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July 9, 2012
Music City Classic begins Friday
The seventh annual Music City Classic 7-on-7 High School Passing Tournament and Camp at Vanderbilt University takes place this weekend, and the event could be bigger than ever. Over 29 schools are currently scheduled to participate in the event, including programs for over eight different states.
Teams from Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi and South Carolina will join several of Tennessee's top programs in the two-day event that will include three sessions of pool play and a single elimination tournament.
Five of the first six tournament championships will compete in the event including last year's champion Lake Hamilton of Arkansas. Many other top teams such as Brentwood Academy, Evangelical Christian School, Independence and Whitehaven will also compete. Ten first-time entrants will also compete.
VandySports.com will be on hand to cover the two-day event, and presents a team-by-team preview of the field.
Music City Classic Team Capsules:
Note: Teams subject to change.
Brentwood Academy Eagles
Location: Brentwood, Tennessee
Head Coach: Cody White
2011 Record: 9-3
Team Info: Brentwood Academy is one of the early favorites for the MCC crown as the Eagles will bring in several BCS level prospects throughout it's roster, not to mention a new coaching staff led by former Denison High (Texas) head coach Cody White. A former assistant at Texas powers Lake Highland and Odessa Permian, White has directed a number of prolific offenses during his tenure and is quite familiar with 7-on-7 events. The Eagles will be led by Rivals100 star athlete Jalen Ramsey and three-star quarterback Max Staver. Ramsey is coming off impressive showings at the Rivals Five-Star 100 Challenge and the Opening in recent weeks. He was a All-MCC team performer last summer. Staver, a recent Florida commitment, may be the top overall passer at this year's MCC. He directed the Eagles to a 6-5 showing last July. The Eagles will also feature senior prospects Dmontre Wade and Amos Mason, as well as junior prospect Derek Barnett and rising 2015 standouts Aaquil Annoor and C.J. Sanders. Both Wade and Mason are among the top prospects in middle Tennessee and figure to sign with FBS schools next February. Barnett is a defensive end that has started to attract attention from BCS schools while Annoor and Sanders have already collected SEC verbal offers. Both possess speed and quickness that could be dangerous in a 7-on-7 event. Brentwood Academy should contend for another state championship in 2012 and for the MCC title this weekend.
Location: Clarksville, Tennessee
Head Coach: Ken Busbee
2011 Record: 6-5
Team Info: Clarksville makes another trip to Nashville for the Music City Classic after posting a 4-6 record in last summer's event. Like many schools, the Wildcats used the event to improve on both its pass defense and it's medium-range spread passing game and went on to post a 6-5 record in the 2011 high school season. The Wildcats will feature senior athlete Dallin Bridges, tight end Austin Brown and linebacker Kendyal Rozelle. Bridges rushed for over 600 yards and accounted for nine touchdowns last season. He may be a prospect to watch as his senior season progresses. Brown and Rozelle figure to see their contributions increase in 2012. Junior slot back Lawrenz Guerra also returns, and he has the versatility to be a match-up problem this weekend. Rising junior Jeff Webb is expected to take over at quarterback after the graduation of Devin Rodriguez. The Wildcats have become more competitive in the MCC over the years, and should be a tough out once again this weekend.
David Lipscomb Mustangs
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Head Coach: Glenn McCadams
2011 Record: 4-6
Team Info: Lipscomb has been one of middle Tennessee's most successful programs, but the Mustangs struggled in 2011 due to inexperience. Now Lipscomb enters a new season with a group of standout seniors and some rising juniors that should put them back into the playoffs in 2012. The headliner of the group is rising junior Cooper Jackson. The 6-foot-1, 225-pounder registered 85 tackles last season with a pair of sacks. He also rushed for 200 yards on offense. He'll be a 2014 prospect to watch this fall. Other returners include leading rusher Gabe Glimps, receiver Cortland Daws, fullback/linebacker Kenneth Drew and linebackers Luke Runion and Daniel Grissim. Rising junior Luke Simpson will also return to direct the team at quarterback. A regular in the Music City Classic, Lipscomb has been known for its running game under Coach McCadams, but the offense has steadily moved to a more multiple system. The Mustangs won the MCC in 2008, and have been one of the better coached and organized teams over the years. They will be another team to watch this weekend.
