.

"I don't know why North Carolina wasn't in my thinking last fall," Bernard said Friday. "I started thinking about them about midway through the season."

Bernard, one of the top running backs in Florida, has committed to the Tar Heels. The 5-foot-9, 205-pound runner at Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas rushed for 1,650 yards as a junior and averaged close to 10 yards per carry.

He helped the school to a top national ranking in 2008 but missed much of the 2009 season with a hamstring injury. He made an official visit to North Carolina and came away impressed.

"It was the whole thing," Bernard said. "The facilities, the players and coaches, the education. I just know I want to go there."

He is ranked a four-star recruit to and is listed as the No. 59 prospect in Florida by SuperPrep. has him listed at the No. 13 running back in the country.

"I'm going there with the idea of playing as a freshman," Bernard said. "I don't think you want to go there with the idea of backing up so-and-so. I want to go and compete for the starting position."

-- Tim Stevens

Florida DE chooses Tar Heels

Add defensive end Tim Jackson of St. Petersburg, Fla., to North Carolina coach Butch Davis' strong finishing flurry in recruiting as national signing day approaches Wednesday.

During a news conference at Gibbs High televised by, Jackson spoke highly of his three finalists - North Carolina, Wake Forest and Mississippi State - and said he'd chosen the Tar Heels because of the school's strong academics and because it was the right fit for him.

Jackson, who's 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, is at least the fourth senior to commit to the Tar Heels this week. Defensive end Kareem Martin of Rocky Mount, athlete Reggie Wilkins of Crest High in Shelby and running back Gio Bernard of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., are the others.

Meanwhile, Jacksonville (Fla.) Ed White coach Terry Gilliam said this afternoon he could not confirm Internet reports that his school's standout running back, Casey Turner, has changed his commitment from Rutgers to North Carolina. Gilliam said he has not spoken directly to Turner about that issue.

Heels add a top RB from Florida

Gio Bernard, one of the top running backs in Florida, has committed to the University of North Carolina.

The 5-foot-9, 195-pound runner at Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of the past two seasons and averaged close to 10 yards per carry. He helped the school to a top national ranking in 2008.

Bernard had committed to Notre Dame last fall after receiving offers from Alabama, Florida, Miami, Florida State and other schools. He recently decided to reopen his recruitment.

He is ranked a four-star recruit by and is listed as the No. 59 prospect in Florida by SuperPrep.

Tim Stevens

Pack gets big commit from SC running back

N.C. State has secured a commitment from a highly-regarded running back prospect who could help immediately in a backfield that has little proven talent returning.

Mustafa Greene of Lexington, S.C., has committed to N.C. State according to Bob Hanna, his coach at Irmo High. Greene is 6-foot and 205 pounds and is the No. 11 senior overall in South Carolina in The Charlotte Observer's rankings.

"He's a great running back," Hanna said. "He's got size, strength, quickness, speed. He's a legit player."

Despite missing nearly all of six games last season with a high ankle sprain, Greene rushed for 1,367 yards and 18 touchdowns in eight games and averaged more than eight yards per carry. He was selected to represent South Carolina in the Shrine Bowl, and had the Wolfpack and Rutgers as his two finalists.

Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina were among the other schools that recruited Greene, but he only visited Rutgers and N.C. State. Hanna said Greene runs with both speed and power.

"He doesn't mind running over you," Hanna said. "He's a big kid. He'll make one move or one cut and get north and south."

N.C. State needs help in the backfield because its top rushers in 2009, Toney Baker and Jamelle Eugene, were seniors. Baker was granted an extra year of eligibility because of injuries earlier in his career, but decided to leave school and enter the NFL draft.

Sophomores James Washington (who will be returning from injury) and Brandon Barnes, and veteran Curtis Underwood are among the players who will be competing for the starting running back position for the Wolfpack.

Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Heels jump in recruiting ranking

A significant jump in North Carolina's recruiting rankings on shows just how important Monday's news was for the Tar Heels' 2010 class. had the Tar Heels' class ranked No. 48 in the nation at the end of last week. After Roanoke Rapids defensive end Kareem Martin and Crest High athlete Reggie Wilkins committed to North Carolina early this week, North Carolina jumped to No. 42.

"Yesterday was huge for them in the state of North Carolina," regional analyst Miller Safrit said today.

Wilkins' commitment was doubly beneficial to the Tar Heels because they wrestled him away from rival N.C. State - at least for the moment. Wilkins committed to North Carolina in September, changed his mind and picked N.C. State in December, and said he's changed his mind again now.

And with South Columbus tight end Ethan Farmer expected to pick between North Carolina and Clemson some time before signing day on Feb. 3, the Tar Heels have a chance to finish fast inside the state after a slow start.

Ken Tysiac

Monday, January 25, 2010

Wilkins changes mind again, commits to UNC

Reggie Wilkins has changed his mind again.

The senior wide receiver/defensive back from Crest High in Shelby, N.C., said Monday that he has committed to a football scholarship at North Carolina, continuing a topsy-turvy recruitment in which he has now committed three different times.

It started in September when Wilkins, who's ranked the No. 22 player in North Carolina overall by The Charlotte Observer, committed to the Tar Heels after watching them blow out The Citadel in their season opener.

At the time, Crest High coach Roy Kirby said Wilkins and his brother have been Tar Heel fans all their lives. But in December, shortly after attending the Wolfpack's come-from-behind defeat of North Carolina at Carter-Finley Stadium, Wilkins committed to N.C. State.

On Monday, though, Wilkins said he has committed to North Carolina. He declined to comment further, though, saying he won't give any more interviews until after national signing day, which is Feb. 3.

Ken Tysiac

Martin picks Tar Heels

Kareem Martin, who was one of the top uncommitted football defensive linemen in the country, committed to the University of North Carolina Monday afternoon at a press conference at Roanoke Rapids High.

The 6-foot-6, 240-pound defensive end had narrowed his choices to Duke, Virginia Tech and UNC.

Martin said he felt comfortable with the Tar Heel coaching staff and its players and that comfort was the final factor in his decision.

He is ranked No. 5 in the state in The Charlotte Observer top 25 list for the state.

"Kareem really like all three schools," said Roanoke Rapids coach Russell Weinstein. "I one point I just knew he was going to pick Virginia Tech. At another point, Duke was the leader.

"This wasn't an easy decision for him. I think the final factors were that he wanted to go to an in-state school and he had a great relationship with [UNC assistant] Ken Browning.

"After he went on his official visit and met with the Business School at North Carolina and spent time with the UNC players I felt he would be very comfortable there. He liked all three programs, but felt the most comfortable at North Carolina."

Weinstein said Martin thought so much of the Duke and Virginia Tech programs that he wanted to make his decision as soon as possible.

"He didn't wait until signing day because he wanted to give those other schools as much time as possible to move to their next recruits," Weinstein said.

Weinstein said Martin built a solid relationship with North Carolina assistant coach Ken Browning.

The Tar Heels also have a commitment from offensive tackle T.J. Leifheit of Wilmington Hoggard, who is No. 4 on the Top 25 list.

N.C. State locked up a commitment from No. 2 Robert Crisp, a 6-foot-7, 300-pound offensive tackle, last summer.

No. 1 Keenan Allen of Northern Guilford, the nation's top safety prospect according to, and No. 3 Alfy Hill of West Brunswick, a defensive lineman, currently are committed to Alabama.
The only other Top 25 player in the state who is not committed is defensive end Ethan Farmer of South Columbus. He is expected to pick between North Carolina and Clemson.

Tim Stevens

Friday, January 22, 2010

DE Martin to make his decision Monday at 3:30 p.m.

Kareem Martin, a 6-foot-6, 240-pound defensive tackle at Roanoke
Rapids High, will announce his college decision Monday at 3:30.

Martin is ranked No. 5 among North Carolina senior high school
players by The Charlotte Observer.

He has narrowed his list to Duke, North Carolina and Virginia Tech.

"He is the total package," said Roanoke Rapids coach Russell
Weinstein. "First and foremost, he is a fine young man. He is an
outstanding student who hasn't made below an 'A' since the ninth grade.

"And he is not just a 6-6, 235-pound football player. He is an
outstanding athlete. He also puts a lot of work into become a better

"He is everything the college coaches are looking for. Coaches from
all over the country are calling, but he is down to those three."

--Tim Stevens

Farmer will choose between Tar Heels, Clemson

From our colleague Tim Stevens in Raleigh:

Ethan Farmer, a 6-foot-3, 260-pound senior tight end and defensive
end at South Columbus High, plans to make a recruiting visit to the
University of North Carolina this weekend.

