Smaller schools flock to VHS for recruits|[1/16/06]

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 16, 2006

For many high school football programs, having a player sign with a major college is a nice feather in the cap.

Vicksburg High has had its share of those in recent years. But it’s among the country’s smaller programs that there is truly a buzz about the fieldhouse off of Drummond Street.

Since 2000, 12 former Gators have signed with Division I-AA, II or III programs. Several more have played at various junior colleges and could add to the total when national signing day rolls around on Feb. 1.

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That, VHS head coach Alonzo Stevens said, puts a bigger smile on his face than the three he’s had sign with Division I-A teams in the same span.

&#8220When you can get four kids from the same school that can go in there and play, that means more to me than having one kid at Florida State or Miami,” Stevens said. &#8220I would like to see Mississippi State or Ole Miss or Southern Miss get more of our kids, but it’ll come.”

The trend of smaller college programs courting VHS players is expected to continue with this year’s crop of recruits. Of the half-dozen that are drawing serious interest from colleges, almost all are being recruited by Division I-AA teams.

The list is headed up by offensive tackle Trey Curtis, a stout 6-foot-5, 310-pounder. Curtis was a first-team Class 5A all-state selection this season, but a back injury that sidelined him his junior year may have kept him under the radar on most lists.

Ole Miss and Mississippi State have asked for game film of Curtis, Stevens said, but most of the calls have come from Southwestern Athletic Conference programs Grambling, Jackson State and Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

&#8220Trey can play anywhere. He’s got good feet and he’s a smart kid,” Stevens said of Curtis, who has made a qualifying score on the ACT. &#8220That’s their loss if they don’t get them. He’s a great kid.”

Another all-state selection from Vicksburg, defensive back Willis McGowan, also is receiving interest from Grambling and Jackson State, along with Louisiana Tech.

McGowan returned three of his county-best seven interceptions for touchdowns in 2005 and was selected as The Vicksburg Post’s Defensive Player of the Year.

&#8220When you look at the combination of size and speed in one guy, Willis has the whole package,” Stevens said of the 5-foot-10, 162-pound cornerback. &#8220Willis can be the cover corner everybody is looking for.”

Curtis may not be the only sleeper prospect from this year’s Vicksburg squad. Stevens believes running back Chavous McWhorter, linebacker Quartez Ashmore and kicker John Howard also can play somewhere.

Despite splitting carries with several backs the last two years, McWhorter totaled 1,050 yards and 14 touchdowns in his prep career. Howard booted two field goals and 15 extra points this season, and also showed a strong leg with more than 20 touchbacks on kickoffs.

&#8220Chavous is a hard worker. He’s strong, healthy and highly intelligent. Chavous’ best is yet to come. He’s a kid you’re going to hear a lot from,” Stevens said.

Stevens’ comments could be construed as just another coach promoting his players – if the ones Vicksburg has turned out recently hadn’t been so successful: