Hindsight, as the old cliche' goes, is 20/20.
Maybe nowhere else is looking back and insisting something was so obvious quite as common as in sports. So now, on the eve of the release of the 2010 Dandy Dozen, let's take a look back at last year's selections.
Before we get into this, however, you should know a little about how we pick this preseason all-star lineup. In the past, it was the norm for whoever was the lead high school sports writer - in the last few years it's been Robert Spruck, then Jerry Rutledge and now me - to send out Dandy Dozen nomination forms to all the football coaches in the Ledger-Enquirer's coverage area. The writer would then do his or her best to sort out who the 12 best nominated players were. Most coaches nominated two or three players, and other than selecting the top one or two most obvious choices, many of them are very good, which makes it so difficult to pick the Dandy Dozen and the All-Bi-City teams. But, at least in my case, I would call a lot of the coaches, get their input on other teams' players, and I'd compile pages and pages of notes. Then I'd try to make the best decision I could.
It didn't always make people happy, and it led to the newspaper creating news - something we try hard to stay out of in most cases. So this year we've got a new method. The coaches sent in their nominations as usual but this time we compiled everyone's nominations - which include the players' names, positions, 2009 stats and a little info on what makes them worthy of a spot on the team - and then send that back out to every coach. With everyone's info, each coach was allowed 12 votes, and that was the deciding factor. It's a lot of work hunting down all these nominations and then hunting down coaches who were late to vote, but my sports editor Kevin Price and I think it will lead to a more fair selection process. Many coaches, athletes, parents and readers over the years have expressed some frustration with the old way of doing it, so hopefully this new method will be viewed as a bit more fair and transparent.
Now that you've read that, let's move on to the important stuff, the 2009 Dandy Dozen Year in Review. I'll list all the players, why I chose them, offer some detail on how they did in 2009 and then you can decide if they lived up to the preseason expectations.
Height and weight: 5-10, 190
2008 statistics: Led Callaway with 124 tackles, five sacks; six tackles for loss; three forced fumbles; three passes broken up; Georgia Athletic Coaches Association Class AA All-State selection; Georgia Sports Writers Association Class AA All-State selection; and Region 5-AA Defensive Player of the Year.
Top college choices: LaGrange College; Georgia State; Georgia Southern.
Why he belongs: Bailey's 100-plus tackles helped the Cavaliers' defense allow fewer than 15 points per game in 2008 while Callaway went on to a 10-2 record, its best in school history.
In hindsight: Bailey ended up leading a stout Callaway defense to a Region 5-AA championship, and while he may not have repeated as a GSWA Class AA all-state honorable mention, he had a heck of a season in Hogansville, Ga. Maybe Bailey didn't get recruited the way a few other area players did, but I'll stand by my decision if only for the fact that he had such a massive impact on a top-10 Callaway defense in 2009.
Position: Offensive tackle
Height/weight: 6-4, 289
2008 stats: 87 pancake blocks; first-team Ledger-Enquirer All-Bi-City selection.
Top college choices: Committed to Clemson
Why he belongs: He's a dominant offensive lineman who cleared the way for Carver's running game and protected its quarterback during a 11-3 run to the state semifinals.
In hindsight : This one's a no-brainer. Beasley turned out to be a first-team Ledger-Enquirer All-Bi-City selection, signed with Clemson (where he appears ready to see some playing time as a freshman), was part of a Carver team that went 11-2 and he finished with GSWA first-team all-state honors and 70 pancake blocks.
Height/weight: 6-4, 220
2008 stats: Bingham spent most of 2008 sidelined with a leg injury.
Top college choices: None yet.
Why he belongs: Bingham drew plenty of praise from area coaches, several of whom said he was the most fundamentally sound quarterback in the Chattahoochee Valley and had as much talent as any quarterback in Columbus in the last decade.
In hindsight: You can make the argument that, if I was looking for another QB ready for a standout season, I could have gone with Jordan's Safari Evans or ChattCo's David Cochran. Sure, those two probably belonged on the list if it were any longer. But Bingham got rave reviews from all the Columbus-area coaches who I spoke with while whittling this list down. He ended up missing a few games at the beginning of the season to yet another leg injury, and his 2009 didn't turn out as well as a few other local QBs' as Columbus went 2-8 overall and he passed for 1,129 yards and six TDs. But if you've seen him play, it would be hard to deny Bingham had all the tools to succeed at the position on a team with a little more experience and depth. I had a few readers question me about this pick, so I felt vindicated when Bingham earned a preferred walk-on spot at Georgia over the summer.
