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Large Linemen Highlight Yet Another Outstanding Talent Crop

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

By Scott Kennedy, Scout.com
August 27, 2005

The strength of the Class of 2006 in Georgia, and in the South overall, is on the offensive line. According to some analysts, the top-ranked players in Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina and Alabama this season are all offensive linemen. In the Peach State, in particular, this happy tale goes much deeper than the top of the list.

Justin Anderson of Ocilla Irwin County is ranked the No. 1 prospect in the state by Scout.com. The Georgia commitment has excellent size at 6-4 and 315 pounds. A dominating run blocker with terrific feet, he has the size and strength to make an early contribution in Athens should the Bulldogs need to call on him.

Kiante Tripp of Atlanta Westlake is an interesting prospect at offensive tackle, although he might not end up there on the next level. He has the frame and the quickness at 6-5 and 250 pounds, but several teams are looking at him on the defensive line as well.

Chris Davis of Jefferson High is another early Georgia commitment. At 6-5 and 250 pounds, he plays mostly tight end for his high school team, but he projects as an offensive lineman in college. He has the quickness of a tight end with the mentality of a linebacker. In short, he plays the game with a mean streak.

Maurice Hurt of Milledgeville Baldwin is another huge interior line prospect, at 6-4 and more than 330 pounds. He plays tackle for the Braves, but he likely will move inside on the college level. He dominated the competition at the Scout.com Combine held in Auburn, Ala., in April.

Speaking of huge linemen, they don't come much bigger than 6-5, 375-pound Lionel Mapp of Greensboro Greene County. He timed a 5.7 in the 40-yard dash at the Kennedy/CES Combine held in January. For some perspective, Duke Robinson of Atlanta Washington, who had Oklahoma and Georgia battling until signing day (he chose the Sooners) a year ago, timed 5.85 last year at 320 pounds.

The Class of 2004 in Georgia was loaded with quality quarterbacks, with nearly a dozen signing Division I-A scholarships. Predictably, the Class of 2005 was left relatively dry, but the signal-callers are making a comeback via the Class of 2006.

While the 2004 group was talented, with promising prospects such as Alonzo Bryant of Fort Valley Peach County (Georgia), Alex Mortensen of Fairburn Landmark Christian (Arkansas), Calvin Booker of Atlanta Mays (Auburn), D.T. McDowell of Tucker High (Troy) and Cullen Harper of Canton Sequoyah (Clemson), the state has lacked a big, pocket passer.

Well, they're all in the Class of 2006. The Peach State even has four quarterbacks in the 6-6 range this season. David Cone of Statesboro High, who helped lead his team to the Georgia Dome in 2004 with a stunning comeback against Tucker High, made an early pledge to Michigan. Maybe the best of this bunch is 6-2, 205-pound Antonio Henton of Fort Valley Peach County. An Ohio State commitment, he will have to shoulder a big load for the Trojans this year as they rebuild. Having the state's top receiver on his team should help.

The best run/pass quarterback in the state is Leesburg Lee County star D'Vontrey Richardson, a dynamic athlete who also is a star baseball player. He could end up playing another position on the college level, similar to Bryant from the Class of 2004. Richardson made a summer commitment to Florida State, but he later backed off that pledge. Clemson and Georgia are among the many programs trying to unseat the Seminoles in this race.

Running back is the glamour position in the South, thanks to legendary players such as Herschel Walker (Georgia), Bo Jackson (Auburn) and Emmitt Smith (Florida). There are several good backs to choose from in Georgia once again this year.

Carlos Brown of Franklin Heard County has the size and the speed to be a great one. Still growing at 6-0 and almost 200 pounds, Brown is a standout in baseball as well as football. His blend of power and speed have made him a top target of schools across the South and beyond, including FSU, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech from the ACC.

Cameron Smith of Snellville Brookwood is an electric back who once toiled in relative obscurity for a bad Norcross Meadowcreek team that didn't take advantage of a talented roster, which since has been gutted. Now that Smith is at Brookwood, many believe he will have the coaching and supporting cast he needs to have a monster senior season.

Jo Jo Cox of Jeffersonville Twiggs County, a Clemson commitment, is a compact running back at 5-10 and 215 pounds, and he has outstanding balance and tackle-breaking ability. Fred Munzenmaier of Norcross High and Danny Carmichael of Woodstock High are two big fullbacks to keep an eye on. Car-michael, also a standout linebacker, could play either position on the college level.