South Columbus coach Jake Fonvielle said Farmer, who is being
recruited as a defensive lineman, visited Clemson last weekend.

"Realistically, I think it is down to North Carolina and Clemson,"
Fonville said. "Those are the two places that he has visited. I think
he is going to Carolina this weekend and make his decision pretty

Farmer is ranked No. 6 in the state in the Charlotte Observer's Top
25. Farmer and Roanoke Rapids' Kareem Martin are the only two players
among the Top 25 in North Carolina who are not committed.

The national signing day is Wednesday, Feb. 3.

"He is a young guy with good size who is really quick," Fonvielle
said. "He is really strong and is going to continue getting better."

--Stan Olson

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sumter QB Stephen Curtis finds a home

Sumter (S.C.) High quarterback Stephen Curtis, one of the state’s top seniors at his position but not heavily recruited, has been offered and accepted a scholarship to Florida Atlantic, according to Sumter offensive coordinator Grayson Howell.

“I think they have someone returning that started some games last year,” said Howell. “But I think Stephen is a really good fit with the system that they run.”

Actually, FAU has three QBs coming back, but one is a senior and two are sophomores, and Curtis expects to be redshirted as a freshman.

He's looking forward to working with FAU coach Howard Schellenberger, who has a knack for developing QBs.

Curtis is 6-foot-3 and fairly mobile, rushing for 13 TDs while passing for 33. He was intercepted 15 times. He finished with over 3,000 yards of total offense.

He committed this week after visiting the FBS school over the past weekend.

--Stan Olson

Watch Jennings, because you can’t coach speed

Olympic has a player who has been a bit under the radar, but will soon run right into the middle of it. Rahiem Jennings is a 5-foot-10, 165-pound halfback/wide receiver who was an all-conference pick in 2009. He could be bigger than that next fall.

Trojans coach Barry Shuford has coached a lot of fast players over his and successful career, but says simply of Jennings, “He’s the fastest kid I’ve ever coached.”

Shuford, not given to exaggeration, says Jennings runs the 40-yard dash in the sub-4.4-second range.

Last year, Jennings did a bit of everything, playing halfback, wide receiver and returning kickoffs. Although he rushed just 49 times, he gained 458 yards (9.3 average), with seven TDs. He also caught 34 passes for 699 yards and 10 scores. He scored a total of 110 points.

Expect the bigger schools to be paying attention when they come to Olympic to evaluate the better Trojans in May.

--Stan Olson

So who takes over to lead at Duncan Byrnes?

Don’t worry; South Carolina’s leading prep powerhouse will be back in a big way despite the loss of RB Marcus Lattimore, perhaps the nation’s best at his position, and QB Chas Dodd, who is bound for Rutgers after a strong senior year.

Lattimore’s job will fall to rising junior Shakeem Wharton, a cousin of the Carolina Panthers' Travelle Wharton. Shakeem's stats weren't overwhelming in 2009 because he usually played late when the game was in hand and the opponent knew Byrnes would run the ball. Still, he rushed for 206 yards on 47 carries and scored 3 TDs, and showed good hands in catching 10 passes for 139 yards and a score. Expect him to rush for over 1,500 yards in 2010.

Quarterback will be handled by rising senior Zach Blair, Dodd’s backup in ’09. Blair, who is 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds, has the arm and intelligence to be a more-than-competent replacement for Dodd. As a junior, he obviously had limited playing time, but still managed to complete 41 of 73 passes for 586 yards, with 6 TDs and 3 picks. He also rushed for 38 yards on 11 carries. Byrnes coaches will tell you that Blair could have started for most of the teams in the state last year. Now he’ll do so on the state’s biggest prep stage.

--Stan Olson

Heels, Gamecocks interested in DL Calvin Smith

The Tennessee coaching change fallout continues—defensive lineman Calvin Smith, a former Vols’ commitment, has opened things up again and is visiting Alabama this weekend. Which means the Hialeah (Fla.) High product has one official visit remaining. Other than Tennessee, he had also tripped to Illinois and Florida State.

Smith, who is 6-foot-4 and 265 pounds, has been getting calls from South and North Carolina, as their coaches try to grab that last visit. Also in the mix are Southern Cal, New Mexico, Ole Miss and Texas Tech.

Tennessee isn’t giving up. reported that new coach Derek Dooley will visit Smith today and try to bring him back in the fold.

Smith is expected to play DT in college.

--Stan Olson

Butler coach puts on full-court Charest press

Every now and then, a prep coach has a kid that he just knows is a Division-I football player. Problem is, the Division I coaches don’t always agree.

Such a player is Butler High S/WR Nate Charest. Recruiters look at what they call “measureables;” height, weight and speed in particular. The big schools think that Charest, who is 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, is just a bit lacking in each department.

Except that the kid can play football, well enough that he helped the Bulldogs to the state 4AA championship. Well enough that he made the Shrine Bowl and was a whirling special teams’ dervish in North Carolina’s 24-14 surprise win over S.C.

“He might just be the best football player I’ve ever had,” Butler coach Mike Newsome said in the middle of that 2009 season.

And yet the big schools continue to ignore Charest. He visited Gardner-Webb last weekend, and goes to Catawba this weekend. The weekend after that will find him at Pembroke.

So now Newsome is putting on the full-court press for Charest.

“I’m getting ready to send out 140 DVDs of Nate’s highlights, all over the country,” Newsome said earlier this week. “He’s gonna be a great football player wherever he plays, and I think that can be in Division I.”

Accordingly, Newsome is getting in touch with leagues like the MAC (Mid-American Conference), full of lower FBS schools like Central Michigan, Akron and Ohio.

“They’re always looking for sleepers; guys who can play,” Newsome said.

I saw him four times during the season, and he made critical plays in each of those games. Charest is one of those guys, as Newsome said, who can play.

--Stan Olson

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Former Gamecock OG commit picks Auburn

Calhoun County offensive guard Eric Mack, who just decommitted from South Carolina after being committed to the Gamecocks last summer, said today that he has picked Auburn over Florida and will sign with the Tigers Feb. 3.

The loss is a huge one for South Carolina, as the 6-foot-3, 325-pound Mack is one of nation’s top guards. While Mack said that he wanted to play out of state, another factor may have been the departure of offensive line coach Eric Wolford, who took the head coaching job at Youngstown St.

*The Carolina Pride, a high school football team for home-schooled players and for those whose private schools don’t offer the sport, has had two of its own--QB Ray Mallos and P/WR Tim Litton—sign scholarships with NAIA Bethel College in McKenzie, Tenn.

Mallos, formerly a two-year starter at Porter Ridge, played his senior season with the Pride, throwing for over 2,500 yards and 25 touchdowns. He was a team captain and all-conference selection.

Litton was an all-conference punter and WR. As a senior, he had 41 catches for 583 yards and 8 TDs. He averaged 41.3 yards per punt.

--Stan Olson

Olympic High captains get scholarships to G-W

Here’s an interesting twist; Olympic’s three senior football captains have all committed to Gardner-Webb. The trio—QB Lucas Beatty, LB Sean Hubbard and OG Tyler Hough-Jenkins—will now get to play together for four or five more seasons.

Beatty, according to Olympic coach Barry Shuford, chose between GW and Wingate. Hubbard was offered by Duke and Lenoir-Rhyne in addition to GW. Hough-Jenkins also had offers from The Citadel, Presbyterian, Lenoir-Rhyne and Norfolk St.

Beatty had an impressive senior season, completing 109 of 158 passes for 1,733 yards and 25 TDs, with just five interceptions. Hubbard led the Trojans with 114 tackles, and forced five fumbles, recovering three. He also had three sacks and six passes broken up.

*Another Olympic standout, DB Denzel Hooks (102 tackles, four interceptions), committed to Chowan. And K/P Tyler McMahan will choose between Mississippi St. and Jackson St., according to Shuford.

--Stan Olson

Report: Gamecocks lose top OL Eric Mack

Calhoun County offensive guard Eric Mack, one of the best at his position in the nation, has decommitted from South Carolina and will choose between Auburn and Florida, according to our our sister paper, The State in Columbia.

A source told The State that Mack met with his high school coach, Walt Wilson, to discuss his feelings, saying that he wanted to get away from home to attend college. He told the Web site he will choose today between between the Tigers and the Gators.

Mack, who is 6-foot-3, 325 pounds and The Observer’s No.9 prospect in SC, called South Carolina recruiter Shane Beamer Tuesday and told him of his decision.

--Stan Olson

Tar Heels hitting Charlotte area juniors early

While Clemson has roared out into an early lead with seven commitments for next year’s Class of 2011, North Carolina is also working the current junior group hard.

