By Dave Glenn, ACC Sports Journal
July 26, 2004 Entering July, no ACC football program had fewer commitments than Wake Forest (one). During July, no conference team received more commitments than the Demon Deacons (eight). What happened?
In most cases, coach Jim Grobe and his assistants recently contacted their primary targets and encouraged summer decisions. They told the prospects how many players they expected to sign at their position, how many scholarship offers were out to other youngsters who played their position, and how the staff planned to commit their grants on a first-come, first-served basis. The targets who wanted to wait, of course, risked losing their spots with the Deacs.
"Right now, we only have 13 scholarships to offer (to members of the Class of 2005)," Wake Forest recruiting coordinator Ray McCartney said. "That number can change, of course, but we typically have a very low attrition rate here. This is our fourth year, and we've only lost one of our guys to academics in that time. So we don't know for sure what the exact number (of signees) will be, but it's definitely going to be a small class. We're very up front with the kids about it. Everybody is different, but I'm sure our low-numbers situation is encouraging some guys to make early decisions."
All of Wake's early commitments made their decisions soon after attending one of the program's summer camps. The options this year included a "Big Man" camp (June 12) for offensive and defensive linemen, an instructional camp (June 13-16) for prospects from age 13 through the rising senior class, and a team passing camp (July 10) for 20 high schools from Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. Seven of the Deacons' first nine commitments came from players based in those five states.
"With a lot of the kids we lose, the No. 1 reason we lose them is because they never set foot on our campus," McCartney said. "We really believe that Wake Forest is one of the best-kept secrets in the country. When we give (prospects) a very good look at a well-rounded university the total student-athlete experience they usually respond very well to us. Once you get on our campus, Wake Forest sells itself. You see the beauty of the campus and the commitment to academics and the commitment to football. Fortunately, there are still a lot of kids out there who see that as the perfect combination."
Below is a review of the prospects who most recently decided to spend their college years in Winston-Salem.
Duncan (SC) Byrnes OL Trey Bailey, rated one of the top 30 seniors in South Carolina, committed to Wake over Appalachian State and Furman. Cincinnati, East Carolina, Nebraska, UNC, South Carolina and Vanderbilt also showed interest, but childhood favorite Clemson did not. His former teammate, WR Jomar Wright, signed with Duke in February. As a junior, Bailey was the starting right guard for a 15-0 team that captured the Class 4A Division II state championship. A projected tackle this fall, he also played a lot for the Byrnes team that won a state title in 2002. A Wake summer camper, he benches 350 pounds, squats 550 and runs the 40 in 4.9 seconds. His main recruiter with the Deacons is defensive ends coach Keith Henry.
Winter Springs (FL) High QB Brett Hodges, rated one of the top 100 seniors in Florida, chose Wake over interest from Central Florida, ECU, Florida State and South Florida. A first-time starter as a junior, he connected on 111 of 214 passing attempts for 1,668 yards and nine touchdowns last fall for a team that finished with the best record (7-5) in school history. The Orlando Sentinel recently rated Hodges, who attended one of Wake's summer camps, the No. 2 senior quarterback in the Sunshine State. A two-sport star, Hodges also ranks as one of the highest-scoring guards in Central Florida and plays for the Orlando FastBreak AAU team. He benches 200 pounds, squats 250 and runs the 40 in 4.7 seconds. He has a 3.8 GPA and a 1,080 SAT score. His main recruiter with the Deacons is tight ends coach Tom Elrod, who is a graduate of Winter Park, another Orlando area high school.
Madisonville (TN) Sequoyah WR Jonathan Jones, rated one of the top 20 seniors in Tennessee, selected Wake over interest from Marshall and Vanderbilt. An all-conference selection, he had 10 touchdowns as a receiver and three interceptions as a cornerback as a junior. Also a (low) Division I basketball prospect who earned honorable mention all-state accolades in that sport last year, he averaged more than 20 points per game as a junior and is competing during the offseason at various summer events. A Wake summer camper, he runs the 40 in 4.5 seconds. He has a 3.4 GPA and a 24 ACT score. His main recruiter with the Deacons is defensive coordinator Dean Hood.
Mocksville (NC) Davie TE Ted Randolph, rated one of the top 25 seniors in North Carolina, opted for Wake over Clemson, Duke, ECU, UNC, South Carolina and Stanford. Ohio State and Virginia Tech also showed interest. His coach at Davie, Doug Illing, was a kicker for the Demon Deacons who lettered in 1984-85. As a junior, Randolph had 14 receptions for 198 yards for a 9-5 team that utilized a ground-based attack. A Wake summer camper, he benches 300 pounds, squats 400 and runs the 40 in 4.9 seconds. He has a 3.2 GPA and an 1,130 SAT score. His main recruiter with the Deacons is linebackers coach Brad Lambert.