DeKalb County Tigers
Location: Smithville, Tennessee
Head Coach: Steve Trapp
2011 Record: 8-3
Team Info: DeKalb County is making its fifth straight appearance in the Music City Classic and come into this year's competition after a strong turnaround in 2011. The Tigers improved from 3-8 to 8-3 last fall, reaching the first round of the Class 4A playoffs as the team showed improvement in its multiple spread system. Quarterback Lucas Phillips returns after a breakout junior season. The 6-foot-1 passer threw for 1,777 yards and 19 touchdowns, and ran for 546 yards and six touchdowns. He has received some looks from FCS schools this spring. The Tigers also return senior linebacker Cody Puckett. The 6-foot-2 defender may be more known for his exploits on the baseball field, but he's also one of District 8-AA's better linebackers. Senior Will Molander, the team's leading receiver a year ago, and senior Alex Hayes, the team's top defensive back, also return. DeKalb County went 3-8 in last summer's MCC, but the Tigers figure to be a little more formidable this weekend.
Location: Roebuck, South Carolina
Head Coach: David Gutshall
2011 Record: 7-6
Team Info: Dorman High has been one of South Carolina's better programs in recent years, capturing a state championship in 2009 and reaching the state title game in 2008 and 2010. A few months prior to the Cavs capturing the state title in 2009, the team rolled through Nashville and captured the Music City Classic. Dorman experienced a bit of a slip last season, posting just a 7-6 record and losing in the second round of the playoffs. Coach Gutshall's 2012 team figures to have a little more success with the progress of a few key standouts. Senior quarterback Trey Robinson returns after throwing for 1,151 yards and rushing for 500 more in 2011. The 6-foot-3 prospect is known for his play-making ability, but he'll need to improve on his accuracy if the Cavs want to improve this fall. Sophomore J.J. Arcega-Whiteside impressed during his first year at Dorman, posting 240 yards. The 6-foot-3 athlete could pose as Robinson's favorite target this weekend. 6-foot-2 senior Amavi Draper will be another option at receiver. Defensive end/linebacker Curtis Meadows, the team's leader in sacks a year ago, and senior defensive back Brandon Pinckney, also return. Dorman might not come into this year's MCC as stacked as it was in 2009, when it featured a pair of future FBS signees including four-star Charone Peake, but the Cavaliers should be one to watch in this year's field.
East Literature Eagles
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Head Coach: Brian Waite
2011 Record: 4-6
Team Info: East Lit makes its first appearance in the Music City Classic and the Eagles will be under new leadership. Former defensive coordinator Brian Waite was named head coach in January after Jim Wilson stepped down. Waite will be looking to get the Eagles back to the playoffs after a 4-6 finish in 2011. The Eagles lost quarterback Antonio McKissack to graduation, but receivers Patrick Smith, Chris Smith and Rashaud Evans return. The 6-foot Smith might be the best of the bunch. A rising junior, Smith caught 21 passes for 350 yards and picked off a couple of passes while breaking up seven more in 2011. He's already receiving FBS attention. The Eagles will also return senior linebacker Alex Vaughn, the team's top defender from last year, as well as junior linebacker Brandon Van Leer and defensive backs Nigel Ramsey and Malik City. East Lit should have enough athletes to compete in the MCC and could be a surprise during pool play sessions.
Evangelical Christian School Eagles
Location: Cordova, Tennessee
Head Coach: Geoff Walters
2011 Record: 8-4
Team Info: ECS becomes the latest school from the Memphis area to make the trip to the MCC. The Division II-A program follows in the footsteps of a few Shelby County teams such as Memphis University School, Southwind and Christian Brothers that previously competed in the two-day event. Coach Walters squad finished 8-4 for the second straight year and reached the quarterfinals of the state playoffs. This years Eagles will feature linebacker/h-back Walker Jones. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound senior is considered one of the state's top linebackers and one of its most underrated offensive prospects. A BCS level recruit, Jones racked up over 95 tackles in 2011 and accounted for 15 offensive touchdowns. ECS also returns senior quarterback Brent Rooker. The 6-foot-3 all-state passer threw for 2,164 yards and 23 touchdowns against just four interceptions a year ago, and rushed for 661 yards and four more scores. Rooker has verbally committed to Mississippi State for baseball. Most of Rooker's top targets also return in receivers Carson Sippel, Alex Armfield and fullback Elliot Hill. Rising junior defensive end McKenzie Hill also returns. ECS may not be the most talented team in the field, but with a major prospect like Jones and Rooker directing a efficient passing attack, the Eagles should contend for the title this weekend.
