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Wednesday December 8th, 2021 11:42PM

Northeast Georgia athletes set to shine as major college offers roll in

By Bo Wilson Sports Editor

According to the NCAA, less than three percent of the nation's prep athletes ever step foot on a Division I football field. So when an athlete receives an offer from the school of his dreams, it is a big deal. 

The crop of Power 5 talent across Northeast Georgia is strong with players like Gunner Stockton, Malaki Starks, Gabe Ervin Jr, Shad Dabney, Christian Charles, Joshua Pickett and Ced Nicely headlining that deep bank of stars. 

"Yeah, it’s a particularly strong time in northeast Georgia where high school football is concerned, and it’s true across several classes," said Jake Reuse, Rivals.com recruiting analyst.

Ervin Jr, one of 10 P5 athletes from Buford, committed to Nebraska over UGA, Michigan State, Arizona State and Duke back in June. The 6-1, 190-pound running back has a great combination of size and speed, and Reuse says Nebraska flew under the radar with this commitment.

"I’m a real fan of Gabe Ervin’s game in particular," Reuse said. "He’s got a great combination of size and speed, and I think the Huskers have a sneaky good pickup in him. Given the talent around him, it won’t surprise me to see his stock continue to climb over the course of the season as more teams get out to watch the Wolves."

Stockton, the No. 1 quarterback in the Class of 2022, picked South Carolina earlier this month. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound field general from Rabun County narrowed his choices to South Carolina and Georgia, and even though Stockton has made his college choice, Reuse believes his stock will continue to rise over the next two seasons. 

"Rabun County’s Gunner Stockton is on a superstar trajectory with the top programs in the country placing him high atop their boards," he said. "His opening week matchup against Georgia commit Brock Vandagriff (Prince Avenue Christian QB) should be on the calendar of every football fan in the state."

Starks could rival Stockton for star power, however, in the area. He's a player that can do it all from running back, quarterback, wide receiver, defensive back, kick return, you name it, Starks can do it. He proved that last season and is back bigger, faster and stronger for his junior season in 2020. 

"Malaki is blessed in many ways, but he also uses his gifts to perform at the highest level for his team, and manages to stay humble, grounded and grateful for the gifts he has," Jefferson coach Gene Cathcart said. "He is what every college is and should be looking for to be a part of their team and program." 

The 6-foot-2, 191-pound five-star athlete garners offers from 15 DI schools, a number that is expected to rise over the course of the next two seasons.   

"Another of those storied programs, Jefferson, has one of the top athletes in 2022 in Malaki Starks, who can legitimately do it all and is one of the best athletes in his class," Reuse said. "He’s going to have everyone coming in to see the Dragons this year."

In Flowery Branch now, Dabney, who played the last two seasons at Riverside Military Academy, transferred to Cherokee Bluff when the school eliminated the fall sports line up. 

Dabney has more than 20 offers, including Air Force, Army, Arizona State, Kansas and Syracuse, but picked the Jayhawks last week. 

"Shad is an elite talent with top-tier playmaking ability,” Bluff Coach Tommy Jones said. “He has consistently demonstrated an uncanny ability to make people miss and generate explosive plays. He is an extremely smart player that combines spatial awareness, body control, and ball skills.”
   
Over in the Sardis area, Charles, Chestatee’s four-year starter at quarterback, has more than 20 schools trying to lure him away. He's named Tennessee, Oklahoma, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech and Arkansas State as his top-5. He hopes to make a decision soon. 

“He has the god-given tools along with the work ethic to develop them to an elite level,” Chestatee coach Shaun Conley said. “He’s a great student of the game as well as the classroom.  He is a special young man.” 

Gainesville offensive lineman Cedrick Nicely,  6-foot-5, 305-pounds, has three offers from Georgia Tech, South Carolina and South Florida. 

“He’s a P5 guy because of a combo of elite size, athleticism, high character and good grades,” Gainesville coach Heath Webb said. “P5 coaches want low-risk players. They know that they won’t have to worry about him once he gets on campus. He will do right in all aspects of his student-athlete life.”

Habersham Central’s Joshua Pickett committed to Duke in February. 

Along with Ervin Jr, Buford has nine other guys with P5 offers. 

-- Running back Victor Venn has offers from Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Duke, Michigan State and USC. 
-- Junior defensive back holds offers from Nebraska, UNC, UCF, Ole Miss, and Iowa. 
-- Maryland is recruiting senior linebacker Tommy Beuglas and senior offensive lineman Jacob Smith. 
-- Louisville, Iowan, Maryland, Syracuse and Arizona State have offered senior defensive back Amari Wansley. 
-- Senior defensive lineman Matthew Alexander is mulling over an offer from Arkansas. 
-- Junior linebacker Malik Spencer has offers from Miami, Kentucky, USC, Colorado and Arizona State. 
-- Junior linebacker defensive back Malik Williams has Florida, FSU, Georgia Tech, Kentucky and South Carolina wanting his services, and junior defensive back Ryland Gandy has Penn State and Kentucky on his offer list. 

With the amount of Power 5 talent across several classes in northeast Georgia, the 2020 season could be one for the record books. 

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