When you talk about elite high school programs in the Tallahassee area you have to include Madison County, which is just a 40 minute drive east of the Capital City. The Cowboys brought home the state title in 2001 and followed that up with 12-1-1 record in 2003 and a berth in the 2A state championship game.
With all the success the Cowboys have had on the field, it's not surprising that they have produced several top recruits. Last year safety Jonathan Warren signed with FSU and center Bobby Hutchinson is off to play for Tommy Bowden at Clemson, while linebackers Durrell Mitchell and Marquis Powell both signed with North Alabama. Current Seminole fullback Torrance Washington is also a former Cowboy that played on the 2001 championship team.
Once again this year there are several seniors on the roster garnering attention for Division 1A programs.
Easily the top senior prospect is linebacker Eugene "Geno" Hayes. The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder is quick on his feet, is a devastating hitter and has an uncanny ability to get to the quarterback. He used those skills last season to rack up 18 and 1/2 sacks, which was good for third in the state in that category. With Warren's graduation, Hayes will be the focal point for the defense in 2004.
"Geno is a tremendous athlete and a great kid," head coach Frankie Carroll said. "He works hard in the weight room and is really strong, fast and loves to play the game."
The first team all-state linebacker already has an astounding 17 scholarship offers to his credit, but much to the surprise of everyone, including Hayes, Florida State isn't one of them. Even though he grew up a Seminole fan, he says he will have no problem if he ends up going elsewhere.
"I would love to play there but I'm not too disappointed," Hayes said. "I would love to play there but I'm not too disappointed if not."
Although an offer from the local school is still up in the air, Hayes' list of college choices continues to grow. The most recent offers have come from Oklahoma, Syracuse, West Virginia and Alabama. So who leads the pack?
"N.C. State, LSU, Oklahoma, and Georgia," Hayes said.
The utility player for Madison County is clearly Tyrone Weatherspoon. In addition to his primary duties as a cornerback, the 5-foot-9, 170-pound speedster will play wide receiver, running back, return kicks and may even lineup at quarterback a few times this season.
"We are going to have to use Tyrone more on offense, and he will play defense," Carroll said. "We are going to put him in spots to try to get him the ball some. He's a tremendous athlete that can really run. So we are going to try to use that to our advantage."
As good as the player nicknamed "T-Spoon" is with the football in his hands, most project him as a cornerback in college. That's not a surprise considering he racked up over 100 tackles and eight interceptions last season. On offense and special teams, he totaled over 600 all-purpose yards and had seven touchdowns.
Despite his smallish frame, Weatherspoon already has offers from Michigan State, Syracuse, Louisville, Iowa State, and N.C. State. He also is getting interest from schools like Maryland, Florida State, Oklahoma and Miami. Out of this group one early favorite stands out.
"N.C. State, I really like them," Weatherspoon said. "I watch the Wolfpack and on every play they really do go hard on defense."
Another versatile senior that will likely sign with a Division 1A school is Brian Peacock. The six-foot, 205-pound athlete moved from defense to quarterback a couple years ago, but projects as a safety in college.
"I just played quarterback to help the team out but I'll probably play defense at the next level," Peacock said. "I love to hit. That's all we do out here is hit on defense."
Peacock will play both sides of the football this season. His athleticism and foot speed should be a big lift for a Madison County secondary which must replace four-star safety Jonathan Warren. However, Peacock's biggest asset, and what is appealing to colleges, is his strength.
"He is the strongest kid we have overall," Carroll said. "He can squat whatever you put on the bar. He squatted 550 the other day like it was nothing."
The schools showing him the most attention during the spring evaluation period so far are Auburn, Iowa State, Louisville, Maryland, North Carolina, FSU, UCF, Indiana, and Illinois.
Out of those schools, three leaders stand out.
"Louisville, Iowa State and Auburn - those are my top three right there," he said.
Peacock hopes to camp this summer at Florida State, Florida and Auburn.
Another senior player to keep an eye on is tight end Charlie Graham. He goes 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds and has impressed the coaches in practices.
"He's a big old kid and he's strong," Carroll said. "He's coming on late but he's really coming on."
Graham's early favorites include Auburn, UCF, USF, FSU and Miami.
If you there is an overachiever on the Madison County squad look no further than junior Desmond Gee. The 5-foot-8, 150-pound fullback rushed for 1,900 yards last season.
Junior Kyle Fox will be a highly rated offensive line prospect next year. He goes 6-foot-4 and 305 pounds and is still growing.
If you are looking for a great high school football matchup this spring, make your way to the Madison County stadium, known as "Boot Hill", this Saturday night. The Cowboys are hosting 5A state champs Daytona Beach Mainland in a spring exhibition game. Mainland boasts a half dozen players with scholarship offers from major Division 1A programs, including Avery Atkins, Brian Ellis and Eddie Tabasky, who have all been offered by FSU.