August 1, 2010
WADESBORO -- Luke Hyatt remembers lamenting back in the summer of 2007 about losing linebacker Barquell Rivers at Anson County High School.
Rivers, one of the school's all-time greats, was headed on scholarship to Virginia Tech after graduating from Anson County.
"When Barquell left here I said to our coaches, 'Boys, I don't know if we'll ever get to coach another one like that,' '' said Hyatt, Anson County's head coach. "Then he walks in the door.''
He was Stephone Anthony, a reserved, lanky, long-armed freshman who wowed Hyatt and his coaching staff from the moment he stepped on the field.
"We went out and did some drill work that first day and our linebackers coach, Richard Davis, came to me and said, 'This kid is the real deal. He's going to be special,' '' Hyatt said.
Anthony has lived up to that first impression and then some, which is why college recruiters have been streaming into this town of about 5,700 an hour east of Charlotte for the last two years.
Coaches from schools as far away as UCLA and Southern Cal have trekked across the country to court the now 6-foot-3, 225-pounder who has the speed of a running back (4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash), the power of a lineman (330-pound bench press) and the grades of an honor student (3.64 GPA).
The combination of skills, production and national attention have put Anthony in the No. 1 spot of The Fayetteville Observer's annual Top 50 list of North Carolina's top college prospects.
Anthony is the third linebacker to hold the No. 1 spot since the Observer began ranking prospects in 1994. He joins A.J. Nicholson (2001) of Mount Tabor and Brandon Spikes (2005) from Shelby Crest, who went on to all-star careers at Florida State and Florida.
Hyatt said Anthony is similar in some ways to Rivers, who is scheduled to start for a second straight year at Virginia Tech.
"Character wise, they are both super kids,'' Hyatt said. "Stephone is always where he's supposed to be, when he's supposed to be, and he does a super job in the classroom.
"On the field, I'd say Barquell may have been a little better playing inside (linebacker). But sideline to sideline, Stephone is probably a little better than Barquell. He's a little longer and faster, and does a better job in pass coverage.''
Football isn't the only sport that benefits from Anthony's athletic talents at Anson.
When the wrestling coach mentioned he needed some help in the heavier weight classes, Anthony came to the rescue last season. Despite showing up with an injured hand from football, the first time he took the mat, Anthony scored a victory in 42 seconds. He finished with a 7-0 record for the year, according to Hyatt.
A similar situation occurred in track where he joined the team in the spring with no experience in the long jump. Anthony wound up finishing second in the first meet he competed.
If that wasn't enough, Anthony is also a catcher on the baseball team. But because of his hand injury, he saw limited action as a junior.
"Even though his hand was hurt, he stepped up and said, 'Coach, I'll run the bases for you,' '' Hyatt said. "I don't think he actually got an at-bat until the conference tournament and he went 3-for-4 in his first game out there.
"He's just one of those kids who it doesn't matter what they're doing. Whether it's football or shooting marbles, he's going to be the first one you pick on your team.''
But it's football where Anthony's future is brightest.
Anthony will begin a fourth straight year as a starter for the Bearcats in 2010. He has produced 272 tackles, 13 sacks and 18 interceptions over his first three varsity seasons.
All-State honors came Anthony's way as a junior when he made 120 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, four sacks and four interceptions.
But it was after Anthony's sophomore year, when he made 71 tackles and seven interceptions, that the college scouts began to notice.
"The first school to offer me was South Carolina and my reaction was surprise,'' Anthony said. "It's been crazy ever since.''
More than 25 schools have offered Anthony scholarships, including Auburn, Florida State, Miami, Nebraska, Oklahoma, UCLA and USC. He has narrowed that list to Florida, Clemson, Georgia, N.C. State, North Carolina and Virginia Tech.
Anthony is very specific about what he's looking for in a college program.
"I want to surround myself with guys who want to win and play for a national championship,'' he said.
2. Jeoffrey Pagan, DL 6-4, 250 4.6 Asheville/Asheville
Pagan started his prep career at wide receiver for rival Reynolds before transferring to Asheville as a junior when he shifted to defensive end. He made 54 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and 4 sacks to make the All-Mountain Athletic 3-A Conference and Asheville Citizen-Times' All-Western N.C. squads. Rivals.com ranks him the nation's No. 25 prospect, regardless of position.
College list: Committed to Florida on 4/11, but still considering Alabama, Clemson, Georgia and Georgia Tech.
