CHATHAM, Va. - There's a big change at Hargrave for 2010 with a new coach and new faces from all across the country. Former defensive coordinator Troy Davis takes over as the head man for departed coach Robert Prunty who is now on the staff at Texas Tech. Davis understands he's got a big job ahead of him but has plenty of talent led by 2010 four-star wide receiver Martavis Bryant, a sign-and-place by Clemson last year.
"They are big shoes to fill," Davis said. "Coach Prunty did an outstanding job here and my role now is to maintain it. It's not only this; I want to make sure the kids have a great experience. The postgraduate program has done a lot for Hargrave Military Academy and I want to uphold it."
Even though he's only had a week to look at his new team, Davis is encouraged and feels there is quite a bit of talent on both sides of the ball.
"I'm excited about the kids," he stated. "I tell each one, I'm not concerned about football, that'll take care of itself. They came here to get what they needed, to get qualified or get offers from schools. If they take care of the things they need to, the football will take care of itself.
"I think we're really deep with a lot of skill position players. I think we've got 22 linemen. Some are unpolished, but once the season is over I think we'll have a lot more Division-I level players there. I'm excited about our team defensively; we've got some good, tall, rangy defensive kids."
One of the top skill position players on the roster is clearly Bryant, who has already turned heads according to coach Davis.
"He's a phenomenal kid," he said. "He's a class act kid and leads by example on the field. I can't say enough, the kids here realized right off the bat he's a big-time player. It's just the way he practices, he's so fluid and he demands it from the offense."
He isn't the only receiver getting noticed though.
"Eddie Johnson Jr. is another specimen," he said. "Baylor got a great athlete there. We call him a man-child, a freak. He has tremendous upside and his presence is definitely known."
Meanwhile, the linebacker group features three players committed to schools.
"Antonio Kinard has a lot of upside to him. He's already 225 pounds and goes sideline to sideline," Davis said of the Michigan signee. "He's just a workhorse. He'll go and get after it, he's very competitive.
"Terrell Hartsfield for Texas Tech should be a star. All these linebackers can flat out run. He really has been a big surprise. He came into camp in shape and put on weight. He's a humble kid that loves the game and can play. I think everybody at Texas Tech is going to be impressed with him.
"Brandon Williams for Navy is another outstanding linebacker. I know they are looking forward to getting him. He's a military school kid going into Navy and the last three years we've had a kid accepted into the Naval Academy, I'm excited about that."
Rounding out the commits to date are two defensive linemen in Virginia Tech's Justin Taylor and Rutgers' Djwany Mera who join Clemson signee Corey Crawford, who just arrived on Monday, to form an impressive trio.
"Justin is a physical kid that will play some stand-up linebacker for us. I'm pleased with him. Dwjaney, this kid is going to be a great player for Rutgers. The kid plays with a motor and he only needs two points, so he'll be moving on midyear."
Davis has not had a chance to check out Crawford in person yet but said he is looking forward to it.
Every year Hargrave has a few sleeper prospects emerge over the course of the season that didn't get recruited for one reason or another. Who are the sleepers in this class?
"You're talking about a sleeper, Philip Melander, a 6-foot-3, 285-pound lineman out of Indiana is just one of those maulers," said Davis. "He's great against double teams and can get to the second level."
There are a few other offensive linemen that stand out as well.
"Frederick Ruff, he's 6-foot-5, 300 pounds and he reminds me of Jared Gaither for the Ravens. He's got really quick feet. Tevin Pearson is another lineman, he kind of reminds me of Bobby Massie who went to Ole Miss. Robert Fitzgerald was here last year, but this is his year. He's a kid you have to recognize at 6-foot-6, 285 pounds and we also have Taylor Fallin. He reminds me of Terrence Hackney from last year. He has quick feet; he just needs to work on his hand-fit position. He's only a half-year kid, he needs five points."
Davis believes there is some further talent on the offensive side particularly at quarterback and running back.
"We've got three quarterbacks, D.J. Williams, Marcus McDade from California and Brian Purnell out of New Jersey. D.J. is showing that pocket presence and leading the offense, he's taking his time and reading progressions. Purnell is putting pressure on him and he'll play some free safety for us too. McDade is right there as well.
"At running back, we have true senior Derrick Milton who has offers from Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Memphis. I think this kid will play in the Army All-American Bowl, he's that good.
"We also have Jamal Satchell who rushed for 1,500 yards down in North Carolina last year and Jamaal Jackson out of Delaware who was the No. 1 running back out of that area. We feel good about the backfield we have."
On the defensive side, Davis believes he's got a few sleepers, particularly upfront.
"James Smith is a guy I think everybody has to watch out for," said Davis. "His brother played for South Carolina, Brandon. He has great upside and plays with a fast motor."
Some others could play multiple positions.
"Trey Seals is a linebacker and defensive end. He's a wiry kid that plays with a motor. He's got several offers including Marshall and East Carolina. Quinn McClendon has been out for about a year not playing for the simple fact he had an offer, but didn't take it. He sat out. I like his size and presence, when it is all said and done I think he'll be a defensive end. Forrest Mason is doing great in practice and playing some defensive end and defensive tackle for us as well.
"Another kid I like is Keevon Newsome. He is Kevin Newsome's (Penn State quarterback) little brother and this is a competitive group at defensive end. He's about 240 now and I think he'll go somewhere at 260. We'll stand him up too. He just got overlooked, but is already qualified. He just needs more game experience."
"Ross is a 6-foot-5, 235-pounder and qualified. He just needs more game experience and Jimmy just missed it last year. Arkansas came in and it was between him and a JUCO player. Over that time he has gained 30 pounds and I think it's really going to pop for him here this year."