Bunn (NC) High FB Mike Rinfrette, rated one of the top 40 seniors in North Carolina, chose Wake over childhood favorite UNC and Vanderbilt. Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia also showed interest. As a junior, he played fullback, tight end (21 receptions for a team-best 300 yards), linebacker and on both lines for a 10-3 team, and he has served as a long snapper for three years. After tallying 159 tackles (eight for loss), two fumble recoveries, two interceptions and a sack last fall, he was named the conference defensive player of the year, but he projects as a fullback for the Demon Deacons. He benches 320 pounds, squats 470 and runs the 40 in 4.8 seconds. He has a 3.0 GPA and an 1,100 SAT score.
Wagener (SC) Wagener-Salley WR/DB Channing Schofield, rated one of the top 25 seniors in South Carolina, selected Wake over South Carolina and Vanderbilt. Clemson (childhood favorite), Florida, Georgia, Maryland, N.C. State and Virginia also showed interest. A tailback, receiver and defensive back at Wagener-Salley, he rushed for 1,018 yards and 11 touchdowns as a junior and more than 800 yards as a sophomore. In Winston-Salem he hopes to play cornerback, where he posted 52 tackles and four interceptions last fall. Also a standout baseball player, he batted .391 with 30 stolen bases last season. A Wake summer camper, Schofield benches 250 pounds, runs the 40 in 4.5 seconds and has a vertical leap of 32 inches. He has a 3.0 GPA but has not yet posted an ACT or SAT score. His main recruiter with the Deacons is defensive ends coach Keith Henry.
Norcross (GA) Greater Atlanta Christian TE Ben Wooster, rated one of the top 75 seniors in Georgia, chose Wake over Louisville. Arizona, Arizona State, Army, Maryland, UNC, Stanford and Vanderbilt also showed interest. Former Greater Atlanta Christian star RB Micah Andrews signed with the Demon Deacons in 2003. Wooster arrived at GAC last summer, after he and his family moved from Arizona. He runs the 40 in 4.7 seconds. He has a 4.0 GPA and a 1,010 SAT score. His main recruiter with the Deacons is quarterbacks coach Jeff Mullen.
"The biggest factor was the (Wake) coaches," Wooster said. "I liked everything about the school and everything about the team, but I fell in love with the coaches."
Washington (DC) St. John's WR E.J. Wynn, rated one of the top 30 seniors in the Maryland/D.C. region, selected Wake over Akron. Boston College, Connecticut, Marshall and Syracuse also showed interest. Wynn joined the St. John's team last fall, after playing at Hyattsville (MD) DeMatha Catholic as a sophomore, and posted 22 receptions for 700-plus yards and five touchdowns. A Wake summer camper, he benches 190 pounds, squats 350 and runs the 40 in 4.55 seconds. He has a 3.3 GPA. His main recruiter with the Deacons is receivers coach Kevin Sherman.
"Coach Sherman said they were probably going to take two receivers this year, one big guy and one smaller guy. I'm (the smaller guy)," Wynn said. "I didn't want to go on too long with the other schools, then decide (Wake) was the best place for me and find out they gave my spot to someone else."
Tigers Suffer Massive 2004 Hits
As is the case in all major conferences, a significant number of ACC signees failed to qualify academically this year. Entering August, at least 21 Class of 2004 prospects had fallen short of university or NCAA standards, which take into consideration a player's core GPA in high school and his SAT/ACT score. Among the minimum qualifying combinations on the organization's sliding scale are a 2.5 core GPA with an 820 SAT score (17 ACT), a 2.0 core GPA with a 1,010 SAT score, and a 2.7 core GPA with a 730 SAT score. The higher the core GPA, the lower the required SAT/ACT score, and vice versa.
The biggest academic attrition news in the ACC this year came from Clemson, where at least six and possibly as many as eight 2004 signees failed to qualify. While such large numbers are not uncommon in the SEC and some other conferences, several veteran observers stated in July that eight non-qualifiers likely would represent an ACC record.
Although two cases remained on appeal, the Tigers' eight projected non-qualifiers were North Charleston (SC) Fort Dorchester TE/DE Durrell Barry, Middle Village (NY) Christ The King DT Elsmore Gabriel, Union (SC) High DT Rashad Jackson, Greenville (SC) High OL Cory Lambert, Camden (SC) Military DE Xavier Littleberry, Opelika (AL) High DT Jacquez McKissic (Clemson), Cordova (TN) High TE/DE Phillip Merling and Timmonsville (SC) High WR/DB Phillip Morris.
