- Jamie Newberg, RecruitingNation
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PRICHARD, Ala. -- It's your typical spring practice in the month of May for Vigor High School coach Kerry Stevenson. Once again his Wolves are loaded. This is, after all, a program that has produced more than 100 college football prospects, at all levels, over the past decade so why should this season be any different?
"The numbers have been great and once again we will have another talented senior class with up to 11 guys that could play college ball," Stevenson said. "We have a great history here and a great history in this area. In addition you have to have the aptitude to succeed. Our kids have had that."
This year's squad is led by a couple of bookend defensive ends in Darius Philon and JaMichael Winston. The two will be on the field together for the first time since 2010, which spells trouble for their opposition.
"Those two really affect what we do in a positive way," Stevenson said. "They are destructive. They are filthy. They are physical. They harass and they are fast. Those two mean so much to us."
Winston, 6-foot-5 and 226 pounds, missed last season because of a shoulder injury, but despite the missed time he still has offers and those numbers could grow in a big way once reluctant college programs see him play this fall.
"The shoulder is 100 percent and I feel great," said Winston, who has scholarship offers from Mississippi State, Kentucky, Syracuse, Louisville, Southern Miss, Memphis and South Alabama. "It's great to be back out there playing."
Philon, 6-2 and 255 pounds, has scholarship offers from Mississippi State and Southern Miss.
"I think Auburn is close to offering Philon," Stevenson said. "I'm a little surprised he doesn't have more but we'll see what happens."
Other notable prospects for Vigor this season are tight end Paul Kyles (offers from Southern Miss, South Alabama, Kentucky and Memphis) and defensive backs Marlon Moore, Jacoby Glenn (offers from Mississippi State, Memphis, Middle Tennessee State and Southern Miss) and Titus Whitsett (offers from Southern Miss, Mississippi State and Memphis).
Eatmon drops the weight
There were several former Vigor football players in attendance for its intra-squad scrimmage on Thursday. One in particular was USF redshirt freshman Quinterrius Eatmon. After signing with the Bulls over Mississippi State in 2010, he was vastly overweight and showed up in Tampa as a 6-6, 362-pound offensive tackle prospect.
"I redshirted and lost 65 pounds," Eatmon said on Thursday. "I'm now at 290 and I will be the starting right tackle for USF this fall. I won the job in the spring. I knew what I had to do to get on the field and I got it done. That was a big motivation for me. I wanted to prove people wrong who were saying all those negative things about me."
Eatmon has really come into his own in a short period of time, impressing his old high school coach in the process.
"Willie Anderson [former Auburn Tiger and Cincinnati Bengal] played here," Stevenson said. "He thinks Eatmon has a chance to be better than he was. What does that tell you about his talent? It's a great story."
In fact, Anderson has taken the time to work with Eatmon when the two have a chance to get together.
"That's just part of the Vigor history," Eatmon said. "I love working with him. I tell him all the time that I will be better than him. He helps me out and I pick up everything I can. Knowledge is power."
Davidson in Mobile, Ala.
Davidson High School could be home to the two biggest bookend offensive tackles in the country in Alphonse Taylor and Isaac Sampson. Everyone knows about Taylor, the FSU commitment who stands 6-6 and 360 pounds. Opposite him at right tackle is Isaac Sampson, who is 6-6 and 360, as well.
"Believe it or not Isaac is still only 16 years old and his best football is in front of him," said Davidson coach Fred Riley. "He will be 17 in August. Isaac is a smart player and if someone takes a shot at him they will be real happy in two to three years."
Also drawing some interest is DE Chris Walker. The former defensive back recently had a major growth spurt and teams are on the verge of offering him a scholarship.
"Chris was a 6-1 and 190-pound safety for us last season," Riley said. "Now he's a 6-2 and 235-pound defensive end. He went from being a stiff safety to a pretty darn fast defensive end. Florida International and Memphis could be close to offering him a scholarship."
Davidson's junior class may not be as deep at this time, but it does have a player on the rise in quarterback Cam Jackson. He's played so well this spring, Jackson is beating out last season's starter, Kendall Williamson. All Williamson did in 2010 is pass for more than 1,500 yards and rush for more than 1,000.
"Jackson has good size [6-2, 190 pounds] and is very smart," Riley said. "He had the highest grade in calculus in our school this year. Georgia Tech likes him as a quarterback and they want to get him to camp this summer."
Daphne High School, the reigning 6A champions in Alabama after going 15-0 and beating Hoover for the title, is bringing back a lot. The Trojans are led by two ESPNU 150 Watch List prospects, RB T.J. Yeldon and DE Ryan Anderson.
Yeldon, 6-2 and 208 pounds, will play a variety of positions for his team this fall -- quarterback, running back, slot receiver and outside receiver.
"That definitely keeps me on my toes," Yeldon said. "But I am ready for another big season. We just need to find some missing pieces."
Anderson, 6-4 and 248 pounds, is moving positions this year because Daphne needs help at linebacker.
