The start to high school football season will not be until teams open preseason camp Aug. 1, but nearly 200 of the top seniors and juniors from across the state assembled for the unofficial kick off at Williams-Brice Stadium – Sunday’s annual High School Sports Report media day.
Though players have been together most of the summer with the recent rule changes, the gathering lets everyone know the season is not far away.
“It’s good to see all the players you’ll be playing against and who’s good and who’s not,” Dutch Fork safety Lane Ecton said. “All of these players are good, there’s no question about that. Then we have our guys here that we already know what they can do, so it’s nice to get together with guys from other teams and talk football.”
A handful of the top prospects were unable to make it because they were on visits, but several were on-hand. Orangeburg-Wilkinson defensive tackle Albert Huggins was at Georgia on Saturday but returned home in time to make it to media day with a few of his teammates.
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Woodland defensive lineman Michael Barnett (FSU commitment), Wren quarterback Kelly Bryant (Clemson), Greenwood defensive back Kaleb Chambers (Clemson). Swansea linebacker Jonathan Sutton (UNC) and Emerald defensive lineman Gage Cervenka (Clemson) were some of the other highly touted players on hand.
Huggins plans to graduate in December and enroll in January. He doesn’t have a top five but spoke openly about his visit to Georgia. He doesn’t have a timetable on when he will make his decision, but he wants to visit Florida before school starts and feels he’s been to Clemson and South Carolina enough without scheduling an official visit.
“I enjoyed myself at Georgia,” Huggins said. “I got to talk to the coaches and got to talk to coach (Mark) Richt. ... I have some time to narrow it down, and I’m going to take that time.”
Pelion defensive back/wide receiver Freddie Phillips (N.C. State), Dutch Fork running back Matt Colburn (Louisville) and A.C. Flora defensive back Rion Davis were a few of the top-ranked Midland players present.
Colburn, who committed to the Cardinals on his visit this summer, has transformed his body since the end of last season. He finished 2013 with 1,497 yards rushing and 26 touchdowns while playing at 175 pounds, but he has added 20 pounds to his 5-foot-9 frame and hopes that will make him more durable for the season. He doesn’t think he will match the 209 carries he had last season with his younger brother, Chris, providing a quality backup, but he feels he’s capable of carrying the load with his added bulk. The Silver Foxes must find a way to take pressure off quarterback Tant Fant, who replaces the reliable and steady Derek Olenchuk.
“I don’t know if I carry it as much as last year,” Colburn said. “There’s no pressure at all. I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been doing. I don’t think (coach Tom Knotts) wants to run me as much for longevity sake. I have a perfect backup in my brother along with a few other guys, so we’ll be good.”
Many of the prospects talked about team goals more than individual ones. Even guys that missed the playoffs last season were talking about making a deep playoff run. That was no exception for Colburn and his Dutch Fork teammates, who will look to defend their Class 4A, Division I state championship.
“I don’t want anything less than another ring,” Colburn said. “I want to compete for another state championship, and that’s the way we’ve been working. That’s our mindset, and I think we can do it.”