Recruiting

The River

By: Jeff Doke

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

It has been said that you won’t get recruited to play college ball if you play at a small private school with less than 400 students.

Jordan Triplett’s texts at 12:01am on September 1st would say otherwise.

“We had been sending out stats and video clips for years, knowing that no one could reply,” says the Junior phenom running back from Frederica Academy. “At the end of last year, I was really wondering if anyone was watching. (Frederica Head Coach) Brandon Derrick just said to be patient. When midnight on Sept 1st hit, it exploded. It was such a relief.”

“Coach Derrick just said ‘told ya so.’”

Nicknamed “The River,” the Class of 2024 offensive star of the Knights has been putting up staggering numbers since his freshman year. Thrust into the starting role in the fourth game of the year, he never looked back.

In his first start against Brantley County, Triplett put up a staggering 163 yards on 26 carries. By the time the year was over, Jordan was the #1 RB in the nation for his graduating class.

“All this time, I knew I was putting up the numbers but I wondered what I was missing?”

It seems all he was missing was time. September 1st was the first day that college coaches could reach out to high school juniors in regards to recruiting. As soon as the clock hit midnight, Triplett had a good idea his work was going to pay off.

“The first message that came at midnight was from Mercer,” says his father, Mark Triplett. “Then came Princeton, then Dartmouth. Florida Atlantic invited him to Junior Day & their invite only camp. The next morning there were a dozen schools in just the first day.”

As of three weeks later, a total of 15 schools have reached out, including Georgia Southern, Vanderbilt in the SEC, Iowa State in the Big 12, UConn from the AAC, and a laundry list of Ivy League & service academy squads; Princeton, Harvard, Dartmouth, Penn, Air Force, and Army.

Of the schools that have reached out so far, Jordan, his dad, and his mom all have their favorites (although they won’t be revealed here).

“Yes, I have a preference, but honestly I don’t think past the scholarships,” according to his mom Becky, a teacher at Frederica Academy. “Jordan wants to play, and mom doesn’t want to have to pay for it if she doesn’t have to,” she said with a smile.

The Ivy League schools aren’t a stretch for Jordan. He currently has a 4.2 GPA with a full load of AP classes.

“I’ve got to give that credit to mom and dad. We knew I wasn’t going to be the fastest or the biggest, but they knew that if I was a little good at football but had the academics, I’d have a chance to go play at the next level at some of the finest schools in the country.”

His father has been not only his biggest supporter and chauffeur, but his social media hype man as well.

“I’ve been doing this for a while,” says Mark. “Frederica has a small staff, no designated recruiter like some schools. I was really excited that over the last year that we sent out all these questionnaires and film, not knowing what they think about it since they couldn’t reach out. Then on the first day to finally hear from 12-15 teams that did like it, it was confirmation.”

Jordan obviously appreciates the effort.

“It’s funny, when I heard from Iowa State, I was like ‘how did THEY hear about me?’ and Dad said ‘I filled out a recruiting questionnaire.’ I said ‘when?’ He said ‘Ninth grade.’”

Jordan does have an as-of-yet unnamed dream school. They’ve made no official contact with him, but they have spoken to Coach Derrick about coming to a game.

The final goal is, of course, setting himself up for a chance at the NFL.

“I remember sitting in my bed in Montana with my six Cam Newton FatHeads, telling mom I was going to play in the NFL while jumping into a Carolina Panthers bean bag. I’ve always had that dream. Mom and Dad have driven me to all these camps, spent all that registration money. I’m going to have to eventually mow the lawn a lot.”

If the next six years go as planned, he’ll be able to buy them a new house to go with that lawn.

Gator Goals

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

A year ago, Florida fans were questioning the program’s coaching decision (Dan Mullen), but Florida football was fresh off an SEC title game and the program seemed to be trending in the right direction.

As you can see, things change. Quickly.

Florida finished the 2021 season with a 6-7 record. As a result, Mullen was let go. The Gators rebounded with one of the hottest names on the market- Billy Napier. The move was a home run in the coaching world and it showed that Florida is serious about winning.

