Until two days ago, if you typed Keon Williams' name into the ESPN recruiting database you got information on a prep basketball player in Hackensack, New Jersey. But after last week's head-turning performance at the Atlanta Nike combine, Red Bank's rising senior running back/linebacker now has his own identity as one of the south's top college football prospects.

Williams had been an unknown in recruiting circles because he was forced to sit out last season when the TSSAA ruled him ineligible after transferring in from North Carolina.

When the 6-foot-1, 215-pound Williams finished among the top 25 performers, out of hundreds of players from five states, it set off a chain reaction of increased calls and letters.

"He's got a bunch of folks banging on his door now," Lions coach Tim Daniels said. "There's a difference in form letters that a lot of kids get and ones that are personalized and he's getting the personalized ones with invitations to their camps.

"Since I've been here, we haven't had a kid get this much attention this early."

Ridgeland linebacker DeVaughn Buchanan also earned a spot among Nike's top 25 performers and Calhoun receiver Da'Rick Rogers emerged with scholarship offers from Florida and Georgia, to go with the ones he already had from Alabama, LSU, Mississippi State, West Virginia and Central Florida.

From 2004 through '08 the area had 26 players sign with Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) programs. The numbers picked up last year, with 11 local players signing with FBS schools and this fall could produce the deepest talent pool ever by our area. There are already at least 20 rising seniors in our area who either have or expect to soon receive scholarship offers from FBS teams.

Both the University of Tennessee's and Georgia's first verbal commitments were local players, Ooltewah defensive lineman Jacques Smith to the Vols and Dalton defensive end Jalen Fields to the Bulldogs.

Smith is projected as the Volunteer state's top overall prospect by several recruiting services and he, Rogers and Fields are already listed as 4-star prospects and among the nation's top 100 players by rivals. Those three also are candidates to become high school All Americans, an honor earned by just six local players since 2000 and we could have as many as three more local players to make rivals' top 100 list by the summer - Red Bank's Williams, Ridgeland's Buchanan and Ringgold fullback/linebacker Martez Eastland.

Even our small schools will be priority stops for college scouts this season, with multiple prospects. South Pittsburg safety Terrell Robinson and tight end Jiajuan Fennell will likely have offers from Vanderbilt and Louisville this spring and coaches from Stanford and UCLA are scheduled to fly in to watch Robinson and Walker Valley's mammoth offensive lineman Jared Duke (6-5, 325).

Four of Rogers' Calhoun teammates also either have Division I offers or expect to soon. Quarterback Nash Nance, who transferred to Calhoun from Darlington after last season, competed in the invitation-only U.S. Army All-American junior combine earlier this year. He is being recruited by Alabama, Vanderbilt and Duke.

"I'm going to be pretty busy with college recruiters from now until next February," Yellow Jackets coach Hal Lamb said. "But that's a real good problem to have."

And it could also make for quite a dilemma for local fans who will be as busy as college scouts trying to watch the list of local talent each Friday.

E-mail Stephen Hargis at

Chattanooga area rising senior football prospects

1. Jacques Smith Ooltewah DL 6-3, 238 Committed to Tennessee

2. Da'Rick Rogers Calhoun WR 6-2, 200 Offers by Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU, West Virginia

3. Jalen Fields Dalton DE 6-5, 250 Committed to Georgia

4. Devaughn Buchanan Ridgleand LB 6-0, 205 Heavily recruited by Georgia Tech, Ole Miss, Oklahoma State, Tennessee, UCLA

5. Keon Williams Red Bank RB 6-1, 215 Recruited by Alabama, Georgia, Ole Miss, Purdue, Tennessee

6. Martez Eastland Ringgold FB-LB 6-0, 235 Recruited by Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee

7. Terrell Robinson South Pittsburg DB 6-4, 195 Recruited by Louisville, Stanford, UCLA, Vanderbilt

8. Nash Nance Calhoun QB 6-4, 200 Recruited by Alabama, Duke, Mississippi St., Vanderbilt

9. Nermin Delic Northwest Whitfield TE-DE 6-5, 246 Offers from Florida Atlantic, Florida International, N.C. State, Oklahoma St., Vanderbilt

10. Jiajuan Fennell South Pittsburg TE-DE 6-4, 225 Recruited by Louisville, Vanderbilt

11. Dimitri Miles Lafayette WR 6-2, 190 Recruited by Central Florida, Duke, Louisville

12. Jared Duke Walker Valley OL 6-5, 325 Recruited by Army, Duke, Illinois, MTSU, Navy, Stanford, Tennessee, Vanderbilt

13. Shaquon Moore Dalton RB 6-0, 190 Heavily recruited by Georgia Tech

14. Dewaun Harrison Ridgeland DB 6-3, 190 Led the area with 9 interceptions last year

15. John Long Ooltewah K Made 9 field goals last year. Has range from beyond 50 yards

16. Terrell Parks Cleveland Ath-DE 5-11, 175 One of the most versatile athletes in the area

17. Darius Chalk Brainerd RB-LB 6-1, 225 A physically dominating

18. Cody Ralston Calhoun LB 6-2, 200 Offered by Central Florida

19. Kedron Acre Calhoun LB 6-0, 205 Offered by Alabama-Birmingham

20. Zack Rayl McMinn Central QB 6-4, 210 Recruited by Georgia Tech, South Florida