May 12, 2004

Tallahassee Recruiting Tour: Leon

There are lot of changes going on at Leon High School. Three-year head coach Mark Feely is now the Lion's Athletic Director and Wade Rollinson, who was the assistant head coach at Daytona Beach Mainland, is the new head coach. The good news for Rollinson is that the cupboard is far from empty.

Last season the Lions finished the regular season with an 8-2 record, a drastic improvement from the 1-9 mark in 2002. A bulk of the top players are back in 2004, including a handful of talented prospects that have the potential to continue their football careers at the next level.

Unlike some high schools in the area there isn't one sure fire All-American on the roster but there are plenty of viable college prospects. One of the most notable is fullback Gavin Grigg. Last year he rushed for 901 yards and scored 17 touchdowns earning him junior MVP honors for Leon and third team all-state. He also a weapon in the passing game hauling in 13 catches for 227 yards and three scores.

"I call him a throwback player just because he doesn't speak much, doesn't have a lot to say, doesn't complain at all," Rollinson said. "He comes out every day, just plays hard with great effort and he'll run people over. Whatever you ask him to do, he'll try to do. He's a 'yes sir, no sir' kid."

So far in the recruiting process Grigg is getting a lot of nibbles from colleges but no bites yet. Recently coaches from Florida, UCF and Clemson stopped by the check out the 6-foot, 235-pound fullback.

"The Florida coach called me the other night and was out here at practice," Grigg said. "I've been getting letters from a bunch of SEC and ACC schools."

Even with several schools showing him early attention, Grigg is quick to note that Florida State and Auburn are his two favorites.

"My family has season tickets to Florida State," he said. "I can't remember the last time I missed a home game. And Auburn, I used to go to those games a lot but I haven't been there to see my family much lately. That's where my mother is from."

This summer Grigg hopes to camp at UCF, FSU and Auburn.

Perhaps the one Leon player with the most upside is wide receiver T.J. Williams. The younger brother of Florida State cornerback Antonio Cromartie, was pretty much an unknown in recruiting circles until last weekend's Atlanta NIKE Camp. The 6-foot-2, 170-pound wideout turned in the top shuttle run time (3.97) at the camp out of nearly 500 participants. He also turned a few heads with his quickness in passing drills. If he is able turn his natural ability into production on the gridiron this season he could end up as one of the state's top receivers.

"T.J. is very smooth, he's very athletic - the sky is the limit for him," Rollinson said. "He's very good on defense, he can play defensive back and he's very smooth, and can also run well as a receiver... I think T.J. is one of those kids where the opposition has to be aware of where he is on the field. And I think he gives us a weapon on defense to neutralize an outstanding player on the other team."

Williams got his first scholarship offer earlier this week from Clemson when a Tiger coach stopped by. There are also a handful of other schools that have taken notice of his potential.

"I like Florida State, Miami, Kansas State, North Carolina and Iowa," Williams told at last Saturday's NIKE Camp.

Williams plans on attending the Florida State Football Camp this July.

As talented as Williams and Grigg are, the most noticeable players are on the Lion roster are Quentez Ruffin and Chris Sands. The two make up what could be the largest offensive tackle duos in the state. Ruffin goes 6-foot-5 and 285 pounds, while Sands stands over everybody at 6-foot-7 and 330 pounds.

The "twin towers" are a big reason for Leon's turnaround last year and should play a big part in helping the offense succeed in 2004.

"Weight rooms and speed trainers can build speed and strength but the good Lord gives people certain heights and certain widths - both Quentez and Chris are both extremely big young men," Rollinson said. "Their body size is big but their muscles sometimes take a little while to catch up to that frame. I think they are going to be excellent players at the high school level and I think the college recruiters look at that and see where a few years down the road that is going to be. Certainly the potential is there for both young men that are blessed with great size."

As coveted as big offensive linemen are by colleges it's no surprise that both Ruffin and Sands are getting early interest from some major programs.

"Florida was here and they were watching both me and Quentez (Ruffin)," Sands said. "Also, UCF, LSU, Arkansas, FSU and Georgia are (interested)."

Sands also reports that Florida and LSU are the schools recruiting him the hardest.

Not surprisingly, Ruffin is also getting his fair share of attention from the big boys.

"Right now it's probably Florida, Georgia, and Arkansas," he said. "Florida is sending me the most hand-written stuff. I'll probably get offered there if I go to summer camp. That's what coach (Dan) Dish told me."

With an established friendship and a good working relationship on the field the Leon twin towers would like nothing more than to continue their careers together in college, but both understand it may not work out that way.

"We've talked about it before," Ruffin said. "Anything can happen. It's still really early. He might go on a visit and see something that changes his mind. Right now we both really like Florida, and I know I like FSU but it's all about who's going to show me the most love and where we can do best."

There are a handful of other players at Leon that could play at the next level with a solid senior season. A few of the top prospects are as follows:

Brandon Jones - WR (second team all-state in soccer)
Rod Jenkins - LB/DE
Mike Fahey - DL
Darrius Patterson - LB
Dandre Demps - WR/DB

Leon will take part in a Spring Jamboree on Friday, May 21st at Capital Stadium. They are scheduled to matchup with Mosley and Chiles.

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