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Gainesville WR leads class of 2010
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Vasser fulfilling football dream

Signing Day 2009

Bill Murphy's college football recruiting blog

Now that national signing day has come and gone, it’s time for college scouts to get back to work.
With this year’s senior class signed and on its way to a career in college sports, all eyes turn to the next installment of highly-touted prospects that will graduate in 2010.

Even though these juniors still have another season of football to play, many of them are pulling in offers from major Division-I colleges looking to lock up a deal in advance.

“When schools wait around and be patient, it sometimes hurts them,” recruiting analyst Chad Simmons said. “Other schools will throw an offer out there and the kids will recognize them as the first schools to offer them.”

In some cases, a junior’s list of offers may outnumber his senior counterpart, even though he lacks a full four years of high school experience. Such is the case with Gainesville wide receiver Tai-ler Jones, who has acquired 21 Division-I offers, four of which came on signing day. While his senior teammates were signing their letters of intent, Jones and Red Elephants offensive coordinator Todd Wofford were on the phone, acknowledging offers from Alabama, Michigan, Duke and finally, Vanderbilt.

The decision on which school to chose won’t come easy for Jones.

“I’m going to have to really look at schools and see where I feel at home,” said Jones, who also holds scholarship offers from Miami, West Virginia, UCLA and Ohio State, the latter one surprising him the most.

“A school of their caliber to offer me on the spot without knowing too much about me was a blessing,” Jones said.

According to Simmons, the highly-recruited receiver should expect plenty of more offers.

“He’s very shifty, he’s tough, he runs great routes, he has great hands and he’s quick,” Simmons said. “That’s going to get him a lot of offers.”

Jones isn’t the only Gainesville player that is pulling in national attention. Quarterback Blake Sims has also collected his share of offers and is expected to receive even more over the summer and into football season. He has been recruited as a quarterback, a safety and simply as an athlete.

“If he wants to be offered by a southern-type school, he needs to be open to other positions,” Simmons said.

Along with Sims, Flowery Branch quarterback Connor Shaw is also working his way up the ranks among junior quarterbacks. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Shaw has picked up offers from Georgia Tech, South Carolina, Stanford, West Virginia and Wake Forest. According to Flowery Branch head coach and Connor’s father Lee Shaw, there is no hurry to commit just yet.

“He’s keeping his options open, but he doesn’t want to make a decision quite this fast,” Lee Shaw said.
“I anticipate he’ll make a decision before the season starts, that way he can focus on his senior season.”

Another junior looking to make a splash at the national level is North Hall’s Daniel Blitch. The massive offensive lineman has yet to receive an offer, but has received praise from Duke, Oregon, Wisconsin, South Carolina and East Carolina.

“Daniel’s getting a lot of attention,” Trojans head coach Bob Christmas said. “I’m giving him about 20-30 letters a day.”

Christmas also said that linebacker Peyton Wilhoite and defensive back Nathan Jones also gained Division-I attention when scouts visited North Hall to initially see Blitch, and found them as well.

“Daniel has brought a lot of coaches in, and that happens a lot,” Christmas said. “In 2004, coaches came here to see (Memphis running back) T.J. Pitts, and ended up signing three other players.”

Other notable juniors in the area are running backs Storm Johnson of Buford and Ben Souther of Chestatee. After winning a Class AA state championship with the Wolves, Johnson picked up five offers, two which came from Auburn and Tennessee.

Souther, Chestatee’s single-season rushing leader, has not received an offer yet, but has attracted interest from Georgia Tech, according to Simmons.

“He’s definitely going to get some attention,” Simmons said. “He’s a physical back, so he has to find that perfect system for his style. He’s not going to be an every-school running back like Storm Johnson could be.”

While getting offered a scholarship may be a dream come true for some high school athletes, many coaches, including Gainesville’s Bruce Miller, stress the importance of staying focused during their senior year and not worrying about a scholarship.

“You have to focus and play hard for your senior year,” Miller said. “If you get your class work done, and keep your focus, nothing will change from the way it is today (signing day), except it will only get better.”
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