A Cotton Christmas

Elite prep quarterback Raymond Cotton (6-4, 220) - who thought he had his future all mapped out before the coaching change at Auburn - has been developing a relationship with the Razorback coaches and will visit the University of Arkansas on Jan. 23-25.

Earlier this year, elite high school quarterback prospect Raymond Cotton had his future plans all set.

Cotton (6-4, 220, 4.5) was going to sign with Auburn, play for head coach Tommy Tuberville in a spread offense directed by Tony Franklin and come in and compete with starter Kodi Burns to be the man.

But as Christmas rolls around, that's all out the window for a kid who was originally from Mississippi and lived in Alabama before moving to Maryland before his senior season.

"It was tough having to de-commit and open things back up, but that's just how it worked out," noted Raymond Cotton, Sr. – the player's dad. "First, Tony Franklin – somebody we were really excited about bringing the spread to Auburn - gets fired.

"Coach Tuberville tells us he is going to be coming back and then all of a sudden he's gone," Mr. Cotton added. "Then (Auburn assistant) coach James Willis – who Raymond had gotten close to - is out as well. So the decision had to be made to look at other schools.

"You hate to do that, but in this instance I have told Raymond that he has to be selfish and do what is best for him, not for everybody else," Cotton continued. "He has to look over all these schools and look at it in a way that if he was not playing football, would this be a school he would still go to?"

Cotton will visit Ole Miss on Jan. 9-11, Southern Miss on Jan. 16-18 and then Arkansas on Jan. 23-25. Florida, Tennessee and Mississippi State are all angling to get a visit that last weekend.

All those schools are certainly hot for a prospect that threw for over 2,300 yards, rushed for 700 yards and accounted for 35 touchdowns this season for Fort Meade (MD) Senior High after transferring from Mobile (AL) Faith Academy.

"Right now we are just trying to get to know all the coaches and look at all the situations and see which one is best for Raymond," Mr. Cotton said.

Arkansas is certainly trying to put its best foot forward with head coach Bobby Petrino, quarterbacks coach Garrick McGee and offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Paul Petrino all calling the young man or dropping by.

"We know what a great reputation Coach Petrino has for developing quarterbacks and having exciting offenses," Cotton said. "We have visited with the Arkansas coaches twice and come away very impressed both times. Coach McGee has been here and we've Coach Petrino – the younger brother of the head coach – has also been here. We've also talked to Coach Petrino on the phone and he certainly has a vision for what he could do with my son.

"Coach McGee has told us that he's only job is to get the quarterback as prepared as possible to play in a game, that he doesn't have to worry about working up the game plan and the rest of the offense," Cotton added. "That is something that really appeals to us. It is somebody whose job is to develop the quarterbacks in each practice, to constantly be working with them to improve."

Cotton has developed into an elite quarterback pretty much on his skills alone.

"Raymond never really has had a quarterback coach and we can just envision how great he could become with somebody who has the ability to develop him," Mr. Cotton said. "Of course, I am biased because he is my son, but when are a legitimate, 6-4 ½, weigh 220 pounds, can throw a football 80 yards, run a 4.5 40-yard dash and get things down with your feet, well, that's a great start."

"He had been a pretty good quarterback as a sophomore, but really had never had the footwork," Mr. Cotton added. "He got a lot of coaching about that at the camps he went to this summer and you could really see the improvement when he started to really plant that foot."

Cotton and Mobile defensive end Terrence Coleman grew up together and both committed to Auburn. Now both have de-committed and Coleman was quoted as saying Arkansas was now his leader earlier this week.

"We just moved from Mobile to Maryland this last year and Terrence and Raymond grew up together and are friends and have been talking to each other about recruiting," Mr. Cotton said. "Terrence has been through there and he is telling Raymond you will not believe how beautiful it is and what a great campus it is."

The Cottons have certainly looked over the depth chart at each school.

"Certainly as a parent I do and Raymond has certainly done so as well," Mr. Cotton said. "We both realize that there is going to be top talent at each school and it will be a matter of him going in and proving himself.

"But it is important that he goes to a school that is going to give him that legitimate chance to compete, the reps to push for playing time," Mr. Cotton added. "If he gets a chance with the 1s and not just the 2s and 3s, then I think he will be able to play because he offers something that the other quarterbacks at the schools he is looking at do not. That is that he can make plays with both his arms and his legs.

The coaches have to be salesman, but you really want to be able to go to a school where you now that you can trust the coach and he means what he says," Mr. Cotton continued. "That is all that he is looking for. If he redshirts, then that is fine, but we also think he can add a dimension to each of these teams."

Cotton sized up the schools.

"At Ole Miss, (Jevan) Snead could be the best quarterback coming back in the SEC if Stafford and Tebow both go pro," Mr. Cotton said. "He certainly played as well as anybody coming down the stretch and that got our attention. If Raymond went there, he could possibly redshirt if needed and take over the following year, but he also could be part of the attack.

"At Arkansas, (Ryan) Mallett is a big quarterback (6-7, 250) with a great arm, but is not really a guy that runs the ball a lot," Mr. Cotton said. "Raymond could come in there and add that element right away and that is something that Coach Petrino has made clear to us. He had (Brian) Brohm and the other quarterback at Louisville and talks about how he really needs a mobile guy like Raymond to get the most out of his offense. He didn't really have that with the Dick boys (Casey and Nathan) these year, but still developed them and was successful with their offense.

"At Southern Miss, Raymond could probably go in there and start four years," Mr. Cotton added. "He'll just have to look things all over, take the visits and see what is best for him."


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