View Full Version : Area stars still shine on dotted line

02-01-2006, 08:46 AM
Chuck Corder
It might lack the major-college punch of last year, but National Signing Day in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties promises to be busy again today.

Anticipation reaches a crescendo this morning when the first bell sounds for 13 Pensacola Bay Area standouts expected to sign college football scholarships -- eight with Division I schools, including Catholic quarterback Eugene Smith.

The News Journal's Offensive Player of the Year plans to join Division I-AA Florida A&M, likely joining Pace's Eric Dalgleish, the Defensive Player of the Year.

Today's number is down marginally compared to last year's impressive haul that included 19 area players who signed letters of intent, 14 with D-I programs. It was one of the most bountiful Signing Days in recent memory for area football.

"With any area, it's cyclical," said J.C. Shurburtt, the southeast recruiting analyst for recruiting Web site Rivals.com. "The state of Florida, as a whole, was down in terms of the number of guys going D-I, but that doesn't mean it's a bad year."

College recruiters, deterred by Hurricane Katrina, found their way back to Pensacola this year. Northwest Florida has become fertile ground for a specific type of player, one recruiter said.

"They're always good, hard-nosed football players who understand how to win games," said Troy co-defensive coordinator Jeremy Rowell, a Crestview native who recruits Northwest Florida.

"We've always had good success recruiting players in the Panhandle."

The Trojans have tapped the pipeline once again, expecting to get signatures from Pace's John Mark Patrick and Northview's Cedric McKinley.

Patrick, a first-team all-state running back for the Patriots, is expected to join the 6-foot-6, 235-pound McKinley on the defensive side of the ball.

"Troy is very attractive to a lot of kids because they play a lot of tough ACC and SEC schools," Shurburtt said. "They go and compete against the best."

For the second consecutive year, the Trojans landed an area commitment who opened recruiters' eyes during the Pensacola Sports Association All-Star Game.

This year it was McKinley and his imposing frame. Last year it was Pace running back Anthony Jones, whose stock soared after a MVP performance during the inaugural senior showcase at Escambia High.

Jones, who flew under most teams' radars weeks after the 2004 regular season, signed with Troy and, arguably, had the best season of any area signee from last year's class.

"We thought he had a chance to play because of his physical body," Rowell said of the speedy and durable Jones, who tallied 199 all-purpose yards in 11 games as a backup running back and kick returner. "The learning curve is usually big. He understood that and did a great job when he was in there. He caught on so quickly."