By Gabriel Stovall
We’re a long way away from National Signing Day 2017, and we’re still six months out from the start of football season, but spring ball is around the corner, which, for those of you jonsing for football, will be the first time to get to see some of the next season’s stars in action.
Here, we’ve compiled a list of some of names of South Metro area players who could become big time (or bigger time, in some cases) blips on the 2017 recruiting radar.
The names, measurables and “stars” come mostly from the good folks at 247sports.com. But the analysis belongs to us.
Check out the list, and let us know who we missed:
WILLIAM POOLE III, Hapeville Charter, 6-1, 175 DB — 4 star: Poole’s ball skills as a corner are impeccable. He didn’t get many passes thrown his way, but when it happened, the rangy DB locked on receivers, and the ball, with uncanny regularity. He’s big and strong enough to also be effective in run support. Pool is a likely Georgia commit, but every college football blue blood in America is hot on his trail.
RYAN GLOVER, Woodward Academy, 6-0, 188 QB — 3 star: Coming off a breakout season where he passed for 2,740 yards and 26 touchdowns to just five interceptions, Glover is arguably South Metro Atlanta’s best returning signal caller. He completed 62 percent of his passes while seeing his role on the offense drastically increase with the injury of 4-star, Georgia-bound tailback Elijah Holyfield. Glover also showed dual threat ability with 392 rushing yards and six touchdowns on the ground.
J.R. PACE, Woodward Academy, 6-1, 170 ATH — 3 star: Pace is a slash-player who can excel virtually anywhere on the field. Defensively he had three picks and close 59 tackles from his safety spot. He also showed flashed of brilliance on the offensive side of the ball. He’s got a little over a half dozen scholarship offers with Duke and Vanderbilt heavily on his trail. Look for that number to grow as the 2016 season draws nearer.
YUSUF CORKER, Woodland, 6-0, 173 CB — 3 star: The Wolfpack DB is probably one of the closest things to a shutdown corner — aside from Poole — you’ll find on the Southside if not the state. Corker’s already got 10 scholarship offers, including overtures from national championship runner up Clemson, Tennessee, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Duke and Clemson, and he’s getting hard looks from the likes of Auburn and Florida State.
JOSHUA JOHNSON, Woodward Academy, 5-10, 170 WR — 3 star: Johnson is hands down one of the most electrifying talents returning for the 2016 season. His game breaking ability was seen best during Woodward’s marquee matchup with then-No. 4 Sandy Creek last season when he snagged three balls for 141 yards and a score. His 21.8 yards-per-catch average and 1,111 receiving yards in 2015 speak to his elite ability.
MALIK ROUTE, Lovejoy, 5-5, 143 WR — If this Lovejoy speedster were five or six inches taller, he would be grabbing the attention of many Division I schools.
KELVIN JOHNSON, Spalding, 6-1, 190 LB: If his double-digit tackle performance in the RisingSeniors.com Bowl was any indication, Johnson’s recruiting stock is set to sky rocket. He’s a big reason why the Jaguars’ stingy defense paced them to a record-breaking season in 2015.
MARQUISE TAYLOR, Lovejoy, 5-10, 165 ATH: Lovejoy’s deep threat wide receiver is a big play waiting to happen. His speed and athleticism make him a dual threat on both offense and defense as a defensive back. His football IQ steadily improved as the 2015 season went on, evidenced by him consistently being in position to make big plays on defense. He’s also a special teams threat as a returner.
MJ WALKER Jonesboro, 6-4, 200 ATH: Chances are we’ll see him playing on the hardwood instead of the gridiron when he gets to the college level, but 247sports.com has him listed as a guy to watch just based on his athleticism alone. If he decides to play football, he’ll definitely garner attention.
MESHAEL CUSTIS, Lovejoy, 6-2, 175, DB — 3 star: Stop us if you’ve heard this one before — a person named “Custis” coming out of Lovejoy High School who should be a fairly major recruiting prospect. The safety has the size and ball-hawking skills to excel at the next level.
CALDER MARRIA, Jonesboro, 6-4, 210 DE/TE — 3 star: Much of the Cardinals offense revolved around Clemson signee Zerrick Cooper at quarterback, Montralius Mosley (Reinhart) at tailback and Jordan Griffin (Kentucky) at receiver, but Marria emerged as a force in the passing game over the middle, especially down the stretch of the 2015 season. Look for his blip on the recruiting radar to increase.
RASHEED MARSHALL, Spalding, 6-4 180 WR — Anytime you can find a wideout with length, it’s almost an unwritten rule that you have to find away to turn him into a project. Throw in his 4.6 seconds time in the 40, and you’ve got a player who more people should know about this time next year. Spalding is definitely more of your run-oriented spread offense, but having a weapon like Marshall can conveniently stretch the field for quarterback Naricuss Driver.
MARVIN HUBBARD, Sandy Creek, 5-9 179 RB — 3 star: Hubbard has already committed to Ole Miss after a breakout sophomore season. Don’t expect schools to stop coming after the Sandy Creek speedster who could fall into more of a featured back role next season.
JALEN HOUSTON, Stockbridge, 5-11, 203 RB: Stockbridge coach Kevin Whitley has always had two things as the Tigers coach — a stingy defense and talented running backs. Houston is a prototypical power back who will be among the best in the Southern Crescent in 2016, if not Georgia. His offer list, which includes Florida, Virginia and NC state, is starting to back up that claim.
MYCHAEL JENKINS, Sandy Creek, 5-10 166 DB: With the graduation of all-state safety Javon Jackson, all eyes will be on Jenkins in that Sandy Creek secondary. Even with the Duke signee patrolling the defensive backfield with him, Jenkins still managed seven interceptions in 2015.
