Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Division I Coffey Talk Recruiters Flock to Raines

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Division I Coffey Talk Recruiters Flock to Raines

Article excerpt

When The Bolles School placed nine players into Division I-A football programs in 1997, it was said that Jacksonville would never see such a number from one school again.

So far, it hasn't.

But only two years later, Raines is making a valiant run at it.

The Vikings likely will send six or seven players into the Division I-A ranks on national signing day, Feb. 3, plus several more into Division I-AA and below.

It's a total that ranks among the highest in the nation.

"Hardly ever," said Allen Wallace, editor of SuperPrep Magazine, when asked how often one school has up to seven players sign Division I-A. "Dallas Carter comes to mind as a school with that kind of reputation. But six is a lot even for that school.

"In the most outstanding talent-producing schools, most years, you're lucky to see four, and two of them are usually borderline [Division I] players," Wallace added.

No one is more in touch with how unique Raines' senior class is than head coach Welton Coffey.

"At one time, I was getting up to 12 calls [from college coaches] a day," Coffey said. "And that's not counting the ones that visit the school personally. It's hectic, but it's a good hectic. It means the kids are getting great opportunities. I'd rather get 12 calls a day than none."

Topping the wish list at Raines -- until his commitment to Florida ended his recruitment -- was cornerback Lito Sheppard.

"Before I committed, it was 12, 15 calls a night," Sheppard said. "And as late as 11, 12 at night. It was tough."

Running back DeJuan Green has committed to Georgia. Maurice Harris, Derrick Gaffney, Thornton Chandler and Kevin Youngblood -- all of whom will sign Division I-A -- remain undecided.

Defensive end Corey Brown could make a seventh Division I-A signee -- he is considering I-A Mississippi State and Central Florida, and I-AA BethuneCookman and Florida A&M. Beyond that, six other Vikings seniors are possible small-college signees, including linebacker Jason Grace, who already has committed to FAMU.

"I am amazed by it," Youngblood said. "I could see when I was a freshman that there were a bunch of great players, but I didn't imagine it would blow up like it has."

Does Coffey believe he will ever coach this much talent in a senior class again?

"There's such an abundance of talent in the Northwest quadrant, I think we could see that much talent on this side of town again, but at one school? I have to doubt it. This is an extraordinary year."

The most intriguing recruitment at Raines has been that of Youngblood. The 6-foot-5, 205-pound receiver went largely unrecruited until November, months after his teammates began attracting attention.

Two factors worked against Youngblood: 1) He broke his collarbone as a junior, and 2) He was regarded as a track athlete more than as a football player. …

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