“They really feel that next year’s in-state class has more talent than (the Class of 2010),” says Don Callahan of “They’ve already made a bunch of offers across the state.”

UNC has already offered seven juniors—which we’ve reported—in the Charlotte area, most recently WR/DB Jamison Crowder of Monroe. Also on that list are WR K.J. Brent of Marvin Ridge, QB Christian LeMay and LB Kris Frost of Butler, LB Stephone Anthony of Anson Senior, OLB/DE Norkeithus Otis of Gastonia Ashbrook and QB Marquis Williams of Mallard Creek.

But according to Callahan, the Tar Heels have a number of other targets in and around the Queen City who could be receiving offers soon.

They include three more Butler players—DB Mark Bridges and RBs Deion Walker and Jawaun Edwards—along with Otis’ Ashbrook teammate Zeke Bigger, also an OLB/DE-type. Also on North Carolina’s highly-rated watch list are LB Vinnie Sunseri of Marvin Ridge, RB Nyjee Fleming of Independence, WR/DE Kyler Brown of Charlotte Christian and Anson S/WR Brandon Ellerbe.

Ellerbe will a tough one, since he’s one of those seven Clemson commits. But the Tar Heels, who aren’t having a strong current recruiting year, are starting early on 2011.

--Stan Olson

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Joseph leaves ECU for NFL draft

Linval Joseph, who anchored a defense that helped East Carolina capture back-to-back Conference USA championships, will forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft.

East Carolina issued a news release today saying that an announcement by the NFL confirms that Joseph has entered the draft. Joseph was included on a list of 53 underclassmen granted eligibility for the draft, which is scheduled for April 22-24.

He met a league rule that doesn't allow players to apply for the draft until they've been out of high school for three years. He submitted a written application renouncing his eligibility at East Carolina.

A two-time All-Conference USA player, Joseph made 60 tackles last season, including a team-high 13 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. He totaled 143 tackles, 29.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks in 41 career games.

Ken Tysiac

Sherrill commits; no Kareem Martin decision yet

Lake Norman offensive tackle Kane Sherrill has committed to Wofford, picking the Terriers over Western Carolina and Catawba. Sherrill, an Observer all-Piedmont selection, graded at 92 percent in his blocking in 2009, while recording 35 knockdown blocks.

A Shrine Bowl choice, he is 6-foot-3 and 275 pounds and has a 4.0 GPA. He’s a three-year varsity starter at OT. Who can bench-press 375 pounds. But his most remarkable stat is that he didn’t allow a sack in that three-year career, covering 622 passing plays.

*Also, Roanoke Rapids’ Kareem Martin finished his weekend visit to North Carolina without making a decision. Martin, a 6-foot-6, 240-pound DE, had an excellent Shrine Bowl, a game that pushed him up to No.5 on The Observer’s NC Top 25 Prospects list. He is expected to choose within the next week between Virginia Tech, Duke and the Tar Heels.

--Stan Olson

Ex-BC kicker to join N.C. State

A former Boston College player who once was considered one of the best place-kicking prospects in the nation will join the N.C. State football team, his mother said Tuesday.

Billy Bennett was on the Boston College roster in 2007 and 2008, but was suspended indefinitely in October of 2008 for an undisclosed violation of team rules under Jeff Jagodzinski, who was then the Eagles' coach. Bennett enrolled at Mira Costa (Calif.) Junior College in 2009 and has two years to play two seasons at N.C. State.

His mother, Eileen Bennett, declined to discuss whether he was dismissed from Boston College or left school of his own accord.

"It was more of a misunderstanding, but there were no serious offenses," she said.

In 2010, N.C. State returns senior Josh Czajkowski, who's been one of the most accurate kickers in the nation with 26 field goals in 31 attempts over the last two seasons.

But Bennett has a strong leg that could help the Wolfpack improve its poor performance on kickoffs last season with deeper kicks, and would be in line to replace Czajkowski as place-kicker in 2011 if he can't beat him out in 2010.

Eileen Bennett said her son had lots of interest from other schools, but was impressed with N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien and his staff. O'Brien and N.C. State recruiting coordinator Jerry Petercuskie also handled the early recruiting of Bennett for Boston College before they left to join the Wolfpack - and before Bennett signed with the Eagles in 2007 out of Torrey Pines High in San Diego, Calif.

Bennett visited N.C. State last weekend.

"He was incredibly impressed with the college, the players he saw, the students he met and the facilities there," Eileen Bennett said.

During the year after his departure from Boston College, Bennett did not kick for a team but worked out with other kickers and participated in camps run by renowned kicking coach Chris Sailer. Eileen Bennett expects her son to enroll in summer school at N.C. State.

Ken Tysiac

Pack recruit Uchebo impresses evaluator

Joe Uchebo, a sophomore big man who committed early to N.C. State, made a big impression on veteran All-Star Sports talent evaluator Bob Gibbons on Monday.

Uchebo played for Oak Ridge Academy at the MLK Classic at the Greensboro Coliseum. Gibbons said Uchebo is closer to 6-foot-10 than his listed height, which is 7 feet.

But Uchebo's ability impressed Gibbons.

"I think he's got enormous upside," Gibbons said. ". . .He showed good mobility and athleticism and a good feel for the game."

Gibbons also continues to speak glowingly about Concord Cannon forward Jarrell Eddie, a senior who has committed to Virginia Tech.

"He will be one of those players who emerges for (Virginia Tech coach) Seth Greenberg," Gibbons said, "and a lot of schools will shake their head and say, 'Why didn't we recruit this kid harder.' "

Ken Tysiac

Colorado reaches into N.C. for running back

Our colleague, the News & Observer's Tim Stevens, reports that Trea Jones, a 1,651-yard rusher at Wake Forest-Rolesville, committed to Colorado during his official visit last weekend.

Jones is a 5-foot-11, 187-pound senior. He led the Cougars to a 14-0 record, but missed the state semifinal game after breaking his ankle in the third round.

"Colorado is getting a steal," said WF-R coach Reggie Lucas. "He is a good student and a quality young man. He is going to work as hard as he can, improve the program and graduate. That's about all you ask for."

--Stan Olson

Monday, January 18, 2010

Marcus Lattimore down to Gamecocks, Auburn

Duncan Byrnes running back Marcus Lattimore, The Observer’s No.1 prospect in South Carolina, has narrowed his choices to Auburn and South Carolina.

He has also decided not to take his official visit to Oregon, which had been scheduled for next week. He has told Oregon and Penn State, his other remaining finalist, that they are out of the running.

Lattimore visited South Carolina this past weekend, along with many members of his family. He will announce his decision between the Tigers and Gamecocks at his church the day before the Feb. 3 National Signing Day.

--Stan Olson

South Stanly sophomore QB could be a star

Jalen Ross became South Stanly's quarterback earlier than anyone expected. But just before last season began, starter Desi Brown's family transferred to Missouri, and Ross, just a sophomore, was tossed into the starting role.

He performed brilliantly, winding up as both the Rebel Bulls' leading passer (1,365 yards, 16 TDs) and leading rusher (844 yards, 12 TDs).

"Everybody who comes through really likes him," says coach Luke Little. "He's a very accurate passer and he handles the game well. And he's a tough kid as well, as proved by his rushing total."

Add that to his 6-foot-3 frame (he weighs 190 pounds) and you have the makings of an eventual quality college QB. For now, Jalen appears to be a player worth watching closely.

*South Stanly senior Cody Melton, a dominant rusher as a junior, lost all of last season to a broken leg. That, and his 5-foot-7 height, seemed likely to preclude an FBS offer, but the Air Force Academy came in and offered him a full ride.

Melton is a blazer, and the Falcons feel he will be a good fit at wingback in their option offense.

"He's a tough little joker," said Little.

--Stan Olson

Clemson gets its seventh commitment for 2011

The Tigers are blowing the doors off of their area rivals in the area of early commitments. Now comes quarterback/athlete Robert Smith (5-11, 190) of Dorchester Woodland High, ranked No.14 on our list of South Carolina’s top 20 juniors.

He is Clemson’s seventh catch for the Class of 2011, while most Carolinas’ schools have none at this point.

The Tigers are expected to use Smith at safety. Clemson offered despite the fact that Smith suffered a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament midway through the season and was sidelined the rest of the way. At that point, he had 1,762 yards of total offense and had accounted for 13 TDs passing and running.

Clemson’s secret here in large part was staying after Smith while he was injured, checking up on him. And the Tigers, who also said he could try out at QB, made him his first official offer.

