The 2012 quarterback from Plant City, Fla., was suspended from the Plant City High School football team earlier this month for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
“It wasn’t nothing big,” Coney said of the infraction, an in-house issue that led to Raiders head coach Wayne Ward dismissing him from the team. “I guess he had got tired of it.”
At first, it seemed like Coney might try to transfer somewhere else to play his senior season, but Coney and Ward have smoothed things out and he will return to play his senior season there in 2011.
“Me and my coach, we’re good,” Coney said. “My coach is cool. We talk every day. We’ve still got our relationship.”
Coney was suspended for a game earlier this season and took it as a learning experience. He’s doing that again this time. This sounds like a case of a kid learning how to become a man and Coney is taking the necessary steps to mature.
“I’m actually learning from it,” he said. “Learning that I’ve got to make better choices and not let everything get to me.”
His coach has been in contact with college coaches to explain what happened and it’s doubtful that even a school like Notre Dame would view the incident as an infraction that would cause them to drop Coney from its radar. Coney is still interested in the Irish and, although they haven’t offered, they lead along with Florida State.
But Coney isn’t worried about himself right now.
“I want my teammates to know how sorry I am,” he said. “It ain’t all about me all of the time. I just want to let them know I’m deeply sorry for the position I put them in by messing up.”
It’s extremely important to the 6-foot-2, 205-pound quarterback to gain the forgiveness of his teammates.
“We’re all friends, but we don’t call each other friends,” he said. “We call each other brothers. We break every day, ‘Family!’ I consider them all family to me.”
While Coney is taking the necessary steps to improve himself for himself, his “brothers” provide another source of inspiration.
“I’m going to be a better person so that they can trust me again,” he said. “I’m making adjustments so that I feel welcome. They’re the ones helping me get to the next level. It’s not just about the coaches. It starts with them. If they do good, I get looked at. If I do good, they get looked at. It’s not all about me, it’s about them too.”
Coney finishes his junior season with 1,159 passing yards, 12 touchdowns tosses and eight interceptions while rushing for another 363 yards and five touchdowns on 48 carries. The Raiders were able to win their first two games without Coney and he will continue supporting them away from the field until he can rejoin them on it.
“I just can’t wait,” he said. “I’m working, trying to get this attitude right so I can get back on the field.” He might not agree with the severity of the punishment, but Bennie Coney is going to learn from it.
Antonio Richardson’s plans for his final season of high school football have changed, but his approach to the college recruiting process remains status quo.
The 6-foot-6, 310-pound offensive tackle from Nashville is considered the best prospect in Tennessee by many, but his days on the high school gridiron appear to be over. Over the weekend, Ensworth Academy confirmed that Richardson has withdrawn from school. He is considering Pearl Cohn High School in Nashville along with several other schools.
Richardson’s father, Lanny, told Tennessean.com that the reason for the move is purely academic.
“I'm trying to make sure his GPA is solid for college and the clearinghouse -- that everything is in place,” Lanny told the paper. “It's a difficult academic atmosphere at Ensworth.”
Ensworth head coach Ricky Bowers released a statement following his team’s 41-29 upset over top-ranked Baylor on Friday night, a game Richardson didn’t travel to.
“We love Antonio and we have enjoyed his contribution to the school in the classroom, on the athletic field and in the community,” Bowers said. “We support him whatever decision he makes.”
State transfer rules would prevent Richardson from being eligible to play for a year, basically ending his high school career unless he has a change of residence appeal approved.
He has been nursing ankle and shoulder injuries, but his father said that there was nothing severe. As for the recruiting process, Lanny said that his son is still considering all of his more than 25 scholarship offers, including Notre Dame.
“We’re staying open-minded, appreciative and grateful to all of the schools that have given Antonio offers,” the elder Richardson said. “We’re trying to give everybody an even chance. We’re just trying to see where he’s comfortable and who’s more equipped to address his needs and where the best place will be for him to spend his college career.
“Right now we’re just considering every one of his offers. We don’t think it would be fair for us to disregard anybody at this point. We’re going to try to find the right fit and take our time with the process.”
Richardson has taken unofficial visits to Notre Dame, Alabama, Vanderbilt and was in Knoxville this past weekend for the Tennessee-Alabama game. Both Richardsons enjoyed their trip to South Bend over the summer.
“Just the tradition. We’d never been on campus and never been near Notre Dame,” Lanny said. “If you’re an American, you’ve heard of Notre Dame. How could you be in America and not have heard of Notre Dame? It was an experience.
“He was impressed, I was impressed. It was like the place you always see on TV. Here you are, you’re traveling around this campus and talking to people. He was just taking it all in. He went up Touchdown Jesus and all of that stuff. It was quite an experience.”
