February 24, 2012

Statesville's senior class loaded with talent

Statesville (N.C.) High has a pair of rising seniors who are being pursued by almost every college football program in the state - athletic quarterback Carlis Parker and running back/linebacker Tristan Mumford.

Parker, who checks in at 6-foot-4, 185 pounds, has earned early tenders from North Carolina, NC State, Duke, Wake Forest, East Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia Tech, according to head coach Randall Grusler. He has blown up on the recruiting trail despite a season-ending knee injury suffered in the opening game of last season, thanks in large part to an outstanding sophomore season in which he threw for 1,792 yards and rushed for another 1,180. The speedster accounted for 24 touchdowns that season.

Meanwhile, the 6-0, 225-pound Mumford has been offered by East Carolina, NC State, and Wake Forest; while the coach feels a verbal from North Carolina is not far off. Both of the Statesville standouts will be unofficially visiting at UNC's final home basketball game of the year on Wednesday night, and the duo also tripped to an NC State Junior Day in January.

"They had a very good time," Grusler said of the January trip. "They were very impressed. They liked when the strength coach was talking about the weight room and everything like that. They were very impressed by all the things that took place at NC State.

"Right now, everybody has talked to Carlis about the quarterback position with the understanding that he's an athlete. It's the same thing with Mumford, he's a running back for us and plays some linebacker, but he didn't play a whole lot of linebacker for us, especially this past year because we had to play him at quarterback, but I know schools like him at linebacker and running back both."

The Greyhounds have far more players than just Parker and Mumford that the coach thinks can play on the next level. In fact, Grusler thinks his upcoming senior class is one of the best in school history.

"When you look at our upcoming senior class, we've got a bunch of talented kids in that class," he said. "We didn't lose but one offensive guard and one receiver, so our whole offense returns, plus we'll add Carlis. We're very excited about that. We feel like we've got probably one of the most talented senior classes to ever come through here. We feel like, athlete for athlete, this is one of the most athletic classes we've ever had."

One of the most impressive prospects who has yet to earn an offer on the recruiting trail is cornerback Breon Borders. He checks in at a shade over 6-1 and 170 pounds. He started on the varsity program as a sophomore and tallied three picks but really burst onto the scene last fall when he more than doubled that number.

"He runs very well," Grusler noted while adding that the rising-senior has been clocked under 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash. "He's a long and rangy kid who plays very well. He had seven interceptions last season and three as a sophomore, so he's had ten picks in the last two seasons. He also comes up and plays the run very well.

"Last year, when we faced taller receivers, we always put him on the taller receiver because at over 6-1, he's a tall and rangy kid with long arms; he can play the tall kids without much problem."

Clemson, Duke and Wake Forest have shown the most interest while NC State has also been sending Borders some mail. He bench presses 225 pounds, squats 365 and hang cleans 200.

"Academically, he is a very, very solid student and that is one thing that I think is among his best attributes," the coach said. "He gets it done in the class room.

"He has been to Clemson for a couple of visits and we are going to Duke and Wake Forest this weekend. I'm taking the whole crew to Duke and Wake, I'll be taking six players."

Josh Gaither is another player that will be joining his coach and teammates on the road trip to Durham and Winston-Salem this weekend. The 6-2, 180-pound receiver originally took over at quarterback for the injured Parker this year before he suffered an injury of his own.

Mumford took over signal caller duties from there, but Gaither returned at wide receiver later in the year and was able to turn heads as a pass catcher. He's a versatile player willing to do whatever is needed to help the team, according to his coach, and he has even played some at defensive end.

Gaither boasts a bench press of 225 pounds, squat of 315 and hang clean of 185 while he has been timed at 4.75 in the 40.

"As a sophomore, he had a very strong season at receiver," Grusler said. "This year, he had to do a little bit of everything for us. He played quarterback for four and a half games then got hurt. When he returned after a high ankle sprain, he was a receiver and actually caught a couple of touchdowns last in the season. Especially in the West Rowan game, he caught a big touchdown pass right before halftime.

"His strengths as a wide receiver are that he has a very good set of hands. He's a great basketball player, probably one of the better ones in this area, so his hands are very good in terms of receiving - he's caught a lot of basketball and he's caught a lot of passes also. Josh is a smart kid, he has a very good game awareness and knows what is taking place on the field. I'm very impressed with his game knowledge, which is very important to us.

"To me, Josh is one of those kids that you love. He is all-in. When the game starts, he will give it everything he's got every play of the game, from start to finish. You can see that on the football field and on the basketball court, he gives you everything he's got until the final whistle blows."

Grusler also noted that NC State has also been sending mail to Gaither, who he expects to start earning offers after Statesville gets out to college camps.

"We do a lot of the one-day camps, so we'll be visiting a lot of schools this spring and summer," the coach said. "We've got a very impressive senior class coming up and we're just super excited about what's going to happen with this group of guys."

Others to watch

- 6-2, 180-pound wide receiver Justin Daniels: "He is in the 4.65-4.7 range in the 40. He's very strong in the weight room. He squats 365, bench presses 255 and hang cleans 205. He came to us from another school, this was his first year in our program. He got a little bit of a slow start but once he figured out our system, he came along and did a very, very good job for us. In the last eight games, I think caught 32 or 33 footballs with seven touchdowns. We were very impressed with his ability to jump in once he got through the first four or five games. I like Justin's work ethic. The kid's work ethic is unbelievable. When he goes into the weight room, he's all business. He's serious and it's the same thing on the practice field. I think that is his strongest attribute. I can come by the school on the weekends and I'll see him on the practice field running sprints on his own, that shows how hard he is working."

- 5-10, 160-pound wide receiver Marquis Willis: "He's also getting a lot of attention. He's our other corner, he's our return man on kickoffs and punts, then we also play him at receiver. The other coaches in the conference say we put Marquis on the field when we want to throw a touchdown. He's one of those kids that you bring over to the other side of the ball and you've got special plays designed for him because he's so elusive. When he was a sophomore, he caught seven balls and five were touchdowns. As a junior, he caught six balls and three of them were touchdowns. He has very, very good hips. Marquis is a 4.55 kid and he gets 205 on the bench press, 185 on the hang clean and 315 on the parallel squat."

- 6-3, 245-pound defensive end/long snapper Stewart Sherrill: "We also have a defensive end who is a heck of a long snapper. Stewart has a rocket for a long snap."

- 5-10, 275-pound defensive tackle Torie Sharpe: "We've got a three-technique who impresses me more and more every day. He is a little bit on the short side, he's a 5-10, 275-pound but, as a junior in high school, he is already bench pressing 405, parallel squatting 455 and he hang clean 245."

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