3. Christian LeMay, QB 6-2, 188 4.6 Butler/Matthews
LeMay directed Butler to the state 4-AA championship last season and is rated by The Sporting News as the nation's No. 1 quarterback prospect. He completed 170 of 248 passes for 3,296 yards and 44 touchdowns while throwing just 2 interceptions. LeMay grew up in Gainesville, Fla., where his father, Stacy, served as Florida's team chaplain for a year.
College list: Committed to Georgia on 4/30 over runners-up Clemson and Texas A&M.
4. Marquise Williams, QB 6-3, 215 4.7 Mallard Creek/Charlotte
Williams' ability to run and pass remind many of Vince Young. As a junior, Williams produced 2,400 yards passing, rushed for 1,000 and accounted for 40 touchdowns. He made an impressive varsity debut as a freshman when he threw 30 touchdown passes. Former UNC cornerback Robert Williams is his cousin.
College list: Committed to North Carolina on 7/10 over runners-up Michigan and Virginia Tech.
5. Eric MacLain, TE 6-4, 268 4.9 Jack Britt/Fayetteville
When it comes to a dominant blocker, there may not be another tight end in the country as good as MacLain. He's a major reason Jack Britt has racked up nearly 10,000 yards rushing over the past two seasons. MacLain can catch the ball, too, but has had limited opportunities in Britt's run-oriented offense. He made 16 catches for 182 yards and 3 touchdowns the last two seasons.
College list: Committed to Clemson on 4/17 over runner-up Tennessee.
6. T.J. Thorpe, WR 6-0, 180 4.4 Jordan/Durham
Thorpe's track-star speed make him the best offensive playmaker in the state. He was timed 4.39 seconds in the 40-yard dash as a Shrine Bowl combine last May. A four-year varsity player, he made 50 catches for 950 yards and 5 touchdowns as a junior, while adding 180 yards rushing on 18 carries. Thorpe also set a state record by returning five kickoffs for touchdowns.
College list: Committed to North Carolina on 3/7 over N.C. State and Wake Forest.
7. Jarrod James, OL 6-4, 280 5.0 Charles B. Aycock/Pikeville
James is the quintessential offensive guard. He's extremely mobile and athletic, uses his hands better than most prep blockers and has the intensity of a Brahma bull. He's a top prospect despite suffering from brachial plexus palsy, a condition caused by an injury at birth to nerves that control movement in his arm and fingers. Livingstone head coach Elvin James is his father.
College list: Committed to North Carolina on 3/20 over runner-up N.C. State.
8. Devonte Brown, DL 6-4, 265 4.8 Jack Britt/Fayetteville
A native of Queens, N.Y., Brown moved south to Elizabethtown as an eighth grade, where he tried football for the first time. He played two seasons at East Bladen, helping the Eagles reach the state 2-A finals as a sophomore. Brown transferred to Jack Britt last year, but he didn't crack the starting lineup until late in the year. He finished with 23 tackles, five tackles for loss and one sack as a junior for the Bucs.
College list: Clemson, Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee
9. Kris Frost, Athlete 6-2, 204 4.6 Butler/Matthews
Frost was named the defensive player of the year in the Charlotte area after helping Butler win the state 4-AA title with a 15-0 record. He moved last year to outside linebacker from wide receiver where he started as a sophomore. Frost excelled at his new position, making 92 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and 5 interceptions. He's being recruited as both a linebacker and receiver.
College list: Auburn, Michigan, North Carolina, Wake Forest, West Virginia.
10. Norkeithus Otis, LB 6-3, 200 4.6 Ashbrook/Gastonia
Otis was the Big South 4-A Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2009 after making 109 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. He was also a first-team All-Gazette selection by the Gaston Gazette. Otis split time between defensive end and linebacker as a junior, and could play either of those positions at the college level.
College list: Duke, Florida, Georgia Tech, N.C. State, North Carolina, South Carolina.
