Football season is three months away, but one couldn’t tell by watching the players at Liberty County High School go at each other Monday during their first day of spring practice.
It also helps when coaches from the University of Florida and Notre Dame are watching practice.
“The kids turn it up an extra notch when college coaches are there,” LCHS assistant coach and offensive coordinator Ryan Glazer said. “It’s kind of like a game where the players play and go hard the whole time, compared to a practice where sometimes a player might not go as hard as he can occasionally.”
Glazer said a lot of college coaches have visited the school the past two weeks, and more were set to visit during spring practice. He said representatives from Alabama, Clemson, University of Georgia, University of Miami, Michigan and Ohio State have dropped by the school.
On Monday, Notre Dame assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Bob Diaco stood on the sidelines along with Fighting Irish tight-ends coach Scott Booker, Florida defensive-backs coach Travaris Robinson and Gators linebackers coach DJ Durkin.
While most come to watch Raekwon McMillan, a highly rated recruit and Georgia’s No. 1 prospect from the class of 2014, Glazer said other up-and-coming Panthers are benefitting and being scouted as well.
“Jeremy Caldwell-Fabregas has received a ton of interest from schools,” Glazer said, adding that Ole Miss, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Missouri and Middle Tennessee State have taken note of the 6-foot, 1-inch incoming senior who played linebacker, defensive end and running back last season.
Fabregas had seven carries for 20 yards and 21 receptions for 454 yards and seven touchdowns last year. Defensively, he had 70 solo tackles, 25 assists, eight tackles for loss and five sacks. He also had two interceptions for 39 yards.
Other players entering scouts’ radar are sophomore Jacari Roberts and senior Kharn Collier-Ellison.
Glazer said Roberts had an impressive freshman season last year, much like McMillan did before bursting into the national ranks during his sophomore and junior years.
McMillan, Fabregas and Ellison have emerged as true leaders, Glazer said, displaying great work ethics to the incoming freshman class and pushing their teammates to the next level of play.
“This has been one of the best and most productive off-seasons we have had,” Glazer said. “Our guys have been putting the work in before and after school.”
While they anticipate a few more prospects to come out during summer, Glazer said about 90 players are attending the two-week spring-practice session.
In addition to McMillan, Fabregas and Ellison, Jonathan Britton, Tyler Leverette, Tim Dobson, Anthony Stewart and DaShawn Hudson are returning to the Panthers’ defense.
Ellison also will play on the offensive line with returning starters Chandre Mells and Jacob Mackrill. Under center will be returning quarterback Jordan Waters. Running backs Jordan Moody and Trentice Williams and wide receiver Myles Philpott are coming back, and Glazer said McMillan will get some time on offensive, as will Fabregas.
Other positions are open for competition. Glazer said there are a few freshman and sophomores who show great potential. Also, the team is getting back players who sat out last season due to injuries. One of those returning from injury is Paris Boles, who started at wide receiver his sophomore season but sat out last season due to a torn knee ligament.
“He is the fastest player on our team,” Glazer said. “Ja’Marques Latson, an incoming junior, is a running back who didn’t play last year, but was the starter for the (junior varsity) squad his freshman season.”
Glazer said the future is bright for the Panthers, with eighth-graders Richard LeCounte and Tracy White displaying similar athleticism that McMillan displayed during his earlier developing years.
“Richard LeCounte was already getting talked about after one day of practice from some of the coaches there,” Glazer said. “Basketball players Freddie McSwain, Stefon Walker and Xavier Tunstall have been working out with us all off-season and were out there Monday for spring practice. Freddie and Stefon are working at wide-receiver spots, and Xavier is working at defensive back and all three stood out after day one of practice.”
Having Division I coaches on the sideline probably added to the hyped-up first day, which goes back to McMillan and his meteoric rise nationally.
In his sophomore season, he posted 84 tackles and 16 tackles for loss, was selected to 247sports’ 2014 All-American team — the only player from Georgia selected — and was named a first-team MaxPreps’ 2011 U.S. Air Force sophomore All-American.
Last season, McMillan had 128 solo tackles, 23 assists, seven sacks for 48 yards lost, 10 quarterback hurries, five forced fumbles, one interception and one fumble recovery. He is ranked 189th in the nation in tackles and sixth in Georgia. On offense, he had 49 carries for 316 yards and nine touchdowns.
He was selected as the Class AAAA defensive player of the year by the Georgia Sportswriters Association, the 3-AAAA South All-Region defensive player of the year and Liberty County High School’s Coastal Courier player of the year. He also was named to the second-team defense of the 2012 American Family Insurance All-USA High School Football Team, according to USA Today. McMillan represented the East team in the 2012 RisingSeniors.com Bowl, held in late December in Atlanta. The game featured 95 of the state’s top high-school juniors, according to the bowl’s website.
In April, he was named to the initial roster of the 2014 Under Armour game.
With more than 20 Division I offers, McMillan plans to announce his commitment during the game to be held in January. Ohio State, Clemson, Auburn, Georgia and Florida State have been at the top of his list, with the Buckeyes holding a slight advantage.
McMillan recently made his fourth visit to Columbus, Ohio, and Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer visited LCHS in January.