With spring ball starting up, it’s time to take a glance at our new-looking Gators. What storylines should I be following? Easy, it all starts with recruiting!

During Napier’s Signing Day press conference, he made it clear: there’s plenty of work to be done. For example, the Gators signed only six players from their talent-rich home state.

While the Gators shifted their focus to the upcoming class paired with Napier’s first full season UF’s head coach — the coaching staff made it clear: Florida plans to scour the talent from the Sunshine State.

“That’s the approach that we will take and certainly with the ’23 group, which we’ve already started on,” Napier said. “That will be the mentality, for sure.”

It’s not as if Napier underestimated what Florida has to offer in the first place. Rather, he’s looking to forge new relationships in the final two months of a player’s recruitment; historically, the Gators relied on previously established connections.

Evidenced by his previous team’s (University of Louisiana Lafayette) improvement from year one to year two, there’s tangible reason to believe the Gators will make a massive leap in the recruiting rankings next season under Napier.

The University of Louisiana Lafayette improved 28 places in the team rankings from Napier’s first season to his second. After finishing fourth in the Sun Belt conference his first year, the Ragin’ Cajuns would rank atop the conference in recruiting for each of the next three seasons.

The blueprint looks to already be in place.

“I think you build your schedule based off of the ’22s. And then maybe the ’23 players in that area. You try to do the best job you can,” Napier said. “And certainly, each assistant coach kind of is taking the same philosophy.”

Katie Turner, Florida’s newly hired assistant athletic director of recruiting strategy, may not technically be a coach, but she’s a vital part of the team’s talent acquisition efforts.

Napier and his coaching staff know they’ll have to maintain the intensity on the recruiting trail if they hope to have a stress-free National Signing Day in 2023.

“We’re hopeful that we won’t be doing this much business in February next year, and we’ll be able to be a little bit more strategic about our time on the road relative to the next group,” Napier said. “But I think we made the most of it, for sure.”

Florida can be a pressure cooker, but that may be said of every high-level Division I football program. The expectations across the country have risen, along with budgets and coaches’ salaries. You’re expected to win fast or die young.

The 2023 recruiting cycle is well underway, and the Florida Gators have several goals in mind as l Billy Napier puts together his first full class of signees after a transitional 2022 haul.

One of those goals, simply put, is to recruit more effectively than the Gators’ past, which consistently missed opportunities and underwhelmed year after year on the trail.

The second goal is to put a fence around the state of Florida, being able to keep elite talent home rather than allowing non-locals to tap into Florida’s top talent and prospects as they please.

Florida has the most blue-chips of any other state (and the most 5-stars) by leaps in 2023. We’ll see if new head coaches in Florida’s Billy Napier can make some progress getting in-state prospects to stay closer to home.

In my review, Napier will be evaluated by this first class. He needs a top 5 class or this may be another short tenure for Coach Napier.

Glynn’s Deep Talent Pool

By: Alex Mathis

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Football in Glynn County has come to an end and a lot of seniors are wondering if they will ever suit up in a football uniform again.

Over the past few years, Glynn County has been the home of some of the top football prospects in the state of Georgia. Just last year, Glynn County had 4 recruits go on to play division 1 football.

Deejay Dallas and Zalonte Hillery both attended The University of Miami. Shawn Smith attended the University of Virginia and Denaja Gammage attended Mercer University. This year’s cycle will have even more Glynn County student athletes attend college to play football next year.

Brunswick High has one of the most talented group of seniors in Georgia. Coach Pender believes he could possibly have double digit players sign scholarships in the spring.

Jaylen Jackson is already committed to Cincinnati. He visited the campus this fall and fell in love with the staff and committed while on his visit.

Since his commitment, he has had several Power 5 conference schools show interest. His recruitment is one to keep an eye on.

Sharrod Frazier is another baller who is being recruited by a lot of top schools in the country. Frazier is set to visit Colorado State in January. If this visit goes well, we could see the BHS athlete move out west. We could also see Frazier end up somewhere closer like Georgia Southern.

