By James Butler
With football approaching its state title games and the season over with for most Southern Crescent teams, I thought this would be a good time to spotlight some players who have flown under the radar in the major recruiting circles.
Here are a couple of Clayton’s biggest names when it comes to the gridiron as well as three players who have the look of contributors no matter where they play at collegiately.
In his first, and last, season as the starting running back, Sloan made sure his name would go down in the history books at Drew. He rushed for 26 touchdowns and over 2,000 yards, while helping lead the Titans to the Class AAAAA Quarterfinals — a first in this young program’s history. He shows good burst, as well as long, breakaway speed and balance. He also proved to be an effective receiver out of the backfield during his Drew career. As we get closer to the 2016 signing day, I expect colleges to learn more and more about just how good Sloan is.
Hylton made headlines as the back that replaced Rodney Smith at Mundy’s Mill, but he is also very impressive as a safety on defense. A sure tackler who can play close to the line of scrimmage, Hylton also has the ball skills and athleticism to play a deep safety. His size might be a detriment to some for both of his potential positions, but there have been players similarly-sized to Hylton who have been Pro Bowlers in the NFL – think Maurice Jones Drew (running back) and Bob Sanders (safety). With the ball in his hands Hylton knows how to find daylight, which helps obviously as a running back, but also as a defender after a turnover. Another 20-30 pounds added to his frame would only help his chances of success wherever he ends up and whatever position he plays.
No list of under-the-radar talent in Clayton County can be taken seriously without mentioning the diminutive, speedy and deceptively tough Mosley. The senior rushed for over 1,000 yards and was, in many ways, the heart and soul of the Cardinals’ history making season. Mosley’s got next level speed and quickness, but can also battle between the tackles for tough yards. He proved himself as a viable receiver out of the backfield, especially at times during the postseason. If Mosley had about three more inches and 10 or 15 more pounds on his frame, he wouldn’t be on this list. As it is, the Jonesboro senior will be a monumental find for whichever school is able to nab him.
A player who had basketball as a first love, Ragland only suited up on the gridiron for his junior and senior seasons. Despite that he has natural ball skills, which he also showed as a defensive back. Still, I think it is his ball skills, athleticism and potential to develop as a wide receiver that should make him a top target of some fortunate college. Ragland was able to have good production even with his newness to the sport and Forest Park’s struggles on offense, so that gives you the notion that his ceiling is high and he is nowhere near as good as he can be. A redshirt year might be helpful, but he should eventually be a go-to contributor for whatever college he attends.
Harris is a true athlete. He made plays in the Eagles’ passing game while playing receiver and also received his share of carries out of the backfield as a tailback. That being said, his athleticism may be even valuable on the defensive side of the ball in college, where he also stood out at North Clayton. The safety spot is a logical choice for him to end up if he plays defense, but another interesting possibility is linebacker — provided he can add weight. Harris showed good pursuit abilities when rushing from the edge and playing in the box while in high school.
Harris’ teammate, Vildor is a competitive defensive back who is capable of playing safety or cornerback. He shows good ball skills and puts himself in position to contest most balls. Being 6-foot with his competitive nature should win him praise from the secondary coaches at Georgia Southern, where Vildor committed before the 2015 season. Vildor is the type of player who projects to do in college just exactly what he did in high school.
Are there any Clayton County seniors that I missed? Send me their names via email at email@example.com or find me on Twitter @JamesButlerJour.