It’s not fair to high school kids to compare them to All-Pro NFL players, but Lovejoy wide receiver Preston Williams leaves little choice.
Williams is 6 feet, 5 inches, and he’s the No. 1 wide-receiver prospect in Georgia. The last time those credentials came together so impressively was 10 years ago, when Calvin Johnson was a senior at Sandy Creek.
Johnson became an All-American at Georgia Tech and an NFL record-holder. Williams has committed to Tennessee.
“The guy is 6-foot-5, and he runs like a track star,’’ said Craig Chatman, Lovejoy’s former offensive coordinator, now at Lithia Springs. ‘’He can jump out of the gym, and he has a burning desire to succeed.’’
Williams is in fact a track star. Lovejoy’s new head coach, Edgar Carson, notes that Williams has personal bests of 24 feet, 2 inches in the long jump and 48-2 in the triple jump.
Carson, who replaced Al Hughes as Lovejoy’s head coach, was the defensive coordinator last season. He’s tried to stop him in scrimmages, without great success.
‘‘Coming from a defensive standpoint, he’s long, he’s able to get off the jam very well and he competes,’’ Carson said. “He’s one of the most athletic that we’ve ever had the opportunity to coach. Those are the matchup problems that he brings.’’
Williams is the most celebrated member of the AJC’s list of the 10 best wide receivers in Georgia high school football for the 2014 season. It’s a deep group. There are 13 receivers in 247Sports’ list of the top 100 recruits in Georgia, and that doesn’t include some on the AJC’s list that might not play the position in college.
McEachern’s T.J. Rahming, Greater Atlanta Christian’s Darius Slayton and Callaway’s Terry Godwin – who caught 30 touchdown passes among them last season - are rated on recruiting boards at other positions.
Godwin, a Georgia recruit, is rated the nation’s No. 1 “athlete” by Rivals, but he does more damage for Callaway at receiver. He also plays cornerback.
‘’He has great ball skills, probably the best that I’ve seen at the high school level,’’ Callaway coach Pete Wiggins said. “But with that, he is a tremendous blocker. We run the ball a lot, so many times you see him downfield stalk blockings. He brings a physicality to the game that makes him very special.’’
A similar player is Slayton. He’s rated the No. 25 cornerback nationally in 247Sports’ Composite rankings, but he is being recruited at receiver and corner by many schools. He had only 31 receptions last season – but for 940 yards (30.3 yards per catch) and eight touchdowns.
‘’He is a big-time receiver who is really explosive,’’ GAC coach Tim Hardy said. ‘’Has a special ability to go and get the ball. He’s pretty special once he gets it, as well.’’
One player on the list that almost certainly won’t play wide receiver in college is Matt Biondich of Northview. He’s an All-American in lacrosse, the sport in which he earned a scholarship to Army. Biondich is only 5-7, but he had more than 1,300 yards receiving in 2013.
Northview coach Chad Davenport said several Division 1 coaches have asked about Biondich after seeing film.
‘’He is smaller than normal but he has incredible speed and quickness,’’ Davenport said. “I have only seen him drop one ball in three years. He is a tremendous route-runner, and he is almost unguardable one on one. Ask any coach that played us and they will tell you how great he was.’’
But some on the list don’t have eye-popping statistics. Brad Stewart of Benedictine, Dexter Neal of Stephenson and Jayson Stanley of Creekside played in offenses more noted for rushing.
Stewart’s team, Benedictine, passed fewer than 10 times per game. Stewart had 44 tackles on defense.
‘’Brad rarely left the field,’’ said Benedictine coach Danny Britt. “He was double-covered at all times in an offense that threw the ball less than 10 times a game. Every defensive had to adjust to his abilities.’’
The school with the best stable of receivers is probably Griffin, the reigning Class AAAA champion.
Two made our list – Keyston Fuller and Christian Owens, both rated as four stars by at least one recruiting service. The third star Griffin receiver is Trey Willis, who also has Division 1 offers. The three played in an offense that generated more than 3,500 yards passing in 2013.
The 10 best high school receivers in Georgia:
*Matt Biondich (Northview): The 5-foot-7, 160-pound senior was named second-team all-state by the Georgia Sports Writers Association and honorable mention by the AJC after leading Class AAAAA in receiving during the regular season. Biondich, a first-team receiver in 7-AAAAA Division A, finished with 75 receptions for 1,225 yards and 13 touchdowns for the Titans, who finished 5-5 and tied the 12-year-old program’s record for victories in a season. He also punted 47 times for an average of 33.5 yards per kick. Biondich is a lacrosse all-American who is expected to play that sport at Army next season.
*Keyston Fuller (Griffin): Fuller, Christian Owens (see below) and Trey Willis (a senior in 2013) combined to form one of the state’s top receiving groups last season. They teamed with QB Jaquez Parks, the state player of the year, to lead the Bears to a 15-0 record and the Class AAAA championship. Fuller, a 6-foot, 175-pound senior, finished with 48 receptions for 810 yards and four touchdowns, including an 80-yarder in a 56-35 victory against Carrollton in the championship game. The three-star recruit reportedly has offers from at least nine schools, including Georgia, Georgia Tech, Clemson, North Carolina, Nebraska and Texas A&M.