One of Henton's teammates at Fort Valley Peach County has been listed by many as the top wide receiver in the state. Chris Slaughter burst onto the scene as a sophomore in the Georgia Dome, as Peach County dispatched Spalding High. Slaughter and Henton may form the most dangerous pitch-and-catch combination in the state, although they have some stiff competition.

Kris Durham of Calhoun High is a big wide receiver at 6-5, and he will team with QB Cody Worley to challenge Henton and Slaughter as the most dangerous duo in the state. Durham committed to Georgia in the spring. Justin Williams of Folkston Charlton County helped lead his team to a state championship last year, winning at Buford High. He made big plays on both sides of the ball, but he projects as a wide receiver on the college level.

He's not listed as a top-25 prospect by most analysts, but some believe that Demaryius Thomas of Dublin West Laurens is the top receiver in the state. He's a smooth route runner with soft hands and a great frame at 6-3 and 210 pounds. He is athletic enough that West Laurens also lines him up at cornerback on defense.

The defensive tackle position may be the hardest for college recruiters to fill, because athletic big men who are academically qualified for college are hard to come by. But here, too, the Peach State has something to offer this season.

Ryan McMahon of Rome Darlington made an early commitment to Florida State. The Seminoles were the first school to offer him. Michael Lemon of Macon Stratford may not play in a big league, but he has big-league schools after him, with offers from the likes of Georgia and Auburn. Byron Isom of Lovejoy High, one of the most heavily recruited players in the state, could play on either side of the line in college.

The defensive end position has been a good one in recent years for the state of Georgia, and this year is no exception.

Brandon Wood of Tallapoosa Haralson County is a virtual clone of former Haw-kinsville High superstar Charles Johnson. Johnson ended up at Georgia, and Wood already has made a commitment to the Bulldogs as well.

Demarcus Dobbs of Savannah Calvary Baptist is from a small school, but he has big talent. It took some time for the larger programs to become believers, but he walked away with offers from all of the summer camps he attended. This one looks like an in-state battle between the Bulldogs and Georgia Tech.

Jermaine Cunningham is one of several standouts at Stone Mountain Stephenson this year. The quick defensive end spent a lot of time in opponents' backfields in 2004, and he'll only make it harder on Jaguar opponents this year.

As is the case at defensive end, Georgia has been a hotbed for linebackers.

Marcus Ball of Stone Mountain Stephenson is the top prospect in the Atlanta metro area. The linebacker corps is so loaded at Stephenson that the Jaguars will have the luxury of playing Ball at strong safety. Ball has two teammates at linebacker in Perry Riley and Kelvin Sheppard who each have multiple I-A offers. Did we mention that Stephenson is loaded at linebacker?

Bo Harris of Conyers Heritage also plays running back and has a great combination of size and speed. Atlanta Westlake's Morrice Richardson is a hybrid who could play at linebacker or end in college.

Cornerback and defensive tackle seem to be the hardest positions to find standout players, and there isn't a dearth of corners this year, either.

That helps explain how valuable a recruit Tucker High's Asher Allen is. He is a great athlete who can play on either side of the ball, but with his ability to play corner, he has teams foaming at the mouth.

Carson Hill of Milledgeville Baldwin has picked up several good offers as well. He is a confident defensive back who likes to take chances, and he usually wins those gambles. David Pender is a track champion at Folkston Charlton County, and his big plays in the Georgia Dome helped propel his team to a state championship.

Safety is usually a position that is hard to fill as well, but Georgia is loaded with some terrific playmakers for that spot.

Mario Fannin of Lovejoy High plays quarterback for the Wildcats, but he will be at another position for his college career. An Auburn commitment, he has the ability to be a ball-hawking safety who makes the big hit. Reshad Jones of Atlanta Washington, a fluid strider who glides across the gridiron, makes plays every time he steps on the field.

Darryl Gamble of Bainbridge High is a big defensive back who could end up seeing time at linebacker in college. Quintin Banks of Warner Robins Houston County is the tallest of this group at 6-2, and he also may be the hardest hitter.

