High School Football Preview: Division I coaches no longer overlooking area players

August 09, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

High school coaches think major college recruiters are finally learning just how good area football is.

"We have proven that we can play great football here, but not everybody always knew it," said Mercer County coach Duane Hammons. "We've had some good Division I prospects in this area before that were overlooked by college coaches.

"But with the rise of Danville and Boyle County football and those schools being in the national spotlight, it makes colleges pay more attention to this area. Every college coach is going to watch Danville and Boyle, or they should. Now a kid that might have gone unnoticed a few years ago from around here is getting noticed."

The star search certainly has college recruiters noticing area players this year. High school coaches agree that at least six area players should earn Division I or Division I-AA scholarships barring injuries or academic woes.


The six future college stars and their 2003 accomplishments are:

* Spencer Crutchfield, quarterback-safety, Garrard County.

He completed 87 of 179 throws for 1,177 yards and 10 scores and ran 99 times for 857 yards and 12 touchdowns before a dislocated hip late in the season ended his year.

* Ronnie Hawkins, quarterback-defensive back, Danville.

He completed 51 of 107 passes for 1,177 yards and 22 touchdowns with six interceptions. He rushed 57 times for 318 yards and six touchdowns.

* Andrew McCloud, running back, Mercer County.

McCloud rushed for 1,903 yards and 23 touchdowns on 250 carries and had nine catches for 37 yards. He returned 19 kickoffs for 650 yards and one touchdown and ran back 10 punts for 136 yards and another score.

* Greg Peck, receiver-defensive back, Boyle County.

Peck had 27 catches for 622 yards, an average of 23 yards per reception, and seven touchdowns along with six kickoff returns for 207 yards and one score. On defense, Peck had 70 tackles, four interceptions and 13 pass breakups.

* Brandon Smith, quarterback, Boyle County.

He completed 185 of 316 passes for 2,971 yards and 40 touchdowns with just 10 interceptions while leading unbeaten Boyle to its fifth straight state title and second with him as a starter. He also rushed 168 times for 943 yards and 19 touchdowns.

* Kelvin Turner, running back-linebacker, Danville.

Turner rushed 198 times for 2,136 yards, an average of 10.8 yards per run, and 27 touchdowns. He also had three defensive touchdowns.

Smith and Turner are both strong Mr. Football candidates based on their career numbers and their teams' state championships.

Smith was offered a scholarship by Eastern Kentucky University in July. He's heard from both Division I and Division I-AA schools and has impressed coaches with his passing, running ability, toughness and competitiveness.

"He's one of many who bought into our program, got eat up with football and wanted to be the best player he could be," said his father, Boyle coach Chuck Smith. "I saw his potential when he was young. It might have been a father's perspective, but that's why we put him at quarterback.

"A lot of players have stronger arms and can do some things he can't, but he has those intangibles you cannot coach. He doesn't see the rush when he's back to pass because he focuses only on his receivers. He has poise in the pocket you can't teach and has that innate ability to make others on the team better.

"A lot of quarterbacks can probably be classified as better athletes than Brandon, but not many are better quarterbacks."

Danville coach Sam Harp feels the same about Turner's running ability. The Admirals have had a bevy of talented running backs during Harp's seven state championship seasons, but he ranks Turner "right at the top" of the best he's coached.

"Every running back has his own style, but he's 185 pounds and he's strong," Harp said. "He's a good inside runner, but he can also run well outside. He's got some jukes (moves) about him. He can do a lot of damage in the open field because he consistently runs a 4.5 (second 40-yard dash). He's also got a competitive nature about him that makes him special."

While he also starts at linebacker, Harp says Division I coaches envision Turner as a running back.

"If everything was in order academically, he would have offers now. Right now schools are just waiting and watching, but there's no question about his talent," the Danville coach said.

Harp feels Hawkins has the same type ability. He'll play primarily quarterback for Danville again this season even though his best spot in college could be at receiver. If not, Hawkins could move to defense as a cornerback.

"I honestly think he can play on either side of the ball," Harp said. "He could be a good cover corner. Offensively, he can go across the middle and catch the ball without fear and anything he touches, he catches. He certainly has the speed to cover receivers or go deep himself.

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