By Dave Glenn, ACC Sports Journal
July 10, 2002
With early commitments from three of the top 10 prospects in North Carolina, UNC coach John Bunting is off to as good a start as anyone in the ACC. Here are some details on the Tar Heels' most recent additions:
Fayetteville (NC) Byrd RB/DB Bryan Bethea, rated one of the top 25 rising seniors in North Carolina, committed to UNC over interest (but no offers) from Duke, Tennessee, Virginia and Wake Forest. As a junior, he rushed for 1,359 yards on 199 carries and scored 14 touchdowns. Also a part-time cornerback in high school, he hopes to play tailback in college and said UNC coaches promised him a shot at the position. His half-brother, Patrick Pinkney, is one of the top quarterbacks in the state in the Class of 2004.
"He's not one of those 200-pounders a lot of the colleges like these days, but he's a really tough kid who works hard, never tires out and is always going forward," Byrd coach Bob Paroli said. "Right now, he's probably more of a cornerback than a running back. With another 15 pounds, he'll be fine (at tailback). If that doesn't work out, he'll be a very good corner.
"We're excited about this, because Bryan is one of the best we've had when you look at the total package in the last 20 or 25 years. UNC is a great fit for him, academically and athletically. He's serious about both, and UNC is serious about both. John Bunting is a class person, and he runs a class program. He's a no-nonsense coach, and (Bethea) is a no-nonsense young man."
Wilmington (NC) Laney DT Marcus Hands, rated one of the top 10 rising seniors in North Carolina, chose UNC over East Carolina, N.C. State, Penn State, South Carolina, Wake Forest and others. Nebraska and Tennessee also showed interest. He had 38 tackles and three sacks as a junior for a 15-1 team that reached the state 4A title game. He transferred to Laney before last season from Wilmington (NC) Hoggard, where he started as a freshman and sophomore. He followed recent Laney products Kitwana Jones and Rashaad Tindall in picking the Tar Heels.
"Marcus could have played anywhere," first-year Laney coach Chuck Martin said. "But he's been to Chapel Hill a few times, once in January or February for academic orientation for juniors, and that really left an impression on him. He actually committed to the UNC coaches a long time ago, but he waited until this spring to announce it. Some people compare him to Julius Peppers. That's not really fair right now, but with a lot of hard work, he could reach that level."
Tallahassee (FL) North Florida Christian QB Roger Heinz, rated one of the top 100 rising seniors in Florida, picked UNC over Alabama, Alabama-Birmingham, Clemson, Cincinnati, Louisville, Maryland, Northwestern, South Carolina, South Florida, Troy State, Tulane and Wake Forest. Florida, FSU and Purdue also showed interest. As a junior, he completed 129 of 216 passes for almost 2,400 yards and 28 touchdowns with only seven interceptions for a team (12-2 last season) that has won four consecutive Class 1A state championships. He attended nine camps this summer, including those at Clemson, Duke, Maryland, UNC, N.C. State and Wake Forest. His brother, Matt, is a redshirt freshman offensive lineman at FSU.
"I told everyone I would make my decision this summer, because I didn't want to be distracted (with recruiting) during the season," Heinz said. "We're going for our fifth straight state championship, and I'm taking that challenge very seriously. Because I was able to go to so many camps this summer meet the coaches, see the campuses, learn more about the schools I felt totally comfortable making an early decision.
"I really liked Clemson and Maryland a lot, and I felt some loyalty to Maryland because they were one of my first scholarship offers, but my trip to Chapel Hill made everything clear to me. Coach Bunting was the most interesting head coach I met, really direct and honest and down-to-earth and easy to talk to. We talked about a lot of different subjects. The whole coaching staff was probably the biggest factor in my decision. You can just tell they're a program on the rise."
Wendell (NC) East Wake DT/DE Terry Hunter, rated one of the top 10 rising seniors in North Carolina, chose UNC over Clemson, Florida, FSU, Georgia, Maryland, N.C. State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and many others. Colorado and Michigan also showed interest. A life-long fan of the Tar Heels, he attended their camp this summer and committed soon after returning home. He bench presses 330 pounds and had 62 tackles (including eight sacks) as a junior. Former East Wake star Greg Ellis, a defensive end, played at UNC from 1994-97 and became a first-round NFL draft pick.
"(N.C. State) recruited him really hard, but he was UNC all the way as soon as they offered a scholarship," East Wake coach Jimmy Williams said. "UNC was his dream school all along, and I know he likes the way they've put so many of their defensive linemen in the NFL. He has incredible lateral quickness, but he'll probably develop enough bulk to play inside (at tackle) in college. Right now he's just incredibly long and lean and athletic."
