Irish After Top Tennessee Junior

It's hard to believe that Victor Abiamiri will be playing his last season at Notre Dame next season. Abiamiri came to the Irish as one of the top defensive end prospects in the country and the Irish staff would like to replace him with a player of similar stature. Junior Ray Sykes of Alcoa high school (Tenn.) will be just as heavily recruited and the Irish staff is trying to get in on Sykes early.

SEC teams always seem to be loaded with players that can get after it up front. A junior prospect that the Irish will target for the 2007 recruiting class is defensive end Ray Sykes.

"He's one of the top junior defensive end prospects in the country," commented Alcoa head coach John Reid. "We have a highlight tape that we send out and when I do, within two days I get a call -- that's how good he is.

"He is big and he is fast. He's 6-4, 245 and he ran a 4.7-forty at the LSU camp -- that's legit 4.7 and that's moving for a defensive end. He's got long arms. He's a pursuer. He runs around the field and makes plays. He's a 500-pound squatter.

"He can extend and get off blockers and he's explosive off the ball. He stays flat-backed. As you look at film, you wouldn't think that he was a high school kid because of his technique and the way he pursues to the ball. He's got a body more like a fullback that's stretched out. His legs are huge; thin waist, big arms, and big chest. He's the real deal."

Reid isn't just gushing over his star player to build recruiting hype. Reid has another big-time player opposite of Sykes, so he can make an easy comparison.

"His counterpart at defensive end is Brandon Warren and he is committed to Florida State," coach Reid said of his other talented defensive star. "He's going to be a Parade All-American. He's a Sporting News first-team All-American. When Ray was younger he got battle-hardened because teams were running away from Brandon."

Sykes and Warren both were blessed with the physical tools to be successful, but coach Reid and his staff have been able to mold the talent into top Division I prospects.

"He's been developed by one of the top defensive end coaches in the area, Richard Gamble," Reid said about of his assistant. "He's such a good coach. We're two-time (Class 2A) state champions, we just won the state championship again. We set the all-time Tennessee record this year for points scored (729), but we played in the state championship without either Ray or Brandon. Ray broke his humerus (upper arm) at practice about six weeks ago so he didn't get to play in any of the playoffs.

"This is just our third year here," Reid continued. "Last season we only had one senior and this year we only had eight. We won our first state championship with one senior. They hadn't made the state playoffs prior to us getting there. We got them in the weight room and we got them going."

ith Warren drawing recruiters from around the country, it didn't take long for them to recognize the talent that Sykes had.

"This kid gets 30 pieces of mail a day," Reid said of Sykes. "He has already been offered by Tennessee and LSU in writing. He sat in Les Miles office and he asked him to be an LSU Tiger. Alabama's offered. Florida State said to just consider him offered."

With Notre Dame putting the finishing touches on their 2006 recruiting class, they have been able to get a jump on juniors.

"I've heard from them, and that they've had so many early commitments, and that they've had such a great year that they can work on juniors," Reid said of Notre Dame. "They've asked about him, so I asked Ray if he would be interested in Notre Dame and he said he would. So I sent them a tape."


IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories