It’s no secret that the recruit process has been accelerated. College football coaches are involved in what amounts to escalating rounds of game theory. If one school starts recruiting a player at a younger age, the next school runs the risk of missing out if it does not follow suit.
Much like the collegiate level, where freshmen like A.J. Green, Julio Jones, and Robert Griffin made a major splash in their first year, high school football sees its fair share of fresh faces that make a name for themselves as ninth graders. These are often the same players that colleges are reaching out to at such a young age.
The MaxPreps Fresh Faces Top 100 profiles projected impact sophomores. By the time the class of 2012 is ready to head to college, some of these players will be household names, and others may be relatively unknown. This group won’t sign national letters of intent until the first week of February, 2012.
See the MaxPreps Fresh Faces Top 100 Notebook for additional analysis.
Nelson Agholor, ATH, Berkeley Prep (Tampa, Fla.)
Though Berkeley Prep may not be known for churning out Division I recruits, it appears that head coach Dominick Ciao has a potential star player in versatile athlete Nelson Agholor.
Player/Week - Nelson Agholor (Berkeley Prep, FL)
“As a freshman, he played wide receiver, running back, cornerback and safety for us, and he returned kicks, “ Ciao said. “I know our program isn’t big, but I coached 28 years at Jesuit, and he’s one of those guys that can go on and play at a big time program.”
Agholor is also a highly-touted basketball player, and may be good enough to play that sport at the next level.
Anthony Alford, QB, Petal (Miss.)
One of Mississippi’s top freshman could end up being one of the nation’s top players if he lives up to his burgeoning potential.
Anthony Alford started at quarterback for Petal and made a believer of head coach Steve Buckley.
“I’ve spent 14 years on the college level and I can honestly say I’ve never been around a kid with as much upside and potential,” Buckley said.
Alford is an even 6-feet, but is a young sophomore. Going strictly by age, he could technically be a freshman this fall. By physical ability (4.5 40-yard dash, 38-inch vertical jump, 265-pound bench press), he’s already much older.
Alford also excels at baseball, and may be good enough to get drafted in three years.
Arik Armstead, DL, Jesuit (Carmichael, Calif.)
Jesuit Marauder head coach cannot speak say enough about his sophomore two-way lineman, Arik Armstead.
“He’s got great feet,” Dan Carmazzi said. “We expect big things from him.”
The younger brother of current USC Trojan Armond Armstead, Arik is also a top basketball player for his grade, which is probably what makes him so agile in the trenches. Armstead, who checks in at about 6-5, likely projects better on defense, though that won’t stop him from being a two-way force for the Marauders in 2009.
A recruiting battle is already developing for Armstead. Watch for USC to make a strong push to lock up another Armstead.
Zach Banner, OL, Lakes (Lakewood, Wash.)
Early indications are that 2012 will be an outstanding year for offensive linemen in Washington. Lakes sophomore Zach Banner is a major reason why.
Zach Banner - OL - Lakes, WA
“He’s going to be an NFL left tackle” head coach Dave Miller said of the 6-7, 300-pound Banner. “Zach is going to be one of those once-in-a-lifetime guys.”
Despite the potential, Banner still has some work to do. He’ll need so improve his core strength so he can get a better bend and play a little lower. Miller’s only concern is that he may get too big.
“He could end up being 6-10 or 6-11,” he said.
Banner, a starter on the Lakes basketball team, has great athleticism, good feet and all the tools to be a dominant player now and in the future.
George Barajas, OL, St. Bonaventure (Ventura, Calif.)
Well established as a program abundant in difference makers who can play on Saturdays, and on occasion, Sundays, it should come as no surprise that St. Bonaventure has a representative on this list. The Seraphs’ next major player could be sophomore two-way lineman David Barajas.
Barajas steamrolled defensive lines on a 10-0 freshman team before getting the call to suit up for varsity. He started all the way through the playoffs for a St. Bonaventure team that won the Division III state bowl football championship.
Classmate Jeremy Sanchez played running back on the sub-varsity level, but may see time at wide receiver on varsity this year. DeAndre Hutchins, an athlete to watch, spent his freshman season with the Seraphs but has since transferred to Rio Mesa.
Shane Barron, WR, Carman-Ainsworth (Flint, Mich.)
Shane Barron sure knows how to make a grand entrance.
Barron took a lateral pass 50 yards for a touchdown the very first time he touched the ball in Carman-Ainsworth’s season opener. Since then, he has continued to impress.
“He’s a special kid,” first year Carman-Ainsworth head coach Nate Williams told the Flint Journal after the game. “The more we can get him involved in the game, he will do great things.”
At receiver or running back, Barron is a threat for a big play and should have an even greater impact as a sophomore.
Keevon Bernstine, RB, Lincoln (Des Moines, Iowa)
Iowa may not be a huge state, but the public schools in Des Moines are large enough to make it very rare for a freshman to step up and contribute. That’s what makes Keevon Bernstine’s 2008 campaign so noteworthy.
In only six games, Bernstine rushed for five touchdowns and over 500 yards. He has great vision rushing the ball, and his acceleration allows him to wiggle through holes before they close. People around Des Moines expect a big season from him in 2009.
West Marshall sophomore Dalton Ferch, brother of Trojans star senior Drake Ferch, is a wide receiver also worth watching in the class of 2012.
Marquise Bostic, DL, Northwest Academy (St. Louis, Mo.)
The St. Louis football scene rose to prominence last year thanks to Gateway standout Sheldon Richardson, a heavily recruited defensive tackle.
This season, Marquise Bostic may continue carrying the flag.
Bostic is a 6-3 defensive lineman who saw time at tackle and end for Northwest Academy last fall in the school’s first season as a varsity program.
The team was inexperienced, and Bostic, who grew up playing quarterback, was also inexperienced. Still, he had his best games against big-school opponents, prompting some comparisons to Richardson. At one point, Bostic led Richardson in sacks. He finished the season with 11, while Richardson tallied 15.
Depending on how he grows, Bostic’s future could be at a number of positions. He has the talent to play linebacker or defensive end, but his future is probably on the interior where he excels, according to head coach Terrance Dominick.
Devante Bourque, ATH, Gueydan (La.)
Louisiana is one of the states where talent is not strictly confined to big schools. Major recruits are often found in smaller schools across the bayou. Gueydan’s Devante Bourque will likely be a great example of that.
The 6-3, 200-pound return specialist was a 1A all-state selection thanks to a truly amazing season on special teams. While several sophomores cracked the list, Bourque was the only ninth grader. He returned three kickoffs for scores and also brought three punts to the house.
Bourque plays basketball and runs track, showing that his talents are not restricted to pigskin. However, he is a sure-fire football recruit and will likely choose that route for college.
Donte Bowen, DL, Harding (Fort Wayne, Ind.)
With the recruitment of running back Rod Smith coming to an end recently as he committed to Ohio State, colleges would be wise to shift their focus to another Harding player, sophomore defensive lineman Donte Bowen.
Head coach Sherwood Haydock thinks Bowen, who started 10 games last year, will blossom into a monster on the defensive line.
“He’s just an animal,” Haydock said.
Bowen (6-2, 220 pounds) had 22 solo tackles last season, including six for loss and three sacks. Teammate Zac Haycock also saw time as a freshman playing quarterback. He could have a similarly bright future.
Linebacker Coy Brown had an outstanding season for a very good NorthWood team, and should be another to watch from the Hoosier State in 2012.
Drae Bowles, WR, Jackson Christian (Jackson, Tenn.)
2011 is a banner year for talent in Tennessee. With players like wide receiver Drae Bowles, it appears that 2012 will also be strong.
The 6-3 Bowles is a threat to score any time he touches the ball. He racked up 467 receiving yards as a ninth grader for the Eagles. He also tied for the team lead in touchdown receptions with seven.
Bowles also took some handoffs and has the ability to return kicks. It would be surprising if Lane Kiffin, given his recent penchant for offering young recruits, doesn’t try to lure Bowles to Knoxville sometime soon.