Height/weight: 6-3, 185
2008 stats: 863 passing yards; 11 passing touchdowns; two rushing touchdowns.
Top college choices: Committed to Maryland
Why he belongs: Burns made a name for himself as a junior with nearly a thousand yards passing in an offense that featured two strong running backs and led his team to the Class AAA semifinals.
In hindsight : This is another one of those picks that would be difficult for anyone to question. Burns, with some help from running back Isaiah Crowell (who was not nominated in 2009 because, perhaps, he had yet to have the breakout season coach Dell McGee thought he was primed for), did a lot of the heavy lifting as Carver hung out in Class AAA's top 10 and went 11-2. He finished with 541 yards and five TDs rushing, 1,595 yards and 16 TDs passing while being named a first-team All-Bi-City selection and a GSWA all-state honorable mention. Although Burns appears to be at the back of the pack in the QB race at Maryland, he's no doubt the right pick in 2009.
Position: Defensive line
Height/weight: 6-0, 262
2008 stats: 12 sacks; 58 tackles.
Top college choices: Committed to Tennessee.
Why he belongs: Copeland brings speed, size and strength to Troup's defense and was singled out by other area coaches on the Tigers' schedule as a major threat.
In hindsight: Copeland had a lot of hype going into the season, and while his stats weren't gaudy and Troup felt a little let down by its finish, the fact that Copeland had LSU coach Les Miles calling him up once Troup teammate Brandon Worle told the coach he was committed to the Tennessee proves this was the right choice. If he's good enough for LSU, he's definitely good enough for this list.
Position: Defensive end; linebacker
Height/weight: 6-6, 245
2008 stats: 70 tackles
Top college choices: Committed to Clemson
Why he belongs: Crawford is a leader on a Carver defense that allowed an average of nine points per game last season and blanked four opponents.
In hindsight: Absolutely no questions, Crawford dominated at DE last year. He finished with 87 tackles, two interceptions, two touchdowns and first-team All-Bi-City and GSWA all-state honors. He's also now at Clemson.
School: Central-Phenix City
Height/weight: 6-4, 190
2008 stats: 1,200 yards passing; eight passing touchdowns; 570 rushing yards.
Top college choices: Vanderbilt, Standford, Southern Miss; Clemson; Georgia Tech.
Why he belongs: Daniel has been hailed by recruiting Web sites as one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country and his coaches have said his football IQ is second to none.
In hindsight: I will admit I was a little bit on the fence about Daniel this time last year. I hadn't really seen him play much, and while some coaches played him up as ready to have a huge year, I just wasn't really convinced. But after covering Central quite a bit last year, I'll say Daniel is possibly the most intelligent high school quarterback I have seen. He was fast, strong and always just seemed to know what was coming next. Now at Stanford, where he also hopes to play basketball, Daniel seems like the right pick. He didn't live up to his 1,200 yards passing in 2008, but his 813 yards and seven TDs with only three interceptions was more than good enough to lead Central into the AHSAA Class 6A quarterfinals.
School: Chattahoochee County
Positions: Running back, receiver, defensive back
Height/weight: 5-10, 170
2008 stats: 918 rushing yards; 818 receiving yards; 24 touchdowns; first-team Ledger-Enquirer All-Bi-City selection.
Top college choices: None yet.
Why he belongs: Jones racked up 1,736 yards last season and averaged more than two touchdowns per game for the Panthers.
In hindsight: Jones seems like an absolute anomaly. He racks up insane statistics, but somehow he went largely unnoticed by a lot of our readers and local coaches. He played so many positions and did really, really well at all of them. I would love to see him play with a team in a higher classification because then he might have gotten more credit. He finished with 1,236 receiving yards, 1,007 rushing yards and 27 total TDs while being named a first-team All-Bi-City and GSWA all-state selection while helping ChattCo to its best season ever and first playoff win.
Positions: Wide receiver, cornerback, safety.
Height/weight: 6-4, 180
2008 stats: 22 receptions; 500 yards receiving; 13 touchdowns.
Top college choices: Committed to West Virginia
Why he belongs: Leslie's receptions weren't his most outstanding statistic, but he made each one count, averaging more than 22 yards per catch.
