GRAYSON, Ga. – From all around the Southeast they flocked to Grayson Saturday night. You see, vaunted IMG Academy was coming to town with its bevy of D-1 college football prospects to take on the home-standing Rams of first-year Coach Jeff Herron, who had much success at South Georgia power Camden County before replacing former Tider Mickey Conn (who joined Dabo Sweeney at Clemson a few months back).
Thing is, Herron has a ton of prospects on HIS team, too. Therefore, recruiting reporters, fans, and scouts all converged on this tiny Gwinnett County town to see just what – and who -- would rise and shine.
Final Score: IMG 26, Grayson 7. I guess IMG is Bruce Wayne (Batman) and Grayson is Dick Grayson (Robin). At least that’s how it was Saturday night. To the categories:
TOP PROSPECTS: It’s hard to give just one of these awards out this week, so let’s go one per team. For the visitors, I’ll go with Dylan Moses, who at 6-3, 235 is either Derrick Henry or Rolando McClain, depending on who you ask. He doesn’t play much offense now, but he sure tackles people at linebacker. He’s a stud, and although Bama has recruited him VERY hard, he will probably end up at LSU, his home state school. When he takes his helmet off, you kind of see Eddie Lacy, a fellow Cajun.
For the Rams, you’d have to go with senior cornerback Deangelo Gibbs, who at 6-2, 204 can also be an effective receiver. Bama, Auburn, Tennessee, and Clemson all want him, but if he qualifies, Kirby Smart is the most likely to land him. He is a hard hitter, and showed that by stuffing a jet sweep to open the game.
SENIORS WHO SHINED: Additionally, Grayson’s Jamyest Williams (5-9, 170) is another two-way threat who can run, catch, and defend. He just committed to Will Muschamp and the South Carolina Gamecocks. He caught a 56-yard TD pass from fellow senior Chase Brice, a 6-2, 205-pounder who wanted a Bama offer but is bound for Clemson. His granddad, Charlie Conn, is Mickey’s dad. Mickey founded this program. The field house is named for Mickey Conn.
For IMG, long snapper Thomas Fletcher ( 6-0, 220) is one of the best in the business, as those who follow the Chris Rubio Snapping Camps will tell you. “Their long snapper is VERY good,” said Herron.
Added IMG Coach Kevin Wright: “(Fletcher’s) one of those guys that does everything so well. I don’t think we’ve had a bad snap in practice or in our game last week. He’s a huge asset.”
On this night, Fletcher was true on two field goal snaps, three PAT’s, two punts and a successful fake punt. He also showed good sideline leadership gathering up the punt team when they were needed.
(As an aside, Wright’s boss at IMG is former NFL great quarterback Steve Walsh.)
Fletcher is committed to Alabama.
Robert Beal is a 6-4, 230-pound pass rushing end who was once a Notre Dame pledge but now appears headed to Athens. He had a number of hurries.
JUNIORS TO WATCH: There is no direct Bama recruiting involvement with either of these next two names at this point, but things change, so watch the names for the next 12 months.
For Grayson, there’s Jaquavius Lane. He plays receiver and defensive back. He runs a sub 4.4. He’s 5-11, 172.
For IMG, watch 6-0, 190-pound Asa Martin, an Alabama native via Decatur who plays running back. He only had six touches but did rack up 23 yards and three first downs. He’s shifty but powerful.
SUPER SOPHS: Now, we get to a pair who DO hear from Bama a lot. For Grayson, outside linebacker Owen Pappoe is already 6-0, 205 and recently visited Tuscaloosa. He could develop into a strong safety if he doesn’t gain much weight. Auburn, Georgia and Tennessee also like him. He had four great open field tackles, a sack, and a pair of hurries. He will probably stay at linebacker, truth be told.
“Owen works hard in the weight room and on the field. He knows he needs to continue to improve,” Herron said, adding that Pappoe’s strengths are” quickness and agility, but he needs to get bigger (to play linebacker at the next level).”
For the Ascenders (what a mascot name), Bama pledge Trey Sanders (6-0, 200) is battling for playing time, according to Wright. “Trey has improved quite a bit. He’s being recruited as a ‘hybrid’ (athlete), and we played him on offense first, but he plays safety as well. He can play running back (also) .”
Sanders did not have an offensive snap, but did cover kickoffs all night. IMG is senior-laden, so he’ll get his chance in time.
His teammate , offensive tackle Evan Neal, was briefly committed to Bama before re-opening his recruitment . Neal is a massive 6-8, 375. Gracious.
HOW ‘BOUT THEM BURGERS: My first high school hamburger at Grayson Community Stadium was a huge success, and they now rival long-time Alabama burger champ Briarwood Christian in this category. The freshly off the grill sandwich had a smoky, tender taste and the pickles on the condiment table were a welcome surprise. The fries were crispy, the Power Ade was cool, and the Snickers hit the spot.
HOW ‘BOUT THEM PORK CHOPS: Jack’s (not the burger chain) is owned by my fellow Stone Mountain High alumnus Jack Ansley, whose brothers Abb and Brad, played football at Georgia. Jack’s restaurant is on Braselton Highway in Hoschton, Ga., just off I-85 north of Atlanta. Talk about a good meal! I had tender grilled pork chops with a hot baked potato, while Patti (my wife) had fried shrimp fresh from the Gulf. I was skeptical about them being frozen until she shared one (a rarity) and it was great. The lettuce wedge topped with dressing was cool and tasty, and the service was good, too.
NEXT UP: After a bye week in the North Georgia mountains, FNL returns September 9 when old pal Rush Propst brings the Packers of Colquitt County to visit Roswell, which features former Tide pledge Xavier McKinney. I spotted McKinney on local TV highlights returning a kickoff for a touchdown last weekend. McKinney has a junior tight end prospect on his team, while Propst has a 2018 linebacker worth scouting.