Rock Hill and the surrounding areas don’t crank out as many textiles as they did 50 years ago, but there is still plenty of high school football talent rolling off the production line.
The fast-approaching 2016 season will be no exception. Here’s the 10 best in The Herald’s 12-school, three-county coverage area - in assistant sports editor Bret McCormick’s opinion - and an honorable mention list of other players just on the cusp as they head into summer workouts and 7-on-7 scrimmages:
1. Derion Kendrick, Soph. ATH, South Pointe
The Stallions’ talented 10th grader takes the top spot because of his versatility. A four-star recruit according to 247sports, Kendrick could play any position aside from the offensive line for the Stallions. He’s played primarily defensive back and receiver his first two years at the school, but will probably take over at QB this coming year with Greg Ruff graduating. Kendrick will also play extensively as a defensive starter at safety, similar to former South Pointe standouts Stephon Gilmore and Devin Pearson.
2015 stats: ran the ball 10 times for 151 yards and two touchdowns; caught 10 passes for 202 yards and five touchdowns; recorded 77 tackles, nine pass break-ups, three interceptions. Kendrick scored touchdowns by running, throwing, catching and returning a punt.
Offers: Kendrick has offers from about 15 ACC, SEC, Big 12 and Big Ten schools, including Alabama. Clemson and South Carolina offered early, as did Florida, Kendrick’s favorite school growing up.
Three catches, three touchdowns for Kendrick against Northwestern:
2. Logan Rudolph, Jr. DE, Northwestern
Another versatile prospect, Rudolph pulled in scholarship offers from almost all of college football’s bluebloods in part because of his athleticism and also his ability to man multiple spots on the field. Some schools saw the four-star recruit as an offensive H-back or tight end, while others saw him as an outside linebacker or edge rusher. Rudolph’s greatest potential probably lies on the defensive end; his ceaseless itch to get into opposing backfields is his best and most obvious characteristic. Strength and mobility are clearly there, too.
2015 stats: recorded 60 tackles, 15 sacks, 13 QB pressures, 10 tackles-for-loss, four forced fumbles, three recovered fumbles and an interception returned for a touchdown.
Offers: Rudolph’s pile of offers probably required a rake to control. The Northwestern junior had 40-plus on the table but recently committed to Clemson and will graduate early in December.
It was a pretty good sign when Rudolph forced a fumble on the first play of the 2015 season:
3. Josh Belk, Soph. DL, Lewisville
Belk’s production at the varsity level has been limited so far, in part because of injuries, but the big man’s potential is obvious. He’s naturally strong and has the ability - especially against 1A competition - to cave in entire sides of an opposing offensive line. Belk - a four-star prospect according to 247sports - is also useful as a blocker for the Lions, but his future is probably as a defensive tackle where his initial push at the snap of the ball can devastate.
2015 stats: Belk played just five games last fall because of a lingering knee injury, recording 24 tackles, six tackles-for-loss and three sacks.
Offers: Ohio State is the latest school to offer Belk, joining a list that already included South Carolina, Clemson, LSU, Florida State, N.C. State and North Carolina.
Belk is angry. Very angry:
4. Malik Williams, Jr. QB, Chester
More schools are starting to take notice of the three-star Cyclones QB. Williams is a smart kid and a fantastic athlete that will likely play cornerback or receiver at the college level. He teamed with freshman running back Pha’Leak Brown to score most of Chester’s touchdowns last season, and opponents can expect a heavy dose of the pair again this fall.
2015 stats: 2,170 total yards and 17 touchdowns; returned three punts for 105 yards and a touchdown.
Offers: Georgia Southern and Duke so far. Williams is an avowed fan of the Blue Devils.
5. Jamario Holley, Fr. WR, Northwestern
Holley is a big-time athlete with a big-time future. The MaxPreps freshman All-American was offered by Kentucky last fall and finished as the Trojans’ second leading receiver, impressive for a program that’s only had a few freshmen ever contribute on varsity. Holley is dynamic in the open field and excels in Northwestern’s intricate screen passing game. He’ll probably land a few more big offers in the coming months when he makes his rounds on the summer camp circuit.
2015 stats: caught 70 passes for 946 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Offers: Kentucky was the first to offer Holley in the fall of 2015, and he’s since picked up another from Florida State. Holley is a big Alabama fan and he visited Tuscaloosa this spring.