Barry said he plans to attend Fork Union Military Academy. Jackson, whose case is on appeal because of a claimed learning disability, said he will enroll at Southwest Mississippi (MS) Junior College if his petition is denied. Gabriel, Lambert, McKissic and Merling said they hope to attend prep school for the fall semester, improve their academic credentials, then enroll at Clemson, perhaps in January. Littleberry said he expects to be declared a full qualifier, after a question about his high school transcript is resolved, but would consider prep school if he's not permitted to enroll at Clemson in August. Morris said he plans to attend Georgia Military (GA) Junior College.
Elsewhere in the ACC, Virginia (three), FSU (two), N.C. State (two), Maryland (two), Virginia Tech (two), Miami (one) and UNC (one) also lost one or more 2004 signees to academic or disciplinary problems. In addition, entering August, at least a dozen other ACC signees still hadn't received approval from the NCAA Clearinghouse, meaning the league's attrition numbers likely will rise again in coming weeks. Less than a week before the start of some preseason camps, Boston College, Duke, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest remained the only conference teams whose entire recruiting classes had received NCAA certification.
Glen Burnie (MD) High OL Branden Albert, a Virginia signee, said he will enroll at Hargrave Military Academy. Greenville (NC) Rose RB Andre Brown, a prep All-American who signed with N.C. State, said he will enroll at Hargrave Military Academy. Fairfax (VA) Robinson LB Olu Hall, a prep All-American who signed with Virginia, said he will enroll at Hargrave Military Academy. Chatham (VA) Hargrave Military DT Marcus Hands, a two-time UNC signee, chose to enroll at East Carolina as a non-qualifier. (Under league rules, ACC teams are not permitted to utilize non-qualifiers.) Culpeper (VA) County DB Kent Hicks, a prep All-American who signed with Maryland, actually met NCAA minimums but was denied admission by the university. He opted in July to enroll at Virginia Tech, which was one of his other finalists during the original recruiting process.
Roanoke (VA) Northside OL Brandon Holland, a Virginia Tech signee, said he will enroll at Hargrave Military Academy. Fork Union (VA) Military FB James Terry, a Virginia signee, said he will enroll at Division I-AA Hofstra. (Terry, who signed with UVa in 2003 and again in 2004, reportedly met NCAA minimums but was denied admission by the university.) Blacksburg (VA) High FB/LB Sam Wheeler, a Virginia Tech signee, said he will enroll at Hargrave Military Academy. Palm Beach Gardens (FL) High DE Willie Young, an N.C. State signee, said he will enroll at Hargrave Military Academy.
The ACC's other known non-qualifiers entering August were Miami (FL) Washington DT Antonio Dixon (Miami), Deerfield Beach (FL) High DT Emmanuel Dunbar (FSU) and Greenbelt (MD) Roosevelt OL/DE Jared Gaither (Maryland).
Several Discipline Issues Linger
Previously, Florida State cut its ties with Madison (FL) Madison County DB Jonathan Warren, a 2004 signee who ran into legal problems soon after signing day in early February. A prep All-American, Warren was charged in mid-February with two counts of committing a lewd and lascivious act with a minor. Pending the results of a July 29 court appearance, he said he hoped to enroll at Butler County (KS) Community College this fall.
Most recently, Virginia announced that Bluefield (VA) Graham RB/DB Ahmad Bradshaw won't play for the Cavaliers this fall. When the 2004 signee ran into legal problems (obstruction of justice) in mid-July, about a month after his arrival in Charlottesville for summer school, UVa officials delved deeper into his background and found other disciplinary issues. His long-term future with the Wahoos is uncertain.
Finally, the status of Miami (FL) Carol City LB Willie Williams remained in doubt for reasons unrelated to academics. Williams, a prep All-American who signed with Miami, recently pleaded no contest to felony and misdemeanor charges that stemmed from his winter recruiting trip to Florida. (He was sentenced to one year of probation, plus restitution to the victims.) Williams, who has been arrested at least 11 times including at least four times on felony charges and now has pleaded no contest to two separate felonies, still has his revised application pending with the university admissions department. A decision is expected in early August.