Rod Bradford, ATH, Madison County (Gurley, Ala.)
“He’s one that will catch your eye,” said a source close to the football program at Madison County (Ala.), home of the multi-talented Rod Bradford.
Bradford is an athlete in every sense of the word. In addition to spending time at quarterback for Madison County this year, he was a fixture on the varsity basketball team, where he routinely scored in double digits and occasionally pulled home a similar number of rebounds.
His talents also manifest themselves on the football field, where he saw time at quarterback last fall. With his speed, quickness and overall athletic ability, Bradford may have a future at any of a number of positions on the football field if he doesn’t focus strictly on basketball.
George “Bam” Bradley, DB, Trotwood-Madison (Trotwood, Ohio)
Maurice Douglass has seen his fair share of talent pass through the halls of Trotwood-Madison. However, George “Bam” Bradley definitely stands out.
“He’s probably the best high school freshman safety I’ve ever seen. Period. He’s a real, real special kid,” Douglass said.
Bradley is 6-1, 185 pounds and started from the first game. In fact, he had an interception on the very first play of the season and finished the opening game with 12 tackles.
Douglass reports that Ohio State is already courting Bradley, while Missouri has also shown early interest.
Raahmil Brantley, RB, North Gwinnett (Suwanee, Ga.)
Not many programs are endowed with the type of talent that North Gwinnett has. One of the country’s top 2011 recruits, C.J. Uzomah, will likely play quarterback next year for Bob Sphire’s squad, and one of 2012 top players, Raahmil Brantley, will be receiving handoffs from him.
The 6-0, 195-pound freshman started for the AAAAA Bulldogs, certainly an accomplishment in its own right.
“He’s an outstanding runner and a great blocker,” Sphire said. “He’s going to be a good one.”
Sphire appears two have other future stars in defensive tackle Jordan Washington and another running back, Joe Jones. Both are likely to be highly recruited, according to Sphire.
Jeremiah Briscoe, ATH, Second Baptist (Houston, Texas)
There isn’t much that the 6-3 Briscoe can’t do.
For now, he’s a favorite target of top quarterback Connor Wood. Wood is one of the nation’s top quarterbacks in the country, and will undoubtedly be helped by having a more experienced Briscoe to throw to in 2009.
However, Briscoe himself will likely take snaps down the road—and perhaps even this season—as some expect his future to be at quarterback. He attended several camps and clinics in the offseason and played both.
Additionally, Briscoe was an all-area selection for baseball this spring. His raw physical prowess will be enough to garner interest from colleges. Interest will grow, however, as he continues to develop as both a quarterback and wide receiver.
Javontae Brown, DL, Calhoun County (St. Matthews, S.C.)
Compared to former Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Ragi by Calhoun County head coach Walt Wilson, sophomore Javontae Brown surely has a high ceiling. The 6-0, 250-pound bulldozer started all 12 games for a program that routinely features major Division I talent.
“His upside is just humongous,” said Wilson. “This kid here could be real special.”
Wilson said he recalled Brown running down screen plays in a demonstration of his speed. According to Wilson, Brown is already bench pressing around 300 pounds, and could be in the 450 range by the time he’s a senior.
His physical prowess as a ninth grader is reminiscent of that of teammate Eric Mack, one of the country’s top offensive lineman in the class of 2010.
Malik Bush, QB, Hackensack (N.J.)
Though he spent the year on Bergen Catholic’s freshman team, 6-3 Malik Bush gained attention thanks to his outstanding frame, arm strength and quickness.
After transferring to Hackensack in January, Bush is poised to start at quarterback for head coach Mike Miello’s squad as a sophomore.
Bush is the younger brother of Malcolm Bush, who played at Hackensack last season and will suit up for Rutgers this year. The Scarlet Knights will likely waste little time in recruiting Malik, though by the time he’s a senior, Bush will probably have offers from around the country.
Casey Cochran, QB, New London (Conn.)
Last year, when New London star Jordan Reed went down mid-season with an injury, the Whalers turned to a freshman to guide the team. Casey Cochran, the son of then New London coach Jack Cochran, took over at QB and led the team to a Class SS state title.
The 6-1 Cochran was also involved in one of the most famous plays in Connecticut state history. Trailing 26-21 to Montville with only seconds to play, Cochran unleashed a bomb, which was tipped and eventually hauled in by Garrick McQueen for a 73-yard touchdown with no time remaining, giving New London a 27-26 win.
Cochran should have a very bright future in a state whose football prowess continues to rise.
Dallas Cogsdale, ATH, Hampton (Va.)
The Tidewater area continues to churn out some of the most impressive athletes in the country.
Case in point, Hampton’s Dallas Cogsdale.
Cogsdale already has the build of collegiate athlete at 6-2, 205 pounds. He saw time at running back for the Crabbers and created a buzz. After all, it’s not too common for a ninth grader to start at such an important position at such a prominent program.
With his frame, and the likelihood that he’ll continue to grow, Cogsdale may end up being a better fit on defense at the next level. Regardless of position, colleges will likely line up for his services as he continues to develop quite a reputation in southeastern Virginia.
Imani Cross, RB, Flowery Branch (Ga.)
He didn’t start the season as Flowery Branch’s running back, but when given the opportunity, Imani Cross did not disappoint.
At 6-1, 215 pounds, Cross already looks like an NFL back. After being thrust into action midway through the season, he rushed for 554 yards and six touchdowns. He is running in the 4.8 range right now, but as he matures and improves his speed, he will develop into a complete back.
South Carolina is already pursuing Cross, who has great bloodlines, with brother Izaan Cross now playing at Georgia Tech.
Ronald Darby, RB, Potomac (Oxon Hill, Md.)
Certain football attributes can be learned. Others can be refined and improved. When you’re talking about how fast Potomac sophomore Ronald Darby is, it’s safe to say that his speed simply cannot be taught.
Darby finished second in the state in the 100 meters. He was clocked as fast as 10.73 in the event. Darby has one of the fastest times in the nation for his grade.
His speed should allow him to shine at running back or in the slot for Potomac in 2009 while college coaches continue to keep close watch.
Jabari Dean, DL, Renaissance (Detroit, Mich.)
Starting all nine games for the Phoenix, Jabri Dean was constantly disrupting offenses at the line of scrimmage. He accounted for 15 tackles for loss and two sacks as a rare freshman in Renaissance’s lineup.
The Phoenix coaching staff expects Dean, the teammate of 2011 recruit Lawrence Thomas, to be another player that colleges play close attention to. He’s already 6-1 and 240 pounds. Expect both of those measurements to increase. By the time he’s a senior, he will have played four varsity seasons in the talent-laden Detroit Public League. There’s no reason that Dean won’t blossom into a target for schools within the state and beyond.
Stefon Diggs, DB, Our Lady of Good Counsel (Olney, Md.)
Good Counsel was blessed with the likes of Jelani Jenkins and Caleb Porzel last season—two major difference makers on the prep scene. What’s frightening for other WCAC teams is that Bob Milloy’s squad will return Stefon Diggs in 2010 along with a host of other standouts.
Diggs saw action on wide receiver and defensive back for the Falcons. He was also valuable on special teams, where his quickness allowed him to excel at returning punts.
A teammate of Diggs’, Wesley Brown, will also be heavily recruited in 2012. His speed should allow him the chance to replace Porzel at running back for the 2009 season.
Kyle Dockins, TE, Landstown (Virginia Beach, Va.)
Having coached future NFL players like Aaron Brooks and Michael Vick during their high school years, Landstown head coach Tommy Reamon certainly knows talent when he sees it. That’s why it’s somewhat surprising at how highly he speaks of 2012 tight end Kyle Dockins.
“He’s as good as Vick and Allen Iverson at that age,” Reamon said. “This kid has the purest, soft hands. He will be phenomenal.”
