Vandy addresses its need for Spead

<B>Darlron Spead</b> of Camden County (Ga.) cast his lot with the Commodores last week. Exactly how fast is the versatile South Georgia speed merchant? Where do the Commodores plan to utilize his considerable talents? And with other schools making a late move for Spead, will his commitment hold up?

Headline writers had a field day this season with the Camden County Wildcats football team, which rose as high as No. 8 in USA Today's national Super 25 poll. It was almost too easy to note that the Cats had "lots of Spead in the backfield."

Darlron Spead (a senior) and his cousin Jerran Spead (sophomore) both played halfback in Coach Jeff Herron's tricky, throwback Wing-T offense. And the Spead cousins easily lived up to their names, with both players having registered sub-4.5 40 times and contributing to the team's gaudy rushing numbers.

Last week Darlron (pronounced DOLL-run-- the first "r" is silent) made his college choice, making a verbal commitment to play his college football at Vanderbilt. Though the versatile, 5-10, 175-pounder garnered more attention in high school for his ability to run with the ball and catch it, he will report to Nashville next fall as a cover corner, and should provide some immediate depth for the Commodore secondary.

"Darlron is a physical defensive back," said recruiting analyst Scott Kennedy, who specializes in players from Georgia. "You know Vandy will be getting a fundamentally sound and well-coached player, with him having worked under Coach Herron's staff."

"All schools are looking for corners," said Herron, who in five seasons at the school has transformed the football program into one of the state's true powerhouses. "They're all looking for someone who can cover somebody man-to-man. Darlron has started for us for three years, and has been very productive doing that.

"If I had to name one attribute that stands out about Darlron, it would be his versatility. He can play a variety of positions and be good at all of them. He has the hands to be a receiver, and he could also be a running back. Even as a junior he was a leader for us then. He's just been a big part of our program, and we've been awfully successful during his four years here."

In Herron's unconventional offense, Spead ran the ball, caught passes, and sometimes even threw passes. In last year's championship season he played both ways, but this year Herron had enough depth to rest Spead when the other team had the ball, and let him focus strictly on being an offensive playmaker.

Spead chose Vanderbilt over East Carolina, MTSU, Duke, Ball State, Troy State and Eastern Michigan, all of whom had made offers. Though 40-yard-dash speeds are sometimes not legitimate, there is little question that the Kingsland, Ga. native can fly. He told us Tuesday he has been measured at combines as fast as 4.38 in the 40.

"I just felt Vanderbilt was the right place for me to be," he said from his home Tuesday. "I liked being around the players. I liked the campus-- everything is within walking distance. You don't have to get in your car and drive.

"I liked the idea of playing in the SEC, one of the big conferences in the nation. I liked the coaching staff. They gave me some good advice, and showed me some things about the campus. They told us how great the food was. They showed us the football facilities, and everything was really nice.

"They want me to come up there in June or July and work out with the team. They say I'll be playing corner."

Spead had some other visits lined up, but he has now cancelled them all. He says he is thoroughly committed to Vanderbilt, even if some bigger schools try to get involved late (South Carolina and Steve Spurrier are maneuvering for an in-home visit).

"I think he'll fit in well at Vanderbilt both academically and athletically," Herron said. "Vanderbilt is doing some very good things, and they're certainly recruiting some intelligent kids. I think they're on the upswing. He will fit in well with their scheme."

Herron's team had high hopes of repeating as Georgia's 5A state champs, but Camden County saw its 28-game winning streak halted in the state semifinals by eventual champion Lowndes County. The Wildcats had to settle for a 13-1 record.

Their record in Spead's junior and senior years? A not-too-shabby 28-1.

Last year's state championship team featured one of the stoutest-- and fastest-- defenses the state had ever seen. Besides Spead, it featured Division I-A signees Djay Jones (Georgia Tech) and Kevin Patterson (Wake Forest). Last year Vanderbilt tried to recruit both Jones and Patterson, but came up empty.

But the Commodores have now been successful in Camden County, and perhaps a pipeline will open to the South Georgia school; in two years Jerran Spead should be looking for a place to land.

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