Others Select ACC Programs
Westwood (MA) Xaverian Brothers QB Zack Asack, rated one of the top 10 seniors in Massachusetts, committed to Duke (first offer) over Bowling Green and Miami-Ohio. Childhood favorite Boston College, Miami, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Rutgers, Syracuse, Virginia and Wisconsin also showed interest. His father, Phil Asack, played fullback and linebacker for the Blue Devils from 1968-70. A soon-to-be three-year starter, Zack threw for about 1,500 yards and 10 touchdowns as a junior, while completing about 65 percent of his passes for a 9-2 team. Also a track star, Asack finished third in the state in the 55-meter hurdles (7.74 seconds) last year and runs the 100 meters in 13.3 seconds. He benches 240 pounds, squats 360 and runs the 40 in 4.53 seconds. He has a 3.2 GPA and a 1,010 SAT score. His main recruiter with the Blue Devils is receivers coach David Kelly.
La Marque (TX) High RB Russell Ball, rated one of the top 100 seniors in Texas, picked Florida State over Oklahoma State and Texas A&M. He also had offers from Arizona, BYU, Houston, Missouri, Northwestern, SMU and Texas Tech. A second-team Class 4A all-state selection, he rushed for 1,296 yards and 15 touchdowns for a 16-0 state championship team as a junior. Also a track star, he runs the 40 in 4.4 seconds and anchors the La Marque track team's sprint relay unit. His father, Derrick Florence, holds the Texas high school state record in the 100-meter dash. Russell said one of the reasons he picked the Seminoles is the program's track record with other small tailbacks, including Warrick Dunn and Travis Minor. Ball benches 260 pounds, squats 420 and has a vertical leap of 28 inches. He has a 2.8 GPA but still needs a qualifying ACT/SAT score. His main recruiter with the Seminoles is linebackers coach Kevin Steele.
Roanoke (VA) Fleming LB Darryl Gresham Jr., rated one of the top 10 seniors in Virginia, opted for Virginia over Clemson, Florida, Maryland and Virginia Tech. He also had offers from UNC, Tennessee and West Virginia. His father, Darryl Sr., played basketball at Florida in the 1980s. A second-team Group 2A all-state selection, Darryl Jr. had 123 tackles and six sacks for an 11-3 team as a junior. He benches 260 pounds, squats 410 and runs the 40 in 4.7 seconds. With a 2.5 GPA and a 770 SAT score, he must improve his academic credentials to qualify. His main recruiter with the Cavaliers is linebackers coach Danny Rocco.
Hinds (MS) Community College DE Greg Peterson, an NJCAA honorable mention preseason All-American, committed to N.C. State over interest from Mississippi State and Southern Miss. A former Beulaville (NC) East Duplin star who failed to qualify academically in 2003, Peterson had 23 tackles and seven sacks as a juco freshman last fall for a 9-2 team. His teammate at Hinds, former Rocky Mount (NC) Northern Nash standout and 2003 NCSU signee DE Chad Green, previously re-committed to the Wolfpack for the Class of 2005 and recently was voted to the NJCAA preseason All-American first team. Peterson, who runs the 40 in 4.6 seconds, hopes to graduate from Hinds in May and enroll at NCSU next summer. His main recruiter with the Wolfpack is receivers coach Doc Holliday.
Belle Glade (FL) Glades Central DB Randy Phillips, rated one of the top 100 seniors in Florida, selected childhood favorite Miami over FSU and Ohio State. He also had offers from Connecticut, Duke, Notre Dame, South Florida and others. A second-team all-county selection, he had 97 tackles and four sacks for an 11-1 team as a junior. He projects as a safety for UM. He has a 3.0 GPA and a 19 ACT score. His main recruiter with the Hurricanes is tight ends coach Mario Cristobal.
Burlington (NC) Cummings WR Brandon Tate, rated one of the top 25 seniors in North Carolina, chose childhood favorite UNC over East Carolina and West Virginia. Virginia and Virginia Tech also showed interest. As a junior, he had 22 receptions for 496 yards and eight touchdowns while playing 11 games for a 15-1 team that reached the Class 2A state title game for the second straight season. A UNC summer camper, he runs the 40 in 4.5 seconds. His main recruiter with the Tar Heels is defensive backs coach Marvin Sanders.
Hoover (AL) High DB Jahi' Word-Daniels, rated one of the top 40 seniors in Alabama, picked Georgia Tech over Duke, Louisville and Vanderbilt. Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Illinois, Memphis, Mississippi, Mississippi State and Notre Dame also showed interest. He has several family members who live in the Atlanta area, including a brother who is in the process of transferring to Tech from nearby Morehouse. As a junior, Jahi (pronounced Juh-HEE) had 25 tackles and four interceptions for a 14-1 Hoover team that captured the program's second straight state championship. He benches 220 pounds, squats 340 and runs the 40 in 4.6 seconds. He has a 3.6 GPA and a 21 ACT score. His main recruiter with the Yellow Jackets is offensive line coach Joe D'Alessandris.