AU Scheduled To Entertain Large Group Of Recruits

What could be Auburn's largest group of visitors for the 2004 signee class recruiting season is set this weekend.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn football coaches have a busy recruiting weekend scheduled that is expected to feature some of the nation's more highly recruited football prospects.

One of the prize prospects offensively is lineman Leon Hart from Spring Valley, S.C., High School, who has been heavily pursued by colleges around the country since his junior season. Hart says that Auburn and Ohio State are his leaders.

The hometown South Carolina Gamecocks are trying to keep the six-foot-five, 280-pound tackle from getting out of the state. He also had Clemson on the list of colleges he was considering, but decided not to visit the ACC school. The same is true of another Atlantic Coast Conference school, the University of Virginia, where he had originally planned to visit.

Hart, who is from the same high school that sent starting linebacker Travis Williams to Auburn, took his first official visit to Ohio State and liked that trip a great deal. A prime consideration on his college choice is the university's electrical engineering program and he will be checking out Auburn in that area on his visit this weekend. Last weekend he was at the University of Georgia, but he has eliminated the Bulldogs from consideration.

The big offensive lineman says he wants to play early in his college career and he may be one of those exceptional offensive line recruits who can challenge for a starting job as a true freshman.

Jamie Newberg, national recruiting analyst for TheInsiders.com, says that whoever signs Hart will be adding a very athletic lineman. "I like the way he comes off the football," Newberg says. "He is a strong drive blocker. Like most young offensive linemen, he will need to work on his pass blocking, but he is a tremendous prospect. He is a tough football player with the ability to play either tackle or guard."

Defensively, it would be hard to find a more impressive athlete in this year's high school senior class than Willie Williams, a fierce linebacker from Carol City High. With the speed of a running back (4.42 40) and the size (6-2, 228 pounds) to handle the middle linebacker position, he has been one of the more coveted prospects in the country since he racked up 173 tackles as a junior.

Williams is rated by the Insiders.com as the nation's top linebacker prospect.

The fact that he missed part of his senior season with a knee injury didn't slow the recruiting parade. Williams visited FSU last weekend and has trips scheduled to Miami and Florida following his visit to Auburn, the only out-of-state college on his official visit list.

Williams led Carol City to the 6A state title with a 13-0 shutout of a powerful Orlando Edgewater team in the championship game. Williams finished the game with 11 solo tackles, seven for losses, two sacks and two caused fumbles.

The fact that Auburn is graduating All-American linebacker Karlos Dansby and All-SEC linebacker Dontarrious Thomas interests Williams. "Hey, like Miami and FSU, Auburn is losing some linebackers," he says. "I mean they are losing two great linebackers. Auburn was also the first school to really recruit me. I mean they have showed me the most love for the longest time and I have remembered that."

Newberg says that the Carol City star is a recruiting prize. "Willie Williams is just a beast on the football field," Newberg says. "He is every bit as good as any of the linebackers we have had rated as the number one linebacker prospect in the country in recent years. He has the size, speed, strength and all of the physical skills to play inside or outside."

Among the uncommitted visitors scheduled to take official visits this weekend to Auburn are a pair of teammates from Lincoln High in Tallahassee, Fla. Linebacker Rodney Gallon and cornerback Joe Manning took official visits to Nebraska in December. The Cornhuskers have changed coaching staffs since then and are battling to stay in the mix.

Gallon, a 6-0, 205-pounder with sub 4.5 speed, is scheduled to visit Tennessee and the hometown FSU Seminoles the following two weeks. Gallon's quickness and nose for the football helped him become a three-year starter who put together back-to-back 100-plus tackle seasons as a junior and a senior. This past fall he finished a 9-3 season with 135 tackles.

Manning, who took a visit to Syracuse prior to his trip to Nebraska, also has visits scheduled to Tennessee and FSU after coming to Auburn. A 6-1, 175-pounder with 4.42 speed, Manning is the type of tough and physically gifted cornerback that makes defensive coordinators take notice. He is known as a hard-hitting defensive back who packs a big punch on the football field. As a senior, he made 70 tackles, five interceptions and blocked four punts.

Another team scheduled to send a pair of talented athletes to Auburn this weekend is Deerfield Beach, Fla., High. Quarterback Brent Schaeffer was named the 6A All-State signal caller in Florida and his teammate, Emmanuel Dunbar, is considered one of the top defensive line prospects in the state.

Brent Schaeffer is a dangerous passer and runner.

Schaeffer, a 6-2, 195-pound lefty, finished his high school career in style with 3,144 passing yards and 33 touchdowns as a senior. He threw just eight interceptions in leading his team to a 13-2 record.

One of the top athletes at the Auburn summer football camps, Schaeffer has already visited Kansas State, Tennessee and South Florida and has a trip to N.C. State scheduled after checking out the Tigers this weekend. Schaeffer says he doesn't have a leader going into his visit to AU.

