Commentary

Mallard Creek well stocked

In just their fifth season, Mavericks already loaded with prospects

Updated: August 10, 2011, 2:12 PM ET
By Dave Hooker | ESPN Recruiting

D.J. Humphries' news conference won't likely be the last at Mallard Creek High School.

The Charlotte-area high school is loaded with talent for the foreseeable future, with at least eight FBS prospects currently on its roster and more likely to develop.

The transformation from start-up school to football powerhouse has been nothing short of amazing. In 2007, Mallard Creek's first season, it was 1-10. It then won 10 or more games each of the next three seasons, including a 13-1 mark last year. It was bounced of the playoffs and barely missed a highly-anticipated matchup with Matthews (N.C.) Butler.

The two teams will open the 2011 season on Aug. 19.

One of Mallard Creek's most interesting prospects is receiver Marquez North, a recent transfer from Lumberton High School. Mallard Creek coach Mike Palmieri said North will likely explode onto the recruiting scene soon after he takes the field as a junior this season.

"There's going to be a lot of schools," Palmieri said when asked who might recruit him. He said Georgia "loves" North and that Virginia Tech and NC State have also shown interest.

North, 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, accounted for 1,650 yards and 22 touchdowns as a quarterback at Lumberton in 2010. He will likely play receiver and safety at Mallard.

North might be the most impressive athlete short of Humphries, the nation's top offensive tackle in the 2011 class, but they're not alone. Here are some more Mallard Creek prospects who will be making waves in recruiting soon:

Jela Duncan: The senior tailback already has offers from Pittsburgh, Duke, Wake Forest and East Carolina, among others. The 5-10, 190-pounder rushed for 1,305 yards and 22 touchdowns last season.

Jamel Harbison: The senior wide receiver has offers from Kentucky, Miami and Vanderbilt. The 6-foot, 190-pounder had 52 receptions for 800 yards and 14 touchdowns last season.

Corey Miller: Like North, Miller has flown under the radar in recruiting but for different reasons. Mallard Creek's depth made it a challenge for him to get on the field last season as a junior, but the 6-1, 195-pound receiver still managed 23 receptions for just more than 300 yards in 2009.

Takhare Donalson: Another senior who could up his stock with a strong 2010 season. He is being recruited by some smaller schools.

Brian Walker: The most established 2013 prospect on Mallard Creek's roster. The 5-11, 170-pound cornerback already has scholarship offers from Auburn and South Carolina.

Jorian Jordan and Anthony Covington: Both juniors are hoping to up their recruiting stock this fall as college coaches pour into Mallard Creek to evaluate its talent. Jordan is a wide receiver. Covington is a cornerback.

Mr. Postman
Four-star defensive tackle prospect Jordan Watkins might need a bigger mailbox with so many written scholarship offers coming in. The 6-5, 260-pounder from College Park (Ga.) Woodward Academy already has five scholarship offers in writing and almost countless verbal offers.

"I tell you what it was crazy," Watkins said of receiving that first written offer. "Getting verbals is great but when you see everything in writing, it was just a great feeling."

Miami went so far as to fax a copy of the scholarship offer to Watkins' coaches then mail one, as well. That made the Hurricanes first overall even though Stanford was first in the mailbox.

"I've heard from Miami most out of the schools in my list. They're really coming after me and have interest in me," said Watkins, who added that Stanford is also recruiting him extremely hard.

Watkins also has written offers from Oklahoma, North Carolina and Notre Dame.

Earlier this summer, it seemed as if Watkins would stay in the South as he cited Miami, Florida and Georgia as some of the schools he was primarily interested in. Now, he said Stanford, Oklahoma and Notre Dame are firmly in the running.

Freshman phenom?
It's not easy to be a freshman at talent-rich Butler and make a name for yourself, but Anthony Ratliff is trying to do just that. Ratliff was a key player for the Mint Hill Chargers last season as they won the American Youth Football national championship. Playing quarterback, Ratliff threw for more than 3,000 yards and 40 touchdowns.

Now, the 6-2, 165-pounder is trying to find playing time behind junior quarterback Riley Ferguson or perhaps at another position amidst Butler's talented depth chart. Ratliff, whose running style has drawn comparisons to Georgia freshman Christian LeMay, said the prospects at Butler motivate him.

"It makes me want to work real hard to get in the spotlight like they are," Ratliff said. "They're leading this Butler High School football team to the top. That makes you want to work."

So is he as talented as Butler's upperclassmen?

"They've got a little bit over me," Ratliff said with a chuckle, "but I'm trying to get up there with them."

Ratliff has the ability to play a number of positions, such as tailback, defensive back or wide receiver, but he'll get his first high school look at quarterback.

"I like to stay balanced," he said. "I like to stay in the pocket … but if I need to, I can get out of the pocket."

Ratliff shouldn't be frustrated that Ferguson is entrenched as the starter. At the very least, Ratliff should get some time in mop-up duty when Butler has a big lead. Or, Ratliff could be a Wildcat quarterback who could provide a change of pace -- assuming he remains a signal-caller.

"I'm about to make a name for myself and make a statement," he said. "It would be nice to get in there."

Big games
With the 2011 season about to begin, here are some key dates from around the Southeast and Atlantic Coast:

• Aug 19: Butler vs. Mallard Creek. Undoubtedly the premier opening matchup in Charlotte. There will be at least a dozen FBS prospects on the field.

• Aug. 20: Alcoa-Maryville Kickoff Classic. Maryville (Tenn.) High will take on Knoxville (Tenn.) Webb and Alcoa will take on Cleveland (Tenn.) High at Maryville. There will be no rest for the weary the following week, as Alcoa and Maryville will meet up on Aug. 26. Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice is scheduled to attend the game and will speak to both teams before the game.

• Sept. 1: I-95 Kickoff Classic. This D.C. area event continues to grow. This year it will showcase 16 teams in eight games. Baltimore (Md.) Mount St. Joseph will take on Washington (D.C.) Friendship Collegiate at 5 p.m., on Sept. 1, followed by Towson (Md.) Calvert Hall vs. Washington (D.C.) St John's at 7:30. Both games will be played at Bowie State. On Sept. 2, Reisertown (Md.) Franklin will play Marlboro (Md.) Wise at 5 p.m., and Chesapeake (Va.) Oscar Smith will play Baltimore (Md.) Gilman at 7:30.

The games begin at 10:45 a.m. on Sept. 3 with Baltimore (Md.) Patterson versus Baltimore (Md.) Archbishop Curley, then Towson (Md.) Loyola Blakefield vs. Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha, followed by Ijamsville (Md.) Urbana vs. Waldorf (Md.) Westlake and, lastly, Baltimore (Md.) Dunbar vs. Washington (D.C.) Dunbar.

Dave Hooker covers Southeast and Atlantic Coast recruiting. He has covered recruiting and college football for more than a decade. Email him at davehookerespn@gmail.com.

Dave Hooker

Reporter, RecruitingNation