JALEN RIDGES, Fayette County, 5-11 165 DB — Ridges has played both ways for the Tigers, being featured as both a corner and receiver, but it is on defense where his next level ball skills shine brightest. Look at his film and you’ll see a lot of coverage sacks and balls thrown away from Ridges. Those two things combined are probably the highest testament to a corner’s effectiveness you’ll find.
KALEB SLAUGHTER, Sandy Creek, 6-0, 175 WR — Cut from a similar mold as Spalding’s Marshall, Slaughter may be the guy the Patriots and rising junior quarterback Bryant Walker look to as the heir apparent for the title of offensive playmaker — a designation abdicated by graduating receiver Korey Banks. With his 12 grabs, 199 yards and two scoring grabs, Slaughter was Sandy Creek’s second leading pass catcher in j2015.
JAELEN GREENE, Sandy Creek, 5-10 190 RB — Staying in Tyrone, Greene has drawn comparisons in running style to current Georgia Bulldog star Nick Chubb. He’s cast as a power back — the thunder to Marvin Hubbard’s lightening. But he is deceptively fast for his size, being clocked at around 4.4 seconds in the 40. Greene’s already been courted by the likes of East Carolina, Troy, Tulane, Miami-Ohio and a few others. But it won’t be long before even more offers start rolling in for Greene.
KELTON DAWSON, Stockbridge, 6-4 235 DE — Say hello to yet another big time defensive prospect from the Stockbridge Tigers machine that coach Kevin Whitley has built. Among Dawson’s current suitors are Kentucky, Charlotte, Mercer, Purdue and Tulane. Duke — which has recruited the Southern Crescent heavily over the last several years — and Wake Forest are also warming up to him. With the departure of Charles Wiley, now an early enrollee at Ole Miss, the spotlight will shine bright on Dawson’s pass rushing abilities in 2016.
JEFFERY HUBBARD, Woodward Academy, 5-10, 170 WR/CB — 3-star: Hubbard will have the chance to become a good complement to speedster Joshua Johnson at wideout with the graduation of Antone Williams, Jason Robertson and Stephen Elliot. But his claim to fame may He may come on the defensive side of the ball. Last season he finished with 31 total tackles and three INTs. Along with J.R. Pace and Darien Wiggins, Woodward could have one of the best secondary units in the state next season. Hubbard’s already got offers from Cincinnati, Georgia State, Jacksonville state, Miami-Ohio, Old Dominion and Troy. Auburn, Notre Dame and Tennessee are starting to take notice.
TREVOR GEAR ELCA, 6-1 200 RB — Fresh off a Class A state championship, Trevor’s starting to pick up some attention from a few of the blue bloods. He’s got an offer from Mercer, but schools like Georgia Tech and Ole Miss have shown interest. With another good season in 2016, expect schools like Clemson, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan and South Carolina to get in the mix. He’s versatile. He has good speed, but tremendous balance and strength between the tackles. Super impressed with how he got the tough yards during ELCA’s state win over No. 1 Aquinas.
GREG WHITE, Riverdale, 6-3, 175 WR — So far the greatest interest White’s received comes from Georgia State, but this silky smooth receiver with great hands will turn heads in 2016 as he becomes even more of a feature on the Raiders’ offense as fellow field stretcher Carlton Crosdale will graduate. So far, only Tulane has offered, but Riverdale coach Terry Herrod says he has “great interest” from Georgia Tech, Georgia Southern, Wake Forest and Georgia State. We think this list will begin to grow once the spring and summer sessions begin.
DARIEN WIGGINS, Woodward Academy, 5-8 152 DB — This diminutive defensive back has a nose for the ball, both as a tackler and in coverage. With 80 total tackles and five interceptions in 2015, Woodward fans are, no doubt, waiting with baited breath to see how Wiggins takes the next step in 2016.
ISAIAH APPLING, Sandy Creek, 5-5 159 DB — What Applin doesn’t have in stature, he definitely makes up for in heart and ball instinct. He knows how to find the big play. He’s technically sound with his footwork in coverage situations, and he’s fearless for contact despite his size. He has good burst when it comes to getting to the ball to make plays.
CEDRIC WEBB, Griffin, 6-0, 267, OL — New Bears coach Antonio Andrews has Webb to count on as one of the anchors to what will probably be a new-look offensive line in a bit of a retooled offensive approach next season. He’s not the tallest center in the world, but he’s got long arms and quick hands. He showed good leverage in blocking last season.
TERRY FULLER, Griffin, 6-4 240, DE — This three-star prospect has garnered attention Auburn, Georgia and Alabama, and when you watch him play you can understand why. Fuller is a rangy strongside defensive end, and he has good speed around the edge. A strong 2016 season should, no doubt, catapult him into a place among the Southern Crescent’s most sought after talents.
ASKIA “AJ” MOSES, Spalding, 6-0 190, RB — Moses, along with quarterback Naricuss Dryver, was the face of Spalding football’s offensive attack last season. He’s not flashy. But he’s blue-collar and effective. He’s deceptively fast in the open field as more of a straight line runner and knows how to punch holes with velocity.
NARICUSS DRIVER, Spalding, 6-2, 210, QB/ATH — Driver’s Hudl.com page gives him the nickname “Baby Cam,” in homage to Carolina Panthers star Cam Newton. And at times, he was that. Driver is raw, but much improved as a passer, and is dangerous in zone read action or when a play breaks down. A fluid runner with long strides and a physical specimen, he probably projects to the next level as an athlete.
JAMAL WYNTER, Henry County, 6-1 255, DT — If you want to get a good glimpse of Wynter’s strength, watch him throw the discus or shot put. The Warhawk senior is a plug in the middle of Henry County’s defensive line. If he works to get a little more explosion off the ball, he may become a 2017 recruiting class sleeper.