Prep Zone

Atlanta high school sports news from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Football: Georgia's 'best of the rest'

For the past two months, some of Georgia’s best high school football players have been recognized in an series that highlighted the best 10 players at their positions. The final part of that series today takes a look at ‘’the best of the rest’’ – 10 players that didn’t make our previous lists, perhaps because they don't easily fit a particular position, or because they fly under the radar and should make names for themselves this fall.

Here is a look back at our top players by position if you missed any of those:


Running back

Wide receiver

Offensive line


Defensive line


Defensive backs

Shannon Brooks (Pickens): The state is returning several highly recruited and accomplished running backs, which made that list hard to make, but few meant more to his team than Brooks, who rushed for a school-record 1,696 yards and had another 308 yards receiving. He scored 20 touchdowns, also a school record. Brooks led Pickens to a 6-4 record, the team’s first winning season since 2006. Brooks (5-11, 196) has an offer from Georgia Tech.

Ben Cleveland (Stephens County) – Cleveland is the No. 2 overall Georgia prospect among juniors, according to 247Sports, but failed to make the list for offensive lineman because he’d played only two seasons and failed to get all-state recognition, perhaps because of Stephens County’s 5-6 finish in 2013. But Cleveland averaged more than 10 pancake blocks per game. Weighing 320 pounds as a ninth-grader, Cleveland is surprisingly athletic. At 6-7, 322, he runs the 40 in 5.09 seconds and can bench-press 425 pounds. As a baseball player this spring, he hit .16. He has offers from several top schools, including Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Clemson. MaxPreps wrote a story on Cleveland last month.

Mecole Hardman (Elbert County) – Hardman didn’t make out list of quarterbacks mainly because he’s not a prototypical quarterback. But he was easily one of the most impactful players in Class AAA last season for 9-2 Elbert County. As a sophomore, Hardman rushed for 1,672 yards and 17 touchdowns on 165 carries. He passed for 529 yards. Recruited as a cornerback, Hardman has reported offers from Tennessee, Miami and Kentucky and also is being recruited by Georgia.

Logan Hunt (Washington County) – Hunt was first-team all-state as a linebacker in 2013 and was Washington County’s top defensive player in the run to the Class AAA title game. Washington County coach Joel Ingram said Hunt had ‘’a best of a year’’ despite playing playing five games with a broken hand that required that he wear a full club cast. He blocked four punts, forced four fumbles and had 14 tackles for losses. Despite his on-field record and size (6-0, 228), he’s not ranked among the top 100 prospects in Georgia this year, though he has offers from Georgia Tech, Cincinnati, Indiana and Marshall.

Charles McGugan (Grayson) – Our list of the best kickers/punters focused primarily on those who did both duties. McGugan is more strictly a punter, but could emerge as the state’s best at it this fall. He averaged 41.6 yards per punt in 2013 and put nine of 39 kicks inside the 20-yard line. He’s ranked No. 13 nationally (No. 1 in Georgia) by Kohl’s Kicking Camp. He is being recruiged by Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and many others.

Connor Redmond (Archer) – Tight ends weren’t included in our lists of the best players by positions because not all teams play with tight ends. Redmond is the state’s best at the position. He caught 37 passes for 383 yards and six touchdowns and graded out at 91 percent as a blocker for the season on an 11-1 team. ‘’Connor is the whole package,’’ Archer coach Andy Dyer said. “He gives us the ability to close the box and spread it out. He has the exceptional hands and ball skills and knows how to use his body in traffic.’’ Rated the No. 32 overall prospect in Georgia by 247Sports’ Composite rankings, Redmond has offers from South Carolina, Boston College, Kansas State and others.

Jamar Smith (Toombs County) – Smith is a small-town running back for a team that finished only 4-6, but his 2,034 yards rushing in those 10 games earned him first-team all-state in Class AA. Smith (5-10, 215) was the state runner-up in wrestling in the 220-pound division. Recruiting for Smith hasn’t picked up much steam yet. Check out his Hudl highlights. Smith could lead the state in rushing this season if Toombs can get out of the regular season and give him more games.

Lorenzo Smothers (Marion County) – Smothers was the star of the Class A public-school championship game victory over Charlton County. He rushed for 105 yards and intercepted a pass on defense. As a sophomore, Smothers had 594 yards rushing, 475 receiving and 793 yards in returns of punts, kickoffs and interceptions. He scored 17 touchdowns and made 39 tackles on defense. He failed to make our lists because he’s too versatile to be pegged at any position. Smothers is only 5-8, 160, so he hasn’t yet shown up big on recruiting boards.

Deshawn Waller (B.E.S.T Academy) –  Another who was lost in the depth of the running back position was Waller, who rushed for 1,519 yards and scored 24 touchdowns. He also had 241 yards receiving, was a dangerous return man and made 35 tackles and two interceptions on defense. B.E.S.T., a 2-year-old Atlanta school, was 6-5 in 2013 and took Carver of Columbus to four overtimes in the state playoffs. Waller has reported offers from Indiana and Georgia State.

Emoni Williams (Mount Paran Christian) – A 5-foot-8, 150-pound receiver, Williams hadn’t played football since the eighth grade until he was talked into returning to the game last summer. He had an all-state season, catching 50 passes for 1,049 yards, rushing for 526 yards and scoring touchdowns rushing, receiving and on returns of punts and kickoffs. Williams is probably more of a baseball prospect than a football prospect.

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