Aubrey Williams is another defensive standout getting a lot of interest from colleges. Rice and Elon are recent schools who have offered Aubrey.

Kam Futch has also earned a chance to play football on Saturdays. Valdosta State and The University of West Georgia are two schools who are vying for his services.

There are also several of guys on the BHS roster who are going to play on Saturdays. DJ Whitfield, Telvin Smith, Alonzo Brown are a few names to keep an eye on as National Signing Day approaches.

Glynn Academy also has some 2018 prospects that will play past high school.

Randon Jernigan had a ton of offers to play college football but chose to go the baseball route. Jernigan will play baseball for the University of Georgia next year.

Marvin Dallas is a name that is on a lot of college boards as well. Marvin Dallas received an offer from Valdosta State earlier this week.

Dallas is a long defensive back. He has the measurables that a lot of colleges are looking for at that position.

A sleeper at Glynn Academy this year is Caine Crews. Crews had an amazing year rushing for the Terrors. He was a defensive player last year so he did not have much film running the rock, but this kid is good. Whatever team takes a chance on Crews will be getting a diamond in the rough.

Frederica Academy also has prospects that have been receiving some college attention. Santana Clark has played two great seasons at Frederica Academy. Earlier in the spring, Clark received his first offer from the University of Central Michigan. He has since received a lot of attention from some schools a little closer. Clark is a kid that can go and he will be someone who suits up on Saturdays.

Glynn County also has a very talented rising senior group. Three of those 2019 prospects have a combined for over 50 offers.

Frederica’s Jashawn Sheffield is rated the number 3 wide receiver in the country.

Jaylin Simpson of Frederica is rated the 20th best athlete in the country.

Brunswick High’s Warren MccClendon is rated the number 26 offensive tackle in the country.

All three players are really special and highly recruited. There is also a good possibility that all three players end up playing at the same school in college. It is going to be fun watching their recruitments take place over the next year.

Top Dawg Class

draytonBy: Drayton Hogarth

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

College football’s National Signing Day has come and gone yet again.

While it was the usual suspects with the highest class rankings in Alabama and Ohio State, the Georgia Bulldogs closed with the third ranked class.

Coach Kirby Smart’s first full recruiting class ended as the highest ranked class since the composite rankings have been in use. Let’s take a look at the pieces coming to Athens to play Between the Hedges.

On the offensive side of the ball the focus was on the offensive line. Coach Smart and offensive line coach Sam Pittman went to work, scoured the country and brought in six offensive linemen in this class.

It is quite a varied group with one common theme—they are big; included in the group are pound Isaiah Wilson from Brooklyn, New York, junior college D’Marcus Hayes, teammates Netori Johnson and Justin Schaffer out of Cedar Grove, Andrew Thomas, who was the best lineman at the Under Armour All American game, and of course Brunswick’s own, D’Antne Demery.

The man who will look to challenge returning starting quarterback, Jacob Eason, will be Jake Fromm from Houston County. Fromm was originally committed to Alabama last year, but once Smart was made the top Dawg, Fromm became a high priority.

Joining Fromm in the backfield, will be DeAndre Swift, a big time playmaking running back from Pennsylvania. Bulldog offensive coordinator, Jim Cheney showed his excitement about Swift, “I can’t wait to get him in here this summer and see what he can do.”

One area of major need was at the wide receiver spot, and Georgia brought in four that should possibly play right away in Jeremiah Holloman, Matt Landers, and Mark Webb. Webb coincidentally is also from Pennsylvania and is cousins with Swift. One other receiver in this class, Trey Blount, may be looking at a redshirt season.

Flipping over to the defensive side of the ball, the primary focus was to get bigger and faster in the secondary. Mission accomplished. Liberty County’s Richard LeCounte was the leader of this recruiting class and is an electric playmaker in the defensive backfield. DeAngelo Gibbs is the do everything player from Grayson and the top player in the state of Georgia. Tray Bishop played quarterback at Terrell County but will be a big physical cornerback in college. William Poole is a true cover corner and could thrive in the Smart/Tucker system.

