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Clemson, Maryland Lead Early Decisions

Thursday, September 11, 2008 11:41am
By: Accsports Staff

By Dave Glenn, ACC Sports Journal
July 28, 2003 Entering August, most ACC area schools had only a handful of early commitments from members of the rising senior class, who under NCAA rules can't sign binding letters of intent until February 2004. As always, though, there were a few exceptions. In the summer of 2001, Clemson and Maryland stockpiled early commitments, although neither program ended up with a consensus top-25 class the following February. Last year, UNC, N.C. State and Virginia were the schools that jumped out to quick starts, on their way to what became outstanding groups of signees. This year, Clemson (eight commitments) and Maryland (nine) again are the frontrunners, at least in terms of pure numbers, a full six months before signing day.

Here are individual capsules on the latest players to commit to ACC area schools, plus first-time information on some Miami-bound prospects (Virginia Tech had no early commitments at press time) who announced their decisions earlier this year:

Miami (FL) Killian DB J.R. Bryant, rated one of the top 50 seniors in Florida, committed to Miami over Michigan and Pittsburgh. He also had offers from Florida, FSU, Iowa, Iowa State, NCSU, Rutgers and others. As a junior last fall, playing cornerback at Miami (FL) Columbus, he had 34 tackles and one interception. A third-team all-county selection, he also returned 11 punts for 278 yards and three touchdowns. He runs the 40 in 4.5 seconds. His uncle, Winfred Bryant, played in the NFL for the New York Giants. His prep teammate, tailback Bobby Washington, previously committed to the Hurricanes.

Jacksonville (FL) First Coast DB Brandon Croley, rated one of the top 150 seniors in Florida, chose Clemson over Central Florida. Auburn, Georgia Tech, Iowa State, Louisville, Maryland, South Florida and Wake Forest also showed interest. An all-region selection, he had 68 tackles, nabbed two interceptions and broke up seven passes as a junior. Two of his teammates, defensive back Augustus Ashley and receiver Mike McIntosh, also attended the Tigers' summer camp this year and have interest in the program. Crowley, who benches 270 pounds and runs the 40 in 4.5 seconds, played safety last season but projects as a cornerback in college. His main recruiter with the Tigers was first-year receivers coach Dabo Swinney, who was the chief contact for four of Clemson's first eight commitments. Croley's commitment continues a Jacksonville pipeline for the Tigers, who signed cornerback Darrell Crutchfield, cornerback Jamaal Fudge, receiver Rod Gardner, receiver Gerald McCloud, rover Tavaghn Monts, linebacker Eric Sampson, receiver Kevin Youngblood and others from the city in recent years.

Los Angeles (CA) Loyola QB Scott Deke, rated one of the top 200 seniors in California, selected Virginia over Army and VMI. California and Stanford also showed interest. His father, Daryl, played golf and football at VMI, and his family lived in Virginia when Scott was a young child. His mother attended Hollins, an uncle went to Richmond and a grandfather attended Virginia Tech. Scott participated in UVa's camp this summer and emerged with a scholarship offer. At California powerhouse Loyola, Deke (pronounced DAY-key) works under quarterbacks coach Ken O'Brien, a former NFL signal-caller who was a first-round draft choice in 1983. After moving from safety midway through a 9-4 season last fall, Deke threw for around 700 yards and seven touchdowns in six games, completing 65 percent of his passes. He has a 4.0 GPA and a 1,340 SAT score.

Greensboro (NC) Dudley RB Jamaal Edwards, rated one of the top 10 running backs in the nation, opted for Florida State over UNC. A long-time fan and regular summer camper with the Seminoles, he also had offers from Clemson, ECU, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami, NCSU, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Virginia Tech. As a junior, after transferring from Greensboro (NC) Page, he rushed 346 times for 2,378 yards and 31 touchdowns for an 11-4 team that advanced to the Class 3A state championship game. A first-team all-state selection, he runs the 40 in 4.4 seconds. He has a 2.5 GPA but has not yet achieved a qualifying ACT/SAT score. His main recruiter with the Seminoles was tight ends coach John Lilly, who attended high school (Northwest Guilford) and college (Guilford) in North Carolina. Edwards' commitment marks the third time in five years FSU has landed one of the top prospects in North Carolina. Tailback Nick Maddox (1999) and linebacker A.J. Nicholson (2002) were the others.

Brownwood (TX) High QB Kirby Freeman, rated one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the nation, chose Miami over Purdue. He also had offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Arkansas, Baylor, Colorado, Kansas State, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Penn State, Rice, SMU, Texas Christian, Texas Tech, UCLA and Wisconsin. A two-time all-district selection, he threw for about 1,500 yards, ran for about 1,300 yards and accounted for 25 touchdowns (16 rushing, nine passing) as a junior for a 9-5 team. Freeman, who plans to enroll at Miami in January and participate in 2004 spring practice, also was an honorable mention all-state pick as a punter last fall. He benches 250 pounds and runs the 40 in 4.6 seconds. He has a 3.6 GPA.

