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The ink is on the paper and the faxes have been sent. Those tenuous verbal commitments, from players to coaches and from coaches to players, have become official ones.
Another signing day has come and gone.
That’s the overwhelming sentiment from local high school athletes, including 30 football players who signed letters of intent with the colleges of their choice Wednesday.
“I’m just happy this is all over with,” said Gainesville linebacker Phillip Gaines, who signed with Savannah State. “It’s been a good four months of headache, and it’s finally over with.
“Now I can just enjoy the rest of my senior year.”
The recruiting process can be long and arduous. Perhaps no local player’s story illustrates its highs and lows better than Gainesville’s Josh Jackson.
Jackson’s strong senior season (99 tackles, area-high 16 sacks) led to a surge of interest in the defensive lineman. He was courted by college programs at every level, including various SEC programs.
At one point Ole Miss looked like a frontrunner, then defensive line coach Tracy Rocker — Jackson’s lead recruiter — left for Auburn.
Jackson hoped to go to Auburn with him, but eventually committed to UMass when it didn’t appear the Tigers would offer. At last, the call came from Rocker on Tuesday night. Jackson committed on the spot.
“It was automatic,” Jackson said. “I liked the tradition, I liked the coaches.”
So how would Jackson sum up his experiences?
“Long, tiring, depressing, then at the end you get to relax,” he said. “The pressure’s off now. You can crack a smile.”
There were plenty of smiles Wednesday as 25 athletes from the around the area gathered at Longstreet Cafe for a signing day celebration held by the Hall County Fellowship of Christian Athletes. They included football, soccer and golf signees as well as one cheerleader — Chestatee’s Kristin Tullis, who happily accepted a scholarship offer from Mercer.
Below is a summary of all the local athletes that took part in signing day festivities around Northeast Georgia.
Chase Vasser, LB, Georgia: The rangy, athletic Vasser recorded more than 270 tackles during his final two seasons with the War Eagles and led the area with 12 sacks as a junior.
Kiante Young, DB, Western Kentucky: Young did a little bit of everything for the Vikings, starring as a receiver, kick returner and defensive back where he will most likely play in college.
- Chris Lipscomb, DB, Presbyterian: With a blend of size and speed, Lipscomb had 55 tackles and four interceptions in 2008.
- Greg Palmer, DB, Presbyterian: Palmer led the Falcons with 152 tackles and added four interceptions from his strong safety position in 2008.
- Daniel Drummond, RB, Georgia Tech: The Times 2008 Player of the Year, the 245-pound Drummond helped carry the Falcons to the state title game with a bruising running style and deceptive speed.
- Izaan Cross, DE, Georgia Tech: Cross, the Class AAA Defensive Player of the Year, was a dominating force on the Falcons’ defensive front, finishing the season with 115 tackles and 12 sacks.
Buford is sending seven members of its senior class to the next level.
- Dallas Lee, OL, Georgia: All-state lineman, Lee starred on offense and defense at Buford, but will focus in efforts on the offensive line with the Bulldogs. Lee was an early graduate and has already enrolled at Georgia.
- Cody Getz, RB, Air Force: The explosive, 5-foot-6 Getz rushed for 1,357 yards and 27 touchdowns to lead Buford to its second straight state title
- Devin Durden, TE, Air Force: Durden showed the ability to utilize his 6-4, 220-pound frame in as a blocker Buford’s run-first offense. He caught nine passes for 153 yards.
- Blake Bennett, OL, Wofford: At 6-3, 255 pounds, Bennett was a driving force in Buford’s dominant running game.
- Andrew Sachais, DE, Georgetown: An athletic pass rusher, Sachais had six sacks and 23 quarterback pressures in 2008 after tallying 11 sacks and 34 pressures as a junior.
- Jeff Gazaway, DB, Georgetown: Gazaway led the Wolves’ secondary with 90 tackles and four fumble recoveries from his safety position.
- Trevor Warbington, DL, Brevard: At 6-0, 250 pounds, Warbington had 107 takles, including 10 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles in 2008.
White County defensive tackle Tasi Suaava signed with Northeastern College in Boston, Mass. Suaava, a bull on the Warriors’ defensive front, finished 2008 with 84 tackles, six sacks and 12 tackles for loss.
