October 25, 2007

Rivals.com's staff of recruiting analysts offer thoughts on things they learned while on the road scouting some of the nations top prospects in this week's edition of From the Road. Here is a closer look at some of the sights, storylines and recruiting scoop from the big weekend in high school football.

Barton Simmons, Rivals.com Recruiting Analyst
Last Friday night in Batesville, Miss. South Panola High School showed why it has been the premier team in the state for the past five years, or more specifically the past 68 games. In a 22-9 win over Tupelo (Miss.) that was not as close as the score, South Panola controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and rode the best player on the field in a dominating performance that extended its 68-game win streak.

Tig's show: South Panola running back Darius 'Tig' Barksdale is listed by Rivals.com as a four-star athlete. The Ole Miss commit plays both running back and safety for the Tigers, but if Friday night's game is any indication, there is no reason why he can't be a feature back in the SEC.

Barksdale rushed for 286 yards on 31 carries and three touchdowns while still managing to sneak in some time at safety. Barksdale broke off some long runs that showcased his speed but also kept it between the tackles for some tough yardage.

The most impressive qualities he showed were not necessarily the physical tools but the inherent instincts of a running back. He had good vision, finding the cutback lanes when they were there and bouncing the ball when necessary. He also showed great balance, absorbing hits while keeping his feet and forward-lean. He was strong between the tackles and on the edge in a complete, workman-like performance.

Strength in the trenches: Barksdale's big night should serve as a deservedly strong endorsement of the South Panola offensive line. Cameron Wagner and Ole Miss commit Quin Sanford anchored a line that was opening up big holes all night for Barksdale and the South Panola backfield. They were very physical and consistently finished blocks downfield

Defensively, the line was equally as dominant. Terrance Pope and Charles Corley were the cornerstones of a unit that shut down three-star Ole Miss commit Kenneth Davis. Tupelo wasn't able to get any kind of movement up front and when forced to go strictly to the air, Rivals100 to watch member Chris Garrett was harassed all night by a blitzing defense.

Linebackers, Joshua Shipp, Marvin Burdette and David Conner were all over Garrett and when he did get the ball away, safeties Bud Barksdale and Justin Carothers were swarming to the ball. It was truly a dominating effort by the Tiger defense.

Tupelo trio: There were three impact players on the Tupelo offense that were never able to get on track against South Panola. Garrett, a junior quarterback who recently committed to Mississippi State, was held to 105 yards passing on 9 of 19. The big strong-armed quarterback looked extremely uncomfortable in the pocket against the blitz pressure from the Tigers.

While he has the tools to be a good pro-style quarterback, his feet were exposed by the South Panola defense. As the game wore on, Garrett became increasingly preoccupied with the rush in front of him instead of the receivers down the field.

One of those receivers, junior Chad Bumphis, came into the game as one of the most dangerous receiving weapons in the state but he ended the night with one catch for zero yards. Even when Bumphis found room in the South Panola secondary, the Tigers closed quickly and forced some drops.

Davis, Tupelo's highly-touted running back, was also held in check, gaining only 35 yards on 15 carries. Davis still showed that he is capable of being a big-time back. He couldn't find many creases in the South Panola defense but has great size and showed flashes of his great speed.

Next in line: South Panola's Nicholas Parker could be the next star for the Tigers. The backup running back is physically developed sophomore who has been very productive in limited opportunities this season. When he was in the game on Friday night to relieve Barksdale, there was no dropoff in the run game, and that is saying a lot.

Barry Every, Rivals.com Recruiting Analyst
SMU and Baylor commits compete in an aerial attack: H.B. Johnson Stadium in Garland, Texas was the site of an air show between Rockwall's Braden Smith (SMU commit), and South Garland's Nick Florence (Baylor commit). The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Florence out dueled, the 6-foot, 200-pound Smith, throwing for 280 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for 47 yards and another score. Smith, the son of Rockwall head coach Scott Smith, finished 17 of 32 passing for 241 yards and two touchdowns. Neither quarterback would throw an interception in South Garland's 26-21 victory.

Florence's favorite targets were a pair of seniors, Cornelius Wilson and Steven Osborne, along with junior athlete Michael Thomas. The 6-foot, 185-pound Wilson was the go to guy on third and long, while the 6-foot-4, 195-pound Osborne was a threat down near the goal line. Thomas, the 5-foot-11, 185-pound speedster turned short bubble screens into long gains and was a weapon on kick returns.

Smith's main target was 6-4, 190-pound sophomore tight end Adam Dingwell who would finish the game with three catches for 109 yards and a touchdown. He also got some excellent blocking from 6-foot-2, 295-pound senior lineman Josh Jagielo, and 6-foot-5, 270-pound junior guard John Noble.

Defensively, there were three standouts for the Colonels - senior safeties Joseph Ibiloye and Courtney Osborne and junior linebacker Austin Moss, son of head coach Mickey Moss. Moss would lead all tacklers with six solos, six assists, two tackles for loss, one sack and two quarterback pressures.

Other players who excelled in the game were Rockwall senior James Andrews, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound corner with great cover skills, and 6-foot-4, 270-pound South Garland junior Jeramie Roberts who was a stalwart on the defensive line, taking on multiple blockers all game long.