"It's been four practices and I have to admit it's been frustrating," Anderson said. "I feel like a chicken with its head cut off. I am just trying to learn everything on the fly. Sometimes I am just too aggressive out there and I get out of position."
But the move should ultimately help out the Alabama commit.
"In actuality, it's a blessing because I am helping out my team with the move. They need me there," Anderson said. "But it's also getting me ready for Alabama because I will be playing that Jack linebacker spot."
While Anderson knows his destination, Yeldon does not. But at least he has narrowed things down to six schools.
"I like Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Oregon, Clemson and USC," Yeldon said. "I have been to Alabama and Auburn and I know I will check out Florida for sure this summer. I just want to find a place where I fit in and feel comfortable. There is pressure to stay in the state but I will do what's best for me."
Two other Daphne rising seniors have garnered a lot of attention of late in DE Eric Lee and CB Torren McGaster. Lee, 6-4 and 225 pounds, now has scholarship offers from Kentucky, USF, Louisiana Tech, Memphis, Minnesota, Missouri, Western Kentucky, Southern Miss, Tulane, Troy, UAB and Florida International. McGaster has gotten bigger in the offseason and is now 6-foot and 180 pounds. Teams like Northern Illinois, Minnesota, UAB and Missouri have offered him a scholarship.
Long Beach, Miss.
Long Beach coach Tommy Browder loves his two linchpins on defense in Nick James and Richie Brown. James is the guy everyone knows about while Brown is the guy everyone is learning about. Both have scholarship offers and both are ready for big senior campaigns.
"These are two wonderful football players," Browder said. "The best part of these two is that have nowhere reached their potential. Not even close."
James, 6-4 and 340 pounds, made a name for himself very early in the recruiting process. He is, after all, a big man in the middle at defensive tackle that every team covets each recruiting season. It also helps that James runs exceptionally well.
"Nick runs a 4.8 40," Browder said. "People don't believe me until they watch him. No one believes me but they do after seeing Nick. When he learns to play with technique and to use his hands he will be unreal. Right now he just bull rushes people and he hurts who's in his way."
James, who is missing most of spring practice to concentrate on academics, is actually taking an extra class at school.
"If he gets his academics right then he has a chance," Browder said. "He can finish strong. Nick has made a lot of improvement and has a much better attitude. And he's more coachable than ever. He's hungry."
James has offers from virtually everyone in the South. Kentucky offered him on Wednesday. The Wildcats also offered the 6-2, 225-pound Brown. This linebacker has also been offered by Mississippi State (first offer), Memphis, Stanford, Arkansas State and Southern Miss.
"To be honest, Richie doesn't have much downside at all," Browder said. "And I can't understand at all why he doesn't have many more offers. It doesn't make any sense. He has a great motor on every down and he has great speed and size. He actually anchors our 4x100 and 4x200 relay teams. We play him at running back and he tries to score every time he touches the ball. He will run right through you. And he's a smart kid, too."
Long Beach also has a cornerback flying under the radar in Marcus Betts. The 6-foot, 195-pounder is drawing interest from Nebraska and Alabama.
Gulfport coach Mike Justice has had his share of big-time recruits over the years. He was the head man at Madison Central several years ago where they were one of the South's most dominant teams for many years. Justice coached players like offensive linemen Doug Buckles and Chris Spencer as well as wide receiver Mike Espy. He knows a recruit when he sees one and he has a few in this season's class.
Leading the way is wide receiver Travon Travis. The 5-11, 175-pounder is a playmaker, both for the Gulfport offense and special teams.
"Travon is the real deal," Justice said. "He has speed to burn. He's fast and quick. He's a good route-runner and has good hands. He's great at kick returns. Last year alone he had seven punt returns for touchdowns [three called back due to penalty] and has 10 over the last two years. Travon also has over 70 plus receptions. I know Ole Miss has offered and some others."
Linebacker Jamison Goins is also an intriguing prospect. At 6-3 and 250 pounds he could play linebacker or defensive end, depending on the scheme he plays in at the next level.
"Jamison is a big body," Justice said. "Teams will have to decide whether they want him up or down. I know teams like Arkansas, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and programs like that are all over him and Travis."
Gulfport also has a young quarterback with a bright future in rising junior Chandler Malley. The 6-1, 210-pounder is also a standout pitcher on the baseball team.
"Chandler is not through growing," Justice said. "He's a good looking kid that has the arm and he can run. We are a big-play passing team and he understands that and he executes. Chandler is a coach on the field that makes very few mistakes."
Another 2013 player to watch is running back Christian Williams, who is a versatile back at 5-10 and 215 pounds.
"He won't start for us because of [senior RB Antwar Ashley] but he can really play," Justice said. "He runs well [4.5 40] and is a multiple offense guy. Christian has a fullback body with tailback speed. He can run, catch and block very well."
Jamie Newberg has been covering recruiting in the Southeast and nationally for 19 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.