COVINGTON, Ga. -- Now that the 2018 National Signing Day class has been decided for the most part, it’s time to take a premature look at what could be in store for the area’s 2019 class.
First, let it be known that Newton County has extended its streak of players being included in the 247sports.com state rankings to four years straight. That’s four years in a row where at least one area player has been counted among the state’s best football prospects. However this year so far, that number is exactly one. And his name is Kendrick Carlton.
Carlton, a 6-foot-5, 315 offensive lineman at Newton High is considered the No. 100 overall prospect out of 111 in the state of Georgia right now. He’s four slots below Salem High athlete Omarious Burnam, but Carlton represents the lone Newton County representative in this list for now.
We say for now because we believe there’s enough talent in the 2019 class across the board to where Carlton will probably have some local company accompanying him on this and other lists of top state prospects. Carlton does hold one offer from Louisville right now, but as spring ball, skills camps, 7-on-7s — and in Carlton’s case, lineman camps — begin to pick up over after February, we not only expect Carlton’s offer list to grow, but we think several other ’19 players will begin to see an increase in their blip on the recruiting radar.
By school, here are a few guys we believe stand a good chance at cracking the top recruits lists, or at the least, turning heads and raising the eyebrows of college football scouts.
QBs Cam Anderson & Nick Simmons: Let’s not call it a quarterback controversy. Let’s call it a quarterback luxury. Quick. Tell me a high school football coach — or really a coach on any level — who wouldn’t want to be able to say: “I have two guys at quarterback whom I can put in the game at any time and feel like I have a good chance to win.” Anderson showed marked improvement from his sophomore year when he split duties with now-senior Quindrelin Hammonds. But a shoulder injury sidelined him for the final handful of 2017 games, and Simmons came in, showing a live arm, a competitive spirit and a bit of a gunslinger mentality. Will coach Chris Edgar employ a two-platoon system under center? Will one play situationally? Too soon to tell. But both are good enough to find the field often in 2018, drawing some recruiting interest in the process.
DE Jalen Banks: Banks was surprisingly disruptive pass rusher for Alcovy as a junior in 2017. And with another offseason to get bigger and stronger and more game savvy, Banks could become a defensive star for the Tigers and one of the best pass rushers in the area in 2018.
DB Bryson Wilcox: Defensive back will probably be the place where Alcovy takes the biggest graduation hit, as Hammonds, Trey Smith, Demetrius Tuggle and Jakob Streeter will all move on to college in May. But Wilcox, with his 46 total tackles and six pass breakups showed enough promise to where he may be counted on to anchor the secondary next season.
DLs Gavin Fletcher & James Adams: Combined with Banks, the defensive line could be a strength for the Tigers, as these two will help it be one of the more experienced units on Alcovy’s defense next season.
OL Marcus Perdomo: At 6-foot, 275 pounds, Perdomo may not be the biggest offensive lineman you’ll see, but he’s got an ever-ready motor, and he’ll look to possibly anchor arguably the most improved part of Alcovy’s 2017 team — the offensive line — next year.
K Jose Ramos: Kickers anyone? Listen, we know the kickers don’t get a ton of love in composite rankings of high school football prospects. In fact, when’s the last time you’ve seen a “5-star kicker?” Well, whether Ramos is a 5-star guy or not is debatable, but anytime you’ve got a high school kicker who can consistently boot from 40-plus yards, you’ve got someone who could make a college football team very happy.
RB Taylor Carter: The rising senior running back will tell you that he doesn’t think he has game-breaking speed. But whatever he lacks in speed, he makes up for in quickness, vision and deceptive power between the tackles. Look for Carter’s stock to rise over the summer.
DE Dalton Whitley: Whitley tied for second place with Spurgeon Gaither for the team lead in quarterback sacks (5) in 2017. So when coach Troy Hoff begins looking for defensive playmakers to replace Gaither next season, Whitley may be that go-to guy.
K Kade Mote: Could this be the year of the kicker in Newton County? We’ve already talked about Alcovy’s Ramos who connects regularly from 40-plus yards. Mote might win the prize for the area’s strongest leg, though. Mote connected on 34 of 35 extra points last season and drilled 6 of 9 field goals while boasting a long of 50 in an early-season game.
OL Dustin Morgan: The same way Whitley may be the answer for a departed Gaither on the defensive line, Morgan could be looked upon to provide some continuity for the offensive line with the graduation of LaMarius Benson. Granted, those are big shoes to fill — literally. But his experience will certainly help. And he, too, may be another player who gets bigger and stronger in the offseason while taking his game up another level.
ATH Jamari Brown: Stick this kid anywhere on a football field and he’s a big play waiting to happen. In much the same way Alcovy’s Hammonds was a “slash” type athlete, that’s what Brown puts you in the mind of. And similar to how Hammonds’ versatility granted him an uptick in recruiting attention, look for the same for Brown.
WR Michael Mathison: Newton will need a big-play, stretch-the-field type of receiver to help aid in rising junior quarterback Neal Howard’s development. And in Mathison, the Rams may have just that. If he capitalizes on a 2017 campaign where he showed off both vertical route style speed and a fearlessness to go over the middle and make a big grab, it’s guaranteed that this won’t be the last you hear of the 5-foot-10, 170-pound wideout.
RB Adarius Thomas: Listen. Why is this kid not already on someone’s Class of 2019 list? Adarius “DD” Thomas may be one of the most versatile backs people (mainly outside of Newton County) have never heard of. He rushed for 540 yards and 4 scores and caught 382 yards worth of passes with 4 touchdown grabs. But his standout performance came in Newton’s first-round playoff loss to Parkview. He carried 31 times for 161 yards and two scores on the ground while also adding 50 receiving yards on three catches. Against Parkview, Thomas showed he could be an every-down back in Georgia’s largest classification.
DB Khalil Wilcox: Wilcox really showed his brightest flashes of excellence down the stretch of the season. With the departure of players like Jaison Taylor, Elija Godwin and Rod Kirkland in the secondary, it’ll be Wilcox’s time to shine in 2018.
OL Ken Sheats: At 6-foot-3, 367 pounds, this rising senior as a Division I body and frame, and Social Circle coaches believe his senior year will be about showing people that he has the skills to match.
ATH Tate Peters: Peters is another one of those do-it-all guys who can make a difference virtually anywhere on the field. If Social Circle is to break its almost 10-year state playoff drought in 2018, Peters will likely have to be the chief playmaker. And he has the skillset to make that happen.