Rocky Mount (NC) High WR Mike Mason, rated one of the top 10 rising seniors in North Carolina, chose UNC over East Carolina, Florida, Notre Dame, Stanford, Virginia and Wake Forest. A first-team all-conference and all-area selection as a junior, he had 66 catches for 975 yards and 10 TDs last season. At this year's Nike Camp in Chapel Hill, he posted a 4.32 time in the 40-yard dash, the best time of any camper. He originally planned to graduate from high school in December, but he recently said he'll take the more traditional route and arrive at UNC next summer. He said in July that he's still being recruited by several schools, including Virginia, but that he remains 100 percent committed to the Tar Heels.
"It's just the perfect place for me," Mason said. "I love being there. I've had UNC stuff in my room forever, and a lot of my friends go there. They have a great business school, and Coach Bunting is a great guy. All of the coaches are cool, and I like their style of play. I just like everything about them. There's nothing not to like."
Others Select ACC Area Teams
Springfield (VA) West Springfield OL Marshall Ausberry Jr., rated one of the top 25 rising seniors in Virginia, committed to Virginia over Marshall and Virginia Tech. Maryland and Penn State also showed interest. A recent convert to weight training, he bench presses only 265 pounds, but his improved conditioning helped him drop about 50 pounds (from 370) over the past year. Also the starting center for his school's basketball team, he has a 3.2 GPA and scored 970 on the SAT. His father played football at James Madison. His main recruiter was UVa assistant Al Golden.
Teaneck (NJ) High RB Lance Ball, rated one of the top 10 rising seniors in New Jersey, picked Maryland over Boston College, Georgia, Michigan State, Rutgers, Syracuse, Vanderbilt and Wisconsin. Notre Dame, Penn State, Virginia and Virginia Tech also showed interest. One of the stars of a Nike camp held at Penn State in April, he has 4.4 speed and bench presses 325 pounds. He had 170 carries for 1,591 yards and 22 TDs as a junior.
Amherst (VA) Amherst County DE Barry Booker, rated one of the top 25 rising seniors in Virginia, picked Virginia Tech over East Carolina. Auburn, Maryland, UNC, Tennessee and Virginia also showed interest. He played fullback and linebacker last season but projects as a defensive end for the Hokies. He has a 2.7 GPA. He'll join two former Amherst County teammates, defensive back Brian MacPherson and defensive tackle Tim Sandidge, in Blacksburg.
Powder Springs (GA) McEachern OL Jarrod Britt, rated one of the top 25 rising seniors in Georgia, picked Clemson over scholarship offers from more than 30 schools, including Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Kentucky and Maryland. He bench presses 350 pounds and was a second-team all-state selection last season. He has a 2.8 GPA and 840 SAT score. His childhood favorite was Georgia, but the Bulldogs told him he wasn't big enough to play for their team.
Virginia Beach (VA) Kellam DB Robbie Catterton, rated one of the top 25 rising seniors in Virginia, chose Virginia over East Carolina and Wake Forest. Maryland, Ohio State, Penn State, South Carolina and Virginia Tech also showed interest. A second-team all-district selection, he had 115 tackles and four interceptions as a junior. An excellent outfielder, he also hopes to play baseball for the Cavaliers.
Hyattsville (MD) DeMatha Catholic QB Ryan Mitch, rated one of the top 10 rising seniors in Maryland, picked Maryland over Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Louisville, UNC and UCLA. A three-year starter for a very strong program, he threw for 1,500 yards and 12 TDs as a junior with only three interceptions. He said the Maryland campus is located less than 15 minutes from his home.
Columbia (SC) Irmo LB Tray Rogers (6-1, 205), the son of legendary South Carolina tailback George Rogers, announced for South Carolina over interest from Georgia, Georgia Tech and UNC. As a junior, he had more than 100 tackles. Tray, whose brother plays at Furman, is not listed as a USC commitment because he said he still plans to take official visits to his other favorites. His main recruiter was USC assistant Joker Phillips.
Somerville (NJ) Immaculata OL Gordie Sammis, rated one of the top 25 rising seniors in New Jersey, picked Virginia over Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Temple, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest. Boston College, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Syracuse also showed interest. He bench presses 350 pounds, has a 3.0 GPA and scored 1,100 on the SAT. He attended the Cavaliers' junior day during spring practice and returned to Charlottesville for summer camp. His main recruiter was UVa assistant Al Golden.
Coffeyville (KS) Community College DT Darrell Shropshire, formerly of Kershaw (SC) Jackson, committed to South Carolina over Auburn, Florida, LSU and Nebraska. A non-qualifier coming out of high school, he said he was originally referred to Coffeyville by USC coaches. He bench presses 325 pounds and had 54 tackles and six sacks last fall. He hopes to graduate from junior college in December and join the Gamecocks in January 2003. His main recruiter was USC assistant Dave Roberts.
