Projected top players by position: Sprayberry RB seeks breakout season
It could be that the best running back in Georgia is a senior with barely 1,200 yards rushing for his career. Runners such as J.D. King of Fitzgerald and Dameon Pierce of Bainbridge had nearly twice that in 2015 alone.
Yet there’s a reason that Trey Sermon of Sprayberry is rated the No. 10 running-back prospect nationally, and that his high school numbers haven’t been all that, yet.
As a sophomore, Sermon backed up another college recruit and rushed for only about 750 yards. (Herschel Walker had a very similar sophomore season in a feature-back offense at Johnson County.)
As a junior, Sermon was done after only three games. He suffered a broken bone in his back in game two, stayed in the game, then played sparingly the next week until the severity of the injury was known.
Still, Sermon rushed for 466 yards and seven touchdowns in less than three games.
“I believe he would’ve challenged for a 2,000-yard season had he not got hurt,” Sprayberry coach Billy Shackelford said. “He had over 200 yards and three touchdowns in one game with a broken back. That tells you what kind of player he is.”
Sermon, now committed to Oklahoma, is ready for his senior season, a chance to show Georgia what college coaches discovered the past two summers.
“I expect him to have a huge season,” Shackelford said. “Very excited for him and the entire Yellow Jacket football family. It’s not too often you have a player of his caliber. He looks the part. I’ve been to several of the SEC spring practices to see their guys, and Trey could step into an SEC locker room right now physically.”
Our series on the top players at each position continues today with running backs. The choices are made based on what is expected of them as high school players this season and not strictly their college prospects.
*Lyn-J Dixon, Taylor County (5-10, 175): Dixon rushed for 1,380 yards on 156 carries for a 3-7 team. Dixon also had 460 yards receiving and 2,279 all-purpose yards and scored 23 touchdowns. Dixon has offers from Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. He’s rated the No. 24 running back nationally among juniors, though only fifth in Georgia.
*Sheldon Evans, Roswell(5-10, 210): Evans is the all-time leading rusher at a program that dates to the 1950s. He ran for 1,777 yards on 274 carries last season for the Class AAAAAA runner-up. Evans is rated the No. 104 senior prospect in Georgia. Evans has about 25 offers, most from mid-major programs such as Georgia Southern, but Evans is high on Minnesota and Illinois.
*Ton Evans, Northgate (5-8, 175): Evans has a great name, but he doesn’t weigh a ton. Instead, he relies on what his coach Tommy Walburn says is “tremendous vision, balance and strength.” Evans rushed for 1,904 yards and 23 touchdowns on 23 carries for a 12-2 Class AAAAA semifinalist. Evans is committed to Georgia Southern.
*Rico Frye, Creekside (5-10, 185): Frye, a transfer from Starr’s Mill, rushed for 1,726 yards and 25 touchdowns last season. Frye reportedly went to Creekside to find an offense more suited to him. He is rated the No. 27 Georgia prospect among juniors. He’s the No. 9 running-back prospect nationally in 2018, according to 247Sports.
*J.D. King, Fitzgerald (5-11, 205): The state’s leading rusher in 2015, King rushed for 2,432 yards and 33 touchdowns on 341 carries. He had 1,559 yards rushing as a sophomore. Though he’s the leading returning rusher in the state on perhaps the odd’s-on favorite to win Class AA, King is rated the No. 90 overall prospect in Georgia. He is committed to Oklahoma State.
*Zay Malcome, Westminster (5-4, 160): Malcome rushed for 1,642 yards for Class AAA champion Westminster. His 3,863 career yards are the school record. Malcome has scored touchdowns rushing (38), receiving (three), returning punts (five) and returning kickoffs (three). He has thrown a TD pass. He has offers from Princeton, Harvard, Penn and the service academies, among others.
*Dameon Pierce, Bainbridge (5-11, 205): Pierce, an Alabama commit, is the highest-rated running-back prospect among Georgia juniors. He’s pegged at No. 3 nationally at the position. Pierce rushed for 2,060 yards and 34 touchdowns on 308 carries for a 13-1 team that lost to champion Cartersville in the Class AAAA semifinals.
*Trey Sermon, Sprayberry (6-0, 200): Sermon is the top-rated running-back prospect in Georgia, ranked No. 10 nationally. In 2015, he suffered a broken bone in his back during the first half of the second game. He finished the game and played sparingly the next week. In that limited time, he rushed for 466 yards and seven touchdowns and had 14 catches for 125 yards and a touchdown. He even had 11 tackles and a sack on defense. Sermon is committed to Oklahoma.
*Lofton Tidwell, Landmark Christian (5-11, 210): Tidwell, a power runner, rushed for 1,804 yards as a junior. His all-purpose yards were 2,679, and he scored 23 touchdowns. He was the Region 5-A player of the year. Tidwell has offers from Davidson and Stetson and strong interest from several Division I schools, including Georgia, Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern.
*Colby Wood, Jefferson (5-9, 177): Wood rushed for 2,119 yards and 32 touchdowns on 322 carries for a 10-2 team as a sophomore. He had another 203 yards receiving. He was the AJC’s offensive player of the year in Class AAA (over Mecole Hardman). Wood has 41 career touchdowns. With his size, Wood has not emerged as a Division I prospect yet, but he was the first RB picked for the annual Rising Seniors Game.
Coming Thursday: Wide receivers
Produced by Georgia High School Football Daily, a free e-mail newsletter. To join the mailing list, click here.