High School Sports

With Gilmore's football stock rising, college offers pouring in

South Pointe quarterback Stephon Gilmore is drawing interest from several big-name college programs.
South Pointe quarterback Stephon Gilmore is drawing interest from several big-name college programs.

South Pointe football coach Bobby Carroll needs a bigger mailbox and could use a few more telephones.

The phone on his desk and his cell phone, which plays the "Monday Night Football" theme when it rings, were in use at the same time on April 3.

Coaches from around the country have been calling as regular as the tide. They are asking about his junior class, a group of talented rising seniors being recruited by their respective schools.

None is getting more attention than Stephon Gilmore, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound quarterback heading into his senior season who's considered the No. 2 player in South Carolina by several scouting services.

"It's just amazing all the calls we are getting,'' Carroll said. "See that full box over there? Those are letters for Stephon. And look over there and right here. These stacks are more letters. He's got more letters this year than I've gotten in 45 years.''

It was hard to miss them. On top of one stack was a smoky plastic envelope that had Gilmore's and South Pointe's names on it. It was easy to see a large Michigan helmet on the letter, which is most likely why the Wolverines use a see-through envelope.

Others were scattered about the table -- Rutgers, Connecticut, Southern Cal, Miami and Illinois. Those schools are inquiring and have yet to make offers. The list of those who have is impressive -- Alabama, Clemson, Colorado, Florida, Florida State, LSU, Maryland, Michigan, N.C. State, Penn State, Tennessee, Virginia and South Carolina.

Gilmore, who led the Stallions' basketball team in scoring and sprints for the track team, said there are no favorites at this time. He plans to check out a few more schools before beginning trim down his list.

A visit Southern Cal is in the works for this summer, but Gilmore's not going to rush making a decision and won't get preoccupied with selecting a school.

"I still have another year of high school and want top help my team," he said. "As far as college goes, I've stayed humble about the recruiting process because I haven't done anything yet.

"There's lot to consider. Most of the schools want me to play safety, cornerback or wide receiver. Michigan and Wake Forest, which hasn't offered yet, want me as a quarterback. I don't know what position I'll play in college."

Carroll doesn't know either, but but he's got an opinion on what will better serve Gilmore's future.

"Michigan and Virginia called and made offers (April 3),'' Carroll said. "Michigan wants him to play quarterback, but most of the schools want him to play safety. I think that might be his best shot to the NFL.

"What's amazing to me is that some schools figure that since he's one of the top in-state players, that he'll probably stay close to home. I often hear that, the latest when Georgia called and asked if I thought he'd considered coming there. Georgia -- one of the top programs in the country.

"Are you kidding? Of course he would.''

Carroll said there is a misconception that high school coaches hand out scholarships. All a coach can do, Carroll said, is send out videos and promote players.

In Gilmore's case, Carroll hasn't had to do much of that. Several recruiting sites have videos of Gilmore. Coaches know about him before they get to Rock Hill.

Gilmore has the style and flair colleges look for in a player, with the skills to play quarterback, defensive back, wide receiver or slot receiver. He played quarterback last year and led the Stallions to the playoffs in just the team's second season.

He completed 97-of-207 passes for 1,679 yards and 13 touchdowns. He had 164 carries for 1,145 yards and 12 TDs. He's also strong academically.

Jim Baxter, whose Web site SCVarsity.com is Rivals.com's site for South Carolina, is close to releasing his list of the state's top players. He said Gilmore will be at the top of his list and that he's talking with Rivals about making him their No. 1 player in the state.

"We had Stephon in for our evaluation event, and he's by far the best football athlete in the state,'' Baxter said. "He's a good quarterback, but rates out best in the secondary. If you ask me, I'd say that's where he'll be playing Saturdays and Sundays after he gets out of high school.

"Don't take that the wrong way. He's a good quarterback and that's where South Pointe needs him. But having seen him, I believe Stephon will be an excellent college and pro defensive back.''

Bill Conley, a recruiting analyst for ESPN, recently called The Herald with information that Gilmore had accepted an invitation to play in the Under Armour/ESPN High School All-America Football Game.

The game is scheduled for Jan. 4 in Orlando, Fla., and will televised by ESPN.

Conley, a former Ohio State coach, recently wrote a Gilmore story for ESPN.com's recruiting network. Gilmore told him that the greatest accomplishment he could have for the 2008 season is to lead his team to the state championship.

"That's Stephon,'' Carroll said. "I can honestly say he's not only one of the most talented players I've ever coached, he's also the most humble. He puts team and our school above anything personal.

"He's handled the recruiting well, not let it go to his head. And another good thing is, with Stephon getting so much attention, coaches see our other players, too. We have a lot of players who can play in college. Maybe not the big ones like the ones looking at Stephon, but there are colleges out there for them.''

They will get their chance to take a big step forward. Carroll said when spring football practice begins on May 12, he expects coaches from at least 30 colleges to be on the sidelines watching.