The Richardsons don’t plan on making any official visits for another month or so, but the Irish are pushing to be included on the itinerary.
“We talk to the guys regularly, at least once a week,” Lanny said of the Irish staff. “They call us once a week and every now and then, we call them.
“They told us that they want us to come back for an official and they want to stay fresh in our minds and always let us know that Antonio would be a good fit for their program. They’re still interested and they want him to come for an official.”
Even if Notre Dame doesn’t receive an official visit, Lanny expects to be back on the Notre Dame campus again.
“The ones we can’t do for officials, we’ll go on our own,” he said, noting that South Bend is a likely destination.
USC, UCLA, Oklahoma, Georgia, Auburn, LSU, Tennesse, Kansas, Louisville and Miami are also on the list of possible visits.
Prior to withdrawing from Ensworth, Richardson received his invitation to play in January’s U.S. Army All-American Game.
“That was an honor to have him be elected to the U.S. Army All-American team,” Lanny said. “He enjoyed that day and after that day was over, he had an understanding that it was time to go back to work. I’ve told him since he was a little bitty boy that if you want something, you’ve got to keep hacking at it.
“You’ve got to outwork the next man. You can never be satisfied with your work ethic, you’ve got to keep working. He’s learned that and he’s just working and he’s getting better and better and better. As long as you working at it and you’ve got it heart that you’re going to do it, you’re going to do it. But if you think you can give half-effort and stuff like that, it’s not going to work for you. He understands that.”
Right now, Antonio is working on pulling his grades up. Soon, he’ll add working on getting on a collegiate field to the load.
Head coach Phil Annarella (Austintown, Ohio\Austintown Fitch) hadn’t coached a Div. 1 football player in quite some time. He knew that was all about to change three years ago when he watched, then junior high star, Will Mahone run the football.
“You could just see he was an excellent athlete then,” said Annarella. “I knew he had loads of potential. (He was) such a versatile athlete. I remember him running the ball and being impressed with how hard he ran for an 8th Grader.”
That potential Coach Annarella saw in the now 6-foot-0, 205-pound athlete has blossomed into fruition. Mahone stars at running back, outside linebacker, and returns kicks for the 8-0 Falcons.
“He’s a natural,” said Annarella. “He’s great in all aspects of the game. He goes both ways for us, and has come up with some big interceptions that he took back for scores. He’s also returned two kick-offs for touchdowns. He’s meant a lot to our success. He’s got a knack for showing up in big games.”
Schools from across the nation have taken notice of the multitalented game changer. Cincinnati has already offered a scholarship to play running back, while other programs across the nation are starting to turn up the heat in his recruitment.
“I’m getting a lot of letters from Boston College, Oregon, Ohio State, Syracuse, Wisconsin, Alabama, Texas A&M, LSU, Iowa, Tennessee, USC, and Notre Dame,” recited Mahone. “Actually, when Brian Kelly was at Cincinnati, they sent me a camp invite when I was a sophomore. (Notre Dame) is interested.”
Mahone already has a list of schools he’d like to communicate more with.
“I’d like to hear more from Texas and Notre Dame,” said Mahone. “I want to see what Oregon’s offering, and maybe some other schools like Florida and Miami. I’ve seen videos on Oregon, and I really like their facilities, and the way they play really jumps out at me when I watch their stuff on youtube. Texas was my favorite team growing up. That’s why I like them. The rest of those schools have great tradition, and have shown a lot of interest in me early. So that’s why I’d like to take a visit and check them out.”
The 205-pound athlete has a checklist of things he will be looking for in his future college.
“Playing time is going to be important for me,” said Mahone. “I want to be able to make an impact as soon as I get on campus. I’ll also be looking at the facilities and academics. I also want to see how I get along with the players and coaches. I mean you hear about the kind of stuff that happened with (Mike) Leach at Texas Tech. I want to avoid something like that if I can.”
When Mahone makes his decision on a final destination, distance won’t be a factor.
“Leaving the state (of Ohio) is a real possibility for me,” said Mahone. “I just want to get out and see the country, so going away could be a good thing. Plus, it’s just me and my mom. So if I did leave, she’d probably come out there with me.”
Whatever school gets Mahone will truly be getting an athlete that has a variety of positions he can play at the next level.
“Most schools are recruiting me to play running back, but Ohio State likes me on defense,” said Mahone. “I went to the Nike camp in Columbus and worked out at linebacker and did pretty well. This year on defense I’ve had three interceptions, and one of those I returned for a touchdown. I’ve also forced four fumbles.”
Mahone has been no slouch on offense this year either.
“I’m not sure about my yards, but I’ve rushed for four touchdowns, caught a pass for a touchdown, and returned two kicks for touchdowns. I like to think of myself as kind of a bounce back running back. Maybe like DeMarco Murray at Oklahoma.”