Holley hit the juke button on his video game controller on this catch and run for a touchdown in the state final:
6. Gage Moloney, Jr. QB, Northwestern
Moloney is the ideal Northwestern Air Raid quarterback, version 3.0. Justin Worley was almost completely a pocket passer; Mason Rudolph largely was too, though he was lethally effective in short yardage running situations. Moloney can throw and run, making him a potentially more difficult quarterback for opposing teams to defend than his two predecessors. He’ll pilot what should be a very efficient Northwestern offense in 2016.
2015 stats: completed 75 percent of his passes for 3,969 yards and 47 touchdowns, with just five interceptions; ran for 506 yards and 16 touchdowns. Moloney threw for 300-plus yards six times last season.
Offers: Moloney’s offers include Appalachian State, James Madison, East Carolina, Colorado State, Coastal Carolina, Mercer, Ohio and Charleston Southern. Plenty of bigger schools are sniffing around.
7. Jerry Howard, Jr. RB, Northwestern
Headed into Howard’s junior season the question was whether he had enough speed to play for an FBS school. Fair to say the 6-foot, 210-pound running back answered that question with an excellent 11th grade season that featured several long touchdown runs in which he broke away from chasing tacklers. Still, his hallmark is his power, core strength and churning legs.
2015 stats: ran for 1,570 yards and 19 touchdowns, producing 10 games with at least 90 yards rushing; caught 39 passes for 388 yards and six touchdowns.
Offers: Howard’s offers list is beginning to swell. The top schools are East Carolina, Georgia Southern, Colorado State, Marshall, Appalachian State, Air Force and Army.
8. Eli Adams, Soph. DE, South Pointe
Adams recently picked up his first scholarship offer, from South Carolina, and should expect many more to roll in this summer. The 6-foot, 230-pound defensive end has a major motor and a powerful punch at the snap of the ball that gives him the jump on slower offensive linemen. Adams might play linebacker at the next level, but is content for now running down opposing ball-carriers from the edge of the defensive line.
2015 stats: 114 tackles, 20 sacks, 16 tackles-for-loss, 15 quarterback pressures, one forced fumble, one recovered fumble
Offers: Just the one offer so far, from South Carolina.
9. Alex Stennett, Jr. WR, Nation Ford
Six-foot-3, 200-pound receiver runs a 4.5 in the 40 and has great leaping ability. With Hank Tuipulotu, Josh Shade and Jordan Helms graduated, Stennett should step into the limelight this fall as Nation Ford’s top pass-catching target, a big-bodied receiver that can go up and snatch a high ball, or gain yards after the catch on a screen or dump-off.
2015 stats: caught 74 passes for 1,163 yards and 13 touchdowns as a junior, with five 100-yard receiving games.
Offers: No offers yet for Stennett, though Nation Ford coach Michael Allen is adamant they’re coming. Keep in mind that Stennett is a big baseball prospect too.
Slick toe-tap by Stennett on a touchdown catch against Gaffney:
10. Wally Wilmore, Jr. ATH, York
Wilmore should be able to return to his more natural positions on the edge of the field with the emergence of QB Brayden Hawkins. The 6-foot, 180-pound junior has added considerable strength in the last year and should make a dynamite pair in all three phases of the game with fellow rising senior, Jae’vion Matthews.
2015 stats: rushed for 850 yards and 15 touchdowns, caught 21 passes for 270 yards and four touchdowns, threw for 965 yards and nine more touchdowns. Wilmore finished with totals of over 2,200 yards and 28 touchdowns, and had seven games with at least two rushing scores.
Offers: Wilmore has offers from The Citadel and Furman. A good start to the 2016 season could see some FBS offers come down the pipe.
Honorable mention (alphabetical order): Caliph Brice, Jr. LB, Northwestern (highlights); Pha’Leak Brown, Fr. RB, Chester (highlights); Farrika Grier, Jr. RB, Lancaster (highlights); Brayden Hawkins, Soph. QB, York (highlights); Kendrick Hicks, Jr. LB, Rock Hill (highlights); Mike Hill, Jr. ATH, (highlights); Jae’vion Matthews, Jr. DB, York (highlights); Derrick Phillips, Jr. DE, Clover (highlights); Justin Reese, Soph. DB, South Pointe (highlights); Xi Simpson, Jr. OL/DL, Chester (highlights); Jordan Starkes, Soph. WR, Northwestern (highlights); Jene Thompson, Jr. LB, Lewisville (highlights); Ben Tuipulotu, Soph. DB, Nation Ford (highlights); Markees Watts, Soph. DE, Lancaster (highlights).