Target 2005: LB/DE Eugene Hayes

Clemson fans will remember Madison County High School primarily because the Tigers signed one of their top players last week in OL Bobby Hutchinson. Now, the Cowboys have one of the top defensive ends in the Sunshine state in Eugene Hayes, and of course, the Tigers are once again hot on the trail.

The Madison County Cowboys fell short of their goal last season, losing to Hollywood Chaminade 27-0 in the Class 2A state championship game at Florida Field. Well, that game is serving as motivation for next season's returning lettermen, headlined by linebacker/defensive end Eugene Hayes.

Hayes, rated 54th on Top 200, is currently attracting interest from Florida State, North Carolina State and Clemson.

Hayes actually wants to think about the Cowboys' state championship defeat to Hollywood Chaminade last December, as the Cowboys were undone by missed opportunities and mistakes in the 27-0 defeat.

"It's good to think about that game and we should think about -- you learn from your mistakes," Hayes said. "They came out with some different formations that caught us off guard. Yes, it's going to serve as motivation this summer."

Hayes, a 6-foot-3, 215-pounder, is considered one of the state's top defensive players. And he expects to attract even more interest at the NIKE Camp in May in Atlanta.

Hayes is a unique blend of power and speed. He's an accomplished track athlete as well, qualifying for last year's state meet in the 300-meter hurdles.

However, blisters hampered him at the meet and he was only able to run in the preliminary round. Hayes also runs the 100 meters and was clocked in the 40 at 4.4 last week, according to Cowboys football coach Frankie Carroll.

"Gino is going to be one of the best athletes to come through here," Carroll said. 'He works extremely hard and we are expecting a lot out of him next season."

Hayes, who played both defensive end and linebacker last season for the Cowboys, is also attracting collegiate interest from schools such as Florida State, North Carolina State and Clemson.

Hayes, who will take the ACT for the first time in April, says he's concentrating on academics this spring as well as track. And let's not forget spring football either.

"I will be doing my football drills at track practice," said Hayes, who is yes-sir, no-sir polite. "We are going to have a lot of experience on the defensive side of the ball and a lot of weapons on offense. So, we just have to work hard."

Hayes, who is on the soft-spoken side, admits he will need to take a more active role in the leadership department next year with the departure of hard-hitting safety Jonathan Warren, who has signed with FSU.

"We have a lot of younger guys and they are kind of wild," Hayes said and laughed. "At Madison, the younger guys look up to the older guys and follow our lead.

"Usually, I just go with the flow. All I know is if we don't get 11 men to the football, we are going to have some serious problems in practice (laughing)."

Asked what position he likes better, linebacker or defensive end, Hayes didn't hesitate:

"Defensive end," Hayes said.

"I hate quarterbacks."

We will continue to keep you updated on Eugene Hayes, right up through signing day 2005. Top Stories