I love the pageantry of the GHSA football championships for a couple of reasons. One is that it gives young men across the state the chance to play in front of a huge audience in a game they'll each remember for the rest of their lives. That's a big deal not only for them, but for the families, schools, coaches, and communities who support teams throughout the year. It's an event.
The other thing I look forward to is seeing a ton of players who will either become Georgia Bulldogs or compete against the Georgia Bulldogs, often within a matter of months. The GHSA Championships are a college recruiting coverage event as well as a high school athletic event, and year after year there are few places you can see as much talent in one place as you can under the roof of the Georgia Dome.
This season's no different. Every game played this weekend will feature at least a couple of players who will likely play in the SEC or ACC. The action gets started at 2:30 this afternoon with Aquinas of Augusta taking on Savannah's Calvary Baptist. Calvary of course features senior tight end Milan Richard, nephew of Bulldog great Herschel Walker and a Clemson commit. The 6'2, 230 pound Richard is athletic, a good blocker, and catches most everything you throw at him. Make no mistake, I have him lower on my board at TE than current Bulldog commit and North Carolina native Jeb Blazovich. But Richard is a solid, versatile prospect who should do good things for the Tigers. He'll be joined by defensive tackle Andre Wilson, a 6'1, 295 pounder who hasn't received a lot of major offers, but might yet get one of those last minute offers from a major conference team.
Aquinas doesn't have a lot of names that will be familiar to followers of Bulldog recruiting. But then, not a lot of 'Dawg fans knew who Aquinas alum Brendan Douglas was this time last year. Among the boys in green and gold to watch will be offensive lineman Jeff Fox, a 6'4, 275 prospect receiving interest from several Southern Conference schools. Also keep an eye on 2015 all-purpose back Ruben Garnett, who already claims an offer from Duke.
While the Aquinas/Calvary game should be a good one, I'm awfully intrigued by tonight's AAA contest between perennial powers Buford and Washington County. Both are undefeated, Buford known for amassing and developing tons of talented players (such as current 'Dawgs Kolton Houston and Dallas Lee) and Washington County home to an equally long line of college standouts (like Robert and Terrance Edwards). College recruiters are far more focused on the Buford Wolves, but keep an eye on WaCo QB/Safety A.J. Gray. He's really raw as a quarterback, but I think he has a future as a defensive back at the collegiate level.
As noted above, Buford is stacked with talent. For the class of 2014, Buford is led by another Clemson commit, Korie Rogers. While I wasn't sold on Rogers in Georgia's system, he is a solid linebacker. He's joined by Missouri commit Thomas Wilson, who also claimed offers from the likes of Tennessee, Michigan State, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and North Carolina. The Buford offense is led by Montgomery Van Gorder. I have no idea where or if he'll play college football, but I'm betting his mustache will be spectacular (just kidding, MVG has an offer from Murray State and interest from several FCS schools). Buford safety Tre Neal is considering Miami (FL), UCF and West Virginia, and fellow DB Zavior Hoxie claims scholarships from Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Wake Forest, and Mercer.At least 4 other senior Wolves are likely to play college football.
But what's really worth noting for Buford are sophomore and junior classes with guys who will be big names next February and beyond. Junior offensive guard Nick Polino already has an offer from Georgia Tech, and others are likely to jump on board soon. Defensive tackle Quay Picou has offers from the Jackets and Ole Miss. Junior running back Josh Thomas already has offers from a quartet of SEC schools (Miss. St., Mizzou, Vandy, and Tennessee) in addition to schools from the ACC and Big Ten. Lanky defensive lineman Trevon McSwain has offers from Illinois, N.C. State, and Virginia. Junior long snapper Blake Ferguson is already committed to LSU.
Sophomore Buford tight end Isaac Nauta may be the biggest prospect in the game. The 6'4, 240 pound prospect has offers from, among others, Georgia, FSU, Auburn, Clemson, Michigan, and Ohio State even though he has two more seasons of high school football ahead of him. Fellow sophomore Ben Frazier, a 6'3, 310 pound defensive tackle, is still waiting for his first offer but will almost certainly gain attention if he continues to develop.
You can catch the Aquinas/Calvary game on Georgia Public Broadcasting beginning at 2:30, and the Buford/Washington County in the same spot at 5:30. Later this evening we'll be back with a look at the AA championship featuring Creekside taking on Tucker. In the meantime feel free to use this as your high school football open comment thread (or use it for whatever else your hearts desire). Until later . . .