Purple Wave Produces Another Prize Prospect

Though it's not carved in stone, it's probably written in indelible ink somewhere, that in the dog-eat-underdog world of recruiting, it's just as important to know your sources as it is to know your prospects.

Take for instance Christian Brothers High School in Memphis where the recent production of defensive ends and shot throwers has kept SEC schools beating a steady path to the Purple Wave athletic office. The man they seek is David Ligon, Sr., who is charged with developing defensive ends in addition to his duties as defensive coordinator, plus he coaches shot put and discus for the CBHS track and field team.

Two years ago Tennessee signed his son David Ligon, Jr., who is a redshirt freshman defensive end that also threw shot during the Vols indoor season. Ligon chose the Vols over Florida after receiving offers from virtually every other team in the conference.

"We actually have four guys in the SEC," Ligon said. "Our oldest thrower, Brent Canally, is at Ole Miss. We have a thrower at Mississippi State, J.D. Erikson. Then David (Ligon) up at Tennessee and Kevin Thompson is in the decathlon up there. Out of the six kids from Memphis in the SEC, four of them are from Christian Brothers. All of them are throwers with the exception of Kevin. We're kind of proud of that."

Christian Brothers may soon expand that total to five out of seven, when senior Corey Mills signs a scholarship next year. Mills, 6-5, 260, is not only the reigning state champion and distance holder in the shot, he's also one of the state's top five football prospects. Furthermore, he just appears to be approaching his potential in both sports.

"He just turned 17 last week," said Ligon. "He won the state in both the shot and discus. He went to state as a freshman, sophomore and junior. Indoor he was fourth in the country and was the only 16 year-old winner that was ranked in the top five in the country, so that's pretty good. He'll throw at the adidas outdoor in June. I believe that's in Raleigh, N.C. At the adidas sanctioned meets, they get a lot of exposure."

The presence of strength, quickness, coordination and explosiveness that are essential to success in the shot put are also in ample evidence when Mills goes on the attack at defensive end.

"He's a good athlete with good explosion," said Ligon. "He has the full range of size, strength and quickness. You can't throw it past 60 feet without having all those intangibles."

Mills has surpassed the 60-foot mark both indoors and outdoors this spring, putting him in very select company among 16 year-old competitors nationally.

"At the Nike Indoor in March, he threw at the end of the indoor season in Landover, Md.," Ligon said, "he threw 60 feet, 11 inches, which is his PR (personal record). In the outdoor, he threw a 60-8. He's been injury free throughout his career and that's helped him to maintain his progress."

Mills prominence in the shot put is a bonus since his services in football are more certain to earn him a college scholarship to the school of his choice.

"I think if you get around 63 feet and he's right there at the threshold, you get major, big-time offers in track; possible full rides because a track coach wants someone who can come in and help," Ligon explained. "Because of the limited scholarships and with the conversion from the 12-pound to 16-pound shot, you have to be able to score points in the SEC meet and then they can justify it."

Mills' credentials in football require no conversion rate. He has the size, strength (365 bench) and speed (4.75) to make a difference on the gridiron especially at strong side defensive end. Moreover, he is an excellent technician who is fundamentally sound and has great work habits.

"He had a real good year as a junior," said Ligon. "He had a lot of sacks and a lot of big plays and he was very disruptive at the end. He's going to get double-teamed like David was his senior year, I'm sure. We have a balanced attack with the player at the other end who will be coming up and will become a good player who can balance things out. Corey is going to get ready, and I think he'll have a great year."

Given his reputation as a top notch defensive end and a highly regarded college prospect, Mills is sure to be a target for opposing offenses that must account for his whereabouts as well as neutralize his impact.

"They will run away from him," Ligon predicted. "But what you find with teams is that whether they've got a tight end in their offense or not, they'll end up putting a tight end to kind of slow him up and then try to pick him up with a back. We started getting that toward the end of last year. So I figure he'll end up being a marked man like they all are when they're heavily recruited."

The asset that will enable Mills to adjust to such attention is the same one that makes him a strong candidate to successfully step up in competition at the collegiate level.

"He reads real well," Ligon stated. "We try to teach stance, and steps, and pass rush that they do at the next level, and I think he's ahead of the game as far as fundamentals and what's expected of him in college. He's going to have an idea of what they're trying to do at the next level. I think being fundamentally strong is probably his biggest asset."

Mills has collapsed his share of pockets for the Purple Wave, but he probably projects as a strong side end in college where his mastery of technique should take him far.

"He's not a 4.6, 4.5 quick-side end, pass rusher," Ligon said. "I think he's more of a strong side defensive end. Basically, you've got the defensive end that can hold up against the tight end on the strong side and you've got the quick side or short side of the field that are your quick guys."

Mills' talent for getting off the ball quickly and holding his position against a multitude of blocking schemes, are invaluable attributes to SEC teams that must venture out of conference and encounter offenses that specialize in power football.

"If they put a flanker and two tights you've got to have somebody in there that can hold their position at end," Ligon said. "You run into somebody like a Kansas State that has a flanker in there that runs about 260 and a big old tight end, or that wing back coming around and you've got to have somebody in there with some meat."

Mills has brain to match his brawn. He's an honor student that's tackled a tough curriculum at academically conscious Christian Brothers and he's fully qualified. He's particularly adept at mathematics and aspires to be an aeronautical engineer.

His impressive 365 bench press was recorded last November, some six months before he turned 17. He's likely to become much stronger and probably bigger before he reports for gridiron duty to some college campus in August 2004. He's also versatile enough to slide down to defensive tackle or become a cat-quick offensive tackle.

"He's good against the run and he's got a good step off the ball," Ligon said. "He definitely has the ability to go to both sides of the ball. I think he could play offensive tackle, and he could also play defensive tackle."

Mills has been receiving a steady stream of correspondence from major college programs across the country, including most SEC schools. He's still setting his summer camp schedule in addition to competing in the shot put. The school that lands Mills will have to offer him a future in both athletic pursuits.

"I think he's going to up to Tennessee's Senior Camp," said Ligon. "I think he's going to the Florida camp and I guess Ole Miss.

"We're getting stuff from everywhere. I think he's interested in a top football program that also has a good track program because he really enjoys the shot. He's interested in a school that has both. That's going to be the key I think."

Clearly, Mills is an outstanding two-sport prospect with virtually no downside. That's particularly true when you consider the laudable augmentation of positive attitude, humble nature and solid work ethic he adds to a team's chemical mix.

"All these kids I've had since freshmen have good work ethics," Ligon said in praise of his prospects. "He's a really nice kid. He's one of those you don't get very often that has that combination of ability and grades. He's not arrogant. He's well-mannered and kind of on the quiet side."

However, Mills' accomplishments speak volumes about his potential.

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