Enfield (CT) High OL/DT Jack Griffin, rated one of the top 10 seniors in Connecticut, picked Maryland over interest from Boston College, Connecticut, Georgia Tech, Iowa, Penn State, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest and Wisconsin. He said he was most impressed with the Terps' coaching staff and academic reputation. A three-year starter who was an all-conference and all-state selection last fall, he had 53 tackles and 13 sacks as a junior. He benches 320 pounds and runs the 40 in 5.3 seconds. He has a qualifying GPA and a 1,210 SAT score. His main recruiter with the Terps was defensive line coach Dave Sollazzo.

Canton (GA) Sequoyah QB Cullen Harper, rated one of the top 75 seniors in Georgia, chose Clemson over Duke, Middle Tennessee State and South Carolina. Auburn, Georgia (childhood favorite), Georgia Tech, UNC, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest also showed interest. An all-area selection for an 8-3 team as a junior, he completed 65 of 130 passing attempts for more than 1,100 yards, with 13 touchdowns and three interceptions. His father played center for Georgia on the Bulldogs' 1980 national championship team and later played in the NFL for the New Orleans Saints. Cullen benches 260 pounds and runs the 40 in 4.9 seconds. He has a 3.5 GPA and a 910 SAT score. His main recruiter with the Tigers was offensive line coach Ron West, followed closely by quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain.

Gadsden (AL) Litchfield WR LaDonte Harris, rated one of the top 25 seniors in Alabama, picked Clemson over Mississippi State and South Carolina. He also had offers from Alabama A&M, Chattanooga and Middle Tennessee State. Alabama and Auburn also showed interest, but Harris said he refused to consider the in-state schools because they don't throw the ball enough. He said he particularly liked the passing offense, the small-town atmosphere and the facilities (especially Death Valley) at Clemson, which is located about three and a half hours from his home. An all-region selection, he had 32 receptions for 650 yards and six touchdowns as a junior for a 12-2 team. He also rushed 44 times for 392 yards and six TDs. His main recruiter with the Tigers was first-year receivers coach Dabo Swinney.

Lexington (VA) Rockbridge DT/DE Jon Kirchner, rated one of the top 25 seniors in Virginia, picked Virginia over Stanford and Virginia Tech. (Both parents are graduates of Tech. Mom gave Jon the green light to make any decision, while dad strongly pushed the Hokies all along.) The first Division I-A football prospect ever produced by Rockbridge, Kirchner also had offers from Duke, Maryland and West Virginia. A second-team Group 2A selection, he had 58 tackles (20 for loss) and four sacks for an 8-3 team as a junior. He benches 280 pounds, squats 520 and runs the 40 in 4.9 seconds. He has a 3.3 GPA and an 1,140 SAT score. His main recruiter with the Cavaliers was linebackers coach Dan Rocco.

Lackawanna (PA) Junior College OL Tyler McMeans, formerly of Clarion (PA) High, committed to Miami over LSU, Maryland and Penn State. McMeans, 23, spent four years in the Marines — practicing, among other things, hand-to-hand combat — immediately after graduating from high school. After completing the 2003 season in junior college, he'll have three years to use two seasons of eligibility in Coral Gables. He plans to enroll in January and participate in 2004 spring practice with the Hurricanes. Former UM offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie, a two-time All-American, Outland Trophy winner and first-round NFL draft pick, also went from Lackawanna to Miami. Lackawanna coach Mark Duda, a former Maryland player, said McMeans is the second-best prospect he's had over the years, behind only McKinnie. McMeans, who played only one year of high school football, started at guard for Lackawanna last season.

Simpsonville (SC) Hillcrest DT/DE Jamon Meredith, rated one of the top 25 seniors in South Carolina, chose South Carolina over Clemson. Duke, Georgia, Maryland, UNC and Wake Forest also showed interest. Formerly of Greenville (SC) Southside, he played offensive tackle at Hillcrest in 2002 but is expected to play tight end and defensive end this fall. He benches 350 pounds and runs the 40 in 4.9 seconds. He has a 3.8 GPA and an 1,150 SAT score and wants to major in civil engineering.

Charlotte (NC) Olympic QB Antonio Miller, rated one of the top 25 seniors in North Carolina, opted for East Carolina over Kansas State, Marshall and Wake Forest. Maryland, UNC and Virginia also showed interest. A second-team all-conference pick as a junior, he threw for 2,610 yards and 16 touchdowns, and he ran for 864 yards and eight TDs. He benches 225 pounds and runs the 40 in 4.55 seconds. He has a 3.2 GPA.