Mahone has a bench press of 275 pounds, a squat of 445 pounds, and runs a 4.65 (40 yard dash).
He carries a 3.2 GPA and took the ACT for the first time this week.
Success in college football prompts a question similar to the chicken and the egg debate. What comes first, wins or recruiting success? Can a team win without great talent and bring in top recruits or must a program bring in top recruits to win? Whatever the proper answer is, Dan Mullen and his Mississippi State Bulldogs are doing both right now.
After going into the Swamp and beating Florida, Mullen accepted the commitments of two teammates at Mississippi power South Panola High School in Batesville. Nickalos Brassell is a 6-foot-0, 180-pound wide receiver that is a pure speed threat at this point. Brassell will have to work on his route-running skills, but you cannot teach the speed that he possesses. As a junior, Brassell caught 62 passes for 1,272 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Brassell committed to Mississippi State this past Sunday, decided the next day to his commitment back up, then re-committed to the Bulldogs on Tuesday. Among the schools that he considered were Alabama, Ole Miss, USC, and Oklahoma, so this was obviously a big get for Mississippi State, assuming that they can hold onto him until signing day.
Mississippi State was not considered the leader for Brassell until they offered his good friend Kendrick Market, who immediately accepted the offer. Market is a 5-foot-10, 185-pound athlete that could wind up at receiver but will probably start out in the defensive backfield. He takes snaps in South Panola’s Wildcat formation and was first team All-State as named by the Clarion Ledger in 2009. Mississippi State was his first offer.
Wisconsin is another school that parlayed a big win into two commitments. Shortly after the Badgers victory over No. 1 Ohio State on Saturday, the Badgers found out that two Ohio natives would be making their way to Madison next year. Ray Ball is a huge, 6-foot-6, 320-pound offensive tackle from Westerville. Ball visited Wisconsin this past weekend and decided to end his recruitment after watching the Badger offensive line push around the Buckeyes defensive front. He held offers from Indiana, Kentucky, UCLA, and Michigan.
Wisconsin also corralled ESPN’s No. 3 fullback prospect. Trayion Durham is a 6-foot-0, 225-pounder from Cincinnati that also was in Madison for the festivities on Saturday night. With so many teams running spread offensive systems without a fullback, Durham saw in opportunity in the power system employed by Wisconsin. Boston College, Cincinnati, Louisiville, and Kentucky were some of his other offers.
Tennessee coach Derek Dooley is in the same spot Dan Mullen was at Mississippi State a year ago. The Volunteers are looking for any way to win a game while also trying to secure top quality commitments. In the past two weeks the Vols landed three three-star recruits that will provide some versatility. Both Tino Thomas from Memphis and Vincent Dallas of Ellenwood, Ga. are listed as athletes in the ESPN database.
Thomas is 5-foot-11, 189-pounds and projects as a safety even though he also stars as a running back at Melrose High School. He picked Tennessee over Mississippi State, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Duke. Dallas could also be a safety or he could play receiver for Tennessee. The 5-foot-11, 180-pounder will graduate high school in December and enroll at Tennessee in January. He picked the Volunteers over Florida and he also had offers from Auburn, Georgia Tech, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and West Virginia.
USC accepted the commitment of three-star defensive end Charles Burks from Huntington Beach, Calif. In 2009, the 6-foot-1, 225-pound Burks had 14 sacks and was named to several all-league and all-area teams. Burks chose the Trojans over Stanford, Duke, and San Diego State.
Michigan landed their highest ranked commitment of the year recently when Demetrius Finley of Orlando pledged to the Wolverines. ESPN’s No. 9 running back and No. 118 overall prospect is a quick, 5-foot-9, 189-pounder that is skilled at catching the ball out of the backfield. An All-Central Florida selection in 2009, Finley also looked at Alabama, Auburn, and Florida.
And while Mississippi State and Wisconsin received key commitments after big wins this past weekend, South Carolina received one the previous week following their victory over Alabama. Shon Carson, a 5-foot-8, 190-pound running back from Lake City, S.C., had 2,146 yards and 33 touchdowns in 2009 and has started the 2010 season with 790 yards and 16 touchdowns in his first five games. A top baseball prospect, Carson will also play for the defending national champion Gamecock baseball squad. Clemson, Alabama, Florida State, and Auburn were among his other offers.
As Notre Dame’s football staff turns at least part of their recruiting effort to the class of 2012, new and exciting names are beginning to emerge. And as is usual, these recruits of interest hail from all parts of the country. The Irish coaching staff has reached out to players all across the United States. No program in the nation recruits as nationally as does Notre Dame. Last week Irish Sports Daily talked to two young men from the western U.S., one from California and one from Colorado. The Irish have experienced some recent success in both of those areas. What have you been missing by not being a member of Irish Sports Daily?
