Their own set of rules
Major college football recruiters know what they want in blue-chip football players. And only they know.
Roman Catholic senior lineman Manny Taylor is yet another example.
Taylor has yet to play a down on the varsity. Roman’s head coach Joe McCourt didn’t even mention him when he was asked to provide a preseason list of his top four players on the 2014 team.
Still Taylor was offered and accepted, with his verbal commitment, a full-ride scholarship to play for Rutgers. His 6-6, 280 size and his athletic ability was all that major college football recruiters needed to see.
Taylor made sure they saw it on the college football prospects spring and summer camp circuit.
“I wasn’t trying to hide him,” says McCourt. “You see something new every year. He hasn’t played a varsity down yet. He was a basketball player. It’s only his second year of football.
“He’s raw,” adds McCourt. “He’s never been in the trenches in this league. I’m looking forward to him getting his butt kicked. That should bring out the best in him.”
Ironically, Taylor isn’t even the best offensive lineman on his own team. McCourt says Gavin Wiggins (6-3, ,250, Sr.) is one of the best linemen “ever” at Roman. “He’s up there with Jon Runyan at The Prep,” says McCourt. Only FCS team Youngstown State has offered Wiggins.
Taylor initially played basketball. He’s quick, fast, big and can move. Football talent scouts love basketball players who move to football. The most recent example is Bloomsburg University’s 6-foot-6, 250-pound DE Larry Webster, who was drafted in the 4th round of the 2014 NFL draft by the Detroit Lions.
Webster, whose father played for the Baltimore Ravens, played just two football seasons for the NCAA Division II Huskies after he came to Bloomsburg to play basketball. He first set the school career record for blocked shots and then set the school season record for sacks. The Bloomsburg football website called Webster’s football success “a meteoric rise on the gridiron.”
A description that fits Taylor as well.
“He went to all of the one-day camps and tore it up,” says McCourt. “I expect big things from him. If he gets everything together, he could play on Sundays. He’s our X factor. This could be one of the best offensive lines we’ve had here.”
Blue-chip recruiting shift
A scan of the lists of top recruits nationally and in Pennsylvania for this year’s senior class compiled by the four major recruiting media websites—ESPN, Rivals.com (Yahoo), Scout.com (Fox) and 247sports.com (CBS)—clearly indicates where most of the top talent is located in the Commonwealth.
And it’s not where it has been found traditionally. Southeast Pennsylvania has leaped over western Pennsylvania.
“Just ask the recruiters,” says Malvern Prep head coach Aaron Brady.
On ESPN’s list of top Pennsylvania major college recruits, nine of the top 15, 12 of the top 20 are from SE PA. 247sports.com has nine of the top 15 and 10 of the top 20 from SE PA. Scout.com rates nine of the top 15 and 14 of the top 20 from SE PA. Rivals.com ranks eight of the top 15 and 12 of the top 20 from SE PA.
Sterling Jenkins, an offensive lineman from the WPIAL’s Baldwin, is the consensus top recruit in PA. He’s committed to Penn State. Right behind him at number two and three are St. Joseph’s Prep DB John Reid and Archbishop Wood OL Ryan Bates, who is also headed to Penn State.
Aaron Brady has yet to coach a down as the new coach at Malvern Prep. But he was busy in July coaching the USA.
Brady was head coach of the Under-19 USA football team that traveled to Kuwait City and won the International Federation of American Football championship tournament, which is played every two years.
The USA team, comprised of small college and junior college players largely from Texas and California and some high school players such as Malvern Prep lineman Hayden Mahoney, won all four games it played to win the championship.
The USA defeated Mexico 49-14 on July 7, Germany 54-0 on July10 and Japan 43-0 on July 13 to reach the championship game where it defeated defending champion Canada 40-17 on July 16 in Al-Nasr Stadium. All of the games were played in Kuwait City, Kuwait late at night to avoid the oppressive daytime desert heat.
“It was pretty crazy playing that many games in 15 days,” says Brady. “The world is getting better at American football.”
The trip included much more than football for the 43 players and coaching staff. They visited a United States Air Force base just 65 miles from Baghdad. Many of the fans in the stands supporting the USA team were military personnel.
“The whole experience was just incredible,” says Brady. “Just their culture is very different than ours. Playing with USA on your chest is special.”
Remember Gus Felder?
Glen Mills assistant coach Robert “Codi” Hall does.
“He was my teammate,” says Hall, who was a running back for Berwick in the mid-1990s.
Felder was named Assistant Director of Strength and Conditioning for the University of Georgia football team in February.