--Stan Olson

Got recruiting info (visits, offers, commitments)? Pop it to me at

Friday, January 15, 2010

Tar Heels, Wolfpack to host recruiting crowds

It’s an interesting recruiting weekend for these arch-rivals. Each school is playing host to a large group of recruits, and while most of the players are committed to UNC or NCSU, it’s very important to the schools to keep them so.

Until the Feb. 3 National Signing Day, recruits can switch their commitments quickly, and some do. Currently the best example is Tennessee’s Class of 2010, in the wake of coach Lane Kiffin’s departure for Southern Cal.

So you want to keep the kids you already have happy; that’s job No.1 this weekend.

But you also want to entice those last few holdouts into the fold. The Wolfpack, as we wrote earlier today, would like to bring Irmo (S.C.) RB Mustafa Greene aboard. He’s an Observer Top 15 picks in his state.

If you’re UNC, you’re targeting uncommitted Roanoke Rapids DE Kareem Martin, our NC No.5 pick and a player you would love to have. But you also have Alabama commit Alfy Hill, a very talented DL from West Brunswick, possibly stopping by, and you’d like to convince him to stay closer to home if at all possible.

So this, with signing day quickly sneaking up on us, promises to be an entertaining couple of days in the Triangle.

--Stan Olson

Butler’s juniors in line for numerous FBS offers

State 4AA champion Butler has six rising seniors who are likely to have offers from major programs before the May evaluation period for recruiters concludes.

“All six will have big-time BCS offers,” said coach Mike Newsome this afternoon.

A quick look at the six:

*Christian LeMay, QB: A national talent of the first order. “I don’t even count his offers anymore,” Newsome said. “He can get one from any school he’s interested in, from Alabama on down.”

*Kris Frost, LB: Another player expected to be recruited on a national scale, he’s received his first written offer, from North Carolina. But he also has a few verbals, including one from Michigan. “He’s always been a Michigan fan; wearing Michigan shorts and T-shirts to practice ever since he started here,” Newsome said. “Any school that wants to beat them will have to work real hard.”

*Mark Bridges, DB: Newsome believes that Cincinnati will soon offer, with more to come.

*Jawuan Edwards, RB: Powerful at 6-foot and 220 pounds, and fast for his size.

*Deion Walker, Ath: Great speed and athleticism. Can play DB or RB.

*Colin Parsons, DL: Already 6-3 and 235 pounds, and could get bigger.

All of which simply means that Butler will be tough again next fall.

--Stan Olson

A giant to help Catamounts build their program

Western Carolina coach Dennis Wagner, the former offensive line coach at Nebraska, knows a little about big-time football, and he’s pushing the once-moribund Catamounts toward challenging old rival Appalachian State, which has punted WCU all over the Southern Conference over the past two decades.

Wagner brought in an excellent recruiting class last year and is on the way to doing so again. And one of the biggest chunks of the 2010 group will be 6-foot-9, 300-pound offensive lineman Dan Polaski, who transferred in for the spring semester from Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va.

is rated a three-star recruit by For comparison, no East Carolina recruit has more than two stars. Which means he could be a significant addition at the FCS level if his stars are in alignment.

When FBS weren’t quick to offer Polaski, Wagner’s experience in developing offensive linemen looked attractive, and the big guy ended up in Cullowhee, where next season he may be the biggest freshman in the country.

*By the way, the Catamounts also may have a transfer with the best, or at least most patriotic, name. Reggie America is a defensive back who came from junior college in Coffeeville, Kan.

--Stan Olson

Two key East Carolina Pirates likely staying put

The departure of East Carolina coach Skip Holtz for South Florida brings up the usual questions—will the current recruiting class hold together or shatter, as Tennessee’s appears in danger of doing?

It’s not the same situation. ECU, in underwhelming Conference USA, has to recruit against the ACC and SEC, so it makes its living finding undervalued players that aren’t heavily recruited in the first place. Many of the players landed by the Pirates didn’t have a lot of other options.

Two of their better catches, South Stanly High safety Detric Allen and former South Stanly athlete Desmond Brown, are unlikely to go elsewhere, according to their prep coach. Both had other offers—both, for instance, were offered by Arkansas and Louisville.

“I had Detric in class this morning, and he said he’s sticking with East Carolina,” said South Stanly coach Luke Little moments ago. “I think Desi will stay with them as well. They took their official visit together to ECU a few weeks ago and it went really well.”

Brown finished his prep career in Missouri—his father was transferred just before his senior season at South Stanly began.

“One thing I tell the kids is to pick the school, not the coach," Little said. "It’s likely to be where you’ll be the next five years of your life, and coaches are always moving on. Pick a place where you’ll be happy and stick with it.”

Allen apparently has, and Little believes Brown will as well.

--Stan Olson

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Wolfpack puts together an underrated 2010 class

With 19 commitments, including six from our NC Top 25 Prospects list and another from our SC Top 25, N.C. State has gotten what it wanted in a talented and balanced Class of 2010 so far.

We thought we’d hit a few key points concerning coach Tom O’Brien’s latest group:

KEY RECRUIT: Massive offensive tackle Robert Crisp, one of the best in the country at his position and No.2 on our list. A 6-foot-7, 300-pound beast who has clobbered some of the country’s best at combines and all-star games.

KEY SURPRISE: Keep an eye on Shrine Bowl defensive tackle Thomas Teal, whose 6-2, 325-pound bulk should fit well in N.C. State’s defensive schemes. Teal showed remarkable quickness during the week of Shrine practices, and will make his presence felt in Raleigh.

Quarterback Tyler Brosius of Waynesville Tuscola, who had committed to Virginia early but switched when the Wolfpack, his favorite team growing up, came calling with an offer.

Running back Mustafa Greene of Irmo (S.C.) High. The second-best RB in South Carolina, Greene is visiting Raleigh this weekend. The Wolfpack and Rutgers are his leaders, but Georgia and Auburn are also sniffing around.The program has room for a couple more players if necessary, but the staff feels good about the group in place.

GOALS FOR THE CLASS: Strengthen the program at offensive line and safety, and add as much speed as possible. Consider them met. Kids like WR Tony Creecy and RB Tobias Palmer are burners. DB David Amerson (No.7 on our NC List) can play S or CB without a problem, and will be a factor.

Well done, and not quite finished yet.

--Stan Olson

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tar Heels' 4-star catch jump-starts class

The fact that North Carolina wound up landing four-star DE Brandon Willis had a serious impact on the ranking of the Tar Heels' recruiting class by Scout. Last week, UNC's Class of 2010 (signing day is Feb. 3) was 58th in the nation.

Willis dumps Tennessee for the Tar Heels, and now that class is tied for 46th with Purdue.
North Carolina's group still has a long way to go in order to make a rankings impact. Currently, Miami is tops in the league at No.18 overall, followed closely by Clemson at No. 21.

The rest of the ACC has Florida St. (25), Virginia Tech (26), Boston College (34), N.C. State (35), Maryland (40), Georgia Tech (43), Wake Forest (51), Virginia (66) and Duke (68).

South Carolina of the SEC is No. 31, while Florida is first overall nationally, and five SEC schools are in the top 10.

East Carolina is 93rd overall, and ranked eighth of 12 in Conference USA.

*A quick note, I'm traveling today and unable to blog beyond this immediately, but I've gotten lots of good stuff recently, including Western Carolina's landing of perhaps the biggest lineman in the nation. I'll catch you guys up on everything when I get home.
--Stan Olson

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Citadel Bulldogs may have a football steal in QB

Charleston (S.C.) Burke athlete Del'Javon Simmons, has committed to The Citadel, a Bulldogs’ source said earlier today.

Simmons, who is 5-foot-11 and 210 pounds, will likely be used at quarterback by the program. He could play basketball for the school as well; he’s a recruiting target in that sport as well. He’s also a prep baseball standout.

Over the past two seasons, Simmons totaled 89 touchdowns (61 passing). He has been an all-region selection the past two seasons. He has 4.55-second speed in the 40-yard dash.

--Stan Olson

If you have recruiting news (visits, offers, commitments), please email me at

Monroe's Crowder is offered by Tar Heels

As Heels fans savor the last-minute switch of DE Brandon Willis from Tennessee to North Carolina, more interesting news has popped up.

Jamison Crowder, a member of the Class of 2011 and a speedy 5-foot-9, 160-pound wide receiver/free safety/kick returner at Monroe High, recently received an offer from North Carolina, according to Monroe coach Johnny Sowell.

"We took a few guys over to see the Tar Heels practice at Charlotte Latin when Carolina was here for the (Mieneke) Bowl game," Sowell said. "We gave them a DVD of Jamison, and they really like the fact that he's so versatile, can do so many things."

Sowell expects that a number of other schools, including many from the ACC, will follow suit.

