Photos by Brian Paglia and Jeff Hurndon Photography / Locust Grove’s Cortez McDowell (left) and Eagle’s Landing Christian’s Andrew Williams (right) have already emerged as two of the top prospects in Georgia in the Class of 2014.
Signing Day 2012
As it gets closer and closer to National Signing Day, the Henry Daily Herald will get you ready with a short series of football recruiting stories. Be sure to follow our special coverage leading up to Feb. 6 when local high school athletes make their decisions official.
Today: Juniors — the next big thing
Feb. 1: Journey through junior college
Feb. 6, National Signing Day: Flipping commitments
When Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer walked into Locust Grove High School on Wednesday, the cameras came out.
Meyer posed with Wildcats athletic director Stephen Phillips, chatted football and Tim Tebow with head coach Clint Satterfield and made the rounds at Locust Grove.
“Real good guy,” Satterfield said.
With just two weeks before National Signing Day, Meyer was looking ahead to the next one. He was there to be seen or heard of by Locust Grove junior Cortez McDowell, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound safety who is starting to generate a lot of attention.
Meyer and college football coaches are already trying to get the attention of Class of 2014 recruits.
“This is all part of the process of building relationships,” said Keith Niebuhr, a recruiting analyst for 247Sports.com. “Getting in early is the key. The coaches are out so they can be seen. It is a big deal when a Top-25 college coach comes to the school just to see you.”
College coaches indeed want to be seen earlier than ever.
“It’s become standard procedure,” Luella coach Nic Vasilchek. “Get the kid an offer early and hopefully it’ll stick.”
So college coaches have started to come the Southern Crescent’s way.
Georgia Tech recently visited Riverdale to meet wide receiver Rashad Canty and Luella to see running back Trae Bonner.
Lovejoy has had a host of coaches come through not only to talk with undecided seniors Arshad Jackson and Zane Fields but also juniors Randy Anyanwu, DeMarquis Gates and Justin Brown.
But perhaps no one has had as much activity as Eagle’s Landing Christian defensive end Andrew Williams. The 6-foot-4, 240-pounder already has 19 offers, including Georgia, which stopped by Thursday to extend an offer.
All have one thing in common — they all had breakout junior seasons. Canty emerged as a big-time threat in Riverdale’s passing game. Bonner showcased his versatility and speed with over 1,000 all-purpose yards. Anyanwu, Gates and Brown all started for Lovejoy’s Class AAAAAA runner-up team, while Williams became a defensive force for the Class A private school champions.
They’re proof that the timeline for recruiting has moved up.
“The BCS schools, they do most of their recruiting during a kid’s junior year,” Satterfield said. “It’s rare a kid pops up as a senior and starts getting noticed.”
“These days, if you don’t have a big junior year and come in as a senior, you’re kind of behind,” Vasilchek said.
It’s more than a trend now. In the chaotic world of college football recruiting, it’s how the best programs survive.
But it can leave many kids left behind.
“You have so many kids who are late-bloomers,” Dutchtown coach Jason Galt said. “Kids grow and develop at different times. ... That senior year, [a player] has a great year, but now he’s not getting offers because schools have had their guys already.”
For now, Locust Grove is enjoying the ride.
The Wildcats are coming off their first winning season in the school’s brief history. Now, they have an athlete in McDowell who attracts visitors of Meyer’s stature.
“I think a majority of the schools that came in here, they didn’t even know we existed,” Satterfield said. “Especially being a new school. The first time I saw Cortez in action, I felt like he had the potential to be what he’s become.”
The next big thing
A look at some of the top high school junior football prospects from Clayton and Henry counties:
Player, School, Pos., Ht., Wt.
Randy Anyanwu, Lovejoy, DE, 6-3, 220
Mario Atkinson, Jonesboro, QB, 6-3, 170
Trae Bonner, Luella, RB, 5-11, 175
Javon Brandon, Stockbridge, DB, 5-9, 185
Justin Brown, Lovejoy, OL, 6-3, 300
Rashad Canty, Riverdale, WR, 6-3, 190
Timarcus Cullins, Stockbridge, DE, 6-3, 230
Bryson Durden, ELCA, DB, 5-11, 175
Dalton Etheridge, ELCA, QB, 6-0, 190
DeMarquis Gates, Lovejoy, LB, 6-2, 215
Corey Holloway, Eagle’s Landing, RB, 5-11, 195
Cortez McDowell, Locust Grove, DB, 6-2, 205
Sedric Palmer, Henry County, RB, 5-10, 200
Rodney Smith, Mundy’s Mill, RB, 5-10, 180
Kendarius Webster, Stockbridge, DB, 6-0, 185
Andrew Williams, ELCA, DE, 6-4, 240
Warren Wright, Eagle’s Landing, WR, 6-3, 180
Sports editor Derrick Mahone and staff writer Gabriel Stovall contributed to this story.