Fairview Yellow Jackets
Location: Fairview, Tennessee
Head Coach: Chris Hughes
2011 Record: 11-2
Team Info: Fairview posted a 6-4 record during its first Music City Classic last summer and went on to go 11-2 during the season in 2011. The Yellow Jackets also reached the quarterfinals of the state playoffs before losing to eventual runner-up Milan. One of top emerging programs in 3A, Fairview has won 21 games in the last two years and figure to be a state contender once again in 2012 with a number of top players returning. Senior running back Julian Franklin rushed for 1,238 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2011 after rushing for over 900 yards as a sophomore. The 5-foot-11, 175-pound back has received interest from numerous FBS and FCS programs. All-State receiver Deondre Moore also returns after a season in which the 6-foot-1 target caught 47 passes for 973 yards and 18 touchdowns. Like Franklin, Moore has already received attention from FBS and FCS schools, and holds an offer from South Dakota State. Junior linebacker Garrett Wall is another FBS/FCS prospect for the Yellow Jackets that has started to get attention after a good showing at the Rivals VTO camp this spring. The talent doesn't stop with those three however, as senior quarterback Jack Ramey returns after accounting for nearly 2,000 yards of total offense, as does linebacker Cooper Stevenson and defensive end Jacob Buttrey. Coach Hughes squad will mix a spread with a basic I-concept and will feature several linebackers. The Yellow Jackets could be a dark horse team for a deep run in tournament play this weekend.
Fort Campbell Falcons
Location: Fort Campbell, Kentucky
Head Coach: Shawn Berner
2011 Record: 9-5
Team Info: The Falcons have become a regular at the Music City Classic and return to Nashville after a somewhat surprising 5-6 showing a year ago. A powerhouse in the state of Kentucky, the Falcons lost over 15 seniors in 2010 and weren't expected to be a major contender in 2011. However, Fort Campbell not only surprised at the MCC but went on to post a 9-5 record and reach the Class 3A semifinals during the football season. The success proved that Coach Berner's system may be bigger than its players. The Falcons won three straight state titles from 2007-2009. 2015 prospects Jonathan Jethro and Tristen Luke returns at running back. Jethro rushed for five scores as the team's third running back in 2011. Luke has been a standout at a few camps and combines this spring and rushed for a few scores as well last fall. Fort Campbell will also feature sophomore quarterback Jaylen Williams, junior receiver Chris Schlangen, linebacker Andrew Garay and athlete Aaron Otto. Williams threw for 700 yards as the team's backup passer a year ago. Fort Campbell always seems to play with tough resolve and high character. The Falcons may come up short athletically against bigger opponents at the MCC, but they will compete until the final whistle.
Gallatin Green Wave
Location: Gallatin, Tennessee
Head Coach: Mark Williams
2011 Record: 10-2
Team Info: Gallatin will compete in its fourth MCC tournament but will still have a bit of a new look this summer, particularly on the sidelines. The Green Wave promoted offensive coordinator Mark Williams as head coach in February after 14-year head man Robert Lassiter stepped down. Williams, also an OC at both Blackman and Smyrna, installed a pro-style offense last fall and the Green Wave averaged 32.6 points per game. 2011 Smyrna offensive coordinator Daniel Childs will call plays for Williams. Five starters from the offense return including rising junior quarterback Clay Carnes. The 6-foot-1 passer threw for over 1,200 yards as a sophomore and accounted for 14 total touchdowns. Carnes lost a few of his top targets from last year's team but will have the services of senior slot Skylar Bailey. The top talent for the Green Wave however will be two-way player Darian Banks. The 5-foot-9, 185-pound prospect has already received a few FCS offers as well as a scholarship from Army. Many consider him to be one of the better senior corners in the state of Tennessee. Banks posted five interceptions last season and accounted for 700 all-purpose yards on offense. Senior linebacker Ta Rice and defensive back Billy Brown are also two notable returnees for the Green Wave. Gallatin finished 6-4 in last year's MCC, earning a 13th seed in the tournament before losing to Fort Campbell in the second round. Expect the Gallatin to compete for a good seed once again this weekend.