Crowder has 4.5-second speed in the 40-yard dash.

He was also offered by Duke in late December. He returned seven kicks for TDs as a junior, including five punts. As a receiver, he had 630 receiving yards and 13 scores.

And he had 35 tackles at FS.

Crowder is also an outstanding prep basketball player.

--Stan Olson

DE Willis spurns other offers, firm with Tar Heels

The call came from former-Tennessee and now-Southern Cal recruiter Ed Orgeron, a man Duncan Byrnes High DE Brandon Willis and his father Gary had grown close to. The Trojans, Orgeron said, were offering Willis, who was committed to Tennessee, a scholarship to Southern Cal.

Then-Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin had broken the news only hours before on Tuesday; he was headed to USC and taking defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin (his dad) and Orgeron with him. The Willis’s were stunned. Kiffin had been in Knoxville less than a year.

“When coach Orgeron made that offer, I told him, ‘I gave you my word and Brandon gave you his word, and you gave us your word and then you leave,” Gary Willis said moments ago as he, his son and other family members drove toward Chapel Hill. “How do we know someone else won’t offer you $5 million and you’ll be gone again?”

Gary said many other schools also called after Kiffin switched, including Alabama and Auburn.

Some were supportive when he told them the Tar Heels’ commitment was firm. Others, not so much.

“I told them, we’re not going to open that (recruiting) book again,” Gary Willis said. “Some coaches said some nasty things, but we respect the coaches who respected our decision.”

He also said that a huge key in Brandon’s final decision was Tar Heels’ junior defensive tackle Marvin Austin, who had become good friends with Brandon.

“Marvin talked to Brandon and he talked to me late last night, and he said he hoped to play his senior year with Brandon,” Gary Willis said. “But he said wherever Brandon went, he knew he would be a baller and he would stay in touch with Brandon and support him.”

Finally, Brandon Willis (6-foot-4, 250 pounds), coming off a 127-tackle, 13-sack season and ranked No. 4 in The Observer's postseason S.C. Top 25, decided on North Carolina. He is already enrolled for the spring semester and will start classes this week.

Which, as you might imagine, pleased the Tar Heels coaches no end.

“They said they just want to see him, to touch him,” Gary Willis said with a laugh. “They’ll get to real soon.”

--Stan Olson

Brandon Willis jumps back to Tar Heels from Vols

Duncan Byrnes High DE Brandon Willis has switched his commitment from Tennessee to North Carolina, is reporting.

Willis’s switch has come in the wake of Vols coach Lane Kiffin and a number of his staff taking the Southern Cal job.

I’ve got a call into Willis’ dad and will let you know more when I hear from him.

"I'm on my way to Chapel Hill now," Willis told Rivals earlier this morning. "I'm going to North Carolina. This is it.”

--Stan Olson

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

S.C. guard could be a huge sleeper

You may not have heard of Chad Hamilton yet, but the 6-foot-3, 285-pound offensive guard from James Island High in Charleston turned some heads at the Shrine Bowl and could wind up (A) being grabbed by a big program -- Wake Forest is showing some interest -- or (B) being a steal for an FCS program.

The FCS schools are well aware of Hamilton. A source close to The Citadel, which has offered him a scholarship, said the coaches there have their fingers crossed that no FBS schools step in at the last minute.

He also has offers from Coastal Carolina, Presbyterian, S.C. State and Tennessee State.
While Hamilton may not have ideal height for an OL in many FBS programs, he is faster than just about any lineman you'll find. He's been clocked in the 5.0-second range in the 40-yard dash, which certainly doesn't hurt if you're looking for a pulling guard.

Hamilton played in the Shrine Bowl, but schools aren't allowed to send recruiters to all-star games anymore, which was to his disadvantage. But word gets around. While South Carolina has completed its O-line class for this year, another FBS area school might offer at the last minute.

And be happy it did.

--Stan Olson

Blue Devils offer 2 Charlotte Christian players

The Duke Blue Devils have jumped in early on Charlotte Christian juniors Kyler Brown and Matthias Farley, according to Knights coach Jason Estep.

Brown, who is 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, is the younger brother of Charlotte Christian LB Kelby Brown, who has already committed to Duke.

“Kyler is probably a defensive end in college,” Estep said. He played wide receiver and some LB for the Knights as a junior, and is now a standout basketball player for the school.

Farley is an amazing story. He had never played football before spring practice last April, preferring soccer. But he is 6-1 and 180 pounds and can fly (4.48-second 40-yard dash) and he decided to give it a try.

“He’s just a ridiculous athlete, he can really move,” Estep said.

In his first year of organized football, Farley played wide receiver and some free safety. He had 29 catches for a whopping 930 receiving yards and 12 TDs. That’s an average of more than 30 yards a reception.

“It’s just remarkable what he’s been able to do,” Estep said.

--Stan Olson

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Arrgh! ECU Pirates land Byrnes' Richardson

Late last week, we mentioned that Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes wide receiver Torian Richardson was likely to soon commit to East Carolina. It's happened.

Richardson committed the Greenville school over the weekend following his official visit, according to a Byrnes source.

Richardson is 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds with legitimate 4.4-second speed in the 40-yard dash, and will start out as a wide receiver for the Pirates.

As a Byrnes senior, he led Byrnes with 50 catches, good for 962 yards (19.2 a catch) and scored 13 touchdowns. He also returned two punts, both for touchdowns.

Richardson is one of the more talented players to pick the Pirates so far. He was also offered by Mississippi State, Rutgers and Syracuse, among others.

--Stan Olson

So who is visiting the Tar Heels this weekend?

With the Army game ending on such a disappointing note, the upcoming recruiting weekend becomes that much more important to North Carolina.

According to, five players are visiting (it would have been six but Clemson commitment Tavaris Barnes says he has cancelled his trip), and the site reports that all five have been offered. Of those five, three are out-of-state cornerbacks—Christian Bryant of Glenville High in Cleveland, Dequan Menzie of Copiah-Lincoln High in Wesson, Ms., and Tre Boston of North Ft. Myers (Fla.) High.

The first two are rated as four-star players (out of five) by; while Boston gets three.

The other two visits fall to OLB Darius Lipford of Lenoir Hibriten, who visited Clemson over the weekend but remains committed to UNC, and to former Tar Heels’ commit Reggie Wilkins, an athlete who jumped to N.C. State but is now supposedly wavering in that commitment.

It will be interesting to see what this weekend produces—the Tar Heels’ Class of 2010 needs an upgrade.

--Stan Olson

Army game becomes Tar Heels' 'Black Saturday'

Of the ten players who picked Saturday’s U.S. Army All-American game in San Antonio to announce their football commitments on national TV, two had North Carolina in their final three and two more in their final four.

The announcements were made with the player surrounded by family and standing behind the caps of his finalists, then picking up the chosen school’s hat and placing it on his head—or that of his mother, if he were so inclined.

None of those four Tar Heels’ caps was ever touched, except perhaps later to be dropped in a prop bag.

And what could have been a huge day for UNC’s so-far disappointing Class of 2010 wound up being a nonentity, with no commitments.

The most painful loss was that of Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes DE Brandon Willis, a consensus Top 100 player. Posters and emails assured me all week that Willis, who had recently decommitted from Tennessee, was now committed, sealed and delivered for the Tar Heels.

Uh, no. He grabbed the Volunteers’ hat instead.

Three other very good players also got away. DT Sharrif Floyd of Philadelphia, possibly the best DT in the country, picked Florida over Ohio State, UNC and South Carolina. CB Victor Hampton—you remember, the guy who was kicked off Independence’s team last summer and wound up at Darlington (S.C.) High—picked South Carolina over Tennessee and North Carolina. And Cleveland athlete Latwan Anderson selected West Virginia over Ohio State, Miami and the Tar Heels.

The Tar Heels are running out of options, but things can always change at any point before the Feb. 3 National Signing Day. This weekend is important, as the Tar Heels have five players visiting.

Inside had that total listed as six a few minutes ago, but one of those was DE Tavaris Barnes, who committed to Clemson Sunday night after his weekend visit and said he will not visit Chapel Hill.

UNC coach Butch Davis has a reputation as a recruiting closer. Time to put that in gear.

--Stan Olson

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Big-time DE switches from Seminoles to Clemson

Defensive end Tavaris Barnes of First Coast High in Jacksonville, Fla., visited Clemson over the weekend and then switched his longstanding commitment with Florida State to the Tigers, according to several sources.

Barnes, who is 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, is considered one of the top players at his position in the country. He is Clemson’s 21st commitment for the class of 2010.

Barnes also had official visits set for North Carolina and FSU, but cancelled them, saying he had found everything he wanted at Clemson.

