Originally created 02/03/05

Area recruiting prospects are plentiful



It's becoming a tradition at North Augusta.

Georgia signee C.J. Byrd watched a quartet of teammates sign last February with NCAA Division I-A schools. Byrd had only the first of his 33 offers, from Illinois, at the time.

When Byrd and teammates Justin Wheeler and Jonathan Ponto signed their letters-of-intent at the school media center on Wednesday, there were another pair of eyes scanning the scene.

They belonged to Marcus Jackson. Jackson's the strongest player on the team this season. The 6-foot, 185-pound safety is already on the minds of the Georgia coaching staff, who've pegged him as a target for next season.

"We keep it in the family at North Augusta and keep the cycle going," Byrd said. "Just wait. Marcus is next. I went to the Shrine Bowl and saw all the big-time players up there. Marcus is on that level. He can play anywhere he wants next season."

Jackson, with 4.5-speed in the 40-yard dash, wants just that.

"That's what I'm shooting for," Jackson said. "I'm going to do all I can in class, the weight room and the field to make sure that's going to be me signing next year."

Jackson will be on every recruiter's wish list when they visit the area this spring. So will a pair of prospects at Glenn Hills.

Tailback Ricky Young and wide receiver Brandon Whitley made an impression on every recruiter who visited the Spartans' prospects this season.

"I'm telling you those two will be big-time Division I-A right now," Glenn Hills coach Felix Curry said. "I'm not saying that to push my program. These guys have it: The talent and the work ethic."

Young ran for more than 1,300 yards and seven yards per carry in 2004. His academic transcript carries only one C, the rest are all A's and B's.

Young and Whitley raced this winter. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Young ran a 4.43 40-yard dash. Young just pulled away from Whitley at the 35-yard mark.

The 6-foot-4, 200-pound wide receiver ran a 4.50.

"Brandon Whitley is like a Fred Gibson," Curry said. "I coached against Fred in high school while I was at Bainbridge. Brandon is the same athlete Fred was. He's just not gotten exposure because we couldn't throw the ball. This year we will. Trust me. If I have to prepare 20 quarterbacks to be ready for injuries so we can throw it. We're going to throw Brandon the ball and watch him make plays."

Wagener-Salley's Ronnie Tyler also will be closed watched. He benefitted from the exposure and recruiting interest generated by Wake Forest signee Channing Schofield this season.

"He's given me a lot of motivation for the next year and a look at what all you can accomplish," Tyler said.

"I'm ready for the season to start, so I can follow in his footsteps. I didn't have a problem with my role last year, but we knew he was the man. Now he's passing that torch on to me."

A listing of rising standouts would not be complete without South Aiken's Dekoda Watson. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound defensive end collected a CSRA-area best 15 sacks in 2004.

Another player to watch is Thomson tight end Cephus Jones. The 6-foot-3, 280-pounder will project as an offensive tackle at the next level.

"He's got everything," Thomson coach Luther Welsh said. "The size, the speed, the quick feet, the attitude and the intensity all the big-time schools look for."

Jones has been cleared from a heat stroke ailment that sidelined him the entire 2004 season.

Staff writer Travis Haney contributed to this report.

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