Dockins made a splash on the field with 23 receptions for over 400 yards. He also scored four touchdowns.
The 6-5 Dockins has drawn comparisons physically to Plaxico Burress, and could be Tidewater’s biggest recruit in the class of 2012.
Tyler Dowling, OL, Camden County (Kingsland, Ga.)
When Tyler Dowling walks into the room, he almost always becomes the largest person present.
The 6-8, 390-pound Dowling is a giant. Under the tutelage of Camden County head coach Jeff Herron and offensive line coach Greg Slattery, Dowling will likely shed some pounds and gain some experience, as he figures to play a prominent role on this year’s offensive line.
Dowling and fellow rising sophomore lineman James Gelsey should provide a great foundation to Camden County’s offense for the next three seasons.
Brionte Dunn, RB, GlenOak (Canton, Ohio)
At times last year, Brionte Dunn was a man against boys for Alliance. The 6-1, 225 pounder rushed for 450 yards, had over 100 receiving yards, and scored four touchdowns.
Dunn also played defense.
The versatile athlete spent time at outside line backer in addition to his duties rushing the ball. He’s an intelligent, physical player with strength and quickness beyond his years.
In the offseason, Dunn transferred from Alliance to GlenOak, where he’s expected to be a major factor.
Preston Durham, LB, Chapman (Inman, S.C.)
Durham burst onto the scene last fall with a whopping 126 tackles and four sacks. He was the only freshman to be an all-area selection.
At 6-1 and 195 pounds, Durham has good size and will get bigger. With South Carolina’s recent knack for offering freshmen and sophomores, expect Steve Spurrier to be all over Durham in the upcoming months.
Travis Elliot, RB, Ryle (Union, Ky.)
Ryle head coach Bryson Warner remember how Travis Elliot would sprint back to the huddle in the summer in what seemed like an attempt to impress the coaching staff. Late in the fall as the season drew to a close, Warner noticed Elliot, firmly entrenched as a varsity starter, still hustling back after each play.
“He’s got tremendous intensity,” Warner said. “He takes football seriously at all times.”
Playing for a 6A Ryle, the 5-11 Elliot amassed over 600 yards and scored 10 touchdowns. He is already the strongest player on the team, according to Warner, and runs in the 4.65 range. An enormous offensive output from Elliot is likely in 2009.
Quay Evans, DL, Morton (Miss.)
Mississippi is loaded with standout linemen in the 2012 class.
One future star is defensive lineman Quay Evans. The 6-2, 275 pounder started every game for Morton. So solid was Evans that he was named a second team all-district player. The buzz around Mississippi is that Evans will be one of the state’s most heavily-recruited players as a senior.
Another defensive lineman to watch is St. Stanislaus sophomore Nick James. As a freshman, the 6-4 James impressed scouts who flocked to see the Rock-A-Chaws to watch quarterback Dylan Favre, nephew of Brett Favre. The coaching staff is very high on him, and expects him to be heavily recruited.
Allen Gant, DB, Southview (Sylvania, Ohio)
Southview head coach Jim Mayzes had no problem putting Allen Gant’s talents into perspective.
“I’ve never had a freshman play for me before, and he started both says,” Mayzes said of Gant.
Even before he was scoring touchdowns in the Division III state title game, Gant was well known around Sylvania.
“I’ve been hearing about him since he was five years old,” Mayzes said. “He’s had a lot of attention and he’s had a good attitude all throughout.”
Gant is good enough to play wide receiver in college, but will likely be recruited a defensive back, where he could be one of the nation’s best.
Joshua Garnett, OL, Puyallup (Wash.)
Though league rules prohibited Josh Garnett from playing high school football this year, there is still tremendous anticipation for his sophomore season at Puyallup.
Garnett spent his ninth grade year at Kalles Junior High School, but also made his rounds on the camp circuit, impressing college scouts and talent evaluators going back to the summer of 2008. At 6-4, 260 pounds, Garnett is well put together and very athletic given his frame.
He was so impressive in front of UCLA coaches that he reportedly drew an early verbal offer from coach Rick Neuheisel and staff. He also held his own at USC’s Rising Stars Camp amidst a plethora of talent. When he gets a chance to put his talents on display each week on the high school level this fall, his stock should only rise even higher.
D.J. Goodman, ATH, Greenwood (S.C.)
If you’re taking down names of sophomores to watch in South Carolina for the fall, no list would be complete with Greenwood 10th grader D.J. Goodman.
Goodman is an extremely versatile athlete, seeing time at quarterback, wide receiver and running back. Running back may be his calling at the next level, though his talents can likely he applied to any of several positions.
With big names like Sam Montgomery and Kelcy Quarles having come from Greenwood in recent years, it’s likely that Goodman will follow in that path en route to becoming a coveted prospect.
Dillon Gordon, LB, John Curtis (River Ridge, La.)
The next major recruit to come from legendary John Curtis could be sophomore Dillon Gordon.
He’s 6-4, 215 pounds and saw a lot of action on special teams as a ninth grader for the 2A state champion Patriots. He will probably slot in at linebacker this year, though he may also be able to play defensive end.
The John Curtis coaching staff expects Gordon to be a heavily-courted recruit.
“He’s got a chance to be really, really good,” said assistant coach Jeff Curtis.
Dorial Green, WR, Hillcrest (Springfield, Mo.)
Perhaps no sophomore in the country has the physical gifts that Hillcrest wide receiver Dorial Green possesses.
Green stands 6-5, weighs 200 pounds and has the speed of a champion track runner. He posted one of the nation’s fastest times in the country for freshmen running the 200 meters (22.21) and is already going under 11 seconds in the 100 meters.
Not to mention, Green is a dominant basketball player.
Still, football appears to be Green’s calling and his ceiling seems limitless. In his very first game, he finished with over 100 receiving yards. He’s already on the radar of many BCS schools. Green is in the mold of Randy Moss—big, fast, athletic and physical. He will undoubtedly be playing on Saturdays.
Troy Green, LB, Brenham (Texas)
While the last two seasons have featured a slew of talented freshman at running back in Texas, there have also been some impressive young defensive players emerge. Linebacker Troy Green falls into that category.
Green is a boy trapped in a man’s body. He’s 6-1 and close to 200 pounds and was all over the field for Brenham, which finished 8-5 and lost in the regional finals. Games with double digits in tackles were not uncommon.
In 2009, Green will be one of the key defenses pieces for Brenham, but he will also see time at running back for the Cubs, who are expected to win another 18-4A crown.
Isaac Gross, DL, South Panola (Batesville, Miss.)
The South Panola Tigers saw their 89-game winning streak come to an end last fall. While many South Panola faithful are disappointed, they realize the future is still very bright for 2009 and beyond thanks to talent like Isaac Gross.
Given his 6-3, 270-pound frame, Gross already has the build of a major prospect on the defensive line. Add in the fact that he saw significant reps as a ninth grader playing one of Mississippi’s most challenging schedules, and it’s almost a foregone conclusion that he’ll acquire the seasoning and experience to make him one of the more coveted recruits in the country as he matures
Look for Gross to be a key anchor on the defensive line, and help make the Tigers title contenders once again in 2009.
T.D. Gross, TE, Santana (Santee, Calif.)
The only freshman to be named an all-league selection for the Grossmont North League, T.D. Gross stood out more than any ninth grader in the San Diego area this past season.
Gross hauled in over 200 receiving yards. At 6-5, he was a huge target for quarterback Zach Breidt.
He’s also a huge target for colleges. UCLA, which has done a good job of identifying top freshmen, has already taken note of Gross. It’s only a matter of time before Gross breaks out on the national scene.
Erick Hallmon, LB, Cardinal Gibbons (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
Once again, Miami won’t have to go very far to visit and recruit some of the nation’s top players.
Erick Hallmon, a punishing linebacker, is a sophomore at Cardinal Gibbons in nearby Fort Lauderdale. He followed up an impressive ninth grade year with some solid performances at local camps and combines. He seems to have no problem finding his way into opposing backfields and lays some absolutely brutal hits.
