Recruiting heats up this week

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 2, 2006

There may be two obstacles that have been in the way of Natchez High head coach Lance Reed when it&8217;s come to dealing with college coaches and recruiting.

The Bulldogs do have players who can contribute on the next level. And the program is on the rise among the state&8217;s 5A circuit.

It&8217;s been a process of selling players &8212; some who are academically eligible, some who aren&8217;t &8212;to get opportunities for some of the Bulldogs who can continue their football careers. With not much takers and lots of players to give, the former Louisiana Tech standout is doing the best he can after the Bulldogs had no one sign last year.

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National signing day is Feb. 1.

&8220;I&8217;m kind of surprised on what we&8217;ve gotten on a couple of these kids,&8221; Reed said. &8220;We&8217;re just hoping that someone will give them an opportunity. They&8217;re so big, and they&8217;re good kids and will work hard for you. What they can accomplish is kind of unlimited. What I&8217;m hoping for is after signing day if these schools didn&8217;t get exactly what they were looking for, that might open the doors for our kids.&8221;

Co-Lin head coach Glenn Davis has taken note as the Bulldogs put five on the team&8217;s protected list &8212; junior college programs can protect 22 players from their district &8212; while hoping to get maybe more. Others not on the protected list could sign with other junior colleges.

Co-Lin protected 10 players in all from Adams, Franklin and Jefferson counties. Those from Natchez are SaMel Washington, Broderick Jackson, Romardo Thomas, C.J. Wright and DeKeedrian Jackson.

&8220;Co-Lin has done an excellent job of communicating with all of our kids,&8221; Reed said. &8220;They&8217;ve come over several times and started building a relationship with us and the players. Most of the kids have the opportunity to play at the next level at Co-Lin, and it give them another chance to get that look and get re-recruited.&8221;

That&8217;s what Washington is hoping for. The senior safety who was the team&8217;s lone representative on the MHSAA Class 5A All-State team had hoped to go Division I &8212; Louisiana Tech and Ole Miss had written him letters earlier &8212; but didn&8217;t qualify academically.

But it&8217;s not a total loss. He&8217;s still got an opportunity to play juco ball along with his teammates and maybe get another shot in two years at playing Division I.

&8220;That&8217;s what it looks like for now,&8221; Washington said. &8220;I really can&8217;t go anywhere else because they protected me. Hopefully me and a couple of others guys on the team. It&8217;s going to be close to home, and I&8217;ll try to go out there and make it happen. That&8217;s another reason I&8217;d like to go &8212; to have another chance to go bigger.&8221;

It&8217;s a chance for both Washington and DeKeedrian Jackson to raise their stock in two years for another chance. Washington has good size for a defensive back at 6-0 and 181 pounds and could play a number of positions, Reed said.

Then there&8217;s DeKeedrian Jackson, who really didn&8217;t reach his potential as a wide receiver until midway through his senior season. At 6-4, he was a late bloomer and had just 21 catches on the season.

&8220;SaMel has the body,&8221; Reed said. &8220;I can name a bunch of positions he could probably play. He could play running back or cornerback. It&8217;s a matter of what&8217;s their needs and where he fits.

&8220;DeKeedrian, he can do almost anything he wants to if he applies himself. If they want to make a defensive end out of him, he could do that. By spending time in the weight room, he could play tight end. With the hands he has and the size, he could be a receiver.&8221;

Reed is also shopping his linemen

Tyrone Baldwin (6-1, 310) and Tremaine Scott (6-4, 330). Both have qualified, along with Thomas.

But much like recruiting, the junior colleges&8217; protection rule isn&8217;t an exact science, either.

&8220;It&8217;s kind of overrated a little bit,&8221; Davis said. &8220;Kids sometimes get their feelings hurt by not being on it. But it&8217;s not our rule. We&8217;re looking for the best players we can find. Sometimes guys we don&8217;t protect wind up being better than the guys we protect.&8221;

Former Natchez High standout J.D. Hamilton was on that protected list two years ago, and he&8217;s hoping two years with the Wolfpack will turn into something bigger on Tuesday. The juco All-American has taken visits to TCU, Louisiana Tech, West Virginia and Mississippi State and will visit Texas A&M next weekend.