Despite missing four games with an injury as a senior, he totaled 80 tackles, including 30 for loss and ten sacks.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney continues to prove that the administration did not make a mistake by making the young assistant its head coach. He’s a remarkable closer as a recruiter.

--Stan Olson

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Willis picks Tennessee Vols over Tar Heels

Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes High DE Brandon Willis, thought by North Carolina fans to have switched from Tennessee to the Tar Heels, capped a horrible day for UNC at the Army All-American Game in San Antonio.

He picked up the Tennessee cap over those of the Tar Heels and UCLA. And a player considered by many a North Carolina lock at the beginning of the week is a Vol again, where he had been committed earlier.

Willis' decision followed that of DT Sharrif Floyd (Florida) and CB Victor Hampton (South Carolina). earlier S Latwan Anderson had North Carolina as a finalist before picking West Virginia.

UNC coach Butch Davis is having a day he and his program would just as soon forget.

--Stan Olson

Tar Heels, Gamecocks lose DT Floyd to Gators

Just now, Philadelphia DT Sharrif Floyd blasted the hopes of both North and South Carolina--both in his final four--by choosing the Florida Gators.

So the rich get richer, and the Tar Heels in particular have to be hating this all-America game. Floyd is the third player today to have a UNC cap sitting in front of him and declined to put it on. At least South Carolina nabbed CB Victor Hampton, another who skipped over that Carolina Blue.

Floyd is considered by some to be the best DT in the country. And had he picked either Carolina, he would have been a huge boost to that program.

--Stan Olson

Gamecocks get CB Hampton over Tar Heels, Vols

Darling High CB Victor Hampton, playing in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, committed to South Carolina during a break in the game moments ago.

Hampton formally starred at Independence, but was kicked off the team last summer by coach Tom Knotts. At the time he was committed to Florida, but the Gators quit calling at that point. He transferred to Darlington High, cleaned up his act, and today at the game, picked the South Carolina hat in front of him over the caps of North Carolina and Tennessee.

--Stan Olson

Friday, January 8, 2010

Another recruiting loss for Duke

With recruiting sites reporting the commitment of Oak Hill Academy's Roscoe Smith to Connecticut, it appears that Duke has missed on another target.

Smith is 6-foot-7 and was Duke's No. 2 option at small forward after Harrison Barnes of Ames, Iowa, chose North Carolina over the Blue Devils and other schools. Failing to land Smith could leave Duke short at that position next season.

This won't matter much, of course, if 6-8 Kyle Singler, who's averaging 15.9 points per game at small forward, returns for his senior season rather than leaving for the NBA. Singler's future is a question that remains unanswered at this point of the season, but if he comes back, Duke will be in fine shape at small forward.

If Singler leaves and coach Mike Krzyzewski can't come up with a No. 3 option in recruiting, the Blue Devils won't have an obvious choice to defend other players who are in the 6-5 to 6-8 range who can score inside and out. Guys like Harrison Barnes, for example, could hurt Duke with their multi-dimensional skills.

This would be a problem, but it wouldn't be catastrophic. Duke is in good position everywhere else and would have the personnel to play three guards effectively with Nolan Smith and Andre Dawkins returning and freshman Kyrie Irving and transfer Seth Curry added to the roster.

(If you haven't heard the buzz about Curry, by the way, the word from practice on the redshirting former Liberty player is that he would be Duke's best shooter if he were on the team this season).

Duke's post rotation also should be solid with Mason and Miles Plumlee returning, and Ryan Kelly and freshman Josh Hairston playing supporting roles.

But even if Singler returns, Duke needed another player in that 6-5 to 6-8 range in the program. And the Blue Devils have two strikes against them in the Class of 2010 with Harrison Barnes and now Roscoe Smith.

Ken Tysiac

FRED 5.0 (Football Recruiting Database) is up

This version has updated stats for as many of our kids as I had time to find while chasing commitments. Your help is always appreciated; if you have numbers on a player that haven’t found their way into my eager hands, email them to me at

And if you know of quality players who are missing, tell me or your coach. We’ve got 939 guys listed now and I want that over 1,000 by National Signing Day Feb. 3.

Please bring errors to my attention, and Dave Enna and I will see that they are promptly fixed.

You can find FRED in his newest incarnation by clicking here.

--Stan Olson

Wolfpack, RB Greene working up official visit

Irmo High’s Mustafa Greene, the second-best RB in the state of South Carolina (after Marcus Lattimore), is talking with N.C. State coaches in order to set up an official visit with the Wolfpack.

“He’s been discussing it now,” his sister, Majeedah Spencer, said moments ago. “N.C. State and Rutgers are probably his two favorites right now, although he liked what he saw from Alabama (in the national championship) game last night.”

Greene, No.11 on our Top 25 SC prospects list, has an offer from the Crimson Tide as well as his two leaders, along with Georgia, Syracuse and several others.

As a senior, Greene missed six games with a high right ankle sprain, but still rushed for over 1,300 yards and 21 TDs. He made the Shrine Bowl despite the injury.
Spencer said her brother is carefully looking over schools—from academics to depth charts—and will wait until signing day to make his decision.

--Stan Olson

Could Rutgers claim King to play with Dodd?

While we’re talking about Byrnes standouts, what about wide receiver Jazz King?

King, who had drawn the interest of several Carolinas’ schools earlier in 2009, had a strong senior season, but now holds offers to Ole Miss and Illinois, and is getting an in-depth look from Rutgers.

“We can’t figure out why more Carolinas schools aren’t interested,” One Byrnes coach said.

King, a major cog in the Rebels’ offense, finished his senior season with 46 catches for 882 yards and 11 TDs. QB Chas Dodd, the guy who threw him all those passes, has committed to Rutgers and would love to have King to throw to in college as well.

--Stan Olson

ECU Pirates on verge of landing top Byrnes receiver

We hear lots about the big-time players at Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes High, but the program there is deep as well as talented. And East Carolina is expect to soon receive the commitment of Torian Richardson, one of Byrnes’ top wide receivers.

“He’s probably going to ECU,” said a source close to the situation this morning. “He did have some grade-point difficulties but he’s done a good job of finishing strong.”

Richardson, who is 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds with good speed, led Byrnes—one of the area’s most prolific offenses—with 50 receptions. He totaled 962 yards (19.2 a catch) and scored 13 TDs.

Richardson, who would be one of top-rated recruits in ECU's Class of 2010, also returned two punts, both for touchdowns.

will likely announce in favor of East Carolina any day now.

--Stan Olson

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Hampton to pick between Vols, Gamecocks, Heels

Speaking of possible Tar Heels, remember former Independence star CB Victor Hampton? He was kicked off the team by Patriots coach Tom Knotts last summer, and wound up at Darlington (S.C.) High. There, according to his coaches, he kept his nose clean and played well.

He’s playing in Saturday’s U.S. Army All-American game this weekend.

Now, he has told our buddy and S.C. recruiting expert Phil Kornblut that he will choose between South Carolina, Tennessee and North Carolina.

“I’m going to have a hat in a bag and pull it out of the bag and surprise everyone," said Hampton, who committed to Florida last year before the Gators dropped him.

“I've picked the school where I was most comfortable, where it would be the best fit, where I liked the coaches, the players, the fans and the environment.”

Hampton, who said he’s had a good week of practice, did indicate that he remains a Gamecocks' lean. We’ll see if that holds up Saturday.

--Stan Olson

Tar Heels wait on decisions of Willis, Floyd

North Carolina could still salvage what has been a mediocre recruiting Class of 2010—one that currently includes no defensive linemen—if DE Brandon Willis and DT Sharrif Floyd, both of whom are playing in Saturday’s U.S. Army All-American Game in San Antonio, were to both pick the Tar Heels.

Right now, though, according to reports from on-site, Willis, the Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes standout, is their best bet. Floyd, from Philadelphia and one of the nation’s top DTs, has apparently dropped UNC from his final three (“Right now, it looks like a tossup between Ohio State and Florida,” wrote’s Mike Farrell).

If Floyd is out of the picture, that makes Willis all the more important to the Tar Heels. And while Willis still considers North Carolina a finalist, reports say that UCLA is strong and that Tennessee—he recently decommitted from the Vols—may be working its way back into the picture.

“I’ve heard all that too,” said dad Gary Willis moments ago as he prepared to fly to San Antonio. “I want to get out there and talk to my son, see what he’s thinking.”

If UNC coach Butch Davis really is still the recruiting closer he’s been in the past, it’s time to get going again and prove it.