The big surprise of signing day was the addition of corners who are big and fast in Ameer Speed, out of Jacksonville; he stands 6’3” 200 pounds but has legit 4.5 speed. Eric Stokes is a 6’ corner from Covington, Georgia, who also just so happens to be the fastest guy in Georgia. Latavious Brini is a 6’2” corner out of Hialeah, Florida, who was previously committed to Georgia last season but ended up back in the fold when it came down to signing day.

The linebacker group will get reinforced with the additions of inside linebackers, Monty Rice and Vidalia’s Nate McBride. Rice is the most-game ready player right now, and McBride is a freakish athlete. On the outside, Robert Beal, Walter Grant, and UGA legacy Jaden Hunter will provide athleticism from the edge.

While the defensive line group isn’t big in numbers, Malik Herring and Devonte Wyatt will provide depth in the rotation. The defensive line wasn’t quite as high of a priority given the number of big time defensive linemen that were brought to Athens in last season’s recruiting class.

When Kirby Smart became the head coach at Georgia he immediately noted where the Bulldogs needed to address to improve, “It is a line of scrimmage league, everybody knows that everybody said it, it’s critical to our success and I think that’s an area we got to improve. We’ve got to get bigger people if we want to be successful at Georgia, and we got to get more depth within the people we have.”

This class, along with last year, will go a long way toward getting Georgia on the right path to compete for championships.

 

 

Is Alabama Good For SEC?

jjBy: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

When my wife and I moved to Brunswick a little over 13 years ago, I assume that like most people new to town, we drove right by Willie’s Weenie Wagon, snickered at the name, and didn’t think anything more about it.

Needless to say, we quickly learned from the error of our ways, and weekly visits to Willie’s became the norm. We moved away from Glynn Co. 10 years ago, yet anytime we vacation in Florida we always tend to plan our driving schedule around eating at Willie’s.

The only drawback I’ve encountered with this strategy is that because I’m such a big fan of the pork chop sandwich, it almost renders the rest of the menu obsolete, since it’s the only thing I order. Unless I’m in the mood for a pork chop sandwich, I don’t go to Willie’s.

I know this is an odd segue into my story, but I mention this because over the past few weeks I’ve started to wonder if Alabama’s success since Nick Saban has actually been a problem for the SEC as a whole?

I know that sounds like a weird thing to say: having the most dominant team in college football may actually be a hindrance to your conference overall, but just hear me out.

The lifeblood of any collegiate football program is obviously recruiting. It’s much easier to win as an average coach if you are surrounded by talent than it is to be a great coach with little talent around you. Between 2000-2010 there were eight different teams that held the number one recruiting class during that span. In the six recruiting classes since then there has been only one; Alabama.

Nick Saban is on such a roll that at this point he can basically hand pick certainly any defensive player he wants, and probably just about any offense player too, short of the quarterback.

The talent that used to be spread throughout the conference, or to at least three or four different teams each year, is now landing primarily in one area. It’s not a coincidence that the level of talent, and frankly the play, across the conference has been on the decline while the Tide are on track to win their fourth national championship in six years.

Plus, and let’s just be honest with each other here, as long as that list is of things I don’t like about Saban, there isn’t a better coach in the country

It goes without saying that the SEC still has a lot of incoming talent that doesn’t wind up in Tuscaloosa, so please don’t think I’m comparing them to MAC or anything. Every year there are always a few other SEC teams bringing in huge classes, it’s just that the names of those teams change from year to year, and that’s the problem I’m talking about.

When you have one team dominate the talent pool like Alabama has been doing this entire decade, you’re going to see the rest of the conference suffer.

This type of separation usually doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s really only taken shape in the SEC over the past few years, but you can see where it’s trending. If Alabama continues their reign don’t be surprised if the SEC starts to resemble the old ACC (one strong team surrounded by mediocrity).

Oh, by the way, did you know the ACC has a winning record against SEC competition over past three years. I’m just saying…..

Now, who is up for a pork chop sandwich? I’m hungry.