South Carolina roster preview
SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Look up some of the top recruiting classes in the Southeast and there will be a handful of players from North Carolina on each one. If not, expect them to be there by Singing Day.
The Tar Heel state may have never produced a senior class with more talent. This year's crop includes arguably the nation's top running back, a pair of the quarterbacks ranked among the top ten in the nation and nearly nine different four or five-star recruits.
Each of them and many more will be showcased in the annual North Carolina-South Carolina Shrine Bowl in Spartanburg, S.C. Saturday. Practice began on Monday, and here's the lowdown on each and every player on the North Carolina roster.
Toney Baker: The biggest star of the game. The 5-foot-10, 220-pound senior from Ragsdale High is arguably the top running back in the nation and finished his highly-decorated prep career with over 10,000 yards – the second-highest total ever. He could go wherever he wants, but doesn't want to stray too far from home. N.C. State, Tennessee, UNC, Virginia and Virginia Tech are all in the hunt.
Everette Brown: Name any Division I-A coaching staff in the Southeast and this 6-foot-2, 240-pound defensive end is probably on their Christmas wish list. Very athletic and remarkably fast, the Beddingfield High product could also play tight end at the next level. He is leaning towards UNC and is also considering Florida State, N.C. State, Virginia Tech and others.
Jonathan Crompton (Tennessee): The No. 2-ranked pro-style quarterback in the nation is already being billed as the Volunteers next savior. When Philip Fulmer rotated two freshmen quarterbacks in the starting lineup to start this past season, there was heavy speculation that Crompton would start looking around. But, the Tuscola High product is firmly committed to the Vols despite interest from many of the nation's elite programs.
Curtis Crouch: One of the Southeast's highest-ranked recruits who is still available. The monstrous 6-foot-6, 320-pound lineman from E.E. Smith High is looking at Clemson, N.C. State, Oklahoma and Virginia Tech. He could make an impact for any school right away.
Joe Cox (Georgia): He used to be known as Chris Leak's replacement. But, the 6-foot, 207-pound quarterback has certainly made a name for himself. He recently led national powerhouse Charlotte Independence High to a fifth straight state title and broke the state's single-season record for most touchdown passes in a season with 64. Leak held the previous mark at 62.
Jonathan Hannah: Could make a big impact for a handful of major I-A programs by next season. The 6-foot-4, 255-pounder, who recently led South View to a state title game, is ranked the No. 4 tight end in the nation. He is mainly looking at Clemson, N.C. State, North Carolina, Penn State, Virginia Tech. He has visited UNC on a handful of occasions and his father, a former Shrine Bowler, played at N.C. State.
Montario Hardesty: The 6-foot, 195-pound running back from New Bern High is on the verge of committing. Tennessee and UNC are considered the favorites. Expect his decision to have a domino affect on several other recruits in the Southeast.
Mohamed Massaquoi (Georgia): Exploded onto the recruiting scene this past summer and is ranked the No. 5 receiver in the nation. The 6-foot-2, 190-pounder made huge plays for Charlotte Independence all season long – making several spectacular catches. He committed to UGA this summer.
Derek Nicholson: No player in either state's roster has better bloodlines when it comes to the football, and more specifically, linebackers. The 6-foot, 225-pounder's father played on the same line backing corps as Lawrence Taylor at UNC. His older brother, A.J., is the starting outside linebacker at FSU. Derek is ranked the No.5 inside linebacker in the nation. He finished his prep career with 300-plus tackles at Mt. Tabor High. He is considering Florida State, Miami, UNC, Virginia Tech and Tennessee and probably won't announce his decision until near Signing Day.
James Arnold (North Carolina): Few if any players in the Carolinas had a better senior season. The elusive 5-foot-10, 180-pound running back led Davie County High to an undefeated regular season with close to 2,000 rushing yards and nearly 30 touchdowns. He also pulled down eight interceptions and recovered three fumbles. He will likely end up playing at cornerback for UNC. He chose the 'Heels over Clemson and Wake Forest.
Re'quan Boyette (Duke): The top prize in Blue Devils' latest recruiting class. The 5-foot-9, 185-pound cornerback from Ralph Fike High chose the Blue Devils over offers from N.C. State and Wake Forest.
Josh Briscoe (Tennessee): Might end up being Jonathan Crompton's (highly-touted QB who has also committed to Tennessee) favorite target in the future. At 6-foot-3, 177-pounds, the Lawndale Burns High product has the frame needed to develop into a physically dominating receiver in the SEC. He also runs a legit 4.4.
Maurice Covington (Virginia): One of several prospects who committed to the Cavaliers before their senior season began. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound outside linebacker comes from one of the most talent-laden programs in the state – Southern Durham High. He may end up playing receiver.
Chris DeGeare (Wake Forest): Bigger than some of the offensive tackles in the NFL. At 6-foot-4, 335-pounds, the Kernersville Glenn High product might be the most intimidating player on both rosters. He chose nearby Wake over Duke and South Carolina.
Brandon Ghee (Wake Forest): The biggest prize of the Demon Deacons' recruiting class so far. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound cornerback from perennial powerhouse Jack Britt High had offers from North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia Tech and West Virginia. He has an older brother at Wake.
Levin Neal (N.C. State): The Wolfpack landed a commitment from this 5-foot-10, 176-pound receiver last weekend. The Wilmington Ashley High product ranks among the fastest players on both rosters. He chose the Wolfpack over a handful of ACC programs.
