DeVaughn Buchanan knows he'll play football on Saturdays someday. When you're an athletic 6-foot, 200-pound tackling machine, recruiters tend to take notice.
Yet despite recording 142 tackles and standing out at two well-attended camps, the Ridgeland senior linebacker is still waiting on the scholarship offers to start. While others in the area have locked up their future schools, the reigning Times Free Press North Georgia defensive player of the year still has some proving to do.
"I take it in stride and use it for motivation," Buchanan said. "If I keep working hard, my day will come. I just want to show them on film that I love to fly around and hit people. They know I had 142 tackles last year, but they want to see what I can do this year.
"Will I continue to work hard? Am I getting bigger? Is he just trying to meet what he did last year, or is he exceeding it?"
Buchanan understands the hesitation to some extent. He's awaiting his latest ACT score, and he's been told once he gets academically qualified the offers will come. He also knows he's smaller than the typical Division I inside linebacker, where he's played the last two seasons. A switch to safety or outside linebacker is likely coming in 2010.
"That won't be a bad thing for him," Ridgeland coach Mark Mariakis said, "because he can run and hit and he's got great natural football instincts. In fact, his best attributes are in defending the outside game, but we've had to have him inside."
Mariakis, who calls Buchanan one of the most competitive athletes he's ever coached, wants another aspect of his game to shine this year.
"What we're looking for from him, and we know he's going to get his tackles, is to take more of a leadership role," Mariakis said. "We're so young and inexperienced that for us to do what we want to do, he's going to have to lead us. We had so many seniors last year that all he had to do was play football.
"Leadership comes with maturity, and Buck's shown that so far this year. We're going to have to rely a lot on him early to control the environment."
Buchanan, who is getting interest from Georgia Tech, North Carolina State and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga among others, is one of only four returning defensive starters for the Panthers. Among the missing are graduated linemen Genesis Dupree and Cedric Weaver, who were adept at keeping blockers away from the linebackers.
The always aggressive Buchanan has a plan to defeat the extra attention from blockers and at the same time catch the attention of recruiters.
"They're going to see a nastier Buck this year," he said, a sinister smile spreading across his face. "I'm going to change everything about me. I want to put a sign out there that says there will be no doubts about me and what I can do."