Tailback catches schools' attention

John Curry/Staff
Washington-Wilkes tailback Kelmetrus Wylie has everything going for him - except an injury that forced him to miss his junior year, a time when many athletes have schools after them already. He showed impressive ability in his senior year, however, and has garnered attention from Ball State and Connecticut.

Washington-Wilkes tailback Kelmetrus Wylie was fast enough to out-race bad timing this year.


The 6-foot senior had it all going into the year: Grades, good hands, size, speed and strength.

Well, all but one thing.

"I really think his case was a circumstance of being injured his junior year," Washington-Wilkes coach Russell Morgan said. "I think the vital thing now with the big schools is a great junior year that gets you noticed. The top kids already have offers before their senior year now.''

As a senior, he ran for 2,024 yards and almost 10 yards per carry. The 205-pounder set a school record with a 98-yard touchdown run and found the end zone 21 times.

"Give Kelmetrus a junior year with those numbers and we're talking about him going to an Auburn, a Georgia or a Tennessee right now," Morgan said.

Wylie eventually caught the attention of Division I-A Ball State, and he's now their top recruit. Connecticut has even offered.

Bad timing actually helped out a teammate in that case.

"When UConn took a look at Kelmetrus I told them to take a look at Gary Wilburn, too," Morgan said. "Turns out they liked him and made him an offer as well."

Wilburn (5-11, 185) has been a press coverage corner in strict man coverage and has had only four passes caught on him across his past 27 games.

POKER GAME: There's at least one athlete every year who gets a solid offer from a quality team but waits for something better to come along. Strom Thurmond defensive back Keon Cunningham played that game this year.

He had an early offer from Vanderbilt that is now off the table. The Commodores filled up their shopping list for safeties while waiting on his decision.

Rebels coach Lee Sawyer said Cunningham would likely be preparing to play in the Southeastern Conference if he had jumped on an offer that came last spring. Sawyer said the safety might have gotten a few more offers once other SEC teams saw he was going to be a Commodore.

It's tough to counsel players on such things.

"I kind of question myself and want to tell them you need to jump on this or that," Sawyer said. "But at the same time I try to stay out of their business and give advice only if they ask for it. They're about to make perhaps the first real big decision of their life, and I really want it to be their decision."

The 185-pounder has made The Augusta Chronicle's South Carolina All-Area South team the past three years. He has visits lined up with Charleston Southern, Coastal Carolina, Marshall and Presbyterian College.

Senior athlete Jakar Hamilton was one of the most exciting players in the area the past two seasons. Sawyer said he's likely headed to a junior college to improve his academic transcript.

EUREKA: Jefferson County linebacker Tim Nelson got the SAT score he needed last month and is now fully qualified. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound linebacker looks to be a defensive end in college. He was an All-Area selection his junior year after an impressive 101-tackle season with seven sacks and four forced fumbles.

He was a marked man in 2006, and his numbers fell to 62 tackles and two interceptions. But he has two Division I-A offers and official visits set with Middle Tennessee State and Western Kentucky. That score could lead to more offers.

Jefferson County coach J.B. Arnold said quarterback Dennis Thomas might end up at Georgia Military. Thomas (6-2, 220) is an impressive athlete who projects to a safety at the next level.

CHAN REACTION: Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey's candidacy for the Miami Dolphins job in the National Football League is a good thing for him professionally. But his departure could hurt the best recruiting class the Yellow Jackets have had in years.

Take the case of Greene County's Josh Nesbitt. A conversation with his coach revealed the star quarterback's commitment could hinge on Gailey's status.

"There's no doubt in my mind that no Chan Gailey may change a few things with Josh," Greene County coach Larry Milligan said. "It could open things back up for him."

Reach Jeff Sentell at (706) 823-3425 or jeff.sentell@augustachronicle.com.