A little history recall about Felder, a former student and head coach at Gratz.
A lineman who played at Penn State, Felder was surrounded by controversy during his high school playing days.
When he appeared as a star player for Berwick on the cover of the Pennsylvania preseason high school football publication Football Fever (published by SPORTSfever) it caught the eye of then Gratz football coach Rich Kozlowski, who told a local Philadelphia reporter that he thought Felder, who had last played at Gratz before landing in Berwick in 1996, had exhausted his eligibility to play high school football.
Questions were raised about his eligibility to play in 1997 for Berwick—then a state powerhouse in the mid-1990s.
At first it was ruled that he was in his sixth year of high school and therefore ineligible to play. It meant that Berwick was forced to forfeit eight games and was disqualified from playing in the PIAA State playoffs.
That first ruling was overturned almost immediately by the PIAA and the Bulldogs went on to win their fourth-straight PIAA State AAA championship in 1997.
Hard to believe he’s gone
Cardinal O’Hara head coach Danny Algeo was only 49-years old when he died suddenly from a heart attack on July 3.
Algeo was always close to his players. They and his coaching staff knew him to be fighter and hard worker, side-by-side with them. He had established great relationships with college football recruiters and his players benefitted from those ties.
“Coach Algeo was known to start opening up the weight room the Monday after the last game of the season to start working on next season,” says interim head coach Paul Strus, who was an assistant to Algeo.
“To lose a guy like that who worked side-by-side with them, there is a lot of tears and heartache. It’s very emotional time for the kids.
“He was a tough guy. We expected him to fight through it. We thought he could.”
Algeo won two Catholic League championships—one with O’Hara in 2004 and with Roman Catholic in 1999.
There’s a lot of names of current and former National Football League players and coaches popping up on SE PA high school football teams. Here’s some of them:
La Salle QB Kyle Shurmur; Father is Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.
Calvary Christian QB Josh Reichenbach; Father is his head coach and former NFL and Eagles linebacker Mike Reichenbach.
Kennett DT Lee Woodall, Jr; Father was linebacker Lee Woodall with the 49ers.
St. Joseph’s Prep OL Jon Daniel Runyan; Father was Eagles OL Jon Runyan.
Upper Darby OL Scott Rucci; Uncle was NFL OL Todd Rucci.
Neshaminy head coach Mike Frederick was a NFL player for the Ravens and Titans and Garnet Valley assistant coach Joe Valerio was a OL for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Year of the Quarterback in SE PA
Check out the list of Career State Leaders heading into the season. There’s 21 quarterbacks throughout SE PA who have impressive number of passing yards in their careers. On the list are two major college football recruits in La Salle’s Kyle Shurmur, who’s headed to Vanderbilit, and Malvern Prep’s Alex Hornibrook, who has committed to Pitt. West Chester East’s Jon Jon Roberts and Imhotep’s Andre Dreuitt-Parks top the list each with more than 3,000 yards pass
ing. Another major college football recruit, Brandon McIlwain of Council Rock North is a dual-threat QB who is also on the list of top career rushing yards.
State playoff predictions
Only one team has won back-to-back PIAA AAAA state championships. That was Central Bucks West, which won three in a row from 1997 through 1999. Defending state champion St. Joseph’s Prep stands to have the best shot since the Bucks to do it. La Salle should also be considered a serious contender along with North Penn and Pennsbury. All four of these teams face tough non-league opponents. They may suffer losses Not to worry. One of these teams will win the state championship.
In AAA, only Berwick (1994-1997), Strath Haven (1999-2000) and Thomas Jefferson (2007-2008) have won back-to-back state championships. Defending state champion Archbishop Wood is the favorite to join that list of elite teams. Wood defeated Bishop McDevitt of Harrisburg for both of its state championships in 2011 and 2013. The Vikings are ready to take on McDevitt yet again and win again.
Now that Imhotep Charter has bumped up to AAA, the path is cleared for West Catholic to make it to a state championship game in AA. Winning the state championship is always a tough task because the WPIAL has a strong field of AA teams. Bristol and Springfield Twp. are solid teams in District 1. In AA, it only requires a blue-chip QB to be a serious state contender. The Burrs have him in Antwain McCollum.
And with Bishop McDevitt now classified as a Single-A team, the possibility now exists for the Catholic League to sweep the PIAA State championship games. McDevitt will face stiff A competition from the Scranton area and should it get to Hershey, the WPIAL A teams are always very strong. McDevitt should advance to the state quarterfinals. All bets off after that.