Deerfield's Dunbar would be an attractive catch, too. A 6-5, 275-pounder with 4.7 speed in the 40-yard dash and a desire to play the game at a high level, Dunbar is one of the bluechip seniors in the state of Florida this year. He finished his senior season with 21 sacks and 112 tackles. The 21 sacks was just off the Florida high school state record. Trips to Virginia Tech and FSU are also scheduled and Dunbar, who is also a basketball standout, took an early official visit to N.C. State.

A short drive from Deerfield Beach High is Fort Lauderdale traditional football power Dillard. Pat Sims, a standout defensive lineman at an Auburn summer football camp, is visiting the Tigers this weekend along with wide receiver teammate Kelvin Chandler.

Last year Auburn got into a major recruiting battle with Ohio State over defensive end Stanley McClover, who signed with the Tigers. McClover will be trying to convince Sims to say no another Big 10 team, Michigan State, when Sims visits this weekend along with his teammate, 6-2, 180, 4.5 Chandler.

Chandler, who took previous official visits to Pittsburgh, Iowa and Rutgers, has scheduled a visit to Mississippi State the week after checking out Auburn. Like Sims, he was a standout at an Auburn summer football camp.

Another south Florida high school senior visiting the Tigers this weekend is 6-4 1/2, 230, 4.6 Darrell Strong from Plantation High. Playing quarterback and seeing spot duty at free safety, he was a very early commitment to the Pitt Panthers, but has decided to look at other colleges. Colleges are recruiting him as a quarterback, tight end and safety. He says that Auburn sees him as a tight end and he is very interested in the Tigers. He played wide receiver as a junior before moving to quarterback as a senior where he had a strong season scoring 23 touchdowns and completing 68.7 percent of his passes.

He will play in the Broward-Dade All-Star Game on Monday along with another visitor this weekend, offensive lineman Corey Hyman, a three-year starter. The St. Thomas Aquinas High standout is a 6-3, 285 pounder. The Tigers are expected to sign at least four offensive linemen at a priority position in this recruiting class. Hyman has been recruited by a variety of Big East colleges and has already taken official visits to Pitt and Rutgers as well as Colorado State.

"He is a big kid, but he has real good feet," says Coach George Smith of St. Thomas Aquinas. "He works hard on the field and in the weight room."

From Dade County, the Tigers are bringing in Carldayle Brantley, a 6-2, 185, 4.5 free safety from Miami Central, who was strongly considering the Nebraska Cornhuskers prior to the coaching change in Lincoln. An honor student, who is interested in engineering, Brantley says he is looking forward to his weekend in Auburn.

Another visitor from Dade County is 5-10, 170 Anthony Campbell, one of the faster visitors to any of the Auburn summer camps who was timed at under 4.4 last summer in different football camps. He was a big-play man this season for Hialeah High School where he was a standout tailback, cornerback and kick returner, who also saw playing time in the secondary. He visited Ole Miss last weekend.

The Tigers will also be entertaining early commitments. That group includes quarterback Calvin Booker from Mays High in Atlanta, quarterback Blake Field from North Florida Christian in Tallahassee, linebacker Courtney Harden from Colbert County High in Leighton, running back Brad Lester from Parkview High in Lilburn, Ga., and wide receiver James Swinton from Tucker High in Lilburn.

Brad Lester helped Parkview to a state title as a junior and had a big year for another strong team as a senior.

In October, offensive lineman Cameron Mayo of Dalton, Ga., High committed to the Tigers. However, he took a pre-Christmas official visit to Ole Miss and has another official visit set to his father's alma mater, Tennessee, the weekend after going to Auburn. His father was an offensive lineman for the Vols.

The state of Georgia is loaded with prospects this year and one of the uncommitted ones is expected to be on the Auburn campus this weekend. Corey Spells, a 6-0, 186-pound cornerback from Mays High, has attracted college recruiters with his combination of speed, size and physical play. Spells has offers from three dozen colleges. He visited Mississippi State last weekend and has also taken trips to Wisconsin and Wake Forest and has a trip scheduled to Duke after visiting Tommy Tuberville's Tigers.

Spells and teammate Booker had big roles in the 11-1 season at Mays. Booker put up big numbers as a passer while Spells was part of a secondary that did not allow a touchdown pass all season. Spells notes that his friend Booker is doing a good job of recruiting him for the Tigers and says that the idea of playing in the SEC not too far from home interests him. With a 4.47 clocking at the Nike Combine in Auburn and a 10.72 100 meters on the track as a junior, he is one of the fastest prospects the Tigers are recruiting.

A very early LSU commitment, running back Jerald Watson from Central Catholic High in Morgan City, La., is taking his first public visit to check out the Tigers. The 5-10, 205-pound speedster rushed for more than 5,000 yards in high school and is also a standout in track and baseball.

Tuberville and his staff are expected to sign more than 20 players on Feb. 4th, which is national signing day for football prospects.


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