GEORGIA'S TOP 40

No. Name Pos. Ht./Wt. High School College Favorites
1. Justin Anderson OL 6-4/315 Ocilla Irwin County GEORGIA
2. Brandon Wood DE 6-1/255 Tallapoosa Haralson County GEORGIA
3. Marcus Ball LB/DB 6-0/205 Stone Mtn. Stephenson Aub., Ga., FSU, LSU, VT*
4. Carlos Brown RB 6-0/195 Franklin Heard County FSU, Ga., GT, Aub., VT*
5. D'Vontrey Richardson QB/DB 6-1/205 Leesburg Lee County FSU, Ga., Clem.*
6. Chris Slaughter WR 6-2/170 Ft. Valley Peach Co. Aub., USC, Ga., Mich., Fla.*
7. Jermaine Cunningham DE 6-4/210 Stone Mtn. Stephenson Fla., Aub., LSU, Tenn., Mich.*
8. Reshad Jones DB 6-1/180 Atlanta Washington LSU, Fla., Miami, Okla., Clem.*
9. Kiante Tripp OL 6-5/250 Atlanta Westlake Ga., Fla., Aub., Ala., ND*
10. Demarcus Dobbs DE 6-2/255 Savannah Calvary Baptist Ga., GT, FSU, Clem.*
11. Darryl Gamble LB/DB 6-2/215 Bainbridge High Ga., USC, Aub., Tenn., Clem.*
12. Mario Fannin RB/DB 5-10/205 Lovejoy High AUBURN
13. Asher Allen DB 5-10/180 Tucker High Ga., Fla., LSU, Aub., Clem.*
14. Toryan Smith LB 6-0/235 Rome High Fla., Mich., ND, Okla., Ga.*
15. Justin Williams WR 6-1/185 Folkston Charlton Co. Fla., Ga.*
16. Bo Harris LB 6-3/215 Conyers Heritage LSU, Ga., Fla., FSU, Okla.*
17. Ryan McMahon DT 6-2/280 Rome Darlington FLORIDA STATE
18. Cameron Smith RB 6-0/180 Snellville Brookwood UCLA, Ga., Ark., Mich., UVa*
19. Quintin Banks DB 6-2/190 Warner Robins Hous. Tenn., Aub., Ga., Miss., USC*
20. Lionel Mapp OL 6-5/375 Greensboro Greene Co. Ga., Fla., FSU, Ala., Miami*
21. Morrice Richardson LB/DE 6-2/230 Atlanta Westlake Fla., GT, Okla., Clem., VT*
22. Perry Riley LB 6-1/210 Stone Mtn. Stephenson LSU, Ga., Fla., Aub., Tenn.*
23. John Miller OL 6-5/285 Cartersville Woodland GEORGIA
24. Michael Lemon TE/DE 6-3/255 Macon Stratford Ga., LSU, Aub., GT, Clem.*
25. Lawrence Marsh TE/DE 6-4/255 Augusta Josey ND, Ga., Clem., Md., UNC*
26. Kelvin Sheppard LB 6-2/220 Stone Mtn. Stephenson LSU, Tenn., Fla., VT, Md.*
27. Demetrice Goode RB 5-9/175 LaGrange Troup Co. Aub., Ga., Fla., Miss., Miss.St.*
28. Kris Durham WR 6-5/185 Calhoun High GEORGIA
29. Jo Jo Cox RB 5-10/215 Jeffersonville Twiggs County CLEMSON
30. Antonio Henton QB 6-2/205 Ft. Valley Peach County OHIO STATE
31. Alex Dekle DT 6-1/265 Statesboro High OSU, Tenn., Miss., Miss.St.*
32. Jeremy Ringfield WR 6-5/195 Locust Grove Luella DUKE
33. Eric Norwood DE 6-2/250 Kennesaw N. Cobb Aub., Okla.St., Ark., UNC, BC*
34. Vandaral Shackleford LB/DB 6-0/200 Riverdale High UNC, Ga., Duke, Vandy*
35. Terrell Terry RB/DB 6-0/195 Thomaston Upson-Lee Aub., Ga., Clem., Tenn.*
36. Byron Ingram QB 6-4/175 Stone Mountain Redan GEORGIA TECH
37. David Cone QB 6-6/205 Statesboro High MICHIGAN
38. Dwayne Harris QB/DB 5-11/190 Tucker High UNC, BC, Md., LSU, Ark.*
39. Crawford Kilpatrick WR 6-5/195 Suwanee North Gwinnett Fla., LSU, Md., Duke*
40. Demaryius Thomas WR/TE 6-3/210 Dublin West Laurens GT, Aub., Clem., Ga., Duke*

NOTE: Preseason player rankings by the ACC Sports Journal.
* – also considering other schools