Southern University lands WC’s Warner, Stamps|[2/3/05]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 3, 2005

When it was time to find a new running back, size did not matter to Southern University.

The Baton Rouge school swooped into Mississippi and snagged a pair of Warren Central players, running back Larry Warner and cornerback Otis Stamps, as part of its 2005 recruiting class. Both players signed letters of intent with Southern on national signing day Wednesday.

Warner rushed for nearly 3,000 yards and 27 touchdowns in less than two full seasons as a starter for WC, earned Class 5A first-team all-state honors this season and was a two-time Vicksburg Post Offensive Player of the Year. He also developed a reputation as a tough back who played with injuries and the strength of a fullback.

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Yet Warner was passed over by many schools because of his tiny 5-foot-3, 150-pound frame. That didn’t matter to Southern’s coaches, who have had success with small backs in the past.

“We’re used to playing with backs that size. We had two guys who started for us who were smaller than him,” said Southern wide receivers coach Deric Dooley, who recruited both players. “You would be surprised at the strength he has when he runs the ball. And he’s so quick and hits the hole so fast that you can’t get a good shot on him.”

One of Southern’s backs, Gerald Holmes, is listed at 5-foot-5 and 165 pounds. He’s a senior, and Dooley felt Warner could step into Holmes’ role and keep the Southern offense clicking.

Holmes ran for 489 yards and two touchdowns last season, second-best on the team. He also caught 11 passes passes for 81 yards.

“I think we’re still looking for a running back that fits in our offense, and Larry fits in real well,” Dooley said.

At 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, size was never a question in the recruitment of Stamps.

The WC cornerback had 43 tackles and a team-high eight interceptions last season, and picked off 14 passes in his high school career. Southern’s coaches liked his playmaking ability and technique.

“I told our defensive backs coach about (Stamps), and he liked how he could backpedal and make his breaks on the ball,” Dooley said. “I just thought he was something for a guy so young.”

Stamps and Warner weren’t the only Vikings to sign on Wednesday. Linebackers Jesse Pedyfoot and Donald Neal, as well as quarterback Christian Hales, signed with Hinds C.C..

Pedyfoot had 48 tackles last season, while Neal totaled 41 stops. Hales threw for 752 yards and six touchdowns while helping WC to its second straight Region 2-5A title.

While those Vikings were heading to Raymond, another former WC star was leaving Hinds for greener pastures. Offensive lineman Deonta Selvy, an all-state selection his senior year at WC, signed with Division II Fort Valley State.

“It’s a great opportunity for me, because I just like playing football. If I gave it up now, I’d probably be lost,” Selvy said. “I’ve been playing football since the seventh grade. It’s just a routine for me now.”

Selvy played guard in high school but successfully made the switch to tackle in junior college. He’ll play tackle at Fort Valley State, and have a chance to start right away.

“When they moved me to tackle, it was like playing guard. The tackle at Hinds did more pulling than the guard did, so I adjusted real quick,” Selvy said. “The coach told me if I come up there, I was their guy.”

While Warren Central’s players were active on Wednesday, Vicksburg High was quiet.

Tight end Sean Gibbs put off signing Wednesday while he tried to decide whether to continue his football career or simply go to school for an education.

Ole Miss was still offering a scholarship, Gibbs said, and Memphis showed renewed interest after he told them he was waiting. Several other Southeastern Conference schools were in the hunt for Gibbs’ services early in the recruiting process, but he had narrowed it down by signing day.

Gibbs said he wasn’t upset to see news of signings dominating the headlines while he weighed his options.

“It’s not really disappointing because I still have goals and plans,” said Gibbs, who caught 28 passes for 451 yards and five touchdowns in two seasons. “If I don’t have football, I’ll still have my education to fall back on.”

Gibbs added that if he chooses to sit out next football season, it might be a brief hiatus. He plans to stay in shape and might try to make a team in 2006, he said.

“That’s in my mind right now. I can’t see myself without football, but if it came to it, yeah,” Gibbs said. “I don’t see myself losing my ability, because I’m going to stay working out.”

Another former Gator, defensive back D’Eldrick Taylor, did sign on Wednesday. He agreed to play for Southeast Missouri State, the team that originally signed him out of high school in 2002. Taylor instead went to Hinds for two seasons, and had verbally committed to Louisiana Tech in January.

Verbal commitments are non-binding.