Clifton (VA) Centreville DB Richard Taylor, rated one of the top 25 seniors in Virginia, chose Maryland over Georgia Tech, NCSU and Pittsburgh. Clemson and Michigan also showed interest. He said he particularly likes the Terps' location (one hour from home) and the possibility for early playing time in College Park. Taylor, who benches 280 pounds and runs the 40 in 4.5 seconds, was named the top defensive back at the Nike Camp in Blacksburg this summer. An all-district selection, he split time between tailback (500-plus yards) and defensive back (45 tackles) for a 9-2 team last fall, when he missed some time with injury problems. He's projected as a safety for the Terps. He has a 2.8 GPA and a 980 SAT score.

Greensboro (NC) Dudley DB Martel Thatch, rated one of the top 25 seniors in North Carolina, committed to North Carolina over Virginia. He also had offers from Clemson, Duke, East Carolina, Florida, Miami, South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest. A three-year starter, he had 91 tackles and nine interceptions (three for TDs) as a junior for an 11-4 team that reached the Class 3A state championship game. Thatch, who runs the 40 in 4.5 seconds, projects as a safety for the Tar Heels. He has a 3.0 GPA and a qualifying SAT score. His main recruiter with UNC was special teams coach Jim Webster.

Miami (FL) Killian RB Bobby Washington, rated one of the top 10 running backs in the nation, opted for childhood favorite Miami over Georgia, Michigan, Ohio State and Tennessee. He also had offers from Florida, FSU, Kentucky, Nebraska, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and many others. As a high school freshman, he carried 159 times for 1,059 yards and 16 touchdowns. As a sophomore, after transferring to Killian, he had 225 carries for 948 yards and 12 TDs. A second-team Class 6A all-state selection last season, he rushed 232 times for 1,556 yards and 20 scores. A first cousin of former Florida State and current NFL defensive back Derrick Gibson, Washington benches 310 pounds and runs the 40 in 4.5 seconds. He has a 2.3 GPA but has not yet posted a qualifying ACT/SAT score.

Highland Springs (VA) High OL Tony Willis, rated one of the top 50 seniors in Virginia, picked Clemson over interest from Akron, UNC, NCSU, Ohio, Virginia and Virginia Tech. A four-year starter, he benches 315 pounds and runs the 40 in 5.3 seconds. He missed three games last season with a foot injury but did not need surgery and is fully recovered. His father, John Thomas, played football at North Carolina A&T. Willis has a 2.7 GPA and a 900 SAT score.

Others Announce Early Decisions

Tallahassee (FL) Lincoln QB Joe Bauserman committed to Ohio State over Central Florida, Clemson, Louisville and South Florida. Virginia also showed interest. His aunt worked at OSU and still lives in Columbus. Also a pro baseball prospect, Bauserman said he won't enroll at OSU until January 2005 at the earliest. … Germantown (OH) Valley View FB Brock Bolen selected Illinois over Cincinnati, Louisville, Maryland, Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Wake Forest and Wisconsin. … Atlanta (GA) Mays QB Calvin Booker chose Auburn over interest from Duke, Georgia Tech, Northwestern, Notre Dame and Stanford. … Falmouth (VA) Stafford OL John Bradshaw picked West Virginia over Duke, UNC, Northwestern and Virginia Tech. … Washington (DC) Dunbar QB/WR Stadford Brown chose Oregon State over interest from Maryland, Syracuse, Temple, Virginia and Virginia Tech.

Imperial (PA) West Allegany PK Dave Brytus, rated one of the top 10 kickers in the nation, selected Purdue over Michigan, UNC, Ohio State and Pittsburgh. … Kennesaw (GA) Mountain OL Jeremy Ciulla chose Michigan over Arkansas, Auburn, Central Florida, Clemson, Duke, FSU, Georgia, Georgia Tech, LSU, Maryland, Mississippi, UNC, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Stanford, Tennessee, Virginia and Virginia Tech. … Jacksonville (FL) Trinity Christian OL Zach Davis picked East Carolina over interest from Auburn, Central Florida, South Florida and Vanderbilt. He benches 350 pounds and runs the 40 in 5.0 seconds. He's projected as a center for the Pirates. … Leighton (AL) Colbert County LB Courtney Harden chose Auburn over Alabama, Alabama-Birmingham, Georgia Tech and Mississippi State. … Nedrow (NY) Onondaga Central RB Mike Hart picked Michigan over Boston College, Connecticut, Maryland, Miami, Michigan State, Syracuse, Vanderbilt, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Secaucus (NJ) High OL Austin Hinton selected Penn State over Boston College, Clemson and Rutgers. … Grand Rapids (MI) Creston RB Justin Hoskins chose Notre Dame over Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue. … Cleveland (OH) St. Ignatius QB Brian Hoyer selected Michigan State over Maryland, South Carolina and Wake Forest. … Pittsburgh (PA) North Hills RB Andrew Johnson opted for Pittsburgh over Boston College, Colorado, Iowa, Ohio State, UCLA, Virginia Tech, West Virginia and Wisconsin. … Forestville (MD) High DB Andre Jones selected Boston College over offers from Kent State and Syracuse and interest from Maryland and UNC. … Lilburn (GA) Parkview RB Brad Lester chose Auburn over Duke, Indiana, Northwestern, Notre Dame, South Carolina and Virginia.

