Making the most of May evaluations


The May evaluation process is an important recruiting period for both college football programs and prospects themselves. Each program sends coaches on the road to visit schools and it's often a time where under-the-radar recruits get noticed. Here is a look at some players to keep a close eye on over the next several weeks.

Central Gwinnett's centerpiece
One guy who could have a huge month of May is George Morris (Lawrenceville, Ga./Central Gwinnett), a versatile running back prospect who does it all for his high school football team. Last season he rushed for over 700 yards and had over 700 yards receiving with 13 total touchdowns. He returns as the leading receiver in Gwinnett county.

"George is a big back and an every-down back with small back skills," said Central Gwinnett coachTodd Wofford. "He has power, good quicks, great hands and breakaway speed. We run the spread and he's perfect for us. At the same time he could be a 215- to 220-pound I-back. You can run the downhill toss sweep. He can be that kind of back too."

The 6-foot-1, 192-pounder is drawing interest from a bunch of schools but only has one offer to date from Illinois. Teams like Louisville, Wake Forest, USF, Kentucky and others are showing a lot of interest.

"I am expecting to have a big month," Morris said. "Teams want to come see me and they also want me to come to camp. I would like to get to as many camps as possible. Georgia Tech, Louisville, Tennessee, FSU, North Carolina, South Carolina and Auburn are schools I would like to camp at."

Of all the schools mentioned one stands above all.

"FSU is my favorite school," Morris said. "I like the atmosphere there and how they run things. It seems the players all have a great relationship with the coaching staff."

Morris has unofficially seen FSU, Auburn, Georgia Tech, Georgia and Clemson.

Bookend teammates in south Alabama

Bookends from Vigor
Darius Philon and JaMichael Winston, a pair of defensive ends from Vigor High School in Prichard, Ala., have a chance to make a lot of noise in the coming weeks and months.

"Darius will be an Antonio Coleman type of kid," said Vigor coach Kerry Stevenson. "The kid has a great motor, is strong and smart. He's already qualified. Teams like Mississippi State, Southern Miss, Louisiana Tech, Memphis, and Louisville have offered him. But there are a bunch more schools that are interested but they are worried about his size."

At 6-2 and 265 teams many teams just don't know whether he's a future defensive end or tackle.

"That's the thing but he runs a 4.78 40," Stevenson said. "He bench presses 330 and squats 600. And his maturity has grown a whole lot more this year. I think schools are worried about his size."

However, teams are not worried about the size of the 6-6, 230-pound Winston. They are concerned about his shoulder, which required surgery last year and caused him to miss his entire junior season.

"Teams just want to see if his shoulder holds up," Stevenson said.

"This kid has the same frame as [Jadeveon] Clowney. Syracuse, Kentucky, Southern Miss, Mississippi State and Memphis all offered him off his sophomore film," said Stevenson. "Florida State came by [Thursday] and Auburn was here [Wednesday]. They love him. I think Alabama will offer. This kid is such a great athlete. He's ready to get out there and show everyone he's ok. Jamichael is gaining confidence."

Jumping on the Harper bandwagon
The May evaluation period actually starts in mid-April, which is about the same time things started to really heat up for linebacker Harding Harper (Montgomery, Ala./Carver).

"He really has turned into a hot commodity lately and he received a lot of offers," Carver coach Billy Gresham said. "It started with the beginning of the May evaluation period. Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech, Arkansas State, Florida International, and Memphis have all offered now."

Harper moved from Birmingham Jackson-Olin to Carver back in January. Many schools didn't realize this until they showed up at Carver. After seeing him in person, seeing his transcript and then watching his junior film, they soon realized they needed to jump on the Harper bandwagon.

"We get a lot of traffic here," Gresham said. "He passes the eye ball test, has a 3.8 GPA and has scored a 19 ACT, and his junior year tape has really impressed everyone. Coaches leave and then offer shortly after. It's really the first time they have seen Harding."

Gresham said teams like Tennessee, Auburn, Alabama, Stanford, Southern Miss and others all could be teams that offer in the very near future.

Hegedus ready for busy summer
WR Charlie Hegedus (Marietta, Ga./Lassiter) received his first scholarship offer, from Toledo, last week but he's eyeing a bigger prize.

He wants to play in the SEC and many SEC schools are showing a ton of interest. There's also a common theme among many of the schools recruiting him, they all want to evaluate him this summer at their respective camps.

"Georgia came by [Wednesday] and they want me to come to their camp next month and Dawg Night in July," Hegedus said. "South Carolina and Tennessee said the same thing. Florida wants me in camp to see how fast I am. Kentucky and NC State want me to come to camp. They all want me to come to camp. Right now I am thinking of going to Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, Auburn and Alabama's camps this summer. I should be very busy."

Many in the Peach State compare him to Georgia 2010 signee Michael Bennett, who was in a similar situation and then things blew up for him in a good way before he committed to the Bulldogs.

"Everyone calls me this year's Michael Bennett," Hegedus said. "But they say I am faster. I hope it turns out like him and I get a bunch of offers soon. I would like to play in the SEC."

