Newest MU pipeline: Atlanta Sports Academy
As national signing day approaches, Marshall is getting its usual reinforcements from either of the two well-known Virginia military prep schools, Fork Union and Hargrave.
This week, it will be Fork Union, as wide receiver/athlete Angelo Jean-Louis and linebacker Stephan Houston are expected to sign letters of intent Wednesday. Both are ranked four stars by at least one recruiting-oriented website.
But there is another emerging postgraduate pipeline pushing recruits to Huntington, and it's Atlanta Sports Academy. Another wide receiver/athlete, 6-foot-2, 215-pound Deontay McManus, is enrolled at MU for the spring semester and is expected to sign Wednesday.
McManus, rated four stars by Rivals and three stars by other recruiting sites, hails from Baltimore. ESPN.com posted a scouting report, updated Jan. 13, which reads in part:
"Offensively, he is a galloping brute of a player. Good athleticism, but little polish at this stage. He is like a bull in a china shop when the ball is in the air. Elbows and muscles his way into position and will elevate with his long arms and leaping ability to snag the ball in traffic."
In other words, a good candidate to fill voids left by departing receivers Aaron Dobson and Antavious Wilson.
McManus would be the fourth ASA alum to sign with the Herd, joining Tyler Williams, Corey Tindal and Kent Turene. Defensive back Tindal and linebacker Turene, who enrolled in January 2012, have just become eligible after sitting out two semesters as nonqualifiers, while Williams just finished a very successful freshman season as MU's punter.
All four will count toward MU's recruiting class of 2013. Williams, who boomed punts at a 45.2-yard clip, went on scholarship this semester, thus becoming an "initial counter" in NCAA rules parlance - just like Wednesday's signees, should they qualify as freshmen.
Williams went to ASA out of R. Nelson Snider High School in Fort Wayne, Ind., playing for the Spartans in the fall of 2011. He walked on at Marshall in the spring of 2012, got the hang of college-speed punt operations and a switch seemingly flipped in mid-August.
In a videotaped testimonial, Williams talked about how ASA helped his career.
"Coming out of high school, I only had one walk-on offer, at Ball State," he said. "Being down here, I got close to 10 more offers . . .
"It's a good experience. Like any other, [it has its] ups and downs and tough times. But most of all, you learn leadership and hard work and character pays off. In the long run, I think it will help me in life."
ASA was co-founded in 2009 by Damon Dawson, a former defensive lineman at North Carolina and Hampton, and Viondi Pate, who played collegiately at Auburn. In a nutshell, the academy aims to boosts the stock of athletes on the field and in the classroom.
The school has moved into its own campus near suburban Dawsonville, housing more than 200 male students in three different sports - football, basketball and baseball. The football program, often split into two squads, went a combined 18-1 and boasts of 23 signees and commitments, three in the FBS.
(One is Deion Sanders Jr., heading to Big East-bound Southern Methodist.)
A budding alumni list is displayed, including the first three Marshall recruits and players who headed to Auburn, Mississippi State and Middle Tennessee State, plus a number of FCS schools.
As the suspense grows over 11th-hour surprises, some attention has turned toward offensive lineman Sandley Jean-Felix of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Ranked 140th among offensive tackles by ESPN.com, the 6-foot-5, 295-pound Jean-Felix has been committed to Florida International since last August. But the Panthers have since changed coaches, firing Mario Cristobal and hiring Ron Turner.
In that transition, offensive line coach Alex Mirabal was let go and is widely reported to have joined the MU staff (the school has announced three coaching hires, but not that one). The Miami Herald reported that Jean-Felix has visited MU.
"Don't be surprised if this is a verbal commitment [to FIU] that doesn't make it to Wednesday," the Herald said.
The Big Green Scholarship Foundation is hosting a signing-day party from 5:30-6:30 p.m. Wednesday at room BE-5 of the Memorial Student Center. Admission is $15, and you must be a Big Green or Quarterback Club member.
Big Green memberships (minimum $50) will be available at the door. For more information or to RSVP, call 304-696-4661.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.