football Edit

What I Liked: Chad Simmons from the Corky Kell Classic in Georgia

CLASS OF 2019 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position | Team

CLASS OF 2020 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position

Arik Gilbert
Arik Gilbert

High school football is back. The state of Georgia kicked off the season in a big way again this year with some top match-ups in the 27th edition of the Corky Kell Classic.

I saw a lot of talent after taking in two games in Rome on Thursday night, two at Georgia State Stadium on Friday and five inside Mercedes Benz Stadium on Saturday. There was a lot to like.

MORE: Ask Farrell - Which program's 2019 recruiting run is most surprising? | Predictions on the final 2019 team rankings

Bailey-Keyton duo  

What a start Marietta quarterback Harrison Bailey and wide receiver Ramel Keyton got off to in 2018. Keyton, a senior who is committed to Tennessee, had 190 yards and four touchdowns on 14 receptions. He was getting behind the Rome secondary all night. Bailey got better as the game progressed and hit Keyton in stride for some of the biggest plays in the game.

Bailey completed 36-of-51 passes for 443 yards and six touchdowns. What stood out as much as anything about Bailey was his mobility. He is in great shape, has worked on his mobility and it showed. He escaped pressure and moved the chains a few times with his legs. That has not been normal in the past.

This combo could put up scary stats when all is said and done this season. Keyton was Bailey’s go-to guy, and rightfully so. There was a couple of close calls too that could have added another touchdown to each stat line. Both were extremely impressive.

I have seen both a lot over the last few years and each stood out. If I had to pick one who impressed me more on this occasion, it would be Bailey. He faced a tough defensive line, he was pressured often and he threw some strikes down the field.

Clemson commits  

On Thursday night, Davis Allen and Brannon Spector played big roles in Calhoun’s 45-21 victory over Ridgeland. Spector finished with 103 yards on eight receptions and a touchdown. Allen is going to Clemson as a tight end, but the 6-foot-5, 240-pounder made numerous plays from the inside linebacker position in this game. He had a sack, a pick six and a handful of big hits. Neither prospect gets the notoriety that they deserve and each are on track to be contributors in the ACC.

Andrew Booth and Joseph Charleston squared off Friday night. Charleston’s team, Milton, won 21-19 over Archer. Both Tiger commits had their moments.

Charleston has some big tackles early and for someone who missed much of the spring, he looked healthy, strong and ready to have a big senior season. He is an enforcer on the back end of the defense. He was playing strong and fast Friday night. He gave up a touchdown in the second half, but it was a great pass by the opposing quarterback, who put it in the perfect spot.

Booth, as expected, had a strong performance at cornerback. He was not tested too often. His biggest play of the game came on offense, when he made a diving catch on a long third-down conversion in the first half. He showed great speed and his length and quickness at cornerback stood out.

Clemson has six commitments in Georgia and likely will add another one soon, so Dabo Swinney and his staff are doing a great job in the Peach State again this cycle.

The versatility of five-star Arik Gilbert  

He is almost too versatile. Arik Gilbert rarely left the field Thursday night. In a game that went well past midnight, Gilbert was used often on offense, he played almost every snap on defense and he was in on some special teams, too. What I know is he is a freakish athlete.

The 2020 five-star out of Marietta finished the game with 14 receptions, 170 yards and a touchdown. He pressured the quarterback quite a few times from the defensive end position too.

The biggest question is: What will Gilbert play on the next level? He is a 6-5, 255-pound athlete who prefers offense. He could be a good one there. He could also have scary upside on defense. It is easy to see why Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio State, Tennessee and many others are after the freak with a strong GPA.

The Longhorn lean 

Buford battled Tucker on Friday, and Rivals250 running back Derrian Brown stole the show. He broke a tight game open in the third quarter with a 32-yard touchdown reception and a 25-yard touchdown run within minutes of each other to give Buford a 28-14 lead.

Brown showed his speed, wiggle, ball skills and toughness in this contest. He was playing with, and somewhat behind Anthony Grant (Florida State) and Christian Turner (Michigan) in 2017, but this is his team now. He didn’t disappoint.

After the game, there was a lot of media around Brown and he was being pulled in a lot of directions to talk about the game and his performance. But in between that, he did speak about his recruitment. He said that Texas has taken the lead for him, and he has the Longhorns on top.

A commitment timeline is not set, but a decision late this summer or early in the fall is possible. Texas already has a commitment from Kenyatta Watson, a four-star cornerback out of Georgia, so Tom Herman and his staff hopes to add more from the Peach State.

The future Yellow Jacket 

Jordan Yates stole the show late Friday night. He was key in leading Milton to victory over a tough Archer team. Every time there was a key play needed, Yates stepped up and made it happen.

He showed great toughness all night. His legs may have been the key to the game. He ran with the toughness of a running back. He escaped pressure. He turned negative plays into something positive.

