High school football coaches from The Herald’s coverage area have busily hosted college coaches all spring, and for good reason.
Our area is loaded with future college football players, young men that are doing their thing on Friday nights. The Herald’s Bret McCormick spent the past few months compiling a list of players that have college football potential, and in some cases, already hold scholarship offers.
Important to keep in mind while reading this: academics is not included or mentioned in any of these profiles, but none of these guys will play Division I college football without at least a 2.3 grade point average in their core classes. Additionally, college prospects in any sport will need to pass 10 core classes by the start of their seventh semester, meaning college hopefuls can’t wait until their senior year to cram in all the important classes they’re lacking.
Learn more about college eligibility at the NCAA Clearinghouse web site and check out the top-10 recruits in our area (plus 20 more), illustrated by Rock Hill’s Garrison Gist:
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1. Derion Kendrick, South Pointe
As explosive an athlete as has come through the Rock Hill area in five or six years, Kendrick has the ability to go all the way to the top. He could play either defensive back or receiver at the next level; it appears Clemson wants to use him on offense.
He threw for 3,348 yards and 37 touchdowns and also ran for 630 yards and eight touchdowns last season, while earning All-Area player of the year honors. He was also named Region 3-4A player of the year, Big 22 player of the year by WSOC-TV, the Tri-County Coaches Association 4A/5A offensive player of the year and junior class All-American, by MaxPreps.
Six-foot-1, 200 pounds, Kendrick weaves through opposing defenses almost effortlessly and he’ll be the biggest reason why South Pointe will be the favorite to win a fourth straight state title this coming season.
Scholarship offers/commitment: Kendrick committed to Clemson in late January.
Play(s) that defined his season: South Pointe in a dogfight with Belton-Honea Path in the second round of the 2016 playoffs. After a scoreless first half coach, Strait Herron pulled Kendrick aside and told him to relax and just play the Stallions’ style of football. By the end of the third quarter, South Pointe had jumped out to a four touchdown lead - three of them were passes from Kendrick.
Coach said it:
2. Josh Belk, Lewisville
Six-foot-4, 300-pound defensive tackle largely staved off serious injury problems last season to record 78 tackles, including 23 for a loss, and seven sacks. Belk committed to Clemson in late January and the limelight will be even more focused on him this fall as a senior. Lewisville coach Will Mitchell said he wanted to see his star player complete a full season without injury and also continue to emerge as a leader in the program. But even if Belk is still developing his consistency, the potential is obvious. His innate strength is obvious - he can squat nearly 600 pounds - but college coaches love the details, including his flexibility and agility for someone his size.
Scholarship offers/commitment: committed to Clemson
Play(s) that defined his season: Sure, Belk’s power is impossible to miss, especially against 1A competition. But against Eau Claire - and nearly every other team he faced last season - Belk showed where much of the power comes from: his hands. The pop from the two hands together into an opposing player’s chest keeps them on their heels and will be invaluable when Belk begins facing people his own size at Clemson.
Coach said it:
3. Jamario Holley, Northwestern
Holley’s production dipped during an injury-dinged sophomore year but he may be the closest in the area to moving as smoothly as Kendrick. The 5-foot-11, 170-pound receiver caught 34 passes for 409 yards and three touchdowns in nine games, and also averaged nearly 29 yards per kick return. He’s one of the best prospects in the area because of his elite athletic fluidity and shiftiness with the football.
Scholarship offers/commitment: South Carolina, Kentucky, Florida State and Tennessee (offers)
Play(s) that defined his season: The 68-yard screen pass Holley took for a touchdown against South Pointe underlined his immense potential. It’s not often that a player can make South Pointe defenders look normal, speed-wise, but Holley did just that on an eye-opening TD catch and run. The only negative? The play was called back for offensive holding.
Coach said it:
4. Eli Adams, South Pointe
When Eli Adams was a sophomore, Coach Herron knew he had a game-changing player. His speedy jump off the ball makes him extremely difficult to block, and Herron compares his quickness at the snap to Jadeveon Clowney. The 6-foot, 230-pound offensive nightmare could use a few more inches in height and wingspan, but still dominates the high school competition. Adams was getting recruited to play linebacker but may get a chance to play defensive line at Virginia Tech; he committed to the Hokies in June. Adams had 95 tackles, 17 tackles-for-loss and 10 sacks last fall as a junior.