Since his father, Jack, played for the Hurricanes, it would be surprising if any other school could lure Hallmon away from Miami, assuming the Hurricanes eventually offer him.
Jelani Hamilton, DL, St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
Volumes have been written the last two seasons about the incredible talent that calls St. Thomas Aquinas home. The defending national champions will have to add another chapter to the story, one that touches on future star Jelani Hamilton.
Hamilton will only be a sophomore in the fall, but he’s expected to start for the Raiders, who have the talent to win another state and mythical national title. He’s already 6-5 and proved himself in the Aquinas spring game, a major event for college scouts.
In the fall, watch for Hamilton to establish himself as the next major recruit for head coach George Smith. Also worth watching is teammate Dami Ayoola, a running back.
Charles Harris, WR, Lake Forest Academy (Lake, Forest, Ill.)
Lake Forest Academy head coach Ted Stewart is pretty confident who is going to come away with a jump ball when it’s thrown anywhere near 6-4 wide receiver Charles Harris.
Harris blends great size with solid hands, making him a valuable target on the high school level. Given the physical nature of his game, and the fact that he may not be done growing, he may draw interest from colleges as a tight end as much as a wide receiver.
With Lake Forest Academy playing a more ambitious schedule this season against the likes of Mount Carmel, Harris should have an opportunity to perform on a bigger stage.
Brandon Hill, OL, Manassas (Memphis, Tenn.)
Hailing from the same program as heavily-recruited lineman O.C. Brown, Brandon Hill is receiving early acclaim as a major recruit in the future.
The 6-5, 310-pound giant is already catching the eye of colleges coaches who stop by Manassas to recruit Brown. His size coupled with his athleticism give Hill an extremely high ceiling, as he is far from a finished product.
According to Manassas head coach Tommy Warren, college coaches that visit Manassas see Hill and mistakenly assume they are looking at Brown.
Though he spent the spring with Manassas, it's still not 100 percent certain that Hill will suit up with the team in the fall. There's a chance he'll end up playing for another Memphis school, Craigmont.
As far as class of 2012 linemen go in Tennessee, another one to watch is Gallatin defensive lineman Tre Haynes. A massive frame at 6-2, 320 pounds, he could reach his enormous potential if he adds to his strength and works on his conditioning. If that happens, he could be a blue chip defensive tackle.
Kamden Hilliard, DL, Punahou (Honolulu, Hawaii)
Word out of the Aloha state is that Kamden Hilliard is the next big thing.
The younger brother of UCLA running back Dalton Hilliard, Kamden is a defensive end that stands 6-2 and weighs 225 pounds. Hilliard was on the radar of colleges even before he had a strong showing at the PIAA Football Combine earlier in the summer.
Hilliard’s stock will only continue to rise as he gets an opportunity to put his stamp on Punahou’s program one season after Manti Te’o and brother Dalton received most of the fanfare.
Troy Hinds, DL, Davis (Kaysville, Utah)
As most coaches around the state of Utah will tell you, it’s hard to make a varsity roster as a freshman, let alone have an impact.
Davis defensive end Troy Hinds accomplished both those feats. The 6-3 Hinds contributed 30 tackles and four sacks in his ninth grade campaign. Since the season ended, Hinds has blossomed to 6-5, and creating quite a stir around Utah.
Hinds’ older brother, Tanner, will be a star running back for Davis this year. While Tanner is attracting interest from some smaller schools, Troy will likely be a major recruit and is already on the radar of the Texas Longhorns among others.
Gary Holmes, ATH, Seminole Ridge (Loxahatchee, Fla.)
Seminole Ridge assistant coach Justin Hilliker coached against Antone Smith at Pahokee, and says that Gary Holmes is just as fast.
“He runs a legit 10.8,” Hilliker said. “He beat Chris Dunkley three or four times in track this season.”
When Holmes was called up to varsity after averaging over three touchdowns per game playing freshman football, he made an instant impact. Against Palm Beach Lakes, he reversed the field and sprinted down the sideline for a score.
“I could see him playing running back or cornerback at the next level,” Hilliker said. “He’s probably the best freshman I’ve seen in my life.”
Twymond Howard, WR, Pearl (Miss.)
Pearl head coach John Perry did not mince words when it came to describing the potential of wide receiver Twymond Howard.
“I think by the time he’ a senior, he’ll be the state’s biggest recruit,” he said.
Also a basketball star, Howard has a bright future playing football as well. Perry called him up to varsity during the playoffs, and he was deadly on fade routes. Throwing a jump ball in the end zone to Howard is almost an automatic score.
Perry likened Howard to Southern Mississippi wide receiver DeAndre Perry, who last year set a team single season record for receptions.
Olive Branch quarterback Todd Mays and Nettleton's Korbin White are other Mississippi sophomores to watch.
Trent Jackson, RB, Cuero (Texas)
As if college coaches needed any more reasons to visit Cuero, Texas, outside of quarterback Tyler Arndt, coach Mark Reeve’s team also boasts one of the country’s top young running backs, Tyler Jackson.
Trent Jackson - Cuero, TX
Jackson was the district Newcomer of the Year after rushing for 21 touchdowns and 1,423 yards. He’s 5-11, and he looks like anything but a freshman in his highlight tape.
A fine track runner, Jackson’s speed just adds to his array of moves rushing the ball. If early indications are accurate, there may may be no better running back in the class of 2012.
Joe Jasnowski, TE, Creighton Prep (Omaha, Neb.)
Fans around Nebraska are already touting the potential of Creighton Prep's Joe Jasnowski, after he was moved up to varsity team as a mere freshman.
With his size, Jasnowski stood out even with that squad. His 6-5 frame gives him great size at the tight end position. The fact that head coach Tom Jaworski even considered him for varsity duty speaks volumes of his talent, as the Blue Jays are often contending for a state title.
Though he didn’t see any action, Jasnowski will likely be a key contributor moving forward.
Jasnowski has a teammate that also cracked the varsity roster and could be a difference maker for the Blue Jays. Ryan Flynn is a 6-2 linebacker who should help ensure that Creighton remains at or near the top of the Nebraska football scene.
DeAndre Jasper, WR, Jackson (Miami, Fla.)
What he lacks in height, Jackson wide receiver DeAndre Jasper makes up for in explosiveness.
The 5-9 Jasper is extremely fast and has a knack for making the big catch. He’s simply a playmaker, whose already made an impact playing varsity football in Miami, a well-established bastion of gridiron talent.
“He’s by far going to be one of the best receivers this year,” said one area coach. “He’s going to play outside this year, but he can also play slot.”
Avery Johnson, ATH, Ely (Pompano Beach, Fla.)
The younger brother of LSU defensive back Patrick Peterson, Avery Johnson followed his brother to Baton Rouge, enrolling at Redemptorist. He contributed on varsity immediately, catching 17 balls for 303 yards. He also hauled in one touchdown.
Since then, Johnson has transferred back home, and has enrolled at Ely, the alma mater of his older brother. At 6-2, he will continue to play wide receiver, but may also see time at defensive back.
Expect LSU to make a run at Johnson, though now that he’s back in South Florida, he is firmly on the radar of the University of Miami.
Matt Jones, RB, Armwood (Seffner, Fla.)
With recruits like Aaron Murray and Ryne Giddins, the road to Tampa has been a beaten path for recruiters in recent years. Folks around the area are already excited about future mega-recruit Matt Jones.
The Armwood sophomore saw carries throughout the season but had the biggest impact in the playoffs. Against Plant, Jones rattled off a 52-yard touchdown run. Though it wasn’t enough to get Armwood the win, it was more than sufficient to generate a buzz machine for Jones.
Another large-bodied rusher at 6-2, 200 pounds, Jones has a dangerous blend of size and speed that is bound to cause problems for most defenses. In 2009, he should be one of the area’s top players regardless of grade. In 2012, he should be one of the country’s best players.