Union (SC) High WR David Smith, rated one of the top 25 rising seniors in South Carolina, picked USC over interest (but no offers) from Clemson, Florida, FSU, Georgia, UNC, Tennessee and Virginia. He said he made his decision while attending the Gamecocks' summer camp. A three-year starter with 4.6 speed, he had 79 receptions for 1,460 yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior. He's the teammate of two other prominent USC targets, linebacker Curtis Rice and offensive lineman Eric Young.
Clifton (VA) Centreville OL Matt Welsh, rated one of the top 10 rising seniors in Virginia, chose Virginia Tech over Michigan State, Tennessee, Virginia and many others. A first-team Class 3A selection as a junior, he attended a Tech practice in April, stayed for the spring game and returned to Blacksburg for a 48-player photo shoot staged by national recruiting analyst Tom Lemming. The Hokies have signed several Centreville alumni in recent years, including offensive lineman Danny McGrath, offensive lineman Will Montgomery and linebacker Blake Warren, and they remain in pursuit of Class of 2003 linebacker Brett Warren, Blake's brother.
Talented Targets Head Elsewhere
New Orleans (LA) East Jefferson LB James Alford committed to Colorado over Auburn, Baylor, Clemson, Florida, Tulane and West Virginia. Lewisville (TX) Hebron LB Lewis Baker opted for Texas over more than 20 other offers, including those from Arkansas, Boston College, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, UCLA and Vanderbilt. Jersey City (NJ) St. Peter's QB Joe Dailey committed to Syracuse over Rutgers and Virginia Tech. Boston College, Iowa, Maryland, Pittsburgh, Temple and Virginia also showed interest. ... Pearland (TX) High LB Scott Derry selected Texas over Baylor, Boston College, Georgia Tech, Purdue, Stanford and Texas A&M. Lindale (GA) Pepperell DT Marcus Dixon, rated one of the top 25 rising seniors in Georgia, chose Vanderbilt over Auburn, Georgia, Georgia Tech and many others. He had 65 tackles and three sacks as a junior. He has a 3.9 GPA.
Cleveland (OH) St. Ignatius DB Tony Gonzalez picked Ohio State over Boston College, Louisville, Maryland and Oklahoma State. Michigan, Northwestern, Notre Dame and Virginia also showed interest. ... Brandon (MS) High LB/DE Ken Griffith selected Mississippi State over South Carolina. Clemson, Georgia, Georgia Tech, LSU, Mississippi and West Virginia also showed interest. Bealeton (VA) Liberty FB Mike Hull picked Pittsburgh over interest (but no offers) from Maryland, UNC, Michigan State, Mississippi and Virginia Tech. He rushed for more than 1,300 yards and scored 24 touchdowns as a junior. Dallas (TX) Bishop Lynch DT Thomas Marshall opted for Texas over Arizona, Baylor and Georgia Tech. Palm Beach Gardens (FL) Dwyer WR/DB Jermaine Moreira, who played last season at Palm Beach Gardens (FL) High, committed to Florida over Central Florida, Georgia, Miami and Ohio State.
Winter Park (FL) Lake Howell WR Chris Narsesian chose Pittsburgh over Central Florida, Rutgers and Tulane. Auburn, Cincinnati, Florida, Navy, Purdue and Wake Forest also showed interest. He had 31 receptions for 888 yards and seven TDs as a junior. Miami (FL) Central DE Brian Pata opted for Miami over Auburn, Central Florida, Clemson, Florida, FSU, Georgia, LSU, N.C. State and Rutgers. He had 54 tackles and nine sacks as a junior. Paterson (NJ) Catholic DB Rashawn Ricks chose Rutgers over Maryland, Pittsburgh and Syracuse. Virginia also showed interest. New Orleans (LA) Curtis OL Jerry Sevin selected LSU over offers from more than 30 schools, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia Tech, Michigan, Ohio State, Texas, Texas A&M, Tennessee, UCLA and West Virginia. Oakhurst (NJ) Ocean Township DB Tre Timbers picked Rutgers over Virginia. Maryland, Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin also showed interest. Dacula (GA) High LB Desmond Williams, rated one of the top 25 rising seniors in Georgia, picked Georgia over interest from Auburn, Florida, Maryland, Penn State, South Carolina and Virginia. A first-team Class 5A all-state selection, he had 173 tackles and three sacks as a junior. He has a 3.4 GPA and 990 SAT score.
Late Class Of 2002 Updates
Maryland recently joined Duke, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest as the only ACC schools whose entire recruiting classes have met minimum NCAA academic standards. Every other team has at least one prospect who still needed a qualifying score on one of the June standardized tests in order to be eligible this fall: Florida State (six), N.C. State (five), Virginia (five), Clemson (four) and UNC (one).
