Biedenharn likely county’s lone D-I prospect

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 15, 2001

[01/15/01] With less than a month to go until national signing day on Feb. 7, Warren County’s recruiting Class of 2001 is getting ready to listen to last-minute sales pitches from college coaches and hit the road for official visits.

The look of this year’s recruiting class is also beginning to take shape, and the shape is small as in small schools.

A number of players have the ability to play at the Division I-A level, and some are being wooed by the major schools, but most of this year’s recruiting class seems to be headed toward smaller schools.

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St. Aloysius offensive lineman Jay Biedenharn may be the exception. The 6-foot-10, 315-pounder has a visit scheduled to Southern Methodist Univeristy in Dallas later this month, and said Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Southern Miss, Marshall and Indiana are still showing interest.

Biedenharn’s teammate, Clay Simmons, is planning a visit to Division II Henderson State and is also considering Ouachita Baptist, Delta State and Hinds.

Vicksburg High has a pair of prospects, quarterback Antonio Rainey and wingback Terry Cooper, who have the ability to play in Division I-A, but both appear to be leaning toward Division I-AA Grambling.

Cooper said he turned down an offer from Air Force to run track he’s also one of the state’s top hurdlers and high jumpers and Rainey has been recruited by Stanford, but hasn’t scheduled a visit there. Both Rainey and Cooper have scheduled visits with Grambling, Jackson State, Alcorn State and Missisippi Valley State.

Rainey’s father, Sammie, said his son was also interested in Ole Miss, although that school has not been recruiting him to play football.

“I’ve been to camp for two years over there, and they were the first team to offer me a full scholarship,” Cooper said of Grambling. He added that being close to home was another important factor. “The only reason I’m keeping it kind of close is my mom and her traveling.”

Warren Central has several players who are being recruited by four-year schools, but no Division I-A prospects. Defensive lineman Thad Henderson, the 1999 and 2000 Vicksburg Post Defensive Player of the Year, has been offered full scholarships by I-AA schools Samford, Alcorn State and Murray State, and has visits remaining with Alcorn and Murray State.

He said he is leaning toward Samford because of its academic programs and its proximity to Vicksburg, but would wait until he has taken all of his visits before making a final decision.

“I’m going to wait until after Murray State to make my decision, but I’m liking it over in Alabama,” Henderson said of Birmingham-based Samford.

Henderson, who recorded at least 80 tackles in each of his three seasons as a starter, has plenty of talent, but at 6-foot-2, is short by most college coaches’ standards to play on the defensive line in big-time college football.

“I think I’m good enough to play (Division I-A), but I guess I’m not tall enough or whatever. So I have to show them on the I-AA field,” Henderson said.

Henderson’s plight sums up this year’s recruiting class. There’s some talent there, but for one reason or another, the offers from the major schools aren’t flowing in.

“Those two (Rainey and Cooper) are of that caliber, but it’s not a reflection of that class,” Vicksburg High offensive coordinator Alonzo Stevens, a former Alcorn State assistant, said of the lack of Division I-A interest this year. “I think that’s a steal there. Those guys are going to make it to the next level, because they are the total package.”

Rainey, Cooper and Henderson have also qualified academically, giving them an advantage with recruiters, Stevens said. But they aren’t the only ones with bright futures ahead of them.

Vicksburg linebacker Steven Caldwell who has also qualified academically has visits scheduled with Mississippi Valley, Alcorn and Grambling, and defensive lineman Robert Lewis is slated to visit Valley and Alcorn.

Warren Central center Chris Truitt will visit Division II national champion Delta State later this month, and is also taking a look at going the juco route with Hinds.

He said Delta State’s national championship has been a big factor. He is also being recruited by Mississippi College, but is leaning toward Hinds and DSU.

“If I go to Hinds, I have a chance to play right away. But Delta State won that championship, and I was talking with their coach, Steve Campbell, and he said everybody who’s played for him there has a ring,” said Truitt, who is being recruited as a center and long snapper.

Another WC product, defensive lineman Corey Nettle, has been offered a full scholarship by Division I-AA Murray State and still has a visit scheduled to the Kentucky school, as well as to Alcorn. Mississippi Valley and Delta State have also shown some interest.

Nettle said wasn’t leaning toward any one school just yet.

“I’m going to wait until I see the schools,” he said.