Lions' Watley a star in waiting

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips<br> Angelo Watley was one of the county's top defensive players this season and will sign with South Carolina in February.

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips
Angelo Watley was one of the county's top defensive players this season and will sign with South Carolina in February.

On a field full of the county’s top high school football players, Angelo Watley easily passes the test.

At 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, he has the look of a top college prospect. Then you watch him move as he prepares for Saturday’s Rivalries of Gwinnett All-Star game.

County all-star game

What: Rivalries of Gwinnett All-Star Game

When: Saturday, 1:30 p.m.

Where: Mountain View H.S.


• Head coach Mickey Conn:

Archer, Berkmar, Brookwood, Collins Hill, Dacula, Grayson, Greater Atlanta Christian, North Gwinnett, Shiloh and Wesleyan.

• Head coach Keith Maloof:

Buford, Central Gwinnett, Duluth, Hebron, Meadowcreek, Mill Creek, Mountain View, Norcross, Parkview, Peachtree Ridge and South Gwinnett.

A great first step, quickness off the ball, you see why he’s committed to the University of South Carolina.

“It’s a nice experience,” Watley said of the all-star practice. “I like the teammates and everyone gets a long. It’s a good experience to end my high school career.”

Watley’s career didn’t end the way he would have liked. Peachtree Ridge started the year 5-0 and ranked No. 3 in the state. Then injuries ravaged the team, including Watley, who played with an injured ankle toward the end of the season.

A two-way starter, Watley had modest numbers this season. He led the team in receiving with 11 catches for 165 yards. He also posted 12 tackles and one sack on defense.

But Watley’s impact went beyond just the weekly stats.

“He had a good year blocking,” Peachtree Ridge head coach Bill Ballard said.

Watley’s play was instrumental in the Lions’ fast start. He caught a key pass in the final minutes of Peachtree Ridge’s season opener against McEachern. The 25-yard catch set up the game’s winning field goal.

“It was a nice play,” he said.

Peachtree Ridge finished the season 6-4 and missed the playoffs for the first time in four years.

“I played all right, but there’s some things I can work on,” Watley said. “I just want to get stronger, bigger and faster. I need to train harder.”

While many players in the all-star game are still deciding their college future, Watley selected his this summer when he chose South Carolina.

After posting 24 tackles and seven sacks as a junior, Watley picked the SEC runner-up over Marshall.

“It took some pressure off so I could focus on the season, focus on the team,” Watley said.

Watley is being recruited to play defensive tackle in college. Right now, he’s an undersized lineman. A big frame with long arms, Watley has to potential to grow into the position.

“He’s got some talent and got some upside to him,” Ballard said. “I think what they see in him is he has a real quick step off the ball.”

But Watley isn’t opposed to playing tight end at the next level.

“With my quickness off the ball, I think I can help the defense a lot,” Watley said. “I’ve got lot a skills on offense, so I can help them wherever they need help at.”

It’s that same quickness that has helped him in the all-star practices this week and will carry him to the next level.

“I was thinking about it and how I can improve for the next level,” Watley said. “I just need to get bigger, stronger and faster.”