Name, Position, Size, 40 time, High School, Hometown, College list
11. Christian Russell LB 5-11, 211 4.6 Hoke County Raeford Committed to North Carolina on 7/9
12. Eric Ebron TE 6-5, 255 4.6 Ben L. Smith Greensboro Committed to North Carolina on 3/18
13. Drew Owens TE 6-5, 227 4.7 Audrey Kell Charlotte Arkansas, Clemson, N.C. State, UNC, South Carolina
14. Romar Morris RB 5-10, 175 4.4 Salisbury Salisbury Georgia Tech, North Carolina, South Carolina Tennessee
15. Shawn Underwood OL 6-2, 315 4.9 Fuquay-Varina Fuquay-Varina Committed to North Carolina on 7/13
16. Dominique Noble DB 6-2, 185 4.6 West Rowan Mount Ulla Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, Penn State
17. Ben Councell LB 6-5, 225 4.5 A.C. Reynolds Asheville Committed to Notre Dame on 6/21
18. Joe Gore DL 6-6, 265 4.8 East Columbus Lake Waccamaw Committed to Clemson on 4/2
19. Tremayne McNair LB 6-2, 225 4.6 White Oak Jacksonville Clemson, ECU, Georgia Tech, UNC
20. Nigel King WR 6-2, 190 4.6 Oak Ridge Military Oak Ridge Committed to Maryland on 4/22
21. Maurice Harris WR 6-2, 194 4.6 Northern Guilford Greensboro Committed to California on 6/20
22. K.J. Brent WR 6-4, 180 4.5 Marvin Ridge Waxhaw Committed to South Carolina on 4/14
23. Brandon Ellerbe DB 6-1, 200 4.5 Anson County Wadesboro Committed to North Carolina on 6/12
24. Sherman Ragland DB 6-1, 180 4.5 Southern Durham Committed to Wake Forest on 7/17
25. Danny Webster WR 5-11, 170 4.5 Havelock Havelock Committed to East Carolina on 4/5
26. Travis Riley RB 6-1, 210 4.5 A.L. Brown Kannapolis Committed to North Carolina on 4/2
27. Airyn Willis QB 6-2, 180 4.4 Southwest Guilford High Point Committed to Georgia Tech on 4/24
28. Vad Lee Athlete 6-2, 210 4.5 Hillside Durham Duke, ECU, Georgia Tech, Maryland, N.C. State, UNC, Wake Forest
29. Matthias Farley DB 6-1, 185 4.5 Christian Charlotte Committed to Notre Dame on 4/21
30. Montese Overton LB 6-1, 195 4.6 South Central Winterville Arkansas, East Carolina, N.C. State
31. Jeremy Reynolds DB 5-9, 170 4.4 Oak Ridge Military Oak Ridge Committed to Oregon State on 6/24
32. Marcus Leak WR 6-0, 195 4.5 Parkwood Monroe Committed to Maryland on 4/8
33. Justus Pickett Athlete 5-10, 170 4.5 Audrey Kell Charlotte Duke, ECU, Stanford, South Carolina
34. Kyler Brown DL 6-5, 215 4.9 Christian Charlotte Committed to Duke on 7/7
35. Juston Burris DB 6-0, 177 4.5 Broughton Raleigh Committed to N.C. State on 3/22
36. Brian Taylor QB 6-3, 200 4.8 Harnett Central Angier Clemson, East Carolina, North Carolina
37. Zeek Bigger LB 6-3, 205 4.7 Ashbrook Gastonia Committed to Duke on 7/3
38. Jamison Crowder WR 5-9, 160 4.5 Monroe Monroe Committed to Duke on 7/20
39. Terrell Stanley DL 6-0, 242 5.2 South Brunswick Southport Committed to East Carolina on 6/29
40. Dontez Tyler DL 6-4, 220 4.7 Hertford County Ahoskie Arkansas, East Carolina, Maryland, Virginia
41. Tre Robertson OL 6-5, 317 5.2 Person County Roxboro Committed to East Carolina on 6/11
42. Nyjee Fleming RB 5-10, 184 4.4 Independence Charlotte Duke, East Carolina, N.C. State, Virginia
43. Darien Rankin DB 5-11, 185 4.6 Salisbury Salisbury Committed to North Carolina on 7/7
44. Colton Walls LB 6-2, 230 4.7 Latin Charlotte Committed to Clemson on 7/14
45. Brandon Pittman LB 6-3, 200 4.7 Leesville Road Raleigh East Carolina, N.C. State, Virginia
46. Dylan Intemann OL 6-5, 295 5.0 Wake Forest-Rolesville Wake Forest Committed to Wake Forest on 4/4
47. Mark Bridges DB 5-11, 185 4.6 Butler Matthews Central Michigan, Cincinnati, ECU
48. Jared Baker LB 6-2, 218 4.6 Davie County Mocksville Committed to W. Virginia on 7/29
49. Deion Walker RB 5-11, 195 4.5 Butler Matthews Illinois, Marshall
50. Kenzel Doe WR 5-8, 171 4.4 Oak Ridge Military Oak Ridge Committed to Oregon State on 6/30