Scholarship offers/commitment: Virginia Tech (committed)
Play(s) that defined his season: Sometimes it’s like Adams is jumping off a diving board and everyone else is jumping from the pool deck. The tackle-for-loss and strip he produced against Hartsville in the 4A state championship game led to Jalen Pickett-Hicks scooping and scoring to put the game to rest. It was indicative of the explosion Adams demonstrated regularly the last two seasons.
Coach said it:
5. Quay Hardin, Chester
At 6-foot-2, 175 pounds, Hardin is built like the prototypical modern defensive back. He was one of the top ball-hawking cornerbacks in the state last fall when he made nine interceptions and broke up 10 more passes. He had 60 tackles and also was effective as a part-time receiver, catching four TD passes.
Scholarship offers/commitment: Eastern Michigan (offer); SEC, ACC interest
Play(s) that defined his season: Hardin picked off two passes in the Cyclones’ win over Lancaster, including one that clinched the victory. The first one, though, showed off Hardin’s range and length. He got underneath a pretty well thrown ball by Bruins QB Jamias Shropshire down the right sideline but stretched to pull in the pass intended for Lancaster receiver Desmond Stowers.
Coach said it:
6. Steven Gilmore Jr., South Pointe
Gilmore pulled in 31 passes for 422 yards and five touchdowns last season, with three of those coming in the second quarter of South Pointe’s state championship win last December. He also returned a kickoff for another score. Five-foot-11 and 160 pounds, Gilmore Jr. clearly needs to bulk up but he has shiftiness similar to his older brother, South Pointe NFL product Stephon Gilmore. South Pointe coach Strait Herron said Gilmore Jr. has put too much pressure on himself at times, but that he’s dealing better with the attention his last name attracts. Since his state championship performance, Gilmore Jr. has pulled multiple FBS scholarship offers and also won the 4A long jump state championship.
Scholarship offers/commitment: South Carolina, East Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Duke and Kansas State (offers)
Play(s) that defined his season: In last year’s 4A State Championship, Gilmore Jr. took a screen pass out of the left flat and wiggled through defenders en route to a 54-yard touchdown. He amassed 135 yards and 3 touchdowns in that game, with South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp standing on the sideline of Williams-Brice Stadium.
Coach said it:
7. Markees Watts, Lancaster
The explosive 6-foot-2, 205-pound junior defensive end recorded 30 tackles-for-loss, 17 sacks and was named the Tri-County Coaches Association’s 4A/5A defensive player of the year last fall. Watts also broke up eight passes last season and has 47 tackles for negative yardage in the last two seasons combined. He’s played with his hand in the dirt in high school but projects as a college linebacker and could use some more experience playing in open space but his explosive fluidity and athleticism should make the transition painless.
Scholarship offers/commitment: Wofford, Charlotte, Charleston Southern, Middle Tennessee State, Mercer, Troy, South Carolina State, James Madison and Appalachian State (offer); Georgia State, N.C. State, Wake Forest, Miami (OH), Furman interest
Play(s) that defined his season: A bewildered voice says “he took the ball away from him!” midway through a clip showing Watts sacking York’s quarterback and then scooping up the fumble and returning it for a touchdown.
Coach said it:
8. Travell Crosby, Nation Ford
Crosby began to show his potential last season with 55 tackles and regular playing time at defensive tackle. Crosby’s size - 6-foot-8, 310 pounds - means he’ll be on college radars for the next year and the plan is to move him to offensive line this fall. The Queens, N.Y. native will initially play at guard where he can get his hands on defensive linemen immediately while his skills catch up to his hulking frame. Falcons coach Michael Allen said the spring and summer will be key for Crosby, who has plans to attend camps at Clemson, Coastal Carolina and probably N.C. State and South Carolina.
Scholarship offers/commitment: Clemson, Coastal Carolina, South Carolina, N.C. State interest
Play(s) that defined his season: Crosby had an obvious size advantage against any blockers he faced last fall, but not only was he driving back Northwestern offensive linemen in this clip, but watch how he cast them off to wrap up Trojan ball-carrier Jerry Howard, an ACC recruit. If Crosby can continue to develop his technical abilities, watch out.
Coach said it:
9. Pha’Leak Brown, Chester
Chester coach Victor Floyd said fans will see Brown exclusively at running back much more often this fall. He’s played there and in the secondary for Chester with success at both positions the last two years. Brown was a MaxPreps All-American as a freshman and rushed for 607 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, in addition to 44 tackles and four interceptions in defensive back duties. Five-foot-11, 180 pounds, Brown has a great body, good vision, and is elusive and really strong, especially from the waist down. Floyd said his sophomore standout is a blue collar worker in the weight room and it shows.
Scholarship offers/commitment: South Carolina, Clemson, UNC, N.C. State and many others interested
Play(s) that defined his season: Watch the stutter-step as Brown cuts back into the running lane in this clip. Brown shows off the vision and the wheels that will make him an FBS recruit at running back.
Coach said it:
10. Quentin Sanders, Lewisville
Sanders should be in line for a big role in Lewisville’s offense this fall with QB Trey Keels graduating but the 5-foot-11, 190-pound running back got a crash course playing some Wildcat QB last season. He rushed for 1,175 yards and 15 TDs, and also caught 37 passes in the Lions’ spread offense for 516 yards and another four scores. Sanders could play defensive back or running back in college; Lewisville coach Will Mitchell said Marshall offered Sanders as the latter. He’s done heavy work in the weight room and has extremely long arms, which especially interests the colleges viewing the Lion standout as a cornerback.
Scholarship offers/commitment: Marshall (offer); N.C. State, Miami (Ohio) interest
Play(s) that defined his season: the first play of Sanders’ Hudl highlight from Lewisville’s loss to Lancaster two years ago is indicative of the aggression that he plays with, something Mitchell - and the college coaches visiting Richburg - love to see. Sanders was playing defensive back in the clip but he plays the same way in the offensive backfield, never going down at first contact and always finishing runs with a lowered shoulder.
Coach said it:
(In alphabetical order)
Antonio Barber, Rock Hill - the 6-foot-2, 184-pound freshman receiver has all the physical tools to be a college football player and should be a key piece on offense for the Bearcats this coming season. He's got offers from N.C. Central and Hampton already.
K.D. Canaty, Northwestern - former defensive lineman made a successful switch to the o-line where he graded 83 percent with seven knockdowns for the Trojans. Canaty is getting plenty of college interest.
Jamari Currence, South Pointe - defensive back intercepted seven passes and made 67 tackles during a strong junior year for the Stallions. Currence has multiple FCS offers - UMass, The Citadel, Charleston Southern, Liberty, Eastern Kentucky - and easily could have slotted into the top-10 list.
B.J. Davis, South Pointe - A bit of a late bloomer because of his basketball career, Davis had a really good fall, notching 80 tackles, intercepting four passes, forcing two fumbles and recovering two more from his hybrid linebacker-safety position. The 6-foot-4 athlete could see extensive time at receiver this coming season, and has offers from Northern Iowa, Indiana State and S.C. State.
Mikial Fourney, Lewisville - Fourney has started every game in his three years of high school football and college coaches are intrigued by his size - 6-foot-2, 180 pounds - in the secondary. Lions coach Will Mitchell expects his rising senior to have FBS offers by the end of the summer.
Garrett Lutz, Clover - powerful and intelligent center graded 92 percent for Clover last season, recording 50 knockdown blocks and earning first team All-Area honors. He’s getting recruiting interest from Wake Forest, Furman and North Greenville.
Jaylen Mahoney, South Pointe - sophomore cornerback Mahoney picked up his first offer from Miami (OH) earlier this month. He started for the Stallions last fall and will be part of another very good secondary this coming season.
B.T. Potter, South Pointe - Potter will be one of the top kicking recruits in the country next season. He’s equally adept and punting and place-kicking and committed to Clemson in June shortly after the Tigers offered him a full ride.
Ben Tuipulotu, Nation Ford - Tuipulotu committed to BYU and will follow his brother and dad to the Utah-based football power. Tuipulotu has been a very productive two-way player for the Falcons but will probably play outside linebacker in college. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound junior made 87 tackles last season.
Shamari Williams, York - towering junior defensive end has an offer from Cincinnati despite playing just two years of football at York. Six-foot-7, 230 pounds, Williams is one of the first prospects asked about when college coaches visit Bobby Carroll’s program.
Wyatt Tunall and John Erby, Chester; Nick Sciba, Clover; Ryan Heriot, Fort Mill; Jake Locklear and John Gregory, Indian Land; Desmond Stowers and Nygel Moore, Lancaster; Jaylen McFadden, Lewisville; Dewuan McCullum and Skyler DeLong, Nation Ford; Christian Steele, Northwestern; Scott Robinson Jr., South Pointe; Ladarius Allison and Lane Towery, York.
Learn more about the Top-10
Visit this link or view the videos below to learn more about the top-10:
Would they eat fried crickets?
Who are their loudest supporters on Friday nights?
Who were their most impacting youth football coaches?
Which superhero do they most relate to?