In hindsight: Leslie got a lot of praise this time last year, and while I no longer have a copy his 2009 stats, I remember thinking they were just slightly better than his 2008 numbers. But, hey, they were pretty good, so that's no knock to him, even at Callaway, where the defense was the star of the show. Leslie, a GSWA all-state honorable mention, signed with West Virginia, but was ruled academically ineligible, according to the LaGrange Daily News. He has since enrolled at Hinds Community College in Mississippi. Looking back, Leslie seemed like a sure thing to pick for the Dandy Dozen. In hindsight, I'm a on the fence about it.
Height/weight: 6-2, 179
2008 stats: 54 punts for an average of 41 yards; 6-for-11 on field goals with a long of 55 yards; put 78 percent of kickoffs in the end zone for a touchback.
Top college choices: Committed to Kentucky.
Why he belongs: Mansour is accurate, strong and, as his coach said, always gives the LaGrange defense the best chance it could hope for.
In hindsight: Mansour was ridiculously good for LaGrange last season, and I don't care that a few people questioned my selection of a kicker for the Dandy Dozen when there were plenty of good skill position players out there to honor. Mansour had six field goals more than 50 yards during his LaGrange career, including one apiece from 59, 56 and 52 yards in 2009. That 59 yarder was the third-longest in state history. Oh, he also kicked touchbacks on 84 percent of his kickoffs and averaged nearly 43 yards per punt. Obviously a GSWA first-team all-state pick and he was ranked as the country's No. 2 punter by scout.com. He went on to sign with Kentucky. Still question picking a kicker for the Dandy Dozen? I don't. Mansour was better at his position than any other player in our area except maybe - maybe - Crowell. Elite is really the only word to describe it, so this is one pick I got 100 percent correct.
Height/weight: 6-4, 212
2008 stats: 1,500 passing yards; 200 rushing yards.
Top college choices: Offer from Florida, but waiting to commit.
Why he belongs: Smith's statistics set him apart from other area quarterbacks and he said he is looking to build on those numbers after spending the summer working on his footwork and speed.
In hindsight: I think Smith was more than a little disapointed in Hardaway's 6-4 season, but his stats were phenomenal. Smith, who went on to sign with Louisville, threw for 1,800 yards and 14 TDs while rushing for 227 yards and four TDs. This is another one I was on the fence about last year as I hadn't seen much of Smith. His 2008 stats were huge and a couple of coaches really swore he would lead Hardaway deep, deep into the playoffs in 2009, so I went with it. I definitely made a good choice on this one.
Position: Tight end
Height/weight: 6-7, 245
2008 stats: 20 receptions; 419 yards receiving; six touchdowns.
Top college choices: Committed to Alabama
Why he belongs: Vogler's size gave him a distinct edge in blocking and receiving and made him an asset in Brookstone's run-heavy offense.
In hindsight: It would have been difficult for me to say more than 40 college football coaches were wrong about Vogler. He went on to finish with 331 yards and six TDs, which was probably ranked him among if not at the top of the list of tight ends in Georgia in 2009. I really find it hard to even think of a debate against picking Vogler, who has since signed with Alabama.
So for the most part, I feel like I got the 2009 Dandy Dozen correct. But in the spirit of hindsight, here are a few names that maybe I should have given a third or fourth look to:
Isaiah Crowell, RB, Carver: I knew quite a bit about him, his 2008 stats were great and he was already getting verbal offers from everyone and their brother. I feel like not including him was the biggest void on the Dandy Dozen and I regret that.
Dontavis Crocker, RB, Jordan: went on to rush for 818 yards, eight TDs.
Deon Hill, RB, Central: Deon rushed for more than 1,500 yards last season as Central reached the quarterfinals. Signed with Georgia Tech. In hindsight, a big omission.
Deonta Holt, ATH, Russell County: He rushed for more than 1,000 yards and returned an astounding six kicks for touchdowns. I don't feel as bad about leaving him off as I think he made a big leap in his senior season and didn't impress as many people through his junior year.
Tyquan Bazemore, RB, ChattCo: Bazemore went on to rush for 1,200 yards and 15 TDs last season. I knew he was good, but not that good.
So, what are your thoughts? Some of you weren't shy about telling me I had made a few mistakes when the team was released last year, so how does my hindsight hold up or compare to yours? Anyone else I should have considered more heavily or anyone who fell flat?