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July 8, 2002

One-stop shopping in Louisiana

SEC Spotlight - bar normal

As head coach of one of Louisiana's most successful programs, J.T. Curtis has seen his fair share of talent come through the locker room over the years.

Seldom has he seen so much march through at one time, though, and that spells bad news for John Curtis Christian opponents and good news for college recruiters doing a little one-stop shopping.

"We've had a lot of great players here over the years," Curtis said of the Patriot program, which has won over 300 games and claimed 17 state championships in its 33-year existence. "But I don't know if we've ever had this many all-around athletes being recruited at the high Division I level. It's really incredible."

Need proof? For starters, check out the actions of Colorado and Oklahoma State. Both the Buffaloes and Cowboys have offered scholarships to six -- count 'em, six -- JCC players and may eventually extend offers to as many as eight.

"I've never had that happen before," Curtis said. "That kind of blows your mind when programs like that are wanting six of your kids. You see them offer scholarships to two, maybe three, sometimes, but never anything like that."

One of the players on everyone's list -- and arguably the most gifted Patriot -- is already claimed. Offensive lineman Jerry Sevin gave a verbal commitment to LSU in June.

"As far as offensive linemen go, I don't know if you could find a better prospect," Curtis said of the 6-foot-2, 295-pound Sevin. "He's going to be a great center or guard. He has great feet and really runs well. He came in and started as a freshman for us, and there's just not many kids who have ever been able to do that here."

Sevin has allowed only one sack in his 43-game career and averaged 6.9 pancake blocks per game as both a sophomore and junior.

On the opposite side of the ball, the Patriots feature three of the most sought-after defensive linemen in Louisiana. Jerrod Carter, Carnell Stewart and Ryan Watson form the heart of a veritable prep "Steel Curtain." The trio helped spearhead a 30-0 romp over Baker High School last year in the Class 4A championship at the Superdome.

"I've never had three guys that good at that position," Curtis said. "It's hard to find defensive linemen, so it's very unusual to have three with their kind of talent. They're almost interchangeable. The only real difference is Carnell (6-5, 295) has a couple of inches on Jerrod (6-3, 290) and Ryan (6-3, 290). Other than that, they look and play about the same."

Stewart, who also stars for the JCC basketball team, is blessed with great athleticism.

"He's exactly what you'd draw up for a defensive end," Curtis said. "He's got speed off the corner to go along with that big frame. That's the reason everybody wants him. And I mean everybody."

Carter and Watson have deep family roots in the Patriot program.

"Carter's dad played for me at linebacker in 1977," Curtis said. "Watson's brother was a running back here a few years ago. He was 5-11, 200 just like him before he started growing. I never dreamed he'd grow so big."

Carter had 55 tackles and eight sacks as a junior. Watson tallied 80 tackles and 15 sacks.

"Jerrod's really starting to rise," Curtis said. "I think he's up to 13 or 14 offers now."

Both of JCC's inside linebackers are also drawing interest. Mike Snyder and Chris Bua easily clean up what the Patriots' talented defensive line leaves for them.

"Mike is a true inside linebacker, a real physical kid who covers the whole field with a lot of speed. He's a sideline-to-sideline kid," Curtis said. "Chris plays inside linebacker for us, but probably projects as an outside linebacker. He has really good speed (sub 4.7) and plays great pass defense. He's strike you, too."

Bua's brother, Tony, is a junior at Arkansas. He is expected to start at outside linebacker for the Razorbacks this season.

Both Snyder and Bua are also all-around athletes, forming a strong cather-pitcher duo for the Patriots' state champion baseball team.

Another name to watch this season is Chris Bush, who shared time at running back last season with two other premier players, but still managed to rush for more than 1,400 yards.

"I feel really good about his potential," Curtis said. "He's a kid who was told he was going to go to the NBA when he was 12 or 13 years old playing AAU basketball, but he's starting to learn how much potential he has in football. Texas A&M sent him a letter the other day. I think that really rubbed off on him."

Bush is 6-1, 195 pounds and runs a 4.5 forty. And he's still growing and getting stronger.

"I think he'll be a 210, 215-pound tailback for somebody in college with a whole lot of speed and wiggle," Curtis said. "He has great vision, good moves and he'll run through tackles against good football teams. I'm really enjoying watching him develop."

Curtis also points to defensive back Jason Cortez as a player with the potential to be a major sleeper.

"The knock on him is that he's 5-7, 170 pounds," Curtis said, "but he's as good an athlete and as competitive a kid as I've ever coached. Whoever gets him, people are going to look back and say 'Where did he come from?'"

Despite his size, Cortez plays strong safety for the Patriots.

"He will hit you," Curtis said. "He's a phenomenal mix of strength and speed, explosion. The kid's doing a 310 power clean at 5-7, 170 pounds."

Last but not least is the Patriots' kicker, Chris Jackson, who also doubles as their steady quarterback.

"He's been a kicker his whole life, but decided to try quarterback his sophomore year," Curtis said. "Thank goodness he did because our starting quarterback broke his collarbone. All Chris did was step in and lead us to a 14-1 record and the state championship.

"But kicking is what will get him to college, that and baseball. He's going to play both wherever he goes. He's really got a live leg. He can always kick the ball out of the end zone on kickoffs or drop it between the 5-yard line and the goal line inside the hashmarks. We don't kick a whole lot of field goals, but I have no problem letting him kick from 52, 53 yards out. He's hit from as far as 57 before.

"I think in time he can develop into one of the best kickers in the country. He's a pressure guy. I think a lot of that comes from playing in the state baseball championship, looking at an 0-2 count and drilling it out of the park. Or in football, facing a third-and-12 when you have to make a play to keep your team alive in the playoffs. You can't rattle him."

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