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*It's only December, but already some of the top recruits in the Class of 2007 are beginning to pick up offers. One of the top players in Maryland next year will be dual-threat quarterback Joe Haden out of Friendly High. A 5-11, 185 pounder, Haden already has received written offers from North Carolina, Virginia and Rutgers, and another verbal offer from Marshall.
Haden emerged on the scene at Friendly as a sophomore in 2004, throwing for 2,167 yards and 16 touchdowns. This past spring, Haden showed his athleticism at the NIKE Camp in State College, where he recorded a very impressive SPARQ Rating of 86.22 on the strength of a 4.46 40 time and a 36.4-inch vertical jump.
"His goal is to eclipse the 100 mark for the SPARQ Rating this year at a NIKE Camp," says Haden's father Joe Sr.
If his recent training results keep up, Haden should have a great chance to reach his goal. He's currently benching 27 reps of 185 pounds compared to the 16 he did last year at the NIKE Camp and also ran two sub 4.4 40s at both North Carolina's and Virginia's camp this past summer.
But besides the testing results, Haden is a big-time player on the field as well. This fall, the junior hit 102 of 155 passes for 1,959 yards with 22 touchdowns and just five interceptions. The speedster also rushed 52 times for 478 yards and six more scores while also contributing 60 tackles and two interceptions as a safety on the Friendly defense.
Two other juniors to watch at Friendly are 6-0, 180 pound wide receiver Vincent Hill, who ran a 4.70 40 at last year's NIKE Camp, and 5-10, 185 pound RB/DB Rakeem Vick. Also keep an eye out down the road for Haden's younger brother Joshua, who just finished his sophomore season. A 5-9, 185 pound running back, Joshua Haden clocked 4.43 in the 40 at Virginia's camp last summer.
*Kernersville (N.C.) East Forsyth forged a 5-5 record this fall and have high hopes for 2006. One reason is the return of 6-1, 255 pound defensive lineman Calvin Cunningham, who head coach Todd Willert feels is a legit D-I prospect.
Cunningham had a banner junior season playing inside, recording 87 tackles, 18 tackles for loss and three sacks. "He's very quick inside with great feet and strength," says Willert of his playmaking lineman.
Other top returnees for the Eagles include DE/OLB KeyShawn Hairston (6-1, 195), QB/ATH Kenny Swab (6-1, 180) and LB Travis Tate.
*After two early season losses, the Etiwanda (Calif.) Eagles slumped to a 3-7 record last fall. Coach Stephen Bryce hopes for better results next fall and one reason why will be the return of disruptive 6-2, 280 pound defensive tackle Marcus Austin. Austin had 92 tackles and nine sacks last fall and has the type of skills that could make him a Pac-10 level recruit.
On the other side of the ball, big 6-4, 320 pound Jake Knesel will be back to anchor the offensive line, and watch out for Class of 2008 prospect Marvin Jones at wide receiver. The 6-3, 190 pounder led the team in receiving as a sophomore with 19 catches for 387 yards and three scores.
*With a nickname like "Mo", a player better be legit, but 6-3, 190 pound Trevor "Mo" Holler of Columbia (S.C.) Flora can back up the name. This fall the junior caught 45 passes for 702 yards and nine touchdowns while also registering six interceptions as a safety on the defensive side of the ball. He also has the bloodlines, as Mo's father Ed played for the Green Bay Packers. Nicknames also run in the family - Ed Holler's nickname? Punky.
If you are a coach or parent that would like to get a top junior involved with the NIKE Camps, NIKE Combines or Elite 11 Quarterback events, or featured on the Junior to Watch Blog, email Brian Stumpf if you are located in the Eastern or Central part of the country (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Greg Biggins (email@example.com) if you are in the West.