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Ringgold's Andre Tarver (3) wrestles Northwest's Sebasstian Orozco (25) to the ground. The Northwest Whitfield Bruins visited the Ringgold Tigers in GSHA football action on August, 19, 2016.

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Ringgold two-sport star Tarver has big athletic decisions looming

RINGGOLD, Ga. — The only thing on Andre Tarver's mind on this wintry Monday in February was getting ready for a high school baseball season that starts next week.

Everything else, including life-changing decisions, can wait. Tarver, the Ringgold High School junior two-sport star, has that luxury right now. Next year at this time, however, the clock will be ticking as one of the area's most talented athletes chooses his path.

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Tarver already has made one major decision with a commitment to play baseball at SEC power Mississippi State. He's had that in the bag for nearly two years now and, when asked, says it's still where his heart lies.

Area’s top 18 juniors of 2018

Davis Allen: Calhoun, linebacker

Shane Brazier: Soddy-Daisy, offensive line

Micaleous Elder: Cleveland, athlete

Mondo Ellison: CCS, running back

Luke Griffin: North Murray, offensive line

Calvin Jackson: Red Bank, athlete

Mike McGhee: Central, running back

Ivan Mora: Dalton, kicker

Fred Norman: Ridgeland, offensive line

Sincere Quinn: Ooltewah, running back

Preston Poag Jr.: North Murray, quarterback

Alonzo Russell: East Ridge, safety

Kyrell Sanford: Ooltewah, athlete

Dominique Sistrunk: Northwest Whitfield, running back

Brannon Spector: Calhoun, defensive back

Cam Stewart: McCallie, offensive line

Andre Tarver: Ringgold, linebacker

Cam Wynn: Notre Dame, receiver

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But here's where it gets interesting. Tarver's talents on the football field, where's he's a two-time Best of Preps all-star at two different positions, have caught the attention of recruiters. Just recently he's been offered scholarships in that sport by Wake Forest, Appalachian State, Old Dominion and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

His coaches have no doubt he could play either for a very long time.

"I could probably argue he's the best athlete I've ever coached, and I've had some good ones," baseball coach Brent Tucker said. "The thing I've noticed this year is there are a lot of late nights hitting. He's always relied mainly on that athletic ability, but we're now seeing him work a bit more. We might just be seeing the tip of the iceberg."

Added football coach Robert Akins: "As far as I'm concerned — and (former Ringgold star) Martez Eastland was like that — he could be the best quarterback, receiver, linebacker and probably tackle on the team, you name it. There are a multitude of positions they could play in college, and that's part of the reasons he's getting so many looks now."

Tarver is fairly mum on the subject of his future, saying only that he feels blessed to have the opportunities and that "I'm in baseball mode right now, so that's where I'm looking."

He has, though, made it known recently that he is interested in playing both sports in college. Wake Forest, for one, has agreed to that, but Mississippi State, with its new coaching staff headed by Joe Moorehead, is still evaluating.

"I'm trying to do that," Tarver said of double-dipping. "I talked to the football coach at Mississippi State. He likes my highlights and film, but there hasn't been an offer yet. Hopefully that will come."

On the football field Tarver is a Julio Jones-type receiver with speed and power and a hard-hitting linebacker who uses his speed and size to overwhelm opponents often. With his frame, should be choose to play defense, he could easily put on 25 pounds and not hurt his speed.

"The first thing is he loves both sports," Akins said. "He's a rare athlete, and what sets him apart from a receiver standpoint is he thrives on contact. Most receivers will shy away from it, but he's like an NFL receiver who just gets excited about it. Defensively, he's just so powerful. I'm just glad he's on my team."

On the baseball field Tarver is a five-tool prospect. He hits for average and power, can steal bases and has been graded as elite for his outfield defense and arm. Those tools, Tucker believes, will only improve over the next two seasons.

And he's not the only one who thinks so.

"I know some pro guys have already talked to him and believe he could go by early second round," the veteran coach said. "You never know about the draft, but there's definite interest.

"Right now I know he has never wavered with his commitment to Mississippi State, and he's very happy with it."

Tarver knows he will be pushed, pulled and tugged in several directions over the next few months. While he's excited about the possibility of playing both sports in college, he also realizes first-round draft picks are rare.

"That would be great, amazing," he replied when asked about being an early baseball draftee. "If the money is good, I'm definitely going because opportunities like that don't come around often."

Until then he will continue to build on a prep legacy that's really just past half finished, and his coaches will continue to advise him on keeping focused on the present.

"He's going to have a lot of decisions he's going to have to make," Akins said. "He's got a lot of options. He's got to take care of his academics if he wants to go the college route. I know he can do anything he sets his mind to, both athletically and academically.

"Whatever he and his family decide will be the right way to go, because there are really no wrong decisions here. He's a great kid with a great future."

Contact Lindsey Young at lyoung@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6296; follow on Twitter @youngsports22.

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