Milton scored three touchdowns in their 21-19 victory and Yates was part of all three. He finished with 92 yards rushing and two touchdowns on the ground. He added 72 yards through the air and one touchdown pass. When a play needed to be made he made it.

Yates is committed to Georgia Tech and he looks like a perfect fit for that offense. He is tough. He is smart. He can run. His arm will surprise you. He is a leader. He performed at a high level to kick off his senior season.

Blaylock's playmaking ability 

Dominick Blaylock is healthy, and he was back dominating the competition in front of him once again.

The Walton playmaker scored three touchdowns against Mill Creek, a school that has been known for its strong, physical defense in recent years. Blaylock finished with 132 yards and three touchdowns on six receptions. He flashed the speed that he showed in the past and his always-consistent hands were on display.

The Georgia commit is as solid as any recruit in the country. The Bulldogs do not have anything to worry about here. He is an advanced talent at his position. He runs precise routes, he is a good blocker on the perimeter and he knows how to get open. Blaylock will give the Georgia offense another weapon as soon as he arrives.

Kentucky commit's physicality 

Jay Ward fits right in with his team’s (Colquitt County) style of play — physical. He is a lean cornerback who still has a lot of filling out to do, but he mixed it up and realty impressed in a victory Saturday.

The Kentucky commit had a couple of pass break-ups, he was strong in coverage and he had a couple of big hits when making tackles. He has great length and he plays for one of the top programs in Georgia, so he is only going to get better.

Ward was going against some talented, young receivers from McEachern, but he had an impressive performance. Mark Stoops and the Wildcat staff have to be excited about having Ward on their commitment list.

Goodson’s style of play  

Iowa running back commit Tyler Goodson got off to a great start in 2018 inside Mercedes Benz Stadium on Saturday. As storms lit up the sky outside, Goodson rumbled through Brookwood defenders all night.

There was a lot that stood out when watching Goodson tote the leather. Coming off a state title last season, North Gwinnett went to work early and it rode Goodson. The final score was 37-2, so Goodson was rested late, but he finished with close to 150 yards and three touchdowns.

He ran over guys, he made the first guy miss and he really set up his blocks well all night. He may not be a burner, but he runs with great patience and vision. The game looks slow to the future Hawkeye and he really played under control when his name was called.

If you want to look a little further, he is a leader. When he saw his teammates score touchdowns or make plays, he looked more excited than he was about his. Goodson looks to be set to have a big senior season.

Do-It-All NC State commit

Rome put 51 points on the board against Marietta Thursday night and NC State commit Jamious Griffin played a big role in that.

Griffin, a 5-foot-10, 205 pound running back finished with 168 yards rushing and four total touchdowns. He flashed quickness and he running fearless inside with power and balance while showcasing the speed on the perimeter. He’s one I’d say stocks up for.

Not only did Griffin run the ball well, he also showcased his hands out of the backfield. He has played a big role in two state titles and he is out to lead the Wolves to their third in as many years.

The play of quarterbacks many don’t talk about  

We mentioned Bailey above, and everyone knows the 2020 star out of Marietta. But there are some other quarterbacks that had big performances over the weekend as well.

What about Knox Kadum at Rome? He finished 13-for-19 for 219 yards and three touchdowns through the air. He also had 89 yards rushing on 15 carries. This young man throws a baseball 92 miles per hour from the mound, but he wants to play football on the next level. Tulane is his biggest offer, but he will add bigger offers in the coming months. The senior has drawn a lot of interest from LSU as well.

Evan Conley is an Appalachian commit out of Kell, and he led his team to a thrilling 36-34 victory over East Coweta. Kell was down 21-17 at the half and Conley got off to a slow start, but he got hot in the second half and the Longhorn offense took off. He finished with 216 yards and he when he had time he showed good accuracy and the ability to lead an offense down the field. He looked like a real gamer.

Many talk about Blaylock at Walton, and rightfully so, but do not sleep on Austin Kirksey. The Nevada commit looks like a steal for the Wolfpack. He improved his passing game a year ago and he has taken another big step this season. Kirksey is a great athlete who can hurt defenses with his legs, but he has really improved his mechanics and had a monster first game of 2018. He finished 18-of-26 for 344 yards and four touchdowns. He had a big run of 42 yards in this game as well. Do not be surprised if more schools offer this season.

The strong leg of Ryan Fitzgerald 

Yes, Ryan Fitzgerald is a kicker, but the specialist out of Colquitt County deserves more offers. He has offers from Air Force, Army, Georgia State and a few others, but he is the real deal. He was booting kickoff after kickoff into, and sometimes, through the end zone. Fitzgerald also had field goals of 51 and 52 yards with room to spare.

I would be surprised if others did not offer as we get closer to the Early Signing Period. He has a strong leg, he has great accuracy and he is one of the most consistent kickers in the country in the last couple of years.