Hamilton said West Virginia and Mississippi State have shown the most interest.

&8220;All of them are pretty nice,&8221; Hamilton said. &8220;It doesn&8217;t matter. They&8217;re telling me I&8217;ve got a chance to come in and start.&8221;Others on Co-Lin&8217;s protected list from the Miss-Lou include Jonta Marshall, D.J. Shaw and Emmanuel Mohammed from Franklin County and Jarvis Jackson and Kristopher Williams of Jefferson County. Davis said he&8217;d also like to get Casey Hammack from Franklin County as well.

Marcus Tillman

Franklin County&8217;s standout defensive end made up his mind prior to the season that he was intent on being an LSU Tiger.

Now he&8217;s weighing his options. And listening.

The 6-4, 250-pound Tillman didn&8217;t close a door on other offers. He made an official visit to Ole Miss last weekend, is spending this weekend on a visit to LSU and is scheduled to take a visit next weekend to Alabama to make sure his decision is the right one.

&8220;I think it&8217;s about 50-50 with (LSU) and Ole Miss right now,&8221; Franklin County head coach Grady McCluskey said. &8220;He said he&8217;s still committed to LSU. I guess his visit to LSU will make it or break it as far as what he wants to do.&8221;

He&8217;s still committed to Les Miles and the Tigers and welcomed the head coach on a home visit already, but others didn&8217;t give up their pursuit of the big defensive end with good quickness &8212; Alabama head coach Mike Shula and Ole Miss head coach Ed Orgeron have visited as well.

&8220;It was pretty bad,&8221; McCluskey said of the process. &8220;I think it&8217;s slowing down. All the coaches have had their home visits. They can&8217;t come back. He&8217;s probably winding it down.&8221;

Johnnie Lee

The speedy Block running back who runs a 4.37 in the 40 has interest from Northwestern State and Arkansas State. Louisiana Tech showed interest early but backed off.

Lee is academically qualified, Block head coach Scott Green said, and will likely switch to either defensive back or kick returner at the next level. Lee doesn&8217;t have the frame to be a running back at the next level despite putting up 1,243 yards as a senior for the 1A Bears.

&8220;Northwestern has offered him,&8221; Green said. &8220;He&8217;s very interested in them and was probably deadlocked until Arkansas State came into the picture two weeks ago. They saw his highlight tape from his junior year, and right now we&8217;re in the process of trying to get him a visit there before signing day.&8221;

Arkansas State, with former NSU head coach Steve Roberts, got lined up with Lee through connections with Green from his days working camps there. Arkansas State secondary coach Jack Curtis paid Lee and visit and liked his speed.

&8220;He would be a good corner,&8221; Green said. &8220;As soon as (Curtis) turned on the film, the first thing he said was, &8216;I want Johnnie at cornerback.&8217; They&8217;re trying to sell the head coach on him right now. That&8217;s where (Lee) would like to go first, but I think he&8217;d take what he has left. A free education is a free education.&8221;

Kristopher Williams

The Jefferson County wide receiver had just under 1,000 yards receiving and has attracted minimal attention from Louisiana Tech while Mississippi Valley, Alcorn and Jackson State have picked up their interest.

He&8217;s academically qualified, not the biggest target out there at 5-11 but has good speed and good route-running ability, head coach Jeffrey Harness said.

&8220;(Tech) have contacted him a few times but haven&8217;t promised him anything,&8221; Harness said. &8220;He&8217;s a bright kid. He won&8217;t let you know what he wants to do. He hasn&8217;t decided anything yet.&8221;

Jackson has drawn interest from the three in-state SWAC schools but hasn&8217;t qualified. East Mississippi is also interested in Tigers Anthony Williams, Jimmy Shorter and Willie Bruce, Harness said.