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FOOTBALL RECRUITING: A pre-Signing Day look at some of the area's prospects
Jaison Taylor1
Newton safety Jaison Taylor remains committed to Navy although Army hasn't been shy about its overtures. - photo by Submitted Photo | The Covington News

*Note: We'll continue to update this list as updates become available. 

For some, February’s National Signing Day may not hold quite the punch or significance it has in times past. But for others, nothing has changed. 

The first Wednesday in February will be, for many, the beginning of a new chapter in their athletic careers.

On December 20-22, many high profile high school football prospects signed their letters of intent to play college football during the first ever early signing period. Here in Covington, 3-star prospect Darnell Jefferies — a long-time Clemson commit — was one of them. He made official his Clemson pledge by electing sign and graduate early. Jefferies is already enrolled and attending classes at Clemson. 

But for most athletes in the Newton County area, the traditional signing day will be there time. More than a dozen seniors across three of our area’s schools are in the final stages of making their college decisions. We’ll give you a rundown of some of the more notable area players who may be making signing day decisions on February 7. 

Quindrelin Hammonds, Defensive Back, Alcovy:  Hammonds was not the biggest stat getter on the Tigers’ defensive in 2017, but the slash player was seemingly everywhere on the field this past season, as has been somewhat typical of his four-year career at Alcovy. Hammonds showed enough flashes of brilliance to attract the attention of Army-West Point who offered last year. He pulled the trigger on a commitment last week even though the 6-foot-1, 175-pound athlete had also been getting overtures from The Citadel, which he visited last weekend. 

Trey Smith, Defensive Back, Alcovy:  Last weekend, Trey Smith was on his way to a visit to Middle Georgia State University, a four-year institution in Macon. He was another solid member of Alcovy’s secondary, arguably the strength of the Tigers’ defense in 2017. A 5-foot-10, 160 pounder, Smith finished with 61 tackles and tied Dee Fanning for the team lead in interceptions with two. 

Trey Smith (3) makes a key pass breakup. - photo by Anthony Banks

Stephon Jefferson, Linebacker, Alcovy: With close to 130 tackles, this senior was one of the most active defenders in the area in 2017. He had garnered some interest from several area schools, including strong interest from West Georgia, but he could also end up going the JUCO route, which isn’t a bad thing. 

Lamarius Benson, OL/DL, Eastside: Benson, a 6-foot-3, 330-pound lineman is attractive to college scouts because of his size alone. But he’s more than a space eater. He’s got skill that’s shown itself on both offensive and defensive lines. Benson has held strong to his March 2017 commitment to South Carolina despite being pursued by other schools such as UCF, Georgia Tech, Georgia State and Maryland. As, perhaps, a sign of his stalwartness, Benson was in South Carolina last weekend on an official visit with coach Will Muschamp and the Gamecocks. 

Jaylon Lackey, Linebacker, Eastside: Lackey is, perhaps, one of the more underrated or unsung players in the area from the past season, but he just returned from an official visit to Limestone about a week ago, and enjoyed it enough to tweet about it. Lackey’s also got Wingate and Reinhardt in his view.

Spurgeon Gaither, Defensive Tackle, Eastside: We’ve stated the narrative over and over again, and with the risk of being overly redundant, we’ll state it again — if for no other reason than with hopes of trying to get this thought through the ads of college recruiters: If Spurgeon Gaither were three inches taller — maybe even just two — he probably wouldn’t be on this list. He’d most likely be on another list with guys like Darnell Jefferies. Gaither is essentially Division I talent trapped in a Division II body. Still, he’s starting to enjoy some recruiting attention, as he’s visited or will visit Valdosta State and Reinhardt. He also received a scholarship offer from Malone University in Canton, OH earlier this month. 

Spurgeon Gaither (55) celebrates after scoring one of his two touchdowns in Eastside's 28-0 region win over Salem Friday. The win, coupled with North Clayton's 7-6 loss to Henry County assures Eastside will host a first round playoff game. - photo by Cassie Jones | The Covington News

Tanner Feeney, Defensive Lineman, Eastside: With six sacks, nine tackles for losses and 11 quarterback hurries to go along with 65 total stops on a Class AAAA playoff team that happened to post a stout defense in 2017, it was just a matter of time before the 5-foot-10, 210 pounder started being recognized. Berry, Millsaps and Huntingdon Colleges have all been places that have shown Feeney interest. In turn, he has either visited, or will visit those schools soon.

Jaison Taylor, Defensive Back, Newton: We know that the Rams’ senior ball-hawking safety has been pledged to Navy since June. But that hasn’t stopped another service academy from trying to push up on the 6-foot, 177-pound 2-star prospect. Taylor just recently completed an official visit to Army — a visit that Newton head coach Terrance Banks believes he enjoyed quite a bit. So there may be a choice for Taylor to make. The fact that former Newton Teammate, Artice Hobbs was Taylor’s host during his Army visit probably didn’t hurt its chances of wooing Taylor to West Point. It’s no surprise that Taylor, the recent recipient of the MLK Celebration Committee’s Young Dreamer Award, is drawing such attention from the service academies, as they tend to swoon over talented athletes who have impeccable character to boot. 

Myron Middlebrooks, Quarterback, Newton: When we last chatted with Middlebrooks last month during Darnell Jefferies’ signing ceremony, he rather excitedly talked about getting his first offer from Jacksonville University — the same Jacksonville where former Newton hooper, J.D. Notae is now starring as a freshman. That offer came just a week prior to Jefferies’ signing, and to this day it remains Middlebrooks’ only offer. But just think what could’ve been if the 6-foot-3 signal caller hadn’t gone down to injury midway through the Archer game in October, while Newton was driving to go up 19-0 on the Tigers. Despite just playing seven games, Middlebrooks threw for 1,121 yards, completed 60 percent of his passes, rushed for almost 300 yards and accounted 19 total touchdowns (15 through the air) without a pick. Now tell me he wouldn’t have garnered a little more attention in an injury-free season. However, if Middlebrooks gets to Jacksonville and stays healthy, don’t be surprised to see him become a standout for the Dolphins’ football program much like Notae has been on the hardwood. 

Senior quarterback Myron Middlebrooks continued his efficient quarterback play, throwing for 189 yards and four scores in Newton's 30-8 region win over South Gwinnett Friday night. - photo by Daniel Doe | The Covington News

Lewis Naza, Jordan Reed Offensive Linemen, Newton: Naza was most recently offered by Ohio Northern University — like January 17, “just offered.” A week prior he was offered by Kentucky Christian, and last weekend he went for an official to Jacksonville. He also received a home visit this past week from the head football coach at Milsaps College in Mississippi. Meanwhile, Reed took off last Friday for Davidson and loved it so much that he committed. Both linemen were integral parts of Newton’s tough-to-stop rushing attack that, when all of the offensive backfield was healthy, was as tough to stop as arguably anyone else’s in the state. 

Others: For Alcovy, receivers Nico Johnson and Kameron Phuong recently received offers from Dean College near the Boston, Mass. area. Johnson’s also picked up an offer from Culver-Stockton College in Canton, MO. Offensive lineman, Andruw Binion, who missed much of his senior season due to injury, has an offer from Bayou Prep in Houma, LA. And another handful of Eastside players, including Tyon Davis and Rico Ruffin, have, or will, take a visit to Tennessee Valley Prep.