RECRUITING: Talented Godby Loaded With Prospects

Most high school teams would find the loss of a 2000-yard rusher a devastating blow, but not Coach Shelton Crews of Amos P. Godby HS in Tallahassee. He will be fielding a team loaded with experienced, talented seniors in 2005 and it is a team hungry to go deeper into the playoffs than last year when the Cougars finished 8-4. Crews has a system in place that allows the Cougars to reload with talent brought up in the system instead of rebuilding.

Despite losing tailback Roy Upchurch and his 2000-plus yards to the University of Alabama, the Cougars will have quarterback Emanuel Francis and his three top receivers returning, so the offense is in good hands, capable of putting plenty of points on the boar quickly.

"Offensively we are pretty much intact with the exception of a fullback and a 2500-yard back and one offensive lineman," Coach Crews said. "I think our strength will be our quarterback and wide receivers because they all return. We are pretty big up front and we will find someone to run, so it is a good combination and problems to have."

Francis threw for almost 1400 yards and 10 touchdowns last season on a team that relied heavily on the run. In the absence of Upchurch, Francis will be asked to spearhead the Cougar.

"We are going to throw it a little more I think because all the receivers are coming back," Francis said. "The whole offensive line is coming back"

The 6-3, 180-pound Francis has the skills to be one of the top passing quarterbacks in Florida this year. He's got a good arm and he makes sound decisions.

"I have a good quarterback coach and I can read defenses real good, " he said. "I think my mechanics are good. We talked about us being in the gun some more than we have been. I'm a pocket passer, but I can tuck it if I have to."

Francis' favorite college team growing up was the Florida Gators. He followed the likes of Danny Wuerffel and Jacquez Green and his favorite player was Travis McGriff. He sports a low B average and has already received interest from the likes of Arkansas, Iowa, Florida, and Tulane. He has made phone contact from coaches at Florida and Arkansas.

Coach Crews likes the dedication and skills that Francis brings to the table. He thinks he has a very smart player that can make some plays to win ball games at the quarterback position.

"Emanuel's best attribute is he distributes the ball to the playmakers," Coach Crews said. "He does an excellent job of getting the ball to the right people. He is fundamentally sound. He was 58 percent this year for 1400 yards. Any time you can get a kid near 60 percent in high school, I think you have done a good job with him."

When Francis throws the ball, one of his targets is DeAndre McDaniel, a 6-1, 180-pounder who is equally dangerous as a wide receiver, defensive back or special teams contributor.

"I think DeAndre is one of the best players in the country, either wide receiver or defensive back," Crews said. "I am glad I don't have to make that decision what side of the ball he plays on at the next level. For us, he will play both sides. He probably won't come off the field. One great thing about him is he is also a great special teams player. He can block punts, return punts, return kickoffs, whatever we need, he can usually do. We expect big things out of him."

Crews says the "best hands on the team" belong to Kendall Williams, a 6-1, 185-pound speedster who runs the sprints for Godby's track team in the spring. Last year Williams had 34 receptions for 372 yards and two touchdowns.

"I run track --- the 200, the 400, and the 4x400," Williams said. "I play receiver and a little defensive back. I outsmart the defensive backs. Speed kills. On the weekends, I come around here and work on my game."

Clemson, Arkansas and Marshall have shown the most interest in Williams but he's also gotten letters from the big three in the state, Florida, Florida State and Miami.

Coach Crews calls Williams "Mr. Reliable," not that "Kendall Williams has never dropped a pass since he has been playing wide receiver the last two years. If he touches it, he will catch it."

Crews has an offensive line that is anchored by center Kevin McCaskill, a 6-3, 2885-pounder who has started the last three years. Three other starters return to the offensive line, but it is McCaskill who is the real anchor.

"Kevin will be a four year starter," Crews said. "When he finishes, I will have gone six years with a McCaskill at center. His brother (Nevin) played center for two years prior. He (Kevin) has really worked hard. He came in as a fat chunky kid and now is a very roust and strong. He does a good job and enjoys playing against nose guards."

Along with McCaskill, Kareem Crowell brings size and attitude to the offensive line. Crowell is a 6-4, 285-pounder who doubles as a defensive tackle when he's not burying opponents from on the offensive side of the ball. At defensive tackle, he had 59 tackles and five sacks last year, but Coach Crews thinks he plays offense at the next level.

"Kareem's best football is ahead of him," Crews said. "I think he will play offensive line at the next level. He has only played one year on the offensive line. We expect him to be a lot better this year."

Although the Cougars graduated five starters on defense, Crews has a lot of players who have gotten playing time so there won't be a serious dropoff in production.

"Defensively, we lose two linebackers, a strong safety, a corner, and a defensive lineman," Crews said. "In all of those spots we have people that can play there and have been chomping at the bit to play there. They will get their opportunity. If we can establish depth and bring the young kids along, we ought to continue to be good."

Up front on defense the Cougars will be led by Crowell and defensive tackle/tight end Frank Grimes. The 6-1, 260 pound Grimes is the "strongest player on the team" according to Coach Crews. Grimes likes what the defense has coming back this year and knows he is a key component to making it work.

"I think we will have a good team," Grimes said. "Our defensive line, the whole line is coming back. (I bring) toughness and I am relentless to the ball."

Coach Crews relies heavily on Grimes, like McCaskill, a four-year starter.

"Frank Grimes has started since the ninth grade," Coach Crews said. "He is a good defensive lineman, good tight end and he can play some fullback. He led the team in sacks last year from a down tackle. He had 13 sacks which I think is pretty good. He is poised to break the career sack record at Godby if he comes up with three or four more sacks."

Grimes is already receiving interest from Louisville, Iowa, USF, UCF, Tulane, Arkansas among others.

Rod Murray's play at linebacker is essential for Godby's success. He led the Cougars in tackles last year 96. The 6-1, 200 pound linebacker also had five sacks and 12 tackles for loss.

Murray likes the team's chances this year and knows he has to bring his A-game to the table for the team to be successful. He looks forward to the challenge

"We have a good chance at going to state this year," Murray said. "We have to replace the best running back in the nation, but we have some up-and-comers. We know how it is, since we went to the playoffs, we know the hype now. I think we have what it takes to make it to state. I bring determination. I feel like I can do it on the field. I think my teammates see it in me and I lead by example. I figure that if they see I am doing it they are going to want to do it. They will see the hard work and dedication I bring on and off the field. When people see Rod Murray, I want them to say he can do it all. He can read the guards and make the tackle."

Coach Crews knows that Murray is the quarterback of the defense.

"Rod has the biggest set of hands and biggest feet I have ever seen," Crews said. "He is a sure tackler. If he gets those big paws on you, you aren't going anywhere. He will be the guy on the defensive side of the ball that sets us in motion. He gets the front straight, makes all the calls. He is smart and can do that."

Already Murray is receiving interest from Miami, Florida, UCF, USF, Georgia, and Georgia Tech.

Marcus Udell is a leader in the secondary. He's 6-1, 180, and has the ability to take one side of the field away from an opponent. .

"Marcus likes to be called the lock down corner," Coach Crews said. "He wears a half of a set of handcuffs around his neck to signify lock down. Marcus is probably the direct responsible person for DeAndre intercepting so many passes. If Marcus and the other corner couldn't play man coverage, DeAndre would have to be more involved in the man coverage scheme."

Reggie Litman is a 5-11, 170 pound cornerback/wide receiver prospect that will play a lot for the Cougars. The National Honor Society student also runs the 4x400 and the 4x800 on the track team. The soft-spoken Litman will have to play hard for the Cougars this year.

"(I play) receiver and corner, I am on the field all the time," Litman said "I like both about the same. I bring speed and quickness."

Coach Crews has had to use Litman's versatility a lot and relies has relied on him not to have an ego while he waited his turn to get on the field.

"Reggie is one of the most versatile players we have," Crews said. "Reggie played strong safety, free safety, cornerback, wide receiver. We put him in a special defense last year against one opponent. He had to play strong safety. He dropped into the flats. He picked up four interceptions last year in those spot positions. He was our third corner, third safety, third receiver. He is a guy you can't o without because he is very smart and very intense when he plays."

Litman has received interest from Nebraska and South Florida already. He has started to make a list of reasons for choosing a college destination.

"First I will base it on academics," Litman said. "I want to have a good education, because I don't want to play football the rest of my life. My role for the team is important. How much interest they have in me is also very important. Distance doesn't matter."

The Godby Cougars look to be an explosive team on both sides of the ball in the 2005 Florida High School football season. The senior talent will dominate the team and should propel them into the playoffs.

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