Nigel Jones, RB, Holy Spirit (Absecon, N.J.)
In 2008, Holy Spirit was the defending non-public Group III state champion. There was a considerable amount of pressure on Nigel Jones, who started at running back for head coach Charlie Roman’s squad as a ninth grader.
Jones did not disappoint.
Displaying the physical development and mental attributes of a much older player, Jones gained over 1,000 yards and led the Cape Atlantic League in rushing. He projects to be one of South Jersey’s best running backs as only a sophomore, though teammate and fellow sophomore Donte Pollack, another player who made an impact for Holy Spirit as a ninth grader last year.
Eric Kinsey, DL, Northwestern (Miami, Fla.)
Like clockwork, Miami Northwestern has a new batch of future college players each season. Todd Chandler, Corvin Lamb and Khalid Marshall will be star seniors this fall. In 2011 Teddy Bridgewater will lead another crop of top recruits. For the 2012 class, Eric Kinsey is already standing out.
Kinsey was a standout even as an eighth grader, so it’s no surprise he’s already primed to contribute on varsity. At 6-3, he’s got great size yet also possesses the quickness to rush the pass from the outside.
Watch for Kinsey to emerge as a coveted recruit, along with a number of other Bulls from the class of 2012.
B.J. Rolle, son of Bulls’ head coach Billy Rolle, is another player to watch. Rolle said that he, Kinsey, and several other sophomores will rotate in and see time for the Bulls in 2009.
Nick LaSpada - QB - Billerica Memorial, MA
Nick LaSpada, QB, Billerica (Mass.)
“He’s the best athlete we’ve had here at Billerica since Tom Glavine,” said Billerica head coach Peter Flynn of his class of 2012 quarterback Nick LaSpada.
The 6-2 LaSpada passed for 10 touchdowns last season and ran for another 12. According to Flynn, colleges are already taking note of his highlights and have a hard time believing that he was merely a freshman in 2008.
LaSpada balances physical talents with a strong understanding of the quarterback position.
“He’s so athletic,” Flynn said. “And his decision making skills at quarterback are second to none.”
Kenny Lawler, WR, Upland (Calif.)
Upland may be losing star quarterback Josh Nunes, but whoever emerges as his replacement will have a great target to throw to in wide receiver Kenny Lawler.
The 6-2 Lawler, whose father Kenny Lawler Sr., played at the University of Oregon, could be one of SoCal’s top receivers in a few years. He’s blessed with great hands and good leaping ability. He’s also a threat with the ball after the catch.
With Nunes gone, Lawler will have more responsibility, and most likely, more attention from college coaches once he establishes himself on the varsity level.
Rhaheim Ledbetter, DB, Crest (Shelby, N.C.)
Rhaheim Ledbetter may be only 5-11, but in the secondary, he lays hits like a much larger player.
The violent hitter was an all-county selection at defensive back, registering 105 tackles. He also saw time at running back and rushed for nine touchdowns.
Ledbetter is the cousin of current Florida Gators linebacker Brandon Spikes, himself a Crest graduate. Expect the Gators to be heavily involved with his recruitment. Don't expect in-state schools to concede easily.
Juwan Lewis, ATH, Muskegon (Mich.)
The Muskegon Big Red absolutely mauled their competition last season en route to a 14-0 record. That team featured many two- and three-year starters, and was deep at each position. So it’s quite a complement to Juwan Lewis that head coach Matt Koziak thinks he was good enough to play varsity last season.
“We thought about playing him as a freshman,” he said. “A lot of Big Ten schools don’t know about him, but I’ve been telling them to keep their eye on him.”
According to Koziak, the 6-0, 190-pound Lewis is running in the 4.48 range. Participating in track has helped his speed, while being the son of a Muskegon assistant coach has certainly helped his football IQ.
Lewis will figure prominently in the Big Red offense in 2009, where he could be an impact player.
Defonta Lowe, QB, Bearden (Ark.)
As a 14-year old starting at quarterback for Bearden, Lowe’s abilities beget his age. At 6-1, 175 pounds, Lowe could throw the ball 70 yards or scramble out of the pocket with equal effectiveness.
DeFonta Lowe - QB - Bearden, AR
“I’ve coached 22 years,” said Bearden head coach Mike Cox. “He’s as talented as anybody I’ve ever coached.”
Lowe took snaps behind center out of necessity for his team, but at the next level, he’ll probably play wide receiver or safety.
“Whatever anybody wants,” Cox said.
Oklahoma State has already inquired about Lowe, who should be one of Arkansas’ top players in 2012 on the heels of an extremely deep 2011 recruiting class.
Tanner Mangum, QB, Timberline (Boise, Idaho)
Tanner Mangum was a leader on the Timberline football team, but he wasn’t even a Timberline student.
The ninth grader from Les Bois Junior High made quite a splash playing with the varsity team. In his debut, he tossed for 335 yards and four touchdowns.
Mangum finished the year with 2,865 passing yards and 29 touchdowns in only nine games. The 6-1 quarterback threw for over 390 yards on three separate occasions.
Before you dismiss Mangum because he’s not from a large state, consider that former NFL quarterback Jake Plummer, who threw for nearly 30,000 yards in his pro career, is a native of Boise.
JaFar Mann, DL, Stephenson (Stone Mountain, Ga.)
Mann followeded up a solid varsity season as a ninth grader with an impressive summer performance at the University of Tennessee camp, where he reportedly nabbed an offer from Lane Kiffin.
The 6-3, 265-pound Mann averaged roughly six tackles per game last season. He is already hearing from Alabama in addition to his offer from the Vols.
Don’t think Mark Richt will allow Mann to leave the state without putting up a fight. Georgia has also showed interest in him, and will certainly keep an eye on him during his sophomore season.
Byron Marshall, RB, Valley Christian (San Jose, Calif.)
The younger brother of Arizona State freshman Cameron Marshall, Byron Marshall sometimes made it hard for opposing defenses to tell who was who on the field last season.
When given opportunities to spell his older brother, Marshall displayed flashes of excellence. Playing on a highly successful Valley Christian team, Marshall made a name for himself as a rusher and as a pass catcher. With Cameron having graduated, the younger Marshall is primed to take his place for the next three seasons.
Already one of the area’s top long jumpers, Marshall has the makings of a very successful player in high school and beyond.
Maty Mauk, QB, Kenton (Ohio)
What a year is was for Maty Mauk, the younger brother of former record-breaking high school quarterback Ben Mauk. The younger Mauk put up mindboggling numbers for a freshman, tossing for 3,309 yards and 36 touchdowns.
Mauk production kept him in the running for MaxPreps’ National Freshman of the Year. His lowest passing total was 198 yards, which he threw for in Kenton’s season opener. He threw for at least three touchdowns in all but one game.
Saving his best for last, Mauk closed the season with a 582-yard passing effort against Van Wert.
Jarri McCoy-Williams, ATH, Independence (Charlotte, N.C.)
Tom Knotts has seen a bevy of amazing players walk through the halls of Independence during his tenure. With the arrival of Jarri McCoy-Williams, he has yet another special talent.
McCoy-Williams plays quarterback and safety and stands 6-1. The Patriots have returning all-state selection Anthony Carrothers returning at quarterback, but McCoy-Williams still may see some snaps behind center. Either way, he should make major contributions at safety, especially considering he probably has yet to finish growing.
Look for McCoy-Williams to have a breakout season in 2009 as independence vies for another state title.
Benny McGowan, OL, Centreville (Ohio)
Ron Ullery may not have been accustomed to starting ninth graders on varsity, but it was impossible to keep offensive lineman Benny McGowan out of the action.
The 6-3, 275-pound McGowan was a force as a freshman for the Elks. He’s expected to start both ways for Centerville as a sophomore, though it’s rare for even a senior to play both offense and defense at Centerville.