Antonio Wardlow (Tennessee): An athletic and versatile defensive back who could play soon for the Volunteers. Most of the major programs in the Southeast pursued the Parkland High product.
Brandon Woods (Virginia): A product of the recruiting pipeline that Virginia has created with Southern Durham High. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound, super athletic prospect could play a handful of positions, but will line up most at receiver Saturday.
Andy Barbee (N.C. State): This 6-foot-1, 295-pound offensive lineman might need a couple extra breaks in practice this week. He is coming off an exhausting and thrilling season, that ended with yet another state title for Shelby High this past weekend.
Bryan Dixon (North Carolina): One of UNC's first commitments. The 5-foot-9, 185-pound cornerback from South Columbus High runs a legit 4.4.
Van Eskridge: A strong performance this week could land this 6-foot-1, 190-pound safety, who recently led Shelby High to a state title, in the ACC or SEC. He has received interest from N.C. State, South Carolina, Wake Forest and others, but doesn't have any major offers yet.
L.J. Flintall (Wake Forest): Major recruits who play at big-time high school programs often get overshadowed and that may be the case with this 5-foot-10, 168-pound cornerback from Cummings. He spent the fall going up against receiver Brandon Tate (a UNC commit) every week in practice.
Darrius Massenburg (North Carolina): Might be one of the biggest sleepers in the Southeast. UNC began recruiting the 6-foot-4, 250-pound defensive tackle from Roanoke Rapids High as a sophomore and he committed to the 'Heels this past summer.
Marquis Melvin (Duke): A name ACC receivers will grow to fear in the future. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound safety is a hard hitter and athletic enough to cover deep throws. He chose Duke over N.C. State and Wake Forest.
Mike Rinfrette (Wake Forest): One of the most underrated and most promising players in the state. The 6-foot-3, 260-pound tight end from Bunn High didn't gain major amounts of attention until this season. He chose the Deacons over UNC and Vanderbilt.
Kinney Rucker (Duke): The Blue Devils snagged this 6-foot-255-pound defensive lineman from their own backyard in Durham. The C.E. Jordan product also had offers from UNC and Virginia.
Stephan Virgil: UNC and Virginia Tech are battling head-to-head for this 6-foot, 177-pound cornerback. He led Rocky Mount High to a thrilling season, which included an undefeated run through the regular season and big upsets over Greenville Rose and New Bern. He could also play safety.
Andre Baxter: Will garner the attention of several coaches this week. The defensive tackle from S.W. Onslow High hasn't been recruited heavily, but with a 6-foot-3, 278-pound frame that could quickly change.
Zeke Clark: Opportunity has arrived for this 5-foot-11, 205-pound running back from Thomasville High. Not highly recruited, he could earn a D-I scholarship by proving he belongs with this impressive crop of players this week.
Michael Collins: Coaches who like hefty offensive lineman will notice this 6-foot-1, 285-pound prospect from Richmond High. He could develop into a dependable guard at the next level.
Andre Crouch: Don't expect this 6-foot, 290-pound offensive lineman from Richmond High to be taking any plays off in practice or the game. Not with a chance to grab the eye of a D-I coach.
Matt Dodge: Every season there are always several schools who need a kicker. Those who fall into that category at the moment will want to take a look at this prospect with a strong leg from West Carteteret High.
Lowell Dyer: Coaches who haven't seen this offensive lineman from Riverside High are going to quickly notice his potential. At 6-foot-4, 270-pounds, he has the frame to be a dominating pass blocker.
Timothy Frye: The Charlotte area produced a handful of great fullbacks this season. But, this 5-foot-10, 225-pounder was the only one to earn a Shrine Bowl invite. UNC commits Mark Pashcall and Nick Starcevic were snubbed.
Antonio Jacobs: Looking for a stocky defensive tackle to plug running lanes? Meet this 6-foot, 261-pounder from Parkland High who causes plenty of problems for offensive lineman.
Sam Kidd: Overshadowed by teammate and three-star cornerback Jordan Hemby at Freedom High. The 6-foot, 216-linebacker could play a handful of positions at the next level.
Antonio Lyons: Do not judge this prospect by his size. That would be a mistake. Despite being just 5-foot-10, 215-pounds, he proved to be one of the top linebackers in the state.
Eric Ludwig: One of the most underrated prospects in the game. The 6-foot-1, 245-pound defensive end from Western Alamance High is athletic and versatile. And by the end of this week, he could be a major recruit.
Derek Meeler: One of a handful of relatively unknown offensive lineman in this game. The 6-foot-2, 250-pounder from South Point High will be matched up with some of the highest-ranked D-lineman in the country.
Douglas Palmer: The Fayetteville area is loaded with a handful of D-I recruits this season. Add this 6-foot-3, 285-pound offensive lineman from Douglas Byrd High to that bunch.
D.J. Rice: UNC coaches may actually be hoping this 5-foot-11, 228-pound linebacker doesn't impress too much in practice or at least gets overlooked somehow. The Tar Heels recently began recruiting the Davie County High product and may end up asking him to walk on. Other schools will be offering him once they see him play.
Andrew Rinehart: One of two players from South Point High to get an invite. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound linebacker is capable of playing several positions, making him an enticing prospect.
Ross Schafer: Earning a roster spot is a major accomplishment for this East Henderson High product. Not too many 6-foot-1, 230-pound offensive lineman are invited to any all-star games.
Rob Varno: An athletic project. At 6-foot-5, 222-pounds, there is no doubt that the J.T Hoggard High product needs to add bulk to his frame. Programs who are deep at tight end might want to take notice and offer some patience.