Signing day a busy day for area players
By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
The start of college football's national signing period hit home when four W.S. Neal Blue Eagles and one T.R. Miller Tiger put their respective names on the dotted lines to play at the next level.
T.R. Miller's signee was actually the first of the five to make his decision known, as tight end Trent Davidson offically joined Alabama. Davidson (6-5, 230 lb.) made his commitment to the Crimson Tide last fall.
"It has been a fun process, but it is a relief to have it over," Davidson said. "I was getting about 20 calls a day before I made my commitment."
Davidson received contacts from schools such as Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Louisiana State, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Louisville and Southern Mississippi before he chose Alabama.
"I've always loved the Alabama program and it has always been a dream of mine to play for them, but I tried to put those feelings aside when I made my decision," Davidson said.
Davidson's receiving totals were a modest 13 catches for 277 yards and two touchdowns last season, but T.R. Miller coach Jamie Riggs said those figures are very misleading.
"We had a lot of people who could catch the ball last season so we spread things around. There were also some games that got lopsided so we didn't throw much in those games. Trent could have caught more if we needed him, but the system and some of the games didn't dictate it," Riggs said. "Trent has good hands and he obviously has the size and strength. He is also a great blocker."
Many of those same things are items Davidson feels he needs to work on for the next level.
"I need to work on my strength. I need to get faster," Davidson said. "On the other side, playing in a run oriented offense such as T.R. Miller's has helped me develop my blocking skills. I also feel I'm a good vocal leader."
Getting a scholarship to Alabama would be a big deal under normal circumstances, but right now probation has limited to Crimson Tide to a maximum of 19 scholarships instead of the usual 25."
"It's a big honor to be one of only 18 players (which have signed so far) throughout the whole country to get a scholarship from Alabama this year," Davidson said. "Alabama's program was one that was used to winning. They've been down a little bit the last couple of years, but I feel they are on the way back up. They've really hit this state hard for their recruiting. Twelve of their 18 signees are from Alabama."
Davidson is considering studying law or sports medicine in college.
At W.S. Neal, running back Alphonso Gross signed with West Virginia, while wide receiver Marcus Flomar committed to Louisville. Fullback Jeremy Burch chose Waldorf College in Forest City, Iowa as his next stop, while defensive tackle Chris Johnson will head to Itawamba Community College in Fulton, Mississippi.
Gross had one of the better individual seasons and careers in Alabama history. This past season Gross (5-9, 180 lb.) ran for 2,407 yards and became just the ninth player in state history to run for more than 6,000 yards.
Gross turned down offers from Louisville and Marshall before he chose the Mountaineers.
"I liked their talent level and the way they treat people," Gross said. "One of the biggest things I like is the offensive system. They seem pretty committed to running the ball and their main back gets a lot of carries."
Gross' size may not intimidate a lot of people, but his 4.4 speed in the 40 meter dash does. W.S. Neal coach Shane Smothers said that size is deceptive.
"He weighs a lot more than people think. A lot of people think he only weighs about 150 to 160 pounds. Probably within a year he'll be up to about 190," Smothers said. "Alphonso is a strong person. He'll bench about 375 pounds. He was usually the first one in our weight room and the last one to leave."
Smothers said Gross will be a valuable weapon.
"He has such explosiveness. He is usually at full speed by his second step and not many can do that. I fully expect West Virginia to use him a lot on special teams for kickoff and punt returns in addition to his running back duties," Smothers said.
Gross said he plans to study athletic coaching in college.
Athough Folmar (6-0, 175 lb.) committed to Louisville a while back, Southern Mississippi made a late push to get Folmar to change his mind until the end.
"I liked Louisville from the start. I liked the coaches, the players, my prospective professors and the campus. Plus I feel Louisville is an up and coming program," Folmar said.
While Folmar is signing as a wide receiver, there is the possibility of him being switched to defensive back. There is also the possibility he may redshirt as a freshman.
"I'd prefer to stay at wide receiver because there is more action and I like the ball in my hands, but I'll do whatever they tell me do," Folmar said. "Right now Louisville has five receivers ahead of me on the depth chart, but three of them will be seniors next year. That will give me a good chance to move up quite a bit my second year at the school."
Smothers said Folmar can also help the Cardinals on special teams.
"He can give them some depth on special teams such as their kickoff returns," Smothers said. "One of the biggest things Marcus needs to do is just work on catching the football every day and running his routes. Marcus is a smart person. He'll listen and do what their coaching staff tells him to do."
Folmar plans to study business management.
Johnson (6-2, 290 lb.) is headed to an Itawamba College program that is usually one of the better junior college teams in the country.
"They've got a good program and it sounds like I'll have a good chance of starting next season," Johnson said. "I'd like to play there a couple of years and then move on to a four-year school, preferably Alabama."
Smothers said a big attraction Johnson had was he was able to keep good speed with extra weight.
"He has gone from about 265 to 290 over the last few months, but he has kept his speed at 4.7 in the 40. That impressed a lot of coaches," Smothers said.
Smohers said Mississippi junior colleges do not take many out of state players.
"They're pretty limited on how many out of state players they can take. You've got to be pretty good to get one of those opportunities," Smothers said.
Johnson plans to study computer technology.
Burch (6-2, 215 lb.) made a quick rise in football after having not played last season.
"That's something a lot of people have forgotten about Jeremy. He had to make his name in a hurry this fall because there weren't any highlight fims we could send out on him," Smothers said. "Jeremy's best ball should still be ahead of him because he is still learning the game."
Waldorf was a junior college until a couple of years ago when it became a four-year, NAIA school.
"I was looking at Jacksonville State, Middle Tennessee State and Southern Mississippi before I chose Waldorf," Burch said. "I think I've got a chance to be a four-year starter. I've got some speed and size plus I've got pretty good hands."
Burch played as many as six positions for W.S. Neal last season. One of those spots, linebacker, is also a possibility for Burch at Waldorf.
"That is an advantage for Jeremy. He has some versatility," Smothers said.
Burch plans to study either secondary education or criminal justice in college.