*Terry Godwin (Callaway): The 6-foot, 165-pound senior is considered a five-star wide receiver/defensive back recruit by Scout and the nation’s No. 1 “athlete” by Rivals and in the 247Sports Composite rankings. He was named a first-team all-state receiver in Class AAA last season after catching 24 passes for 585 yards and nine touchdowns. He also had 38 tackles, five interceptions and three pass break-ups for a team that finished 12-2 and reached the state semifinals, losing to champion Buford 24-14 in what was the Wolves’ closest game of the season. He has picked Georgia over at least 13 other offers, primarily from SEC and ACC schools.
*Dexter Neal (Stephenson): The 6-foot-2, 195-pound senior is rated as a four-star recruit by Rivals and a three-star by Scout and 247Sports, and he is the nation’s No. 59 wide receiver prospect in the 247Sports Composite rankings. Neal had 37 receptions for 587 yards and 10 touchdowns last season for the Jaguars, who finished 9-3 and reached the second round of the Class AAAAA playoffs. He has scholarship offers from close to 20 BCS schools but has verbally committed to South Carolina. Neal is currently hitting .317 for the Stephenson baseball team with two home runs, seven doubles and 14 RBIs.
*Christian Owens (Griffin): The 6-foot-5, 205-pound senior is a four-star recruit who is No. 29 in the 247Sports Composite rankings of the nation’s top wide receivers. Owens had 43 receptions for 572 yards and three touchdowns in helping Griffin win its first state championship since 1978 and its third overall. Because of his size and athleticism, he has been compared by some to former Alabama and current Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones. Owens committed to Georgia last April and also has offers from Clemson, North Carolina and Vanderbilt.
*T.J. Rahming (McEachern): The 5-foot-9, 165-pound senior had 54 receptions for 1,054 yards and 13 touchdowns on a team that also had two 1,000-yard rushers (QB Ty Clemons and RB Taj Griffin). Rahming also scored three touchdowns and averaged 20 yards on 20 punt returns. The three-star recruit (he is projected as a cornerback by Rivals) reportedly has at least eight scholarship offers, from programs including Tennessee, Cincinnati, Duke and Wake Forest, as well as interest from other SEC and ACC schools. McEachern finished 11-3 in 2013 and advanced to the Class AAAAAA semifinals.
*Darius Slayton (Greater Atlanta Christian): The 6-foot-2, 180-pound senior was named a first-team all-state receiver in Class AA after catching 31 passes for 940 yards and eight touchdowns as GAC went 10-2 and reached the second round of the playoffs. Projected as a defensive player by the recruiting services, Slayton is considered a four-star recruit and listed as the nation’s No. 25 cornerback in the 247Sports Composite rankings. Georgia, Georgia Tech, Auburn, South Carolina and Vanderbilt are among a group of close to 20 schools that have made offers. Slayton is also the defending Class AA champion in the 100 and 200 meters.
*Jayson Stanley (Creekside): The 6-foot-3, 205-pound senior was the leading receiver for a team that had a 2,500-yard passer (QB Felix Harper) and two backs with more than 1,300 yards rushing (Dexter Knox and Bricen Terry). He finished with 41 receptions for 817 yards and 16 touchdowns in helping the Seminoles to a 15-0 record and the first state championship in school history. Stanley had the longest scoring play from scrimmage, a 77-yard reception from Harper, in a wild 52-28 victory over Tucker in the Class AAAAA final. He has offers from Georgia, Georgia Tech, Alabama, Wisconsin and at least six other BCS schools.
*Brad Stewart (Benedictine): Stewart, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior, is a three-star recruit who is the nation’s No. 143 receiver in the 247Sports Composite rankings. He was named honorable mention all-state after catching 30 passes for 698 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2013. He also had 32 tackles and two interceptions as a defensive back. Benedictine finished 13-1 to set a school record for victories and reached the Class AA semifinals, losing to state runner-up Lamar County 10-7. Stewart has an offer from Marshall as well as interest from Georgia, Georgia Tech, Clemson and Vanderbilt, according to the recruiting services.
*Preston Williams (Lovejoy): Williams, a 6-foot-5, 205-pound senior, was named Class AAAAAA offensive player of the year after catching 56 passes for 1,402 yards and 14 touchdowns for a team that finished 10-2. He had one of the top individual performances of the 2013 season in a 27-23 victory over Marietta in the first round of the playoffs, catching seven passes for 275 yards and four touchdowns, including the game-winning 47-yard TD reception on the final play of the game. Scout and 247Sports rate Williams as a five-star recruit and the nation’s No. 1 receiver. He has offers from more than 20 BCS schools but has committed to Tennessee.
This is the third in a series of articles that identify 10 of the best players in high school football at their positions. The decisions are based largely on their impact as high school players, but their status as a college recruit also is considered. Coming next week: Offensive linemen