Mark Urtz, ATH, 6-1, 192, Ontario Christian High School, Upland, CA was born a Notre Dame fan. His father, Kevin is a class of 1977 Irish alum and has always dreamed of his son going there. That love of Notre Dame has clearly been passed from father to son.
“I’ve always loved Notre Dame,” said the younger Urtz. “It’s just a great fit for me.”
Kevin Urtz exposed his son to the lore of the Irish very early on.
“When he was little he’d watch the games with me every week and he’d get right into it,” remember Kevin Urtz. “He’s always loved football and has always been a big fan of Notre Dame.”
However, Kevin understood the challenges that his son would face just getting into Notre Dame, let alone earning a football scholarship. He encouraged Mark to develop the self-discipline that would be necessary to gain entry to Notre Dame.
“I’d tell him how difficult it was to get in there and how hard it was with school,” said the elder Urtz. “And frankly, I’m not that big. I’m about five foot nine, so I didn’t expect him to be that big. To be quite honest it wasn’t something I held out to him as a real possibility, but he was pretty persistent.”
No one was more surprised than Kevin when Mark shot up to six feet one inches and put on the heft to be considered a major college football player. He probably is not surprised that his son currently carries a 3.72 grade point average. Mark’s skill on the field and in the classroom has earned him interest from several major college programs including Penn State, South Carolina, Washington State, Missouri, Oregon, UCLA, Florida State, San Diego State and most importantly of all, Notre Dame. Last week father and son took an unofficial visit to South Bend for the Pitt game and it proved to be everything the father remembered and the son dreamed of.
“The visit was amazing,” said the younger Urtz. “The game, the fans, just everything. I love the tradition and the academics there. I enjoyed touring the facilities and checking out the GUG. I like how they had all the weightlifting and nutrition information there to look at and how they tutor you and give you academic support.”
Urtz has been playing slot receiver, safety and linebacker for his 1-4 Ontario team. He has 14 receptions for 192 yards and has registered six tackles in limited defensive duty. He has also been working out at quarterback and is being tutored by former Florida State star Chris Rix. Urtz realizes though that his future lies at receiver or safety.
“Most schools are recruiting me at safety or slot receiver, but I prefer safety,” said Urtz.
Safety will represent a significant need for Notre Dame in the class of 2012 and Urtz hope the Irish come calling with an offer. If they do, he has absolutely no doubts about what he’ll do.
“If (Notre Dame) offered I’d commit,” said Urtz. “That’s where I want to go.”
Though Shane Callahan, OT, 6-6, 275, Chaparral High School, Parker, CO isn’t nearly as definite about his future choice of schools, he nonetheless possesses serious interest in Notre Dame. He made the trip to South Bend for the Pittsburgh game and was impressed by the visit.
“We watched the team walk from the church to the stadium, which was probably about the coolest thing I’ve ever seen,” recounted Callahan. “I’ve never seen a stadium so full. I’ve been to a lot of CU (University of Colorado) games and they’re not always that full and loud. It was really awesome.”
Callahan watched the Irish offensive line play and said he could see himself in the blue and gold.
“I definitely could see myself playing there,” he said. “They run a lot of spread and pass. Pass blocking is kind of my thing because I’m really long and lanky. I really enjoy that.”
Callahan head coach speaks very highly of his talented tackle. And Callahan definitely knows what it takes to play at the highest level. He has recently sent two tackles to major college programs, Jack Harris to Colorado and current senior Brendan Austin has verbally committed to play at Stanford. Vogt believes that Callahan can be as good or even better than either.
“Brendon is a good athlete, but Shane’s got great feet,” explained Vogt. “He’s also a basketball player and he can dunk a basketball. He runs up and down the floor and does real well there. He’s tough like Jack. Jack was real tough. So he’s got kind of both qualities. He might end up being the best of all three of them, but only time will tell on that one.”
Callahan has been receiving recruiting attention from a veritable who’s who of top college football programs. He’s been hearing from Colorado, from whom he holds his only offer, LSU, Nebraska, Auburn, Alabama, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Michigan, USC and Notre Dame. Though he doesn’t yet have a list of favorites, he says that Notre Dame will definitely be towards the top of the list. He also already has his priorities in place in what he’s looking for in a program.
“You can’t plan to always go to the next level,” Callahan explained. “You’ve got to have something to do when you’re done with football. I want a team that’ll win. Winning is more important. Just compete and win.”
These two summaries represent just a sample of the Notre Dame football recruiting information available each week on Irish Sports Daily.
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