Gibson Southern Titans
Location: Fort Branch, Indiana
Head Coach: Nick Hart
2011 Record: 4-7
Team Info: Gibson Southern will be a newcomer to the Music City Classic and will feature a new head coach as well. Nick Hart comes over after spending four years as an offensive coordinator under his father John Hart at Indiana powerhouse Warren Central. The Warriors went 41-9 and won a state title in 2009 during Hart's tenure. The 26-year old head coach figures to bring a new approach to the Titans offense and will use the MCC as a team building event. All-State defensive back David Anguish may be Hart's top returning player. The 5-foot-11 senior picked off a handful of passes last year after posting three interceptions as a sophomore. He also serves as a receiver for quarterback Jordan Scheller. The 6-foot, 185-pound passer garnered all-state honorable mention after another strong year throwing the ball. He's accounted for nearly 3,000 yards in the last two years. Defensive back Adam Heath, linebacker Garrett Elpers and defensive lineman Brandon Rainey will also give the Titans some experience. Not much is known about Southern other than Hart's history at other schools, and that the team plays in a mid-level classification in Indiana.
Location: Brownsville, Tennessee
Head Coach: Slade Calhoun
2011 Record: 1-9
Team Info: Haywood makes its second straight trip to the Music City Classic and hopes to improve on last summer's 3-7 showing. Coach Slade Calhoun lost few players from last year's squad, but return talented athlete Quintavious Caldwell. A quarterback earlier in his career, Caldwell is expected to play more receiver and defensive back this year around. Some think the 6-foot-2 prospect is one of the better athletes in Class 4A. Assuming the quarterback duties should be rising junior Montravious Currie, a 5-foot-10 athlete. He emerged as a captain last fall. Other players returning for the Tomcats include linebacker Devonte Briley, receiver Terrion Cooper, corner Darius Pirtle and receiver Seth Birdsong. The west Tennessee program might not have the most polished passing attack, but the Tomcats should have enough overall talent defensively to compete in a 7-on-7 event like the MCC.
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Head Coach: Craig Clayton
2011 Record: 3-7
Team Info: For much of the 2000's, there was no metro Nashville football program more successful than the Hillsboro Burros. The program captured state championships in 2003 and 2008 and were an annual playoff team. However, since winning the title in 2008, the Burros have been just 11-21 in the last years. Hillsboro hired former Franklin High head coach Craig Clayton to direct the program in March, and the successful coach should bring a new approach to Hillsboro Road. Clayton 65-22 during his tenure with the Rebels and will bring over a 3-5 defense. The Burros have a few talented pieces returning from last year's team including running back Robert Kelly, linebacker Ed Thomas and defensive backs Calvin Woods and Davante Gates. All four seniors figure to give Clayton some foundation. The Burros should also have the services of rising junior quarterback Porter Streator and safety Logan Burns. Hillsboro plays in one of the state's most difficult districts, so it may take a year or two for Clayton to build HHS back into a winner. Even with Hillsboro's struggles on the gridiron recently, the 7-on-7 team has been a tough out in virtually every Music City Classic and won the event in 2007. Last year, the Burros took eventual 2011 MCC champion Lake Hamilton to the limit in the third round and later received the Commodore Sportsmanship Award for their competitive play.
Location: Thompson's Station, Tennesseee
Head Coach: Kevin Dyson
2011 Record: 8-3
Team Info: Independence has been a regular contender at the MCC over the years and should be a contender once again in 2012. Led by former Tennessee Titans standout Kevin Dyson, the Eagles return several talented players from last year's 8-3 team, but will also feature talented 2014 prospects Vic Wharton and Rashaan Gaulden. Wharton transferred to Independence this summer from CPA after his father became the school's track coach. It's unknown if the BCS prospect will be able to participate in this weekend's event, but he will be eligible for the 2012 football season. Gaulden comes from Brentwood Academy, and like Wharton, is a major BCS prospect for the 2014 class. The defensive back duo could cause a lot of trouble this weekend if they are ready to go for the Eagles. Some of the returning Indy that should compete over the weekend include 2011 All-MCC standout Oscar Prado, linebacker Zak Steele, quarterback Chase Swayze, and running back Jalen Wade. The 5-foot-10 Prado was a all-around player for the Eagles a year ago, gaining all-purpose yards and providing sound defense as a safety. He's received some FBS and FCS interest this spring. Steele, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound prospect, has also received FBS/FCS interest this spring and brings a physical game as both a defender and H-back. Swayze split time at QB last year but should be the No.1 man in 2012. Wade is another good sized two-way player like Steele that can be effective at linebacker and physical as a ball carrier. Another player returning is senior defensive end Josh Murray. Independence has enough returning talent to make some noise in this weekend's event, but if Wharton and Gaulden are eligible to play, the Eagles could dominate in pool play, and make another deep run in the tournament on Saturday.
Location: Kenton, Ohio
Head Coach: Mike Mauk