“He definitely belongs on the list,” Ullery said of McGowan, who could be one of the country’s top linemen prospects in the country by the time he’s a senior.
Also class of 2012 lineman from Ohio to watch is Marshawn Bell, who plays for Ten Ginn at Glenville.
Greg McMullen, DL, Archbishop Hoban (Akron, Ohio)
The Akron area is sometimes overlooked on the Ohio scene, with places like Cincinnati and Cleveland hogging media attention. But fans and recruits would be wise to keep a careful eye on Akron, as the 2011 and 2012 classes are well stocked with talent, including Archbishop Hoban defensive lineman Greg McMullen.
At 6-5, 215 pounds, McMullen stood out on the basketball court and football field. In the fall, he was a terror to opposing offenses, with his long arms and quick step at defensive end. Offensively, he was an all-district honorable mention selection for his work at wide receiver.
His teammate, LaTroy Lewis, also suited up for the varsity team as a ninth grader, and could develop into a Division I talent himself. Both will help comprise what appears to be a strong year for recruits in the Buckeye State.
LaDarrell McNeil, DB, A. Maceo Smith (Dallas, Texas)
An all-district selection as a freshman, McNeil already has a reputation as a hard-hitting playmaker in the secondary.
McNeil already had a reputation heading into high school and he wasted no time legitimizing himself on the varsity stage. He registered 89 tackles and four sacks, starting from game one for A. Maceo Smith.
His superb athleticism allows McNeil to double as a threat on offense. He can play running back and return punts.
While Smith will be a super recruit in the class of 2012, the 2011 class is not barren when it comes to talent. Six-foot-six tight end Chris Barnett will attract many suitors. Once he commits, it’s almost inevitable that his college of choice will ask him to put in a good word with McNeil.
Cyler Miles, QB, Mullen (Denver, Colo.)
Each year it seems like Dave Logan’s Mullen squad has a recruit that makes a splash on the national scene. In 2010, it’s Nduka Onyeali. Adonis Ameen-Moore fills that role for the class of 2011. In the class of 2012, carrying the tradition could be quarterback Cyler Miles.
One of the few freshman to even crack the Mullen roster, Miles saw some snaps in blowout games, helping to groom him for his future as Mustangs’ quarterback. He’ already drawing comparison to Rockhurst dual-threat QB Nathan Scheelhaase by people close to the program.
Miles ran in the 11.2 range as a freshman, so his speed is a given. He should continue to refine his approach behind center under Logan’s tutelage, and could be a hot commodity on the recruiting scene.
Taylor Montero, TE, Cretin-Derham Hall (St. Paul, Minn.)
While Seantrel Henderson will be getting most of the attention at Cretin-Derham Hall this season, don’t expect college coaches to ignore some of the younger talent in the Raider pipeline.
Six-foot-two Taylor Montero emerged from a talented group of what might be considered the strongest class at Cretin-Derham Hall in a long time, which is obviously saying a great deal. If he grows a few more inches, look for Montero to be a monster tight end recruit.
Teammates Kendrick Brewer (RB) and Jonathan Harden (DL) also bear watching.
T.J. Moon, RB, Union Grove (McDonough, Ga.)
It didn’t take long for T.J. Moon to make a splash on the Georgia high school football scene. After beginning the season at Strongrock Christian, Moon transferred mid-season to Union Grove, a 2-AAAAA school with a rigorous schedule.
The increase in competition didn’t scare off Moon; rather, it gave him a brighter light in which to shine. In four games, Moon had 61 carries for over 30 yards.
“He’s really hungry, and that’s the way I want them all to be,” said head coach Steve Collins.
Union Grove has another 2012 to watch for, defensive back D.J. White. Collins thinks White could be one of the state’s top defensive players by his senior year.
Kwontie Moore, LB, Norfolk Christian (Norfolk, Va.)
“One time a team quit throwing the ball because he was getting to the quarterback every play,” said former Norfolk Christian head coach Esau McCaulley.
“He” refers to then-freshman linebacker Kwontie Moore, a 6-3, 230-pound specimen who had a monster impact last season. Moore was a second team all-league selection and McCaulley said that had he not been a freshman, he would have been considered for defensive player of the year honors.
“I think he had 19 tackles our last game,” he said.
Moore plays defensive end for Norfolk Christian, but also saw time at running back, tight end, nose tackle and linebacker.
Wayne Morgan, DB, Erasmus Hill (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
It wasn’t until the summer that Wayne Morgan made a splash on the national scene by attending camp at USC and impressing with his speed and talent at defensive back. But he’s been a known entity on the New York scene since the fall.
Morgan, who’s 5-10 and touts a chiseled physique, played two-ways for Erasmus Hall as a ninth grader. He started at quarterback in the team’s season ending loss in the Bowl Division championship game to New Dorp and showed signs of brilliance.
While New York City’s PSAL is certainly better known for its basketball talent, Morgan should be a shining star for PSAL football.
Skyler Mornhinweg, ATH, St. Joseph’s Prep (Philadelphia, Pa.)
The first player from the class of 2012 to verbally commit to a college was Skyler Mornhinweg, when in mid-June he pledged to become a Stanford Cardinal. If he graduates in four years, he’ll be a member of Stanford’s class of 2016.
Interestingly, Mornhinweg played defensive back for the Hawks this past season. At 6-2, he was an impact player on the varsity level at St. Joseph's Prep (Pa.) from the start. However, Stanford likes Mornhinweg at quarterback, the position he played when he attended a Stanford camp. At either position, Mornhinweg looks like a big Division I recruit.
Mornhinweg is the son of Eagles’ offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, who spent time around the Bay Area while with the 49ers.
Davonte' Neal, WR, Chavez (Laveen, Ariz.)
Neal entered ninth grade with about as much hype as an incoming freshman could possibly have. Fans and coaches knew about him. Newspaper articles had been written about him. College coaches had already heard of him.
In his first season of high school football, Neal hauled in 44 passes for over 600 yards and seven touchdowns. Though he’s only 5-10 and weighs 165 pounds, Neal is extremely explosive off the line of scrimmage, and is a tremendous threat from the slot receiver position.
His speed is top notch, and will only improve as he continues to mature and improve his lower body strength.
Neal was in the mix for MaxPreps’ National Freshman of the Year award, which was given to Hopewell, Pa., running back Rushel Shell.
Tyler Nero, DL, Escambia County (Atmore, Ala.)
While college coaches wore out the path to Escambia, Fla., this past season in an attempt to land Trent Richardson, the recruiting trail at Escambia County, one hour north in Atmore, Ala., may be worn out in a similar fashion by the time Tyler Nero graduates.
The 6-3, 250-pound Nero played varsity football for the Class 5A Blue Devils as a freshman in 2008, impressing with his size, motor and intelligence.
Nero is the son of former Arkansas linebacker Norman Nero. He attended camp at the University of Arkansas and came away with the "Tough Man" award. Watch for Nero to be a hot commodity for SEC schools as Arkansas tries to sway him to follow in his father’s footsteps.
Brian Nicholson, LB, Killian (Miami, Fla.)
When Cory Johnson replaces Steve Smith and takes over as head coach of Killian this fall, he’ll be greeted with a nice stable of talent across grades. Arrington Jenkins stands out in the class of 2011 and the 2012 class boasts linebacker Brian Nicholson.
Nicholson was the only freshman to crack the Cougar roster last season under Smith. He stands 6-2 and weighs 205 pounds. He should flourish playing alongside Jenkins, one of the best defensive ends in his class.
Jordan Payton, WR, Oaks Christian (Westlake Village, Calif.)
Each year, it seems as if Oaks Christian reloads with some of Southern California’s most talented players. 2008 was no different, as Jordan Payton established himself as one of the country’s top receivers in the class of 2012.
Payton only grabbed 10 catches on the season, but remarkably, six of those went for touchdowns, including one in the Lions’ season finale, a blowout win against a talented Gardena Serra squad.
