football

Gateway to talent

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St. Louis, one of the Midwest's largest cities, is expected to have a deep pool of top notch high school football talent every year. It is expected that schools from throughout the Big 12 and Big 10 will recruit the area.
What has not been expected, however, is the area emerging as a national recruiting hotbed.
Schools from different regions are making their way into the picture with the local prospects. So far in the Class of 2006, schools from states like North Carolina and Mississippi have been able to land players from the Gateway City.
Hazelwood East, known for producing some of the nation's top players as its number of Division I football players currently is in double digits, is at it again in 2006 after sending four-star rated Chris Brooks to Nebraska in 2005.
Carl Word, Reggie Brown, Trae Blount, William Coward and Will Marshall all are drawing the attention of college recruiters.
Hazelwood East coach Corey Johnson agrees that 2006 is a big year for the St. Louis area, but argues that there has never been a shortage of talent.
"Well I don't think it ever wasn't an abundant talent pool in the St. Louis area," Johnson said. "A lot of times we didn't get as much publicity as we are getting these last few years, but St. Louis has always been high quality.
"We won't always have the numbers of a Texas or California, but the quality of the athletes is very, very similar."
According to Johnson, the reason the number of colleges recruiting the area may have increased lately because the region's prospects don't necessarily have strong ties to one specific school.
"If you have a five-star player in the state of Texas it's going to be tough to get them away from Texas, Texas A&M, or Oklahoma," Johnson said. "You get a five-star or four-star player in Missouri, the state school Missouri will have their hand in it, but they still are opened up to nation-wide recruiting."
The talent train doesn't stop at Hazelwood East, however.
Notre Dame is one of the many schools that has been active in St. Louis while building its Class of 2006. The Irish have gotten verbal commitments from two of the metro area's top players from DeSmet Jesuit.
Jesuit running back Munir Prince was the first from his school to pull the trigger on his commitment to the Irish after giving switching from a verbal commitment to Iowa, which he gave in August of 2004. After rushing for more than 2,000 yards during his football career, it was easy to see why his offer total skyrocketed, even though he had already pledged to play for the Hawkeyes.
His nationally recruited teammate Paddy Mullen was the next to make his commitment known, joining Prince as part of the 2006 class for Notre Dame.
Prince is one of the many St. Louis players that believe his hometown is out of the shadows.
"We're just showing everybody that just like Florida, Texas, and California we have athletes too," Prince said. "We finally started getting noticed and I think people are finally starting to recognize that we have got the talent in St. Louis."
St. Louis (Mo.) University has a duo in running back Stephen Simmons and defensive back Paul Chaney both have emerged on the recruiting radar of late. Simmons picked up an early offer from Indiana, but after he and his teammate Chaney had solid showings at the Manhattan, Kan., NIKE camp, the secret is out. Indiana already has offered Simmons and is expected to offer Chaney soon. Other schools, such as Notre Dame, also are in the mix.
St. Louis also is home to a trio of prospects from Cardinal Ritter High School. The three standouts are receiving attention from not only the in-state Missouri Tigers, but numerous others.
Cardinal-Ritter outside linebacker Quentin Davie, who despite receiving double-digit offers, pledged to Duke in early April is a 6-foot-4, 192-pound linebacker that started receiving attention and offers very early.
His teammate, defensive back Antonio Gully holds offers from Wisconsin, Illinois, Nebraska, and Boston College.
"I really couldn't tell you why the attention has increased," Gully said. "I think we have the talent and the will to want to play that good to get this attention. We may not be playing at that level of Texas or Florida yet, but I think coaches are taking us more seriously."
The St. Louis suburb of Kirkwood also has been a top target for college coaches in recent years and is producing some very nice players for 2006. Tight end Mike McNeil and defensive end Willie Dyson are two of Kirkwood's Division I prospects that look close to their first Division I offer.
Kirkwood's top player, Jeremy Maclin is up to five offers and looks to be favoring distant schools such as Iowa and Michigan State.
Another player on the boards of some of the nation's top colleges is defensive end Jerry Brown of Vashon. His offer list seems to be ever-growing, but he has the likes of Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Missouri on top for now.
Rivals100 pre-evaluation member Adrian Clayborn who was holding three offers up until a strong performance at the Manhattan NIKE camp where his total jumped to seven. He was definitely not a secret to begin with, but Clayborn is turning into even more of a very hot commodity among regional and national recruiting circles.
Cardinal Ritter coach Michael Baker explained that the hard work of the local high school coaches is part of the reason St. Louis has been thrust on to the national stage.
""We send out tapes very early and we always would start regionally," Baker said. "But now we get our stuff out early to a lot of different colleges and then the ball just starts rolling on these guys because the talent has always been here."
Baker's point was reinforced when linebacker Sam Johnson of Eureka joined the out-of-state club by committing to Ole Miss and new coach Ed Orgeron over offers from Minnesota and Michigan State. Johnson, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound linebacker, committed to the Rebels on Tuesday.
Given the high number of talented prospects, along with the national scope of programs recruiting the area, it is clear that St. Louis is no longer just regional recruiting turf, but an emerging national hotbed that looks to be a potential must-stop for recruiters.
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