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*College coaches looking for talent in the state of South Carolina need to look no further than Columbia's Richland Northeast High. The Cavaliers, who advanced all the way to a state title game before falling to nationally-ranked Byrnes and finishing at 13-2, return two players that figure to be amongst the state's top targets in the Class of 2007, in WR/DB Mark Barnes and DB Gary Gray.
Barnes is already being mentioned as a top prospect nationally, and the offers are beginning to come in to back that statement. So far the 6-3, 190 pounder has offers from South Carolina, Clemson, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Alabama, Louisville, Boston College, LSU, Virginia and a few more. Barnes plays both WR and safety for the Cavs and plans on making several unofficial visits over the spring and summer to help narrow his choices.
"He's one of the best athletes we've had, he's special," says Richland Northeast coach Jay Frye.
"He's a great open-field tackler, he's instinctive and can do things that you can't coach."
The 5-10, 170 pound Gray may not have the big name like Barnes, but is also starting to land early offers. Primarily a QB in 2005, Gray will likely be recruited and play cornerback at the next level, and should be a good one with reported 4.49 speed in the 40-yard dash. Auburn, South Carolina, Tennessee, NC State, Maryland, Auburn and Middle Tennessee State have already offered Gray.
One more name to watch from RNE is 6-3, 280 pound OL Jeff Antolick, who's getting mail from South Carolina, Clemson and Middle Tennessee State.
*One of Richland Northeast's bitter rivals, Columbia (S.C.) Spring Valley, also has a lot returning in 2006, although the Vikings must compensate for the loss of North Carolina-bound senior QB B.J. Phillips. SVHS and RNE met twice in the 2005 season, with the Vikings winning the regular season tilt 20-13, but falling to RNE 14-7 in the state semifinals to end their season at 11-3.
The Vikings figure to go heavy on the ground next fall, returning 2nd team all-state RB Brandon Johnson, who will run behind three very talented returning offensive linemen. Johnson, a 5-9, 195 pounder, ran for 1,300 yards and 15 scores in 11 games last fall.
The line will be anchored by 6-5, 275 pound tackle Quintin Richardson, who had 82 knockdown blocks as a junior and already holds an offer from Maryland. He'll be joined up front by 6-4, 260 pound center Mason Cloy, whom coach Jimmy Noonan feels will also be a heavily recruited prospect, and big 6-6, 290 pound Kyle Fischer, who was a 2nd team all-state pick in '05 after totaling 77 knockdowns and grading out a 92 percent.
Coach Noonan says the '06 Viking defense will be anchored by its three senior linebackers, 5-10, 195 pound John Glaspie, who had 103 tackles and four picks as a junior, 5-10, 198 pound Norman Washington, who totaled 83 tackles in '05, and 6-2, 200 Tim Green, who was injured most of his junior season but is probably the best prospect of the three.
*Tucson (Ariz.) Salpointe Catholic is developing a reputation for producing big lineman over the past few years with current Notre Dame lineman John Kadous and a Nevada commit this year in John Romero. Next year the Lancers could have perhaps their best one yet in 6-5, 280 pound Kris O'Dowd.
Last year O'Dowd attended the NIKE Camp at Stanford as an underclassman and did not disappoint, clocking a quick 5.16 40 on a slow field while benching 28 reps and posting a 29-inch vertical jump on his way to a 69.20 SPARQ Rating, a tremendous score for a lineman.
As a junior on the field this fall, many observers in the Grand Canyon State felt O'Dowd was the top OL regardless of class in Arizona. He should be a national-type of prospect in the Class of 2007 and is already attracting attention from the likes of USC, Michigan and Ohio State.
O'Dowd isn't the only player to watch at Salpointe, as the pass-catch combo of QB Max Fritz and WR Matt Ransom had a prolific 2005 season. Fritz, a lanky 6-3, 180 pounder, hit 139 of 205 passes for 2,014 yards with 17 TDs and eight interceptions, while Ransom caught nine of Fritz's TD strikes to go along with 727 yards on 45 receptions.
*Prosser (Wash.) had a huge season in 2005, knocking off defending Washington Class 3A champ Bellevue in the playoffs and advancing all the way to the state title game while finishing with a 13-2 record. Although the Mustangs were beaten by top-ranked Ferndale in the 3A title game, coach Tom Moore is optimistic for 2006.
One reason for the high hopes this fall will be the return of Kellen Moore, Moore's son, under center. Kellen, a 6-1, 170 pounder, shattered three state single season records during a remarkable 2005 campaign, hitting 317 of 479 passes for 4,600 yards with 66 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Moore's totals for completions, yards and touchdown passes all set single season state records.
Returning along with Moore next year will be his favorite receiver, 5-11, 175 pound junior-to-be Cody Bruns. As a sophomore this past fall, Bruns caught an amazing 98 passes for 1,644 yards and 23 TDs. Also back for the Mustangs in '06 will be LB Josh Beck, who earned 3A honorable mention all-state honors as a junior this past fall.
*Although he plays at a small school, 6-7, 270 pound OL Chad Mullen is a player that could emerge in next year's class as a big-time talent. The Scurry (Texas) Scurry-Rosser tackle was a Class 2A all-state pick as a junior and has an excellent combination of size and athleticism which should make him attractive to college coaches both in the Lone Star State and beyond.
If you are a coach or parent that would like to get a top junior involved with the NIKE Camps, NIKE Combines or Elite 11 Quarterback events, or featured on the Junior to Watch Blog, email Brian Stumpf if you are located in the Eastern or Central part of the country ([email protected]) or Greg Biggins ([email protected]) if you are in the West.