Last season as a junior Hegedus caught 42 passes for 675 yards and nine scores.

Sims still waiting
CB Greg Sims (Brookhaven, Miss./Brookhaven) recently dominated the New Level Athletics 7 on 7 by not allowing a reception in six games, but the 5-10, 180-pounder is still waiting on his first offer. However, that could change quickly.

"I am not exactly sure why he doesn't," said former Brookhaven coach Tucker Peavy. "But he was one of those guys that didn't get a lot of publicity when he was a junior and nowadays that's almost needed with how fast recruiting is."

Mississippi State, Southern Miss, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Louisiana Lafayette and Memphis are teams showing a lot of interest in Sims at this time.

"I know that he's a great athlete, a strong player and a very hard worker," Peavy said. "Being good is important to him. Greg is very competitive and can do a lot of things. He's a threat with the ball in his hands. He can move his feet and turn his hips. Greg will only get better with experience and should have a good year."

Bad system for Bench
Steven Bench (Bainbridge, Ga./ Bainbridge) is a talented quarterback with offers from South Alabama and most recently Samford but the 6-2, 195-pounder is hoping to hear from some bigger programs.

"Steven can really throw the ball well and he can run," said Bainbridge coach Ed Pilcher. "He runs 4.7, 4.8. Steven is a good competitor and a very good student. Some other folks are looking at him and teams like UAB, Georgia, Memphis and FSU want him to come to their one-day camps this summer. That's where he will really be evaluated."

Pilcher believes that one of the main reasons his quarterback is flying a little under the radar is because they are an option team.

"We are not a big throwing team," Pilcher said. "We throw enough to make the defense honest. Last year was his first year as a starter and he got a lot better. We had a really young offense full of a bunch of sophomores and by end of year we were a lot better offensively. We start spring practice [Friday] and a bunch of schools are going to look at him."

Four-sport star from Baldwin
Ryan Antoine, West Mary High School coach, is a little confused because he doesn't understand why Jerald Hawkins (Baldwin, La./West Mary School) isn't garnering more recruiting attention. The 6-7, 285-pounder is a four-sport star and a big, athletic offensive line prospect.

"Yes, he's flying under the radar," Antoine said. "Jerald only has solid offers from Pitt and Tulane. Texas A&M, LSU, Mississippi State, Purdue, Arkansas, Auburn, and SMU are sending letters and showing interest but no one else has pulled the trigger. They all say they are going to offer but no one else has. I don't know what is holding these teams back. This kid is a diamond in rough."

Hawkins, who plays defensive end, recorded 61 tackles, nine sacks and 18 tackles for a loss last year. He also plays basketball, as well as pitches and plays first base for his high school baseball team. This weekend, he will also compete for the state championship in the shot put.

"Jerald wants to play everything," Antoine said. "He's a competitor and a super athlete. He could be a defensive end in the 3-4 or an offensive tackle. In my honest opinion, I think he's an offensive tackle. Whoever gets him will mold him into whatever they want him to be."

Antoine believes the lack of exposure could be because Baldwin, La., is such a small town.

"We are in between Morgan City and Lafayette and we are a small country town, a small community. This is a very unique situation but we have a lot of talent that just needs some exposure," he said.

Football on hold for hoops star

One of the nation's top high school basketball players will play football, but it won't be until this fall. Shaq Goodwin (Decatur, Ga./Southwest Dekalb) was supposed to report to the Southwest Deklab spring football practice this week, but he's elected to play AAU basketball instead. The 6-8 and 210-pounder is expected to join the Panthers football team this fall and play wide receiver.

"Shaq Goodwin, the basketball player, has a bright future," national basketball recruiting analyst Dave Telep said. "His game opened up this spring and there's reason to think he's one of the 20 best in the country. Goodwin has that mix of post and perimeter skills and he's an athletic frontcourt player.

"He must be one darn good football player because he could have a future in professional basketball if he continues to improve and develop. I think playing football for a guy like him is a calculated risk."

Mustangs land speedy WR

SMU's offense just added a speedy weapon from the Bayou State in wide receiver DaijuanStewart (Baldwin, La./ West Mary School). After visiting the Mustangs recently, Stewart committed to coach June Jones.

"Our offensive coordinator went up there for a clinic and he showed them Daijuan's highlight tape," said Antoine. "They loved it because he really fits their system. He went for their spring game and loved it and decided to commit on the spot."

The 5-10, 175-pounder plays a variety of different positions for his high school team. Last year he lined up at quarterback, running back, receiver, cornerback and kick returner. He will also compete this weekend for the state title in the 110 and 300 hurdles.

West Mary has another speed demon on its offense in running back Jontray Tillmen. Last season he had 2,200 all-purpose yards and the 5-9 and 180 pounder carries a 4.0 GPA [26 ACT] and runs a 10.4 100 meters.

"Tulane has offered him," Antoine said. "He's a really versatile kid with a lot of talent. He can do so much."

Jamie Newberg has been covering recruiting in the Southeast and nationally for 19 years. He can be reached at jamienewbergbw@yahoo.com.