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December 14, 2006

Shrine Bowl A Who's Who of Football Prospects

This season, the 70th Annual Shrine Bowl will feature a bit of everything for the casual football fan.

Fans of the spread it out and air it out scheme on offense will take kindly to the South Carolina roster, while fans of smash-mouth football will side with North Carolina.

Regardless, all the pieces are there for a classic bout when the two teams meet Saturday at 1 p.m. in Wofford's Gibbs Stadium. 

It is no secret that the South Carolina Shrine Bowl roster reads like a Who's Who of offensive talent. For starters, look no further than the quarterbacks that the Sandlappers have this year—Byrnes' Willy Korn and Greenville's Matt Lentz, both of whom have already committed to their respective schools.  With those two under center, it's no secret that pigskins will light up the sky.

Especially, when you throw into the mix the likes of Broome wide receiver Markish Jones, Conway receiver Junior Hemingway and T.L. Hanna's Cameron Ford.

While Lake View head coach Jewell McLaurin might be the head coach of the South Carolina team, and several assistants come from teams that primarily run the football, fans should have no qualms over whether or not the Sandlappers will air it out.

According to McLaurin, the decision to pick Lentz and Korn were no-brainers. Korn, a Clemson commitment, is rated as the number three quarterback in the nation by Rivals.com, and he threw for 3,500 yards this past season. Lentz threw for 2,700 yards and 34 touchdowns while also rushing for over 1,000 yards. Lentz recently committed to Kentucky.

"Both are great quarterbacks," said McLaurin. "There are other great quarterbacks in the state so it was a tough decision. These guys run similar offenses at Greenville and Byrnes, so we felt like that would be easy to adjust to either one of them."

Fans of the run offense will be pleased to know that South Carolina's line-up will feature T.L. Hanna's Brian Maddox, Crestwood's Joe Fitzgerald, Carver's Bay's Malcolm Elder and Newberry's Sanchez Gartman.

"We have an outstanding group of backs. They're tough runners," McLaurin said.

Defensively, the Sandlappers will be led by Blythewood linebacker Charles White, Cheraw defensive end Cliff Matthews, Lake City defensive back Scotty Cooper, along with Richland Northeast defensive backs Mark Barnes and Gary Gray.

Asked about the defense, McLaurin said, "We seem to have a good secondary," he said. "It seems like all the players are highly recruited. We got some good defensive linemen and the linebackers move well. We've got some outstanding players and we're going to play against some outstanding players."

Why the South Carolina team will use an aerial assault, look for the North Carolina team, which is coached by Richmond County's Ed Emory, to line up and grind it right at the Sandlappers.

"We want to run the football – first. We're not ashamed," said Emory. "If we can't run, we can't win."

The leading bruising back for the Tarheels is University of North Carolina commitment Ryan Houston, who stands 6-feet-2-inches tall and weighs 250 pounds. The Butler High School star rushed for close to 2,200 yards and 32 touchdowns this year. Also in the mix is J.H. Rose's Jonathan Williams, who went for over 3,000 yards and was named the MVP of the Class AAAA state championship game, and Tommy Henry, who enters with over 7,000 career rushing yards.

Calling the plays will be both J.T. Hoggard's Brandon Miley and West Stanley's Quantavius Sturdivant, both of whom will look to guide North Carolina to another win in the series.

Defensively, one name that fans might hear a lot is that of linebacker Melvin Ingram, who has committed to the University of South Carolina. However,

NCPreps.com and Adam Powell from CarolinaBlue.com both reported this week that Ingram has an official visit scheduled with UNC in January. According to the story, "Ingram, who has claimed a scholarship offer from North Carolina, has been contacted by UNC linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen, who wants him to take in the Chapel Hill experience on an official visit before coming to a firm conclusion as to where he decides to go to school." The story went on to mention that the University of South Carolina is a place "where I feel like I can spend the next four years."

Another top defender is Clemson comittment Marcus Gilchrist, who will play in the Army High School All-American Game in San Antonio, Texas next month.



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