Gray runs wild: Arlington, Texas was the site of an offensive show put on by Rivals250 running back Cyrus Gray of DeSoto, and senior quarterback Ben Sherrard of Arlington (Texas) Lamar. Gray would finish with 298 yards rushing on 30 carries and five touchdowns in DeSoto's 40-28 victory. Sherrard broke the Lamar Viking record for passing yards in a single game with 363.

The 6-0, 190-pound Gray did most of his damage after the first quarter while lining up at both quarterback and running back. His most successful runs seemed to be around the left end behind the blocking of junior offensive tackle Chris Atchinson. The 6-3, 280-pound Atchinson was very light on his feet, and very adept with using his hands and arms to manipulate defenders.

Sherrard was aided by senior receivers Shawn Harrison and Lazarus Anderson. Harrison used his 6-2, 190-pound frame to corral 10 passes for 164 yards, while Anderson used his blazing speed to get behind the DeSoto defenders for 169 yards and a touchdown on 10 catches.

Other players that stood out were four-star Texas A&M commit Tony Jerod and all-round football player Chandler Spence. The massive 6-foot-5, 250-pound Jerod would apply intense pressure from his defensive end position while accumulating two sacks and two crushing quarterback pressures on Sherrard. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Spence would not only start at defensive end for the Vikings, but also play tight end and handle punting duties.

Top kicker to Georgia: Rivals.com's top ranked kicker prospect and Oklahoma State commit Quinn Sharp was on my flight back to Atlanta, but he wasn't taking a recruiting visit.

Both of Sharp's parents are originally from Marietta, Ga., and they left no doubt about their son's college choice as they were decked out in Oklahoma State gear complete with orange shoe laces.

Chad Simmons, Recruiting Analyst
Small back has big game: Down in Frostproof, Fla., Carlton Thomas led his Frostproof Bulldogs up against a talented Clearwater Central team. On paper, it looked like the game would be a good one, but Thomas put Frostproof on his back and led them to a big victory.

He may be small at only be 5-foot-7 and 172 pounds, but he makes big play after big play. Thomas is a very shifty back and plays with a lot more power than most would think. He is a very good downhill inside runner and he of course can bounce it outside as well with his speed.

His night started with a touchdown on a fumble recovery. He was across the field playing cornerback and came all the way across to pick up the loose ball and run it in from 23 yards out. At running back, he scored his first offensive touchdown in the first quarter after breaking three tackles, spinning away from the safety and stretching the ball across the goal line.

The next possession, Thomas made a spectacular interception when he laid out for it over the middle. From there he took over on offense and scored his second rushing touchdown of the game. He finished the game with 183 yards on 19 carries and had two tackles, a couple of pass breakups, a fumble recovery and an interception on defense.

Thomas showed great quickness, surprising power and he is very hard to get a good shot on. He runs low, he stays behind his pads and he is tougher than many think. He is committed to Georgia and look for him to be used in the backfield, in the slot and on special teams.

Myles is a hitter: Atlanta Carver remained undefeated this week and it was behind junior Darren Myles. Myles is a 6-foot-2, 185-pound athlete that plays quarterback, wide receiver and safety now, but will end up laying the wood on defense on the next level.

Safety is his home and he looks natural there. He loves to hit, he has great instincts and a nose for the ball. He scored two rushing touchdowns this past weekend including one that won the game in overtime, but most of the buzz was about two huge hits he had on defense.

Kentucky has sent a written offer his way and Central Florida has offered verbally, but it will not stop there. He will have many more offers come his way down the road.

Ellis is committed, but looking: Derricus Ellis committed to Wake Forest early in September, but he may not be done looking just yet. He is still receiving interest from a number of schools, but the one he is thinking about visiting is Southern Miss.

He plans to take a trip to Southern Miss in the near future for a game and he may take an official visit there as well. He has already been to two games at Wake Forest and one at Georgia and Georgia Tech.

Two sophomores to watch: Carlton Thomas may be the man now at Frostproof, but when he leaves, Nickell Robey will step right in as the next big recruit there.

The 5-foot-9, 175-pound speedster was man up on a receiver that stood over 6-foot-3 most of the night and he went up with him for a jump ball and came down with the interception. He had five pass breakups and showed excellent break on the ball. He is extremely quick and played offense as well. His true breakaway speed was on display when he had the ball in his hands he had two carries for 75 yards and two touchdowns and added another 83 yards on three receptions and another touchdown.

Darick Rogers is another 2010 prospect to keep an eye on. He passes the eye test immediately. Rogers is a 6-foot-3, 210-pound athlete out of Darlington, Ga. He transferred in to Darlington this year and became eligible a couple of games ago. They have been working him in slowly at receiver, but that is not going to be his position for long.

He has the frame and ability to move over to defense and become a dominant force. He will likely play linebacker or defensive end the next two years and into college. Darlington sent the now starting center at FSU, Ryan McMahon on to a big time school a few years ago and Rogers could be next in line.

Previous From the Road: Sept. 6 | Sept. 13 | Sept. 20 | Sept. 27 | Oct. 4 | Oct. 11 | Oct. 18

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