WSN sends four to next level

Published 6:30 am Monday, February 12, 2007

By BY BRUCE HIXON – sports editor
W.S. Neal High School was a busy place on college football's national signing day Wednesday, as four members from the program signed to play at the next level.
Blue Eagles left guard Jared Cooper ended months of tug-of-war among several Division I programs when he officially signed with Auburn University.
Cooper is not the lone W.S. Neal player headed to the Division I level, as tight end Justin Howard is headed to Ohio Valley Conference member Jacksonville State.
The two other Blue Eagles who are moving on will continue to be teammates, as running back Nykeem Barton and wide receiver Jonathan Alexander are headed to NCAA Division II member Tuskegee.
Cooper had originally given a verbal commitment to Auburn last summer, but a late push and a full-ride offer by new Alabama coach Nick Saban nearly got Cooper to switch. Cooper was originally offered a grayshirt scholarship at Auburn, which put him on a waiting list for his scholarship to kick in. Auburn upped its offer to immediate full-ride after Alabama made its offer.
Cooper's might remain in a guard spot at Auburn, but could get moved to another line spot.
Cooper, who plans to major in pre-medicine, was just as happy about his teammates' signings as he was his own.
W.S. Neal coach Blaine Hathcock said part of Cooper's success on the field comes from his success off the field.
Howard's stock shot up after he put on nearly 20 pounds since last season and he caught 20 balls for 414 yards and six touchdowns last fall.
Howard, who said there is a chance he could be redshirted at Jacksonville State this fall, says he is taking some versatile skills to the next level.
Barton transferred to W.S. Neal from T.R. Miller before the season began. He led the Blue Eagles with 1,223 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns. He also caught 14 balls for 152 yards.
Hathcock said Barton's biggest obstacle for college is his blocking.
Alexander led the Blue Eagles in most receiving categories including receptions (33), receiving yards (668) and receiving touchdowns (eight).
Hathcock said one of Alexander's selling points is his ability to make the big catch.

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