BLUEFIELD — Football coaches from NCAA Division I programs have been making Bluefield High School a common stop for recruiting trips in recent years.
This year the level of interest from the college football world is anything but common.
Before the 2019 season even gets under way, the Beavers have five guys — four seniors and one junior — who are receiving serious attention from top college football programs.
Rising senior Sean Martin is ranked by multiple recruiting services as the top player from West Virginia in the Class of 2020.
On June 17, he verbally committed to play in the Atlantic Coast Conference for the University of North Carolina under Hall of Fame coach Mack Brown.
The 2018 West Virginia Class AA first team defensive end will be a central focus of opponent’s game plans with his ability to get to the quarterback and stop the rushing attack.
Rising senior JJ Davis is another Beavers player who has already verbally committed to a college, having recently verbally committed to play football for the University of Toledo, a Mid-America Conference program. The running back had a number of offers on the table including Power Five schools Tennessee, West Virginia and Pittsburgh.
The six-foot-one ball carrier had 1,357 yards rushing in his junior season for Bluefield along with 15 touchdowns while being named to the West Virginia Class AA second team.
Since they are only verbal commitments, Martin and Davis are still able to change their minds before they sign their National Letters of Intent during either the early period, which runs from December 18 through 20 this year, or the regular period, which runs from Feb. 5 through April 1, 2020.
Since the document is legally binding, a signed NLI is a commitment to spend one year at the university on athletic scholarship pending admission to the school — which itself is not guaranteed.
There are other college coaches that are actively pursuing Martin and Davis, hoping to change their minds. Depending on how Bluefield’s season goes, other programs could show up with offers after fresher assessments have been made regarding the players’ respective development between their junior and senior seasons.
Jahiem House, a 6’3”, 180-pound senior at Bluefield, has the physical traits of either a wide receiver or defensive back prospect at the Division I level.
The multi-sport athlete picked up an offer from Toledo at the start of July along with Division II offers from Concord, Glenville State and West Virginia State.
It is more difficult for kickers to receive interest and offers but Beavers senior placekicker Kaulin Parris has been been an exception to the rule since he was named the Class AA first team kicker after last year’s state runner-up finish.
Parris went 6-for-6 on field goals in 2018 and 69-for-71 on extra points with the high-scoring Beaver offense. Parris has received preferred walk-on offers from West Virginia and Virginia Tech with a likely scholarship in the event is able to win the starting job.
Isaiah Johnson is a highly-regarded junior who already has double-digit scholarship offers. The 6-foot-1 cornerback has been attending football camps this summer along with other top recruits from other high school programs.
The same recruiting services that tout Martin indicate that Johnson is West Virginia’s top recruit of 2021 and one of the top defensive backs in the country. Johnson currently has offers from Tennessee, Penn State and Virginia Tech among others.
Johnson also plays wide receiver for the Beavers and will be looking to build on a solid sophomore campaign on both sides of the football.
In addition to these five players, other kids on Fred Simon’s talent-laden roster could emerge as college prospects once the season gets underway and playing time increases for players who haven’t previously had as many varsity reps.
With more college coaches scouting Bluefield’s ‘Five Guys’ on game nights and on film, other Beavers players will have the opportunity to distinguish themselves and perhaps, in turn, garner college interest and offers of their own.
The Beavers wants to make their third straight Class AA state final and win their second title in three years. But it’s going to take more than talent. It’s going to require effort.
“If you have a player with talent, you want a player with talent to play as hard as he can play. Because if you don’t, you’re just equal to the other players. But if you have the talent and you play hard, it increases your help for our team,” Bluefield head football coach Fred Simon said.
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