--Stan Olson

Vance High's Durante has two FBS offers

All-Observer regional selection Dechane Durante of Vance High has been offered scholarships by Northern Illinois and Bowling Green, according to his father, Darren Durante.

“Both of those schools said they would start him as a freshman at safety,” Darren said moments ago.

He added that Marshall and Buffalo are also interested. Dechane already had offers from Western Carolina, Catawba, Gardner-Webb, Coastal Carolina, N.C. A&T and Lenoir-Rhyne, among others.

Asked if he was recruited by the bigger area schools, dad Darren said, “Duke was interested but backed off because his GPA wasn’t quite good enough. N.C. State said they liked his tackling and physical play but didn’t think he was fast enough.”

Durante is 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds. He was a safety/wide receiver/kick returner at Vance, but will play safety at the next level.

As a senior, he had 53 tackles, four interceptions (two returned for TDs) and broke up 17 passes.

Durante will visit Bowling Green Jan. 16 and Northern Illinois Jan. 22.

--Stan Olson

Got recruiting news (visits, offers, commitments)? Pop it to me at

Duke Blue Devils lead charge for Hoggard punter

Punters and kickers are often the last players on universities’ recruiting boards, afterthoughts who are encouraged to walk on so that the school doesn’t have to spend a precious scholarship, at least immediately.

Don’t expect it to be that way with Wil Baumann, Wilmington Hoggard’s explosive junior punter.

“He can really boom it,” says Hoggard coach Scott Braswell. “He’s going to be big-time, a Division-I punter. Maybe a kicker as well.”

Last year, Baumann concentrated on punting because Hoggard had an excellent kicker in Ian Durham, who will attend the Naval Academy. Baumann should take over kicking duties as well in 2010.

But when you punt like he does, no school will tell you it needs you to walk on. Baumann averaged 43.8 yards a punt as a sophomore, then pushed that figure over 45 in 2009.

“Duke is real high on him,” Braswell said. “But a lot of other schools are starting to show interest as well.”

Baumann, who was named the all-state punter by the Associated Press, is 6-foot-4 and 185 pounds. If he keeps sprouting, some program might make him a tackle as well.

--Stan Olson

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Is that Willis/Tar Heels thing not so done after all?

This comes from San Antonio, where is covering the U.S. Army All-American prep football game. Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes' DE Brandon Willis, a big-time prospect, recently decommitted from Tennessee, and has been heavily rumored to be Chapel Hill-bound since then.

But here's what Rivals reporters have gleaned while working the practice sessions:

"Defensive end Brandon Willis was a done deal to North Carolina as of Sunday and all of his early enrollment paperwork was signed and in order. He had even changed his major from Engineering to Physical Therapy to play to the academic strengths at UNC.

"However, he is now struggling with the decision and UCLA is very much back in the picture.

"Amazingly, Tennessee is not out of it yet either despite Willis eliminating the Vols last week. One source said that if Willis can't decide between the Tar Heels and Bruins by week's end, he might just stick with Tennessee."

The Tar Heels aren't out of it either, of course, but what some where calling a sure thing suddenly isn't sounding very sure at all.

--Stan Olson

Carolinas’ underclassmen swarming Army combine

While most of us are aware that the U.S. Army All-American Game will feature some of the nation’s top prep football seniors and will be played Saturday in San Antonio, not everyone knows that many underclassmen—primarily juniors—are invited to a combine connected with the week’s activities as well.

A list of those invited from the Carolinas include a number of players on our Top 20 Junior Prospects lists in each state. Others may soon move into those rankings.

The North Carolina combine invitees are Justin Burris (Needham B. Broughton; Raleigh), Daniel Davie (Beatrice; Beatrice), Justus Hoffman (Millbrook; Raleigh), Nigel King (Wakefield; Raleigh), Stephen Machanic (Northern Guilford; Greensboro), Ryan Mangum (Leesville Road; Raleigh), Montese Overton (South Central; Winterville), Tyler Philpott (Polk County; Columbus), Jeremy Reynolds (Dudley; Greensboro), Rocco Scarfone (Northern Guilford; Greensboro), John Scott (Knightdale; Knightdale), Jalen “Scoot” Simmons (West Charlotte), Jarrod Spears (Harnett Central; Angier), Sam Spence (Charlotte Latin; Charlotte) and Terrell Stanley (South Brunswick; Southport).

Invited from South Carolina are Jacob Baxter (Brookland-Cayce; Cayce), Gerald Dixon (South Pointe; Rock Hill), Gerald Dixon (Northwestern; Rock Hill), Hakeem Flowers (Wade Hampton; Greenville), Stephen Grommer (Spartanburg, Spartanburg), Pat Martin (J.L. Mann; Greenville), Jason Rexroad (Myrtle Beach; Myrtle Beach), Lateek Townsend (Marlboro County; Bennettsville) and Brandon Wilds (Blythewood; Blythewood).

The army, though, won’t be passing out combine results. Apparently, those are top secret.

--Stan Olson

Chester cornerback Hicks a hit on first football try

Last year, an assistant principal stopped by Chester (S.C.) High coach Maurice Flowers’ office with a kid in tow, a sophomore named K.D. Hicks.

“He was just walking the halls,” Flowers said today. “He had never played organized football, but the assistant principal told me he was an athlete.”

Flowers talked Hicks into coming out for football, and the latter showed up at spring practice.

“That first day, he was running one way and a pass was tipped,” Flowers said, laughing. “He reached back, pulled it in with one hand and ran it for a touchdown.

“At that moment, we knew that he was something special. You could just tell he was a great athlete.”

Before spring practice was over, Hicks, who is 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds with 4.4 speed, had locked up a starting cornerback job.

His first year of football—his 2009 junior season—produced nine interceptions, three of which K.D. returned for TDs. He also broke up seven more passes and finished with 48 tackles.

“He was aggressive and tough,” Flowers said, “But most important, he’s got a shot at any ball in his area. If it’s in the air, he has a chance to catch it.”

I’m adding Hicks to our football recruiting database today.

--Stan Olson

Three Independence players are solid commits

While the Patriots may not have had the big-name recruits of some schools, a Pats’ trio has already accepted scholarship offers.

Courtland Carson, a 6-foot, 193-pound linebacker, will attend the Air Force Academy. He was an all-Mecklenburg County second-team defense selection.

And Elon picked up two Patriots, snagging 6-1, 180-pound defensive back Jeremy Inglesi and 5-9, 160-pound wide receiver Kierre Brown. Brown was one of the fastest players in Mecklenburg County.

This may have been Independence coach Tom Knott's best coaching job--the Patriots reached the state title game and likely won't have a single senior receiving a BCS offer.

If your team has a commitment or two or three we haven't mentioned let, drop me a line at

--Stan Olson

Tar Heels, others will regret passing on Parks

I hate to say I told you so, but, well, I told you so. West Rowan High yardage-gobbler Kevin Parks (he likes K.P. better) dominated the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl Saturday night in Myrtle Beach.

Parks, a Virginia commitment largely because Carolinas’ schools ignored him because of his 5-foot-7, 190-pound size, rushed for 197 yards and three TDs on 24 carries in the West’s 35-0 blowout of the East. He was named the game’s most outstanding performer. That came after he was North Carolina’s top offensive player in the Shrine Bowl Dec. 19. And there was better overall talent in this game.

I wrote awhile back that those Carolinas’ schools—particularly programs like North Carolina, which hasn’t had a great RB in some time—would regret passing on Parks, who holds just about every state rushing record.

He’s short but remarkably quick and powerful, with a low center of gravity. And his size is not always a disadvantage, allowing him to hide behind bigger offensive linemen before popping free.

And while his 40 speed (around 4.55) is good but not exceptional, Parks has what coaches call “football speed.” View his tape, and you rarely see him caught from behind in the open field.

Parks will be a big-time weapon for the Cavaliers.

Just wait and watch him.

--Stan Olson Got recruiting news? Pop it to me at

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

RB Lattimore now down to Gamecocks, 3 others

Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes running back Marcus Lattimore, possibly the top player at his position in the nation, has trimmed his college finalists from five to four.

Last time, it was North Carolina that got dumped. Now it’s Georgia.

After starting with 32 offers, Lattimore’s Final Four are South Carolina, Auburn, Penn State and Oregon.

If I had to guess, I’d give the Gamecocks a slight, slight lead over Auburn. But Lattimore isn’t giving out many clues.

At the Shrine Bowl, he said he would make his announcement on Feb. 2—the day before National Signing Day—at his church.

Lattimore has already taken official visits to Penn State and Auburn. He’s scheduled to visit Oregon Jan. 15 and South Carolina Jan. 22. He had been planning on visiting the ‘Dawgs Jan. 29, but that trip—and Georgia’s chances—have been deep-sixed.

