National signing day carries such weight at Carver High School that in recent years it has almost felt like a national holiday. And the recruiting season, with scouts in the stands every game and big-time college coaches roaming the halls, has had a special feeling about it.
When a school Carver’s size still sends three players to Division-I programs and people consider it a down year, it says something about the school’s reputation.
“We didn’t have that big-time, four- or five-star guy who hadn’t made up his mind,” Carver coach Dell McGee said Wednesday during the ceremony to send 17 Carver players off to play football in college. “We still had a great showing.”
Big parts of that show Wednesday were cornerback Deion Bonner (Tennessee), defensive tackle Darious Bennett (Middle Tennessee State) and tight end Artimas Samuel (Mississippi State).
“The reputation we have at Carver for preparing our players on and off the football field speaks volumes,” McGee said proudly. “I think that adds to the success of our program and hopefully we can continue to build on that.”
Bonner was probably the biggest news Wednesday at Carver, and he’s ready to put the recruiting process, among other things, behind him and get to the work he believes will make him a standout for the Volunteers.
“(Signing) is a great relief off my back. Now I can just go chill and get ready for my upcoming summer,” Bonner, who had 53 tackles and five interceptions last season for Carver, said. “My weight-lifting coach at Tennessee is sending me my workout book, and I’ll be in the weight room and running to get ready.”
Bonner was suspended for five games last season, a result of being arrested in April in Athens for stealing iPods and iPhones from University of Georgia athletic facilities. Bonner entered a program performing community service and is undergoing counseling. He’s now ready, McGee said, to move forward.
“Tennessee gave him an opportunity to redeem himself for the mistake he made,” McGee said. “Deion and I have spoken, and he’s ready to put all this behind him and concentrate on his academics and get his mind and body ready to play for Tennessee.”
Despite many departures on the coaching staff and the heat being turned up on coach Derek Dooley, Bonner has words that will make Vols fans happy.
“Everything with the coaching staff is going to be all right. Criticism is part of the world,” Bonner said. “It will all end soon. We’re going to have a winning season this year.”
Changes for Samuel
Samuel’s week has been full of changes. He visited Mississippi State over the weekend and made his commitment to the school with the plan that he would attend Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia for a semester. That part changed Tuesday when Samuel found out he would have a scholarship this year.
“I’m just happy to be a Bulldog,” Samuel said. “Words can’t even begin to describe how happy I am today. I can’t wait to get there this summer.”
Samuel, a second-team All-Bi-City player last season, believes his versatility is going to fit in well with coach Dan Mullen’s offense in Starkville.
“I will split out wide, play tight end, running back and full back,” Samuel said Wednesday. “They plan on using me a bunch of different ways. My goal is just to compete to get on field.”
He said the recruiting process with the Bulldogs was tentative at first but heated up quickly.
“Toward the end, when it got down to crunch time, it got hectic,” Samuel said, “but we maintained contact throughout the season and it’s worked out well. I’m going to make sure they find out they made the right decision with me.”
Bennett’s been consistent
At 6-feet and 275 pounds Derious Bennett makes a presence physically but the soft-spoken senior is determined to make the same kind of impact for Middle Tennessee State next season.
“My goal is to get up there and get into the starting lineup.” Bennett said. “They recruited me throughout the season. They never wavered and I want to repay that loyalty.”
Bennett made his official visit in January and knew right away that he had found the right place.
“I just fell in love with the school and the coaches fit me really well,” Bennett said. “I’m going to be ready to go.”
Fourteen other Carver players announced where they plan to play college football next season.
Darius Williams (Idaho State), Marquez Holloway (Alabama State), Cequanti Ford (Morehouse), Robert Wright (Hutchinson Community College), Jamal Williams (Benedict College), Alec Spencer (Benedict College), Eric Spencer (Benedict College), Carsulan Triplett (Point University), D’Vunteh Boggs (Point University), Ronick Nathan (Point University), Dequandre Roberts (Point University), Jacolby Douglas (Point University), Montrero Jones (Point University) and Devonte Young (Georgia Southern walk-on)
“This is a great day. The work is still not over,” McGee said. “Some guys have to make sure that they’re on track to go through the clearinghouse process. Every child dreams of playing college football and, more importantly, getting a secondary education and get an opportunity to get that college degree. That’s the most gratifying part for me as a coach is to see a guy graduate from college.”