Four Johnson players prepared to take the next step in their football careers Wednesday. Christian Duguay, Justin Hadden, Chris Cannon, Major Borders signed letters of intent, while Josh Owens signed verbal agreements to Dean College in Massachusetts. Owens will visit the school this weekend and plans to sign a letter of intent shortly after.
- Christian Duguay, DB, Presbyterian: The athletic Duguay starred with as a receiver and defensive back for the last two seasons.
- Justin Hadden, OL, Presbyterian: Hadden, a two-time All Region 7-AAA selection, was a 3 1/2 year starter at Johnson.
- Chris Cannon, TE, University of the Cumberlands: Cannon led all area tight ends with 37 receptions for 568 yards.
- Major Borders, OL, Dean College: A massive offensive lineman, Borders helped pave the way for the Knights’ offense as a junior and a senior.
- Josh Owens, LB, Dean College: Owens, who also played at defensive end for the Knights, finished his senior season with 78 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and seven sacks.
Riverside Military defensive lineman Colton Keig signed a letter of intent on Wednesday with Furman University. Keig was a Times Elite 11 selection this season. He finished the season as a second-team All Region 8-AA selection.
Three Jefferson players signed today during a ceremony at the school.
- Zac Crosby, ATH, Fordham: As a runner, receiver, kick returner and defensive back with the Dragons, Crosby was often around the ball. He could play at wide receiver or cornerback in college.
- Tab Martin, DB, Savannah State: Martin caught 43 passes for 606 yards and eight TDs as a senior, but could end up at cornerback in college. Jefferson coach Bill Navas has long touted Martin’s pure coverage abilities.
- Patrick Allen, OL, Valdosta State: A two-way starter who also served as the Dragons’ long snapper, Allen had 51 knockdown blocks and graded out at 91 percent in 2008.
Four Gainesville players signed their letters of intent and announced their decisions at the school Wednesday.
- Phillip Gaines, LB, Savannah State: Gaines helped lead a resurgent Red Elephants defense with 135 tackles and five sacks during his senior season.
- Nick Johnson, TE, Georgia Military College: At 6-3, 230, Johnson provided a big target in the middle of the Gainesville passing game and pulled down 15 catches for 300 yards and 5 touchdowns this season.
- Josh Jackson, DL, Auburn: Jackson was a terror on the Red Elephants defensive front, racking up 99 tackles and leading the area with 16 sacks.
- Xavier Ervin, DB, Winston-Salem State: The athletic Ervin finished 2008 with 84 tackles, three interceptions and two forced fumbles.
West Hall's Kyle Weatherly has signed with St. Mary’s (Kansas). A big (6-4, 240) and athletic tight end, Weatherly demonstrated soft hands in 2008 as the Spartans shifted to a pass-happy offense. He finished the year with 28 catches for 409 yards.
A trio of North Hall Trojans have signed their letters of intent.
- Blayne Gilmer, QB, Tusculum: Gilmer guided the Trojans’ Wing-T offense and showed the ability to pass with 953 yards and eight scores through the air in 2008.
- Graham Duncan, WR, Lenoir Rhyne: The Trojans leaned on Duncan’s breakaway speed in 2008. He finished with 402 receiving yards, 360 rushing yards and 10 total TDs.
- Beau Dehass, DB, Northwood: A two-year starter for the Trojans, Dehass had 53 tackles and one interception in 2008.
Haley Holderfield, Georgia State: The forward has already shown her scoring prowess and will get a chance to carry more of the offensive burden for the Lady Wolves in 2009.
Megan Fligg, South Carolina: A three-time All-Region and two-time Times All-Area selection, Fligg has scored 47 goals and added 21 assists for in three years of varsity action.
Mary Mancin, Columbus State: A stalwart in goal for the Lady Trojans, Mancin is already looking forward to earning a starting spot her freshman year in college — but not before closing her senior season strong.
Bradee Burell, North Georgia College: Burrell is a three-time Times All-Area honorable mention and a team captain for 2009.
Daniel Vergara, North Georgia: Vergara is a four-year standout at forward for the Eagles.
Kristin Tullis, Mercer: Tullis, a standout on Chestatee’s competition cheer team, earned scholarship to join Mercer’s first competition squad.