--Stan Olson

Got recruiting info? Drop me a line at

Wolfpack collects 6-foot-7 O-lineman from Ohio

N.C. State has received the commitment of Andy Jomantas, an offensive lineman with room to grow.

Jomantas, who played at Chaminade-Julienne High in Dayton, Ohio, is 6-foot-7 and 250 pounds, meaning the Wolfpack could likely pack 50 pounds or so on that giant frame.

“As a junior, he was a good player on defense, but he wasn’t a Division-I offer kid,” said his prep coach, Andy Helms. “We played him at tight end some as a junior and he had done very well.

“We knew he was a very good offensive lineman even though he’s a defensive-minded guy. He’s got a mean streak in him and he’ll hit you.”

Jomantas, the Wolfpack’s 18th commitment for the Class of 2010, had been offered by Kansas and a number of mid-majors. He was a three-time letterman, and an all-district selection his senior year.

Helms thinks N.C. State will use Jomantas on the O-line, but could give him a shot at tight end as well.

--Stan Olson

Tar Heels' call a strong one for Latin's Paschal

Charlotte Latin senior LB/SS/SR Paul Paschal has had feelers from other schools, but all his life, football has been colored Carolina Blue.

So Paschal, who could almost certainly get a scholarship at a smaller school, is likely to walk on at North Carolina, Latin coach Larry McNulty said today.

Paschal’s dad was Doug Paschal, a fullback and four-year letterman at UNC who graduated in 1979. Then older brother Mark was an outstanding linebacker in Chapel Hill before a spine injury ended his career during his 2008 senior year.

Paul Paschal is 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, with 4.65 speed in the 40-yard dash. If he does walk on for the Tar Heels, he could develop into a contributor. The genes are certainly there.

Here’s some video on Paschal’s work for Latin.

--Stan Olson

Clemson lands 2011 QB in Chester's Tony McNeal

The Tigers picked up the commitment of one of the best underclass quarterbacks in South Carolina in Tony McNeal, meaning that they already have six commitments in the Class of 2011.

McNeal committed to the Tigers on Monday during an unofficial visit, according to our sister paper, the State of Columbia. He is ranked as the No.10 overall junior in the state by The Observer.

“He can make every throw,” Chester coach Maurice Flowers told the State. “We're a spread team in the shotgun. He can make the skinny post, the deep comeback, and his mechanics under center are good. He's great at decision making. He cut his interceptions in half. And he's playing in a system that's more of a college type system. He won't be wowed by what's going on.”

McNeal, who is 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds, passed for 1,700 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2009 despite suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament that he will have surgery for next week. As a sophomore, McNeal passed for 3,533 yards and 37 touchdowns.

The Tigers offered in December, despite the knee injury.

Flowers said McNeal is planning to graduate next December so he can enroll at Clemson in January 2011.

--Stan Olson

Monday, January 4, 2010

A look at top N.C. basketball recruits

Six of the eight top-100 players in a strong basketball recruiting class from North Carolina in 2010 -- plus a player from Georgia who's committed to N.C. State -- were in the GlaxoSmithKline Holiday Invitational last week. A look at each player, with links to the full stories:

Reggie Bullock, Kinston, committed to North Carolina: He looks to pass first, then waits for open 3-point opportunities when the ball comes back to him. In the Glaxo, he grabbed 13 rebounds to go along with his 30 points against Garner. He was named the most outstanding player in his bracket as Kinston fell to Harlem (N.Y.) Rice in the final. "He's not a player that's selfish," said Garner's Donald Johnson, who guarded him at Glaxo. "It's hard playing against a player that has such a high basketball IQ."

C.J. Leslie, Raleigh Word of God, uncommitted: He is 6 feet 9 and strong enough to play power forward in college. He is quick enough to guard wings. "I can do a little bit of everything," Leslie said. "I've got to notice wherever my team needs me and play that, whether it's been outside and taking my man in, or whether it's been inside, posting up, or blocking shots on the other end." Leslie was named the most outstanding player of his bracket at the Glaxo, but his team lost 71-59 to United Faith of Charlotte in the championship game. He promised reporters that he would narrow his list of college choices soon.

Luke Cothron, Red Springs Flora MacDonald, committed to N.C. State: Recruiting analyst Bob Gibbons said Cothron plays like a small forward and right now doesn't have the skills needed to play small forward in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Gibbons sees a very skilled player but wonders where Cothron will play if he doesn't add the strength needed to battle players who are taller and just as physical. "He is very talented. The key, like it is so many times, is how he develops," Gibbons said.

J.T. Terrell, West Charlotte, committed to Wake Forest: J.T. Terrell envisions himself coming off the bench next year at Wake Forest to provide instant offense. Recruiting analyst Brick Oettinger considers the West Charlotte guard to be the best 3-point shooter in the class of 2010 ACC recruits. Terrell is the type of shooter who can score points in bunches.

Melvin Tabb, Raleigh Enloe, committed to Wake Forest: The 6-foot-8 Tabb runs, jumps and shoots well. He can take down a rebound and start a fast break with either a dribble or a quick outlet pass. He can spread out on defense and cut off a drive or go high and block a shot. But for a player with his ability, he doesn't always get the type of results you would expect.

Ryan Harrow, Marietta (Ga.) Walton, committed to N.C. State: It might be impossible to find a high school player who is craftier at scoring than the N.C. State recruit. In Walton's 61-60 victory over Millbrook, Harrow worked at both ends of the floor as he helped his club rally for the victory. Harrow, who averages 37 points per game, did not shoot as well as he normally does, but he still managed 35 points. He is among the quickest recruits in the country, handles the ball exceptionally well and is a great passer.

Fulton picks Crimson Tide over Gamecocks

In case you missed it, Manning (S.C.) High CB John Fulton picked Alabama over South Carolina and Florida Saturday at the Under Armour All-America Game.

had long been thought to be a Gamecocks lean, but the Crimson Tide came on late and landed him, further cementing an outstanding recruiting class.

told reporters at the game that Tuscaloosa was like “a home away from home,” and that he loved Alabama head coach Nick Saban, running backs coach Burton Burns (his recruiter) and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.

Fulton, who said his parents were comfortable with his decision, is No.6 on The Observer’s postseason SC Top 25 prospects list.

--Stan Olson

More on Brandon Willis, now a Tar Heels Target

If Duncan Byrnes’ Brandon Willis does pick North Carolina over UCLA come Saturday—or Tennessee, for that matter, since the Vols are apparently still popular with him and his family—it will be a huge and much-needed addition to the Tar Heels’ class of 2010.

So far, North Carolina has no defensive ends—no defensive linemen, in fact, in that group. And not only would Willis remedy that problem, he would do so in a big way.

Because Willis is a big-time recruit. He is ranked No.4 in SC on The Observer’s Top 25 Prospects list. And the fact that he will play in the Army All-American Game Saturday says a lot as well.

Willis, a terror as a junior with 144 tackles including 13 sacks, had 13 more sacks as a senior. He’s the kind of big and quick player who could earn playing time as a freshman, could grow into a defensive tackle and eventually be all-ACC. Or all-Pac-10 or all-SEC, for that matter.

--Stan Olson

Former Vol commit Willis considering Tar Heels

Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes High defensive end Brandon Willis, a member of almost every recruiting service’s Top 100 list, decommitted from Tennessee over the weekend and is now expected to decide between North Carolina and UCLA, his father Gary said moments ago.

He will announce his decision at the U.S. Army All-American Game in San Antonio on Saturday.

Brandon, who is 6-foot-4 and 255 pounds, had been rumored to be considering the Tar Heels for some time, and officially visited Chapel Hill last month.

“His mama went to North Carolina, and she and his uncles live in Burlington now,” said Gary, who spent considerable time growing up in the Chapel Hill area.

Brandon’s father said the decommitment was nothing personal as far as Tennessee was concerned.

“He liked the coaches, and I really liked (head coach) Lane Kiffin’s style; he’s not one of those good ole boys,” Gary Willis said. “But it was a family decision; we talked it through as a family.”

--Stan Olson

Our College Recruiting blog is percolating again

The holiday break is over, and I hope all of you had good ones. I’m back and trying to catch up with Carolinas’ college football recruiting, which also took a break but is beginning to bubble up once more.

If you have me bookmarked, start checking regularly, because there’s going to be plenty to write about. Next up—the decommitment of a top DL from Tennessee and his fresh consideration of the Tar Heels.

As a group, though, y’all still know far more than I do. So if you have recruiting info—visits, offers, commitments or just an under-the-radar guy—pop it to me at

And Happy New Year!

--Stan Olson