The 6-2 Payton already boasts an offer from Akron, and it’s almost a certainty that more big schools will soon follow suit. He has followed up his breakout campaign last fall with a very strong summer.
Reggie Ragland, LB, Bob Jones (Madison, Ala.)
Another star basketball player who also excels at football, Ragland was outstanding as a ninth grader for Bob Jones, playing linebacker, running back and receiver. For the well-built, 6-4 Ragland, linebacker is probably where he’ll be playing on Saturdays.
Ragland’s single brightest moment on the football field came in the first round of the playoffs. Beating Oxford by three points with seconds to play, Ragland secured a victory for Bob Jones by blocking a game-tying field goal attempt.
Though he averaged over 14 points per game as an eighth grader playing varsity basketball, Ragland will likely stick with football. His basketball quickness and athleticism are extremely uncommon on the football field for a player his size.
Shakiel Randolph, WR, Midway (Waco, Texas)
He was the only ninth grader on the Midway varsity roster in 2008, but Shakiel Randolph didn’t look—or play—like a freshman.
Randolph played safety for the Panthers, who rattled off a 12-game winning streak after losing their season opener to Alvarado. Midway was eliminated in the 4A playoffs in heartbreaking fashion, a 43-42 loss to powerhouse Longview, a game in which Randolph forced a fumble.
At 6-3, Randolph already possesses a great build for a safety recruit. As he continues to fill out his frame and learn the intricacies of the position, he could develop into a star.
Ralph Reeves, LB, North Penn (Lansdale, Pa.)
North Penn lost only once last season, a devastating 21-14 loss in the 4A semifinals to eventual state champion Liberty. The team’s run was made all the more magical given that Ralph Reeves, a mere freshman, played such a big role in the team’s success.
Reeves played on both the offense and defense, and recorded nine tackles in the loss to Liberty. Two weeks earlier, in a blowout win against Downington West, Reeves snagged two interceptions from the linebacker position. He also played tight end for the Knights.
The 6-0, 207-pounder will continue to anchor the Knights’ defense for the next three seasons, before taking the likely next step into the realm of playing on Saturdays.
Marc Robinson, LB, Heritage Hall (Oklahoma City, Okla.)
While Barry Sanders Jr. got a lion’s share of the attention for Heritage Hall, Marc Robinson was possibly the team’s most productive player.
Marc Robinson - Heritage Hall, OK
Though he stands at only 5-foot-10, Robinson was an absolute monster for head coach Andy Bogert, recording 180 tackles and nine sacks. He performed at such a high level that he was named to Oklahoma’s all-state team as an honorable mention selection.
Robinson is already impressing college coaches with his tenacity and his nose for the ball. With three more years to play and 180 tackles under his belt, Robinson could finish his high school career with eye-popping stat totals.
With Sanders Jr. on offense and Robinson on defense, Heritage Hall will continue to be serious contenders for the Oklahoma 2A state crown for years to come.
Shaq Roland, DB, Lexington (S.C.)
College coaches are already lining up for the services of Lexington star Shaq Roland, and with good reason.
Though he was only a ninth grader last year, Roland started at free safety for the 4A Wildcats, earning all-region honors. He’s also an exceptional basketball player.
Steve Spurrier and the South Carolina Gamecocks have already offered Roland, though they aren’t the only school in the mix. Roland projects to have another impressive season, playing both sides of the ball for Lexington.
Michael Rose, LB, Rockhurst (Kansas City, Mo.)
Freshmen almost never play varsity for head coach Tony Severino at Rockhurst. But 45 tackles and three forced fumbles later, Michael Rose has bucked the trend.
The 6-1 linebacker is already being recruited by Illinois. Ron Zook became aware of Rose while he was recruiting teammates Nathan Scheelhaase and Dexter McDonald.
Watch out for Nebraska though as the Cornhuskers are already coming on strong for Rose, who will be a force for three more years on the high school level.
Barry Sanders Jr., RB, Heritage Hall (Oklahoma City, Okla.)
When you’re the son of arguably the greatest running back ever, playing high school football is a noteworthy story.
Barry Sanders Jr. - Heritage Hall, Okla.
However, Barry Sanders Jr. would be on this list if his name were Barry Smith Jr. He’s simply that talented.
Barry Jr. thrashed opposing defenses, averaging 8.4 yards per carry. He tallied 12 touchdowns, including three in Heritage Hall’s state final victory which capped a perfect 15-0 season. He demonstrated the balance, vision and change of direction that made his father legendary. His season highlights are jaw dropping.
It appears that the sky will be the limit for Barry Jr. Expect him to be a household name by the end of his high school career.
Deion Sanders Jr., ATH, Cedar Hill (Texas)
While his famous father was one of the greatest cornerbacks ever, Deion “Bucky” Sanders Jr. appears to be equally dangerous on both sides of the ball.
The younger Sanders is blessed with top-flight speed and quickness, which could suit him well at defensive back or wide receiver, though he also played some quarterback growing up.
While the Cedar Hill Longhorns have tremendous depth, look for Sanders to find a way to contribute as a sophomore in the fall. By the time he’s a senior, he should be next in a long line of Cedar Hill players to be heavily recruited.
Rushel Shell, RB, Hopewell (Aliquippa, Pa.)
MaxPreps National Freshman of the Year Rushel Shell had arguably the finest season of any ninth grader last year. The 6-0, 210-pound Shell gained 1,156 yards and scored 14 touchdowns despite not being a starter until week six.
Shell has speed in the 4.4 range and can already bench press 300 pounds. He has drawn comparisons to another Hopewell product, Tony Dorsett.
“The great thing about it is he earned everything he got. Nothing was given to him,” said head coach Dave Vestal.
According to Vestal, Pitt, Ohio State and Notre Dame are all recruiting Shell early on.
Dennis Smith, RB, Wimberley (Texas)
Texas certainly has a long history of outstanding running backs. After his freshman season, Dennis Smith appears well on his way to carrying that flag.
Dennis Smith - RB - Wimberley, TX
Smith is 6-2, 215 pounds, and rushed for 15 touchdowns along with over 1,500 yards as a ninth grader. According to Wimberley head coach Weldon Nelms, Smith was able to dunk a basketball as a seventh grader.
“He’s one that you get one out of 20 or 30 years coaching (at 3A),” Nelms said. “One of the guys that saw him and saw Eric Dickerson in high school said he looked just like him.”
Jacob Smith, RB, Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks, Calif.)
Jacob Smith is one of the fastest freshman in America, running a 10.91 in the 100 meters. The good news for Notre Dame head coach Kevin Rooney is that Smith is also an outstanding football player.
After tearing up freshman football last season, Smith should help spell starting running back Ken Boggs on varsity this season. He’s faster than former Notre Dame star and current Oakland Raiders running back Justin Fargas at the same age.
Don’t be surprised if Smith earns a bigger role in the Knights’ offense in 2009. His speed may come in handy in some games on Notre Dame’s extremely challenging schedule, which includes a trip to Texas to play Klein Oak.
Sharif Smith, DB, Furness (Philadelphia, Pa.)
An All-Public League selection at running back last season, Sharif Smith proved he was an impact player. He rushed for over 900 yards for Furness despite missing two games with injury. Amazingly, he may be even better at defensive back.
“I see him long term at defensive back, maybe corner,” said Anthony Pastore, who coaches the 6-0, 185-pound Smith. “He’s an excellent tackler and he’s not afraid of contact.”
Pastore coached current Arizona Cardinals linebacker Victor Hobson in high school and said that Smith has the same level of talent as Hobson did at the same age.
“He’s just a very gifted kid,” Pastore said.
Noah Spence, DL, Bishop McDevitt (Harrisburg, Pa.)
Compiling 40 tackles and over eight sacks, Bishop McDevitt defensive end Noah Spence had an outstanding ninth grade campaign against challenging opponents.
