from staff reports
The Meridian Star
Goal accomplished for Jarkeith Ruffin.
The West Lauderdale linebacker hoped to play Division I football and Wednesday realized that dream as he signed with Southern University in an afternoon signing ceremony at the school.
"That was the whole goal," Ruffin said. "I went down there and felt really comfortable. I kind of knew all along that is where I wanted to go but I had questions. In the end, I just stuck with my first instinct."
The 6-foot-3, 241-pounder played in the Mississippi-Alabama All-Star game in December following his one season with the Knights after moving in from near Nashville, Tenn.
"We were fortunate to get Jarkeith last year and he was a big asset to our program," West coach Stan McCain said. "He's certainly a Division I football player. He's probably the best defensive football player I've been around."
Joining Ruffin in signing Wednesday at West were Richard Thomas and Corey Fox. Thomas, who was the Knights' quarterback prior to injuring his ankle early in the season, signed with Pearl River Community College, while Fox is headed to Concordia College in Selma, Ala.
"Richard has a lot of athletic ability," McCain said about Thomas. "We probably could have had two Division I football players had he not gotten hurt. I've told all the coaches that his long-term potential is as a four-year guy back there in the secondary.
"Corey is a product of hard work. He's going to do well and he's a heck of a blocker and a pretty good defensive player as well."
— Jamie Wachter
Meridian High School showed off its new field house as well as its talent on National Signing Day, as the Wildcats opened the new facility by holding a press conference to announce that wide receiver Isaac Johnson and lineman JaQarius Scott will be signing at East Mississippi Community College for the upcoming season.
The Wildcats also welcomed back former EMCC and Meridian standouts Jason Yarbor and Shaquille Fluker to announce their signings to four-year colleges. Fluker, a safety for EMCC, will be attending the University of Georgia, while Yarbor signed with Northwestern State where he will play football and baseball.
“I’m extremely proud for these young men,” Meridian head coach Larry Weems said. “They are quality folks. They are good football players, but they are better kids. I am glad they are getting the opportunity to further their education. I know they will be successful in whatever they do.”
A four-star rated prospect by Rivals.com, Fluker said he is excited to get the opportunity to play in the SEC. The talented defender knew he wanted to play in the SEC, and when he visited the school he was sold by the program and facilities the Bulldogs had to offer. Fluker also sees Georgia as a team on the cusp of a championship and hopes to be the piece to bring the Bulldogs over the top in 2013.
“It’s a great time to be at Georgia,” Fluker said. “I thought they were going to be in the championship this year, and I think we are going to have a good chance of being in it this year.”
Georgia was knocked off by Alabama in the SEC Championship, due much in part to a 45-yard touchdown reception by Alabama freshman receiver Amari Cooper. When asked if he would be able to cover the receiver if the opportunity arose again, Fluker said he’d be ready.
“Yeah, I’d stop him,” Fluker said. “Either I’m going to pick it, or he’s going to
Former Wildcat and Northwestern Community College player Jibri Cole signed with Tuskegee University later in the afternoon.
— Tony Tsoukalas
Quitman High School’s senior class went down as the winningest class in school history, compiling a 37-18 record over four years. The talent in the class was put to display Wednesday, as the Panthers announced Anthony McGee, Chris Berry, Lance Lyon, Thomas Tucker and Franklin Jones will all take their game to the next level in the fall.
“They are all high-character, good in the class room, just fine young men,” Quitman head coach Steven Bynum said. “It’s kind of funny how that works out. Most of the time colleges end up with the guys who are some of the higher character kids on your team. I’m super proud of them.”
Defensive lineman Anthony McGee signed with East Central Community College. McGee caused seven fumbles and recovered four for the Panthers last season. Offensive linemen Chris Berry and Lance Lyon signed with EMCC. Offensive lineman Thomas Tucker signed with Faulkner University in Montgomery, Ala.
Lyon said he and Berry have played together since junior high and that he is excited to continue to play along side his friend at the next level.
“Getting to play with Coach (Buddy) Stephens and all the coaches up at EMCC, it is really a blessing for both of us,” Lyon said.
Perhaps the biggest news of the day for the Panthers was star quarterback Franklin Jones’ decision to sign with Miles College in Birmingham, Ala.
Jones was the heart and soul of the Quitman offense last season, passing for 1,441 yards and nine touchdowns in the air, while also tallying 1,790 yards and 29 touchdowns on the ground. However, Jones will switch to the opposite side of the ball at the college level, as Miles College plans to use the athlete at defensive back.
“It’s going to be different, but I will get used to it,” Jones said. “I think I can do it, but I am going to have to work hard.”
Jones will still get the opportunity to have the ball in his hands, as the Golden Bears will use him as a return specialist as well. Jones did not participate in special teams at Quitman in order to protect him from injury. While he is inexperienced at returning, the elusive playmaker is just happy to have the ball in his hands any way he can get it.
“ I didn’t get to do it here, but I’m a quick learner,” Jones said. “I’m going to show what I can do in the return game, and hopefully they put me on offense. I really want to play offense, but I am just happy to be playing college football.”
— Tony Tsoukalas
Philadelphia had two players sign national letters-of-intent Wednesday morning, with Dustin Sullivan signing with Holmes Community College and Anthony Triplett staying close to home with ECCC.
Sullivan is a defensive lineman but according to Philly coach Teddy Dyess, his biggest talent may be as a long snapper.
"He is a force to be reckoned with on the defensive line and on top of that he's a Division I long snapper," Dyess said.
Triplett starred at defensive back for the Tornadoes, while somehow flying under the radar. He led the state in interceptions each of the past two seasons. Yet, Triplett wasn’t well known mainly because Philly had Dandy Dozen selection Montreal Jordan on the other side of the field.
"East Central is getting a steal in him," Dyess added. "He's a kid that's going to continue to make plays."
Jordan, though, did not sign Wednesday. After committing to Alcorn State following a visit this past weekend, Jordan chose to delay his signing as he mulls over his options, which include Hinds Community College and Jackson State, according to Dyess.
— Jamie Wachter
Elsewhere in the area, Union, Newton County and Neshoba Central all had two players sign as well.
The Yellowjackets had offensive lineman Jon Parker sign with East Central, while Jessie Gill is headed to EMCC.
Parker is 6-8, 300 pounds and has shown so much improvement the past two seasons that Union coach Brad Breland is excited to see how much better the big lineman can get.
"He's come a longways the past two years and I've told everybody if he improves the next two years as much as he's done the past two years, he'll be playing on Saturdays," he said. "He could be a Division I player if he keeps working and developing his talents."
Gill, though, after starring for two seasons at quarterback and making big plays nonstop for the Yellowjackets, will now try to prevent them with the Lions as he moves over to safety.
"I think Jessie will fit in and find his niche there," Breland added.
Newton County also is sending a lineman to ECCC in defensive lineman Demetre McCleon. The 5-10, 250-pounder is recovering from a knee injury, but Cougars coach Jackie Williamson expects him to make an impact.
"He's versatile enough to play d-line or o-line and I wouldn't be surprised if he plays some o-line," he said. "He's been working out after school trying to get himself ready.
"He loves the game and will be a good competitor for them."
The Cougars are also sending Joe Wansley to Faulkner where he will play for former NC coach Charlie Boren, an assistant with the Eagles.
"I think they are getting a prize," Williamson added. "He's 6-4 and he hasn't played football but for two years and the sky is the limit for him."
The Rockets, meanwhile, had linebacker Tommy McCool and wide receiver Darrion Burnside both sign with ECCC.
— Jamie Wachter