East Meadow (NY) High OL Rich Ohrnberger picked Penn State over Boston College, Duke, Purdue, Syracuse, Virginia Tech and West Virginia. … Amherst (NY) Central WR Mark Rubin selected Penn State over Boston College and Syracuse. Georgia Tech, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh also showed interest. … Mount Carmel (PA) High OL Jon Skinner chose Ohio State over Boston College, UConn, Duke, Maryland, Michigan State, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Temple, Virginia Tech and West Virginia. … Plantation (FL) High TE Darrell Strong opted for Pittsburgh over Central Florida, Marshall and Mississippi State.

Ramsey (NJ) Don Bosco Prep QB Mike Teel chose Rutgers over an offer from Wisconsin and interest from Boston College, Maryland, Michigan State and Virginia. … Lake Orion (MI) High OL Trent Varva picked Penn State over Boston College, Colorado, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State, Northwestern and Oklahoma State. … Bealeton (VA) Liberty DE Jeff Washington selected Temple over interest from UConn, Indiana, Kentucky, Marshall and UNC. … Mississippi Delta (MS) Community College DT Claude Wroten picked LSU over Florida, Miami, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Texas A&M.

Class Of 2003 Attrition Notes

Although a few loose ends remained entering August, it's time for a near-final update on the ACC's Class of 2003. As is often the case, the league's three top-ranked classes — in this case, those at NCSU, UNC and FSU — incurred the most casualties.

For the second year in a row and the third time in four years, the Seminoles suffered the highest attrition rate (four of 18, or 22 percent) in the ACC. That number does not include Fort Meade (FL) High OL Andraus Grace, who committed to FSU but never signed because of academic shortcomings. Chatham (VA) Hargrave Military DT Chris Anderson, a prep All-American from Jacksonville (FL) Mandarin and a two-time FSU signee, said he plans to enroll at either Marshall or Middle Tennessee State this fall as a non-qualifier. (The ACC does not permit non-qualifiers.) Quincy (FL) Shanks WR DeCody Fagg said he probably will continue to take the ACT and SAT in hopes of achieving a passing grade and enrolling at FSU in January. Jacksonville (FL) First Coast OL Aubrey McPhadden, a prep All-American, said he probably will continue to take the ACT and SAT in hopes of achieving a passing grade and enrolling at FSU in January. Daytona Beach (FL) Seabreeze LB Anthony Kelly enrolled at Jones County (MS) Junior College and hopes to transfer to FSU in January 2005.

North Carolina, with four non-qualifiers, suffered more academic attrition this year than at any time in the history of the program. (In a four-class span from 1999-2002, the Tar Heels had a total of four non-qualifiers.) Wendell (NC) East Wake DE Terry Hunter, a prep All-American, joined three fellow 2003 signees — Wilmington (NC) Laney DT/DE Marcus Hands, Virginia Beach (VA) First Colonial DT Khalif Mitchell and Virginia Beach (VA) Kempsville DT Kenny Price — in enrolling at Hargrave Military Academy. All four players said they still plan to enroll at UNC, in some cases as early as January. Meanwhile, entering August, juco All-American DB Lionell Green still needed to complete summer-school work in order to be eligible for the Heels this fall.

N.C. State had three non-qualifiers, and a fourth signee still was working with the NCAA Clearinghouse entering August. Williamsport (PA) High RB Darrell Blackman, a prep All-American, enrolled at Hargrave Military Academy. Jacksonville (FL) Mandarin RB Brian Dennison, another potential 2003 contributor, enrolled at Kilgore (TX) Community College. Rocky Mount (NC) Northern Nash DE Chad Green said he will attend junior college in Mississippi, probably Jones County (MS) Junior College. All three players said they plan to re-sign with the Wolfpack. Meanwhile, Jacksonville (FL) White LB Guerlin Dervil enrolled in a summer course in a late attempt to become a qualifier.

Elsewhere in the ACC, Virginia lost prep All-American DB Phillip Brown and LB James Terry. (Terry reportedly met NCAA requirements but was denied admission to UVa.) Maryland lost prep All-American WR Keon Lattimore and possibly juco OL Robert Jenkins, a January enrollee whose eligibility remains in jeopardy this summer. Clemson lost juco All-American DB Brian Staley and was waiting on one other signee at press time. Finally, according to information provided by the 2003 signees at Duke, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest, all members of those schools' classes made the grade academically.

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