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Fertile ground: 23 county players sign with D-I programs

National Signing Day came and went on Wednesday in Gwinnett.

And so did a record number for letters of intent, which were faxed off to colleges all across the country as the county proved yet again just how fertile it is for top-notch football talent.

"The quality of football just keeps getting better," said Buford athletic director Dexter Wood. "The way athletes are being developed in this county, you're just going to see more and more scholarships.

"And it's a feather in our cap so to speak, for all the football coaches and parents who give them support."

When the dust settled on Wednesday, 23 Gwinnett seniors signed Division I-A football scholarships - easily breaking the record of 16 that was set last year.

"A lot more guys committed than I thought," said Brookwood linebacker Rennie Curran, who signed with Georgia. "I was pretty surprised. The talent around here is pretty good. There's definitely a lot of talent around here. It says a lot about the coaches and the players around here."

"I think Gwinnett is a hotbed and has been for several years for high school football," Collins Hill head coach Larry Sherrill said. "These are all big schools and when you have a big population like that, the more big and fast kids you should have.

"And we also have some very good programs that do a good job of developing talent."

But what seems to make Gwinnett so unique is not just the number of blue-chip football players it sends off to Division I-A, but the sheer amount of talent it sends to the college level.

Counting Division III, Division II and Division I-AA, the country produced a staggering 58 signings on Wednesday.

That's right, at least 58 - and probably more considering there were a handful of talented seniors who are still mulling over decisions - will be playing college football on Saturdays in the fall.

"I think it's obvious the reputation Gwinnett County football has among college coaches," Sherrill said on why college recruiters continually invade the county borders every year. "And when they come to Gwinnett they know the players will have a quality education and the players are going to typically meet the standard grade-point average and the standard SAT score to be recruited."

Wood agreed.

"Rarely do you have to worry about the academic quality of the kids," he said. "That really helps."

Also, it doesn't hurt that there are 18 schools within a 30-mile radius, giving college coaches a chance to see dozens of big-time football players in the span of a day or two.

"Absolutely, the population density helps that," Sherrill said. "There are schools that are four and five miles apart ... for a college recruiter that's a great deal."

So is the chance to watch a dozen future college players on one field.

Case in point: The 2006 game between the region champion Norcross Blue Devils and the eventual co-state champion Peachtree Ridge Lions.

Norcross wound up winning the slugfest 6-3, but the real winners appear to have been college recruiters.

Consider from that one game alone, 12 players signed scholarships on Wednesday - seven from Norcross and five from Peachtree Ridge. Out of those 12, eight were Division I-A signees. And this doesn't even take into account the juniors who played in that game, most notably Peachtree Ridge's Brandon Davis and Norcross' Brice Butler and Devonta Bolton, who will no doubt be signing letters of intent at this time next year.

"Wow. Just in that game?" Peachtree Ridge head coach Blair Armstrong asked. "That's incredible. Well, we knew going into that game it (was) going be a very tough game because they (were) very, very talented as a group."

Armstrong might as well be talking about the county as a whole, which has made a habit of producing top-notch college talent in recent years.

From David Greene to Davey Pollack to Darius Walker to Kenny Irons, Gwinnett has proven to be one of the richest areas in the nation for football talent.

And this class, featuring signees to Ohio State, LSU, Alabama and Georgia among others, does nothing to dispute that trend.

"We take great pride in how many of them going on and having great careers in college," Wood said. "Just the notoriety they bring back to our county has been great."

Gwinnett County football players to sign with colleges broken down by high school:

Brookwood

LB Rennie Curran Georgia

DE Briley Hale Bethel

OL Josh Turner Brevard

Buford

WR David Hendrix Furman

LB Trey Hunsucker Colgate

OL Ben Jacoby Ball State

DL Brandon McEachern Georgia Southern

Central Gwinnett

DB Logan Hunt Air Force

LB Jonathan Massaquoi Troy

PK Devin Sabina Valdosta State

LB Bryce Smith Samford

OL Kris Swanson Air Force

Collins Hill

DL Bo Adebayo Western Kentucky

DB Taylor Gayle Truman State

DE T.J. Greenstone Vanderbilt

OL T.J. Hurless Tenn.-Chattanooga

RB Craig Jackson Cumberland College

RB James Lewis Georgia Southern

DB Chris Wellborn Valdosta State*

Dacula

TE Michael Butler Presbyterian

Duluth

OL Andrew Higgins Tulane

WR Andre Williams Morehead State

GAC

WR/K Landon Bennett Wofford

QB Lee Chapple Georgia Southern

OL T-Bob Hebert LSU

RB Caleb King Georgia

DB Meko McCray Princeton

Grayson

OL James Boatright VMI

OL Chris Cawthon Florida International

DE Conrad Obi Colorado

Meadowcreek

QB Jamell Clarke Johnson C. Smith

RB Lloyd Collins West Virginia Tech

DB Anthony Kitson Fort Valley

OL Jackie Monroe Truman State

DB Lamarr Person Fort Valley

LB Cyhl Quarles Wake Forest

RB Justin Thomas Georgetown

Norcross

DE Brooks Cunningham Tulane

DB Leonard Foster Valdosta State

WR Darius Hanks Alabama

DE J.R. Jones Troy

DB Kendall Parks Tuskegee

LB James Simien Navy

LB Matt Tribble Tuskegee

North Gwinnett

PK Chad Gross Air Force

WR Ryan McDaniel Samford

DE Jasper Williams Air Force

Parkview

OL Seth Baker Shorter

DB Tremayne Graham Richmond

OL Grant Walker Shorter

Peachtree Ridge

DL Aaron Blue VMI

P Drew Butler Georgia

DB Phillip Davis Tulane

WR Sidney Haynes Central Florida

DL Cameron Heyward Ohio State

South Gwinnett

DE Sean Christy Air Force

DB Chris Grant Valdosta State

DB Chris Lamar Valdosta State

Wesleyan

WR Andy Merlino Washington & Lee

*Preferred walk-on