Numerous members of the Class of 2002 already have made alternative plans for this fall. Included in that group were three of the four defensive tackles signed by the Seminoles in February.
Jacksonville (FL) Mandarin DT Chris Anderson, a prep All-American, failed to qualify and enrolled at Butler County (KS) Community College. He hopes to arrive at FSU in January 2004. Alpharetta (GA) Chattahoochee DT Chris Bradwell, a projected qualifier for many months, came up short and plans to enroll at Fork Union (VA) Military. Jacksonville (FL) White TE Lonnie Davis failed to qualify but may appeal his status to the NCAA Clearinghouse. Unless a potential appeal is granted, he plans to sit out the fall semester while attempting to achieve a qualifying standardized test score, with the hope of joining the Seminoles in January 2003. Punta Gorda (FL) Charlotte WR Dishon Platt, another prep All-American, fell short of NCAA minimums after a qualifying ACT score was thrown out. He's undecided about his plans for this fall. Jacksonville (FL) White DT Chris Turner, another prep All-American, also came up short on the standardized tests. He said he'll either sit out while continuing to take the tests, or he'll attend Chatham (VA) Hargrave Military. All five players said they hope to re-sign with the Seminoles.
Tampa (FL) Hillsborough LB/DE Elijah Dukes, an N.C. State signee and a third-round pick of Tampa Bay in the recent Major League Baseball draft, said he's close to a deal with the Devil Rays that will pay him a signing bonus of more than $850,000. Vienna (GA) Dooly County DT Alex Lumpkin said he'll enroll at Hinds (MS) Community College, on the advice of NCSU coaches, with the hope of re-signing with the Wolfpack in 2004.
Kannapolis (NC) Brown DB Chris Carter, a Clemson signee, failed to qualify and announced plans to attend Chatham (VA) Hargrave Military this fall. Pamplico (SC) Hannah-Pamplico DE Cory Groover, a prep All-American who signed with the Tigers, also failed to qualify. He said he'll attend Southwest Mississippi (MS) Community College. Both players said they hope to re-sign with Clemson, Carter in 2003 and Groover in 2004. The Tigers also are expected to lose Lilburn (GA) Parkview DB Jeff Francoeur, a fully qualified two-sport star who is close to a deal with the Atlanta Braves that will include a signing bonus of more than $1 million.
Meanwhile, the academic status of the following ACC signees was reported as tenuous this spring and remained unconfirmed at press time: Avon (CT) Old Farms WR LaMart Barrett and Belle Glade (FL) Glades Central LB Garland Heath of N.C. State; Arlington (VA) Washington-Lee DT Robert Armstrong, Woodbridge (VA) Hylton LB Ahmad Brooks, Dumfries (VA) Potomac DT Keenan Carter and Nassau (NY) Community College OL Robert Jenkins of Virginia; Fork Union (VA) Military DE Gaines Adams and Conyers (GA) Rockdale County DE Irvin Brisker of Clemson; Wilmington (NC) Laney DB Rashaad Tindall of UNC; and Hinds (MS) Community College WR Chauncey Stovall of FSU. Several other prospects, included in the team numbers above, declined to confirm their academic status but also reportedly remained short of NCAA minimums.
Brooks said he will either enroll at Virginia as a partial qualifier or attend Fork Union (VA) Military. Jenkins actually met NCAA standards coming out of high school but is expected to be turned down for the second year in a row by the UVa admissions department. Brisker said he will attend Fork Union (VA) Military if he falls short.
In other recent Class of 2002 news, Kissimmee (FL) Osceola RB Jason Teague signed with Michigan State over late interest from several ACC and SEC schools. In three years as a starter, he rushed for 4,504 yards and 50 touchdowns. He had planned to attend Arizona Western (AZ) Junior College before the Spartans came through with a very late scholarship offer.
Also within the ACC area, Florida picked up a pair of late signees. (Those who make their decisions after the NCAA's annual signing period actually sign institutional grants-in-aid that are binding on the university but not the player.) Bradenton (FL) Southeast OL/DL Todd Bunce and Miami (FL) Washington DE McKenzie Pierre signed with the Gators in June. Pierre, whose family is originally from Haiti, has played organized football for less than two years but gained 50 pounds over the last 12 months.
Finally, N.C. State still hopes to add former signee and long-time WR/DB commitment William Johnson (6-2, 205) this fall. Formerly of Miami (FL) Killian and Wayne (PA) Valley Forge Military, Johnson signed with NCSU in 2000 and committed in 2001 but failed to qualify both times. He's taking nine credits at Miami-Dade (FL) Community College this summer in an attempt to earn his associate's degree. He plans to finish up on July 27 and arrive in Raleigh in time for preseason workouts.