I wrote a long column today about Byrnes High in Duncan, S.C., which is ranked No.2 nationally by USA Today entering Friday night's game (on ESPNU) against national No.1 St. Thomas Aquinas of Fort Lauderdale.
Byrnes is one of those "Friday Night Lights" programs, where a high school brings together just about everyone in the community each weekend in the fall. There are many others in the Carolinas, of course -- Shelby, A.L. Brown in Kannapolis, Concord, Summerville (S.C.) and Richmond County in Rockingham just to name a few. (I've left out several from that list -- if you know of one you'd throw in, put it in the comments).
I have gotten several questions from folks interested in Byrnes' college prospects and what I thought about them. At least a half-dozen and maybe closer to a dozen Byrnes players will get Division I-A scholarship offers before all is said and done.
Marcus Lattimore, Byrnes' star running back, is the one who gets the most publicity. He's thought to be one of the top 2-3 running backs in the USA. Lattimore is really good -- big, fast and doesn't shy from contact. However, his breakaway speed isn't dazzling.
In the game I saw, he touched the ball over 20 times and never went more than 25 yards on any single play. Of course, the other team was totally geared to stop him, but Lattimore wasn't as dazzling as the best high school running back I've ever seen -- Nick Maddox of Kannapolis. Still, Lattimore may well have the better college career (Maddox was a part-time starter at Florida State), for he's a good bit bigger.
Lattimore has narrowed his college choices to UNC, USC, Oregon, Auburn and Penn State. He doesn't plan to decide anytime soon.
The two players who totally impressed me, though, were Byrnes' bookend defensive ends -- Brandon Willis and Corey Miller. Both have committed to Tennessee. However, both previously committed to Florida State, so I wouldn't be totally certain that they're both headed for Knoxville.
Both seemed basically unblockable at the college level. They were men among boys, even more so than Lattimore. If you watch Byrnes play St. Thomas Aquinas Friday night at 8 p.m. -- the game will be telecast on ESPNU -- see what you think.
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