Coach Spotlight: Joel Suggs
"Being brand new, I felt like if I kept the freshman together they were capable of being a special group," said Handy. "I wanted them to play JV and learn how to win. With North Carolina's ‘8-quarter rule' Joel was able to come up and play at the end of his freshman year. He started as a sophomore and junior. He's really worked his fanny off both academically and athletically to get to where he is."
Suggs was an All-Conference performer both as a sophomore and junior playing left tackle for the Tigers. Not only has he excelled on the football field, Suggs has a 4.0 GPA, tops in his class.
"Joel's been working hard in the off-season," said Handy. "He's very competitive. He wants to prove to everybody he's an ACC guy, and he's really been getting after it. The other day he squatted 495 pounds then went for a mile run with one of the coaches."
Suggs decided to give his verbal to the Wake Forest staff although schools like North Carolina State and Duke wanted him to come down to their summer camps for further evaluation. North Carolina, West Virginia, East Carolina, and Stanford had been making strong overtures.
"What's there not to like about Wake Forest?" said Handy. "They offer an excellent education, have the best coaching staff around, in my opinion, in terms of quality of the men on the staff, and they have a good history of putting linemen in the NFL. It was really a no-brainer for Joel, and I agreed.
"He has a great relationship with Coach Lobo (Steed Lobotzke). Coach (Ray) McCartney is an old Randleman guy. He coached my JV basketball team in the 80s. Keith Henry was an All-American at Catawba College where I used to coach. Brian Knoor was involved in the process. The staff is his kind of people, the education is top-notch, so there was no reason to wait with an opportunity like that."
Just because a commitment was made doesn't mean coaches aren't finding out who Joel Suggs is and inquire to Coach Handy about him. Handy says he's been hearing from coaches coast-to-coast on Suggs' status.
"Yesterday FIU called saying they saw film on Joel and were interested in recruiting him," Handy stated, "but I had to tell them he was firmly committed.
"My best friend, Mike Bloomgren, who I coached with at Catawba, is now the offensive line coach at Stanford. He really liked him and said to me, ‘Hey, we're best friends, can't you talk him into coming to Stanford?'. But I said, ‘No Mike, he really likes Wake. That's where his heart is'. You won't see Joel going off visiting other campuses. He's solid in his commitment and is focusing on his senior season."
The Randleman Tigers went 7-5 last season making it to the 2nd round of the playoffs in 2A. Under center, they return Kyle Farlow, a Division 1 prospect in his own right. Farlow is the grandson of legendary NASCAR driver, Richard Petty.
Handy feels the group of freshman he kept together on JV as freshman have a good chance of making a special run as seniors led by Joel Suggs.
"There's no doubt Joel is going to be one of our leaders," Handy said. "As a sophomore he was getting in people's faces trying to fire them up. At tackle, he's very athletic, gets out of his stance well, and shows good flex in his hips. We're about 50/50 in running the ball and passing. He does a great job of taking care of our quarterback. We think he's a real diamond."
Joel Suggs is the youngest of three brothers. His older brother, Tommy Suggs, was a four-year starter in basketball at The Citadel.
Handy calls Joel Suggs' talents "dynamic" as he plays football, basketball, and throws shot put and discus, makes excellent grades, and also dabbles in playing musical instruments. Suggs plans to compete at the invite-only Carolina Shrine Bowl camp this summer.
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