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January 23, 2006

Spikes rises to the top

The Tar Heel state was very deep this year when it came to talent led by five-star studs Brandon Spikes and Carl Johnson. Despite the wealth of talent, only one of the top five prospects in the 2006 North Carolina postseason top 30 decided to stay in state.

Both five-star prospects in state decided to play their college ball at Florida. Spikes, a standout linebacker, finished on top in the ratings after a good season with 74 tackles, four sacks and four interceptions. He really improved his stock after a dominating performance at the Shrine Bowl followed by solid play at the Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio. Spikes is a rare talent with his aggressiveness, ability to cover and long arms. His play in San Antonio pushed him ahead of Johnson in the state.

Johnson didn't drop far. The huge 6-foot-6, 348-pounder should see the field early in Gainesville after an impressive performance in the All-American Bowl. He's already on campus in Gainesville and should be an outstanding guard down the line.

Charlie Weis got an excellent cover cornerback in Raeshon McNeil who moved up two spots to No. 3. The 6-foot-0, 175-pounder had a good year for Davie County, but really impressed in San Antonio. He flashed his shutdown ability in the game and returned a blocked kick for a touchdown. McNeil is a playmaker.

Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks was the only player in the top five of the final rankings to stay in state and was a virtual unknown a year ago. The Independence product came into the season not even ranked in the top 30, but finished No. 4. This season the 6-foot-1, 200-pounder exploded on the scene with 77 receptions for 1,524 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Clemson landed the No. 5 player in the state, cornerback Crezdon Butler. The 6-foot-0, 180-pounder from Asheville dropped just one spot after a solid season and good performance in the Shrine Bowl. Meanwhile, Virginia's O.C. Wardlow stays at No. 6. He should get a chance at quarterback with the Cavaliers.

At No. 9 is Hutch Eckerson who moved up 12 spots from the preseason rankings and is quickly becoming one of the hottest remaining offensive line prospects on the East Coast.

Though they only landed one of the top five players in the state, UNC acquired three of the next four including No. 7 Vince Jacobs, No. 8 Deunta Williams and No. 10 Shaun Draughn. Jacobs is a big 6-foot-7, 218-pound tight end who moved up eight spots as he helped Providence Day to the state finals. Williams stayed at No. 8 after being named defensive MVP for the North Carolina squad in the Shrine Bowl. Draughn out of Tarboro rounds out the top 10 moving up 18 spots. He's expected to play safety in Chapel Hill.

At No. 11, defensive tackle Aleric Mullins dropped four spots after a solid season, but struggled a bit at Shrine Bowl and wasn't as tall as originally listed. He'll still be a top-notch talent for someone next year.

Georgia Bulldog and former West Columbus defensive tackle Ricardo Crawford jumped into the No. 12 spot moving up eight places after being very disruptive the whole day during the Shrine Bowl.

One of the biggest falls in the rankings has to be running back Josh Adams who slipped from No. 3 to No. 14 after rushing for just 16 yards on eight carries in the Shrine Bowl. Adams has quick feet and good speed but lacks the size to be an every down back in college.

The Tar Heels landed five more prospects between No. 15 and 20 including No. 15, running back Johnny White, No. 17, defensive tackle Greg Elleby, No. 18, defensive end Tavares Brown, No. 19, defensive back Bruce Carter and No. 20, tight end Michael Ingersoll. All of them stayed within approximately three or four spots of their preseason rankings with the exception of Ingersoll who jumped all the way to No. 20 after not being ranked. He showed good speed, hands and great ability to block in Spartanburg.

Tight end Dennis Godfrey moved into the rankings at No. 21 and is quickly becoming a hot commodity. The Lee County prospect had a solid year and then was one of the better players at practice during the week leading up to the Shrine Bowl. He followed that up with a good performance in the game.

Easily the biggest drop in the rankings was Hertford County athlete LaMarcus Bond who fell all the way to No. 30 after being ranked the No. 9 prospect in the preseason. Bond had a solid year scoring 28 touchdowns. The problem though is that a lot of teams are having a hard time figuring out how to utilize the 5-foot-8, 174-pounder due to his size.


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