Vandy coaches score again in Lower Alabama

<B>Quavian Lewis</b> of Troy, Ala. was one of three official visitors to commit to Vanderbilt over the weekend. The versatile 6-4, 210-pounder played four different positions in high school, but where will he play in college? And which current Commodore player played a role in his decision?

It's a mystery to Troy (Ala.) Charles Henderson High School coach Hugh Fountain why more colleges don't mine the riches of Troy / Pike County, Ala. The region annually produces some of the state's top prospects, but the remote area in so-called "L.A." (Lower Alabama) is often overlooked by scouts and recruiters.

Vanderbilt scored a commitment from the area last year when Pike County quarterback Chris Nickson signed. And earlier this week the Commodores chalked up another one, as Henderson linebacker / defensive end Quavian Lewis gave the coaches a commitment on an official visit.

"I told [Vanderbilt wide receivers coach] Charlie Fisher last year, everybody in the world missed out on a great player in Chris," Fountain told VandyMania. "Now Vanderbilt has gotten themselves another real prize."

Lewis, who visited Vandy for the UT game, was back on campus three weeks later. This time he was ready to commit. (VandyMania / Brent Wiseman)
Lewis, who turned down offers from Stanford, California, Southern Miss and Troy State to accept the Commodores' offer, is 6-4, 210, with a 40 speed of around 4.6. He's what recruiters call a "tweener" prospect, capable of playing either defensive end or linebacker.

"He's just a great athlete who can move around well," Fountain said. "He's got a long body and plays with a lot of passion. He's explosive off the corner.

"In our defense, the defensive end is an outside linebacker. We played a '50' front, in which the defensive end is also an outside linebacker position, so Quavian was mostly playing on the line of scrimmage for us. We did drop him a little sometimes.

"On offense we play a spread, and he was kind of a wide receiver. He had eight touchdowns on offense, so he's not a bad offensive player either. But defense is where he's going to play in college. Vanderbilt wants him as an outside linebacker."

Fountain said it was Lewis' speed which attracted the attention of major colleges, including Vanderbilt.

"He's only played two years of high school football. He's started for us for two years because of that great speed. He's scored four defensive touchdowns for us in those two years. He's great at picking off an interception, scooping up a fumble, blocking a punt. He's just that kind of athlete.

"For example, somebody tried a little quick screen on us this year, and he batted it, picked it off and returned it all the way. Another touchdown came on a fumble scoop-- that was the last play before the half in the playoffs-- he scooped it and ran it 50 yards."

Pike County went 8-4 in 2004 and advanced to the second round of the 5A playoffs, where it lost to eventual champion Homewood.

Lewis visited Vanderbilt for the first time Nov. 20, and watched the Commodores play impressively in a 38-33 loss to Tennessee. Three weeks later he was back on campus for an official visit. Last Sunday night he returned home and called Fountain excitedly to inform him he had firmed up his college plans.

"I think the academics was the biggest reason for him choosing Vanderbilt, and getting to play in the SEC," Fountain said. "He really enjoyed the trip. His parents will be able to come to see him there, but he can still play on a high level of football. Obviously the academic part is extremely important to him, because he's a top-ten student for us here, with a GPA of 3.8 or something.

"I think Chris Nickson had some influence on Quavian, because Quavian knew him. They had played against each other in high school in football and basketball. When Quavian went up to a game this season he saw Chris, and Chris hosted him when he was there this weekend. When you know someone, that helps, especially when you're talking about being a long way from home."

Nickson, the former Alabama Mr. Football who redshirted this season at Vanderbilt, is a player with whom Coach Fountain is intimately-- and painfully-- familiar. Pike County, Nickson's alma mater, is Henderson's biggest rival. In 2003 Pike County, a 3A school, defeated 5A Henderson en route to a perfect season and a state championship.

"At the end of that game we looked at the stats, and they had 56 offensive plays, and Chris had carried the ball every play but six, either threw it or ran it," raved Fountain. "And he also played free safety and probably had 12 tackles at free safety! He's just the type of guy that can do it all night long, and I believe he'll be a great player for Vanderbilt. No doubt."


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