“He’s just a freak,” said head coach Jeff Weachter, who projects Spence could be 6-5, 270 pounds by the time he’s ready to graduate.
Weachter also said that Spence could go on to challenge LeSean McCoy as the program’s best ever player.
Bishop McDevitt will once again be in the thick of the AAAA title hunt, so Spence will be given every opportunity to prove himself in the spotlight.
Freddie Tagaloa, OL, Salesian (Richmond, Calif.)
For a 6-8, 270-pound manchild, Freddie Tagaloa is very light on his feet.
That’s what makes the basketball phenom also a star on the football field. As if his size wasn’t distinctive enough, Tagaloa’s ability to run with his frame really sets him apart from most players his age—or any age.
While basketball seems to be his calling, Tagaloa has the tools to have an outstanding football career if he decides he wants to stick with the pigskin.
John Theus, OL, Bolles (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Bolles capped a 14-0 season by destroying Gulliver Prep and capturing a 2A state title. The Bulldogs were extremely talented with lineman Brent Benedict, already committed to Georgia, paving the way for Bolles’ ground game.
The biggest testament to quality of Bolles’ program—and to the talent of Benedict—might be the fact that 6-5, 265-pound John Theus was a backup.
Theus will probably be a big recruit in his own right, especially as he’ll get a chance to shine as a sophomore starting on the line alongside Benedict.
Another sophomore lineman, John Heck, is the son of former Notre Dame standout and NFL tackle Andy Heck. He may not start as a sophomore, but he also has a 6-5 frame and is worth keeping an eye on.
Fernando Villanueva, OL, Independence (San Jose, Calif.)
Although 2008 was Fernando Villanueva’s first season playing organized football, you would have never known it. The 6-6, 275-pound manchild made quite an impression in 2008. He was named the league’s freshman of the year and held his own against some very tough competition.
“He is big, but agile,” said Independence head coach Norm Brown, who mentioned that “Nando” can already dunk a basketball jumping from two feet. “He’s getting letters from all the Pac-10 schools.”
Villanueva played both defensive tackle and defensive end, and also saw time at tight end. He attended UCLA’s camp this summer, and will likely be a hot commodity on the recruiting trail for the next few seasons.
Since his off-the-field traits are as impressive as his on-field talents, Brown thinks Nando has a world of potential.
“Nando has a bright future,” he said. “I believe he should be a blue chip preseason prospect as a sophomore.”
Martez Walker, RB, Brother Rice (Chicago, Ill.)
It’s very difficult for a freshman to make an impact in the Chicago Catholic League. They are not allowed to play varsity football during the league season, so their only opportunity to shine comes in the playoffs.
The 5-10, 185-pound Walker helped lead the Brother Rice freshmen team to an undefeated season before leading the varsity squad in rushing yards in several playoff games.
Lucky for head coach Steve Nye, Walker has quite the complement in the backfield in the form of fellow sophomore Andrew Walker.
“At their age, they are both as talented as we’ve had in the building,” Nye said. “They’re both great kids and they both work very hard.”
Darin Washington, QB, Havre de Grace (Md.)
An all-county selection at quarterback, Darin Washington was named Havre’s de Grace’s quarterback in week three by head coach Johnny Brooks and didn’t look back.
The 6-1 Washington guided the Warriors to eight straight wins and an 11-1 record on the season. He finished with over 1,000 yards passing and 17 touchdowns.
Though Havre de Grace is a small 1A school, Brooks expects Washington to be heavily-recruited by Division I schools. That shouldn’t be a problem if Washington continues to build on his remarkably successful ninth grade campaign.
Eddie Williams, ATH, Arnold (Panama City Beach, Fla.)
One of the more high-profile transfers of the offseason, Eddie Williams left Mosley in the spring after he played quarterback, defensive back and wide receiver on the varsity level in the fall. The FHSAA upheld the transfer, and Williams will start at safety for Arnold.
The arrival of the 6-3 Williams will be a tremendous boost to the Marlins.
“People are saying he might be the best athlete to come out of our area ever,” said assistant coach Mark Cowart.
According to Cowart, Williams enjoys playing QB, but likes the physicality of playing defense.
“He likes to hit people,” he said.
Eric Williams, QB, Jesuit (Portland, Ore.)
One of the top programs in the Northwest, Jesuit has a track record of consistently putting out top teams as well as top recruits.
Eric Williams, a quarterback from the class of 2012, should emerge as another outstanding talent to hail from Jesuit. The athletic, 6-3 Williams is a dual-threat at quarterback who has great bloodlines. His brother, Scott, was quarterback for Jesuit this past season and is now playing at Yale. According to head coach Ken Potter, the younger Williams is already ahead of his brother. His father, Larry, was an All-American lineman at Notre Dame before a long career in the NFL.
“He’s just really athletic,” he said. “I think he’s going to be a 6-4, 6-5, 215- or 220-pound QB that can run and really throw.”
JaQuay Williams, WR, Heard County (Franklin, Ga.)
In recent years, Heard County head coach Tim Barron has coached Carlos Brown, now at the University of Michigan, and Dontavius Jackson, who is making his way to the University of Georgia in the fall. He thinks wide receiver JaQuay Williams may have more potential than either of them.
“I think if he commits and does everything right, he can be extremely, extremely special,” Barron said of the 6-4, 180-pound sophomore.
The man responsible for delivering the ball to Williams is quarterback Santez Emory. According to Barron, when colleges have come to recruit Emory, they’ve also taken notice of Williams.
“Every coach that has come here for Santez has loved the frame of JaQuay Williams,” Barron said.
Milton Williams, LB, La Verne Lutheran (La Verne, Calif.)
Lutheran head coach Bobby Godinez is convinced that Milton Williams has the makings of a very special player.
“I’ve never seen a kid like Milton,” Godinez said. “I’ve played with Shaun Cody and Brigham Harwell, and I think Milton is better at the same age.”
Williams is a 6-1, 215-pound linebacker who suffered through injury for much of last season, but came back late in the year and made a splash.
“His explosiveness is unstoppable,” Godinez said. “He’ll go anywhere he wants.”
Godinez mentioned that Williams is originally from Oklahoma and would love to play for the Sooners. He also said that UCLA has shown early interest in Williams, and may extend a verbal offer.
Jameis Winston, QB, Hueytown (Ala.)
Playing in the state’s rigorous 6A classification, Jameis Winston was a pleasant surprise to the Alabama high school football scene, starting at quarterback and leading Hueytown to a 6-5 record.
Coach Jeff Smith, however, knew what to expect.
“We did a little kids camp out here six years ago. He looked good then. He’s just grown,” Smith said.
Winston threw for 12 touchdowns and over 700 yards. The 6-3, 180-pound phenom can pass, run and even block, according to Smith.
“It’s hard for me to talk like this, because it makes me sound real arrogant,” Smith said. “But there is not a better ninth grader in the state than him. He might be one of the best freshman in the whole Southeast.”
Patrick Wooten, LB, Jordan (Los Angeles, Calif.)
The talent-rich Los Angeles area continues to churn out top notch football players. Patrick Wooten is a fine example.
Wooten posted an incredible 150 tackles as a freshman anchoring Jordan’s defense. He rose to the occasion against some of the team’s stiffest competition, tallying 17 tackles against St. Bonaventure, 12 against Mater Dei, and 14 against Crenshaw.
At 5-foot-6, Wooten is undersized right now but seems to have the quickness to play defensive back at the next level. He recorded two interceptions and recovered five fumbles on his way to being named an All-City player.
Timothy Wright, RB, La Marque (Texas)
Timothy Wright was half of a dynamic quarterback-running back combination that consisted of freshmen.
He and signal caller Emmanuel Williams each made quite an impact on the Texas scene despite being mere ninth graders. Williams received district honorable mention.
Wright was a second team offensive selection for District 24-4A. At 5-10, 180 pounds, he should help La Marque bounce back from a 3-6 season in which the Cougars missed the playoffs for the first time since 1989.