Prospects resurface at Hargrave

CHATHAM, Va. -- Dozens of the previous year's football prospects look for a second chance every season at Hargrave Military Academy. As is annually, the majority of the Tigers' 2004 post-graduate roster will be made up of players who have already signed with other Division I schools.

While Hargrave coach Robert Prunty doesn't have any future Tar Heels yet among his signed players for this fall, UNC coaches still have their eyes on several of his team's unsigned members.

These are not just castoffs or retreads either -- far from it.

North Carolina's recruiters proved they could milk every last drop out of the 2004 class by signing Union, S.C. offensive lineman Bryon Bishop and Mainland, Fla. running back Vince Wilson.

"These guys are wide open," Prunty said from the school on Tuesday. "North Carolina is very interested in at least five of these guys."

Hargrave will not hold its annual Media Day until Aug. 14. But Prunty, who was tied up most of the day in meetings, instructed assistant head coach and offensive coordinator Ryan Sulkowski to share an early look at their lineup with Inside Carolina. The roster is not yet official, as some of the potential enrollees still have yet to raise the funding necessary to attend.

The coaches declined to comment on their signed players. Many Tar Heels fans will remember the protective policy Prunty and his staff took last year with current UNC freshmen Terry Hunter, Khalif Mitchell and Kenny Price; as it pertained to media and re-recruiting availability. Nothing has changed in that regard at Hargrave.

Hunter, who was continually dogged by other schools throughout his semester at Hargrave, remained true to his original commitment and enrolled at UNC last spring.

  • The Tar Heels are keeping a close eye on former Southeast Raleigh defensive lineman Brian Simmons, as well as about a half dozen others from the Tigers expected roster of unsigned players.

    Simmons, like some of his future teammates, is trying to improve his academics in order to qualify for college acceptance. He's previously seemed solid to N.C. State, but the Tar Heels have apparently re-opened Simmons' "case."

    Here's the kicker, the 6-foot-6, 280-pounder has an offer on the table from Oklahoma, a school that is certainly still in the running. But, according to Sulkowski, Simmons "may be one of those guys that just wants to stay close to home."

    Again, Simmons and the following list of Hargrave's potential prospects' recruiting are "wide-open," members of the coaching staff have said.

  • The last time we heard from Auburndale, Fla. running back Lenford "Chub" Small, around Christmas, he was holding offers from Cincinnati, Kansas and South Florida; while looking forward to visits to N.C. State and Florida. But Small still has academic work to do as well and remains unsigned.

    A quick and powerful runner at 5-foot-9, 190 pounds and with a reported 4.45-speed, Small rushed for over 1,200 yards and 20 touchdowns as a high school senior. The book on him is that he also blocks and catches passes well.

    "He's definitely a Division I guy," Sulkowski said.

  • New Jersey's Chris Allison, quarterback of powerful Bergen Catholic High School and a member of the state's all-star team, is already qualified academically. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound lefty is a pro-style prospect that is getting a lot of interest from some Ivy League schools.

    Last summer, Allison graded out as the best quarterback in the Tri-State Combine held at Giants Stadium.

    "He just wanted to wait," Sulkowski said. "He had only started one-year at one of the best schools in the state. Apparently that caused some schools to hold back.

    "He reminds me of Steve Young, but he is definitely a pocket passer."

  • Dallas' wide receiver Kenton Thornton committed to Texas in mid-January. But when the Longhorns were receiving their faxed Letters of Intent on Signing Day, Thornton's was noticeably missing.

    Something else was missing in Thornton's mind. Apparently, Texas was not going to let the 6-foot-6, 220-pound power forward play basketball, too. So Thornton declined to sign with UT.

    Ranked the 35th best senior in the nation's largest mainland state last year, Thornton is planning to attend Hargrave in hopes being picked up by a school with a great basketball reputation -- that will allow him to play both sports.

    "He's going to raise some eyebrows this year," Sulkowski said.

  • Georgia offensive lineman Philip Browning spent his school days in Atlanta before transferring to Hargrave as a junior in high school. He was one of only three players at Westminster High School to ever earn a varsity football letter as a freshman.

    Browning, 6-foot-5, 280 pounds and better than competitive speed (5.1) for his position, did not receive a college scholarship offer that suited him after his senior year. He had sparked interest from such notable programs as Florida State and Georgia, as well as other ACC schools such as Virginia and Duke.

    He's an excellent student, so Browning is hoping he can impress enough on the field in his last go around at Hargrave to finally land a Division I offer.

  • Former high school teammates' offensive lineman Ryan Adams (6-4, 290) and wide receiver Deanco Oliver (6-1, 185) of North Penn in Hartsfield, Pa. are also hoping to get more attention by honing their skills at Hargrave.

    "Adams is just a big, mean guy," Sulkowski said. "And you can't teach mean. He reminds me of [St. Louis Rams tackle] Kyle Turley; he's got the tattoos and sometimes he likes to get crazy out there on the field."

    Oliver is a "real quick guy that we'll end up signing somewhere," Sulkowski said.

  • And, the Tar Heels are giving a solid second look at wide receiver Jason Burton, a former teammate of N.C. No. 1 prospect Toney Baker at Jamestown Ragsdale.

    "He's going to be one of the top guys that pops out this year," Sulkowski said.

  • On a final note, Hargrave's annual meeting with the UNC junior varsity in Chapel Hill this year was cancelled. The Carolina JV's will instead host Fork Union Military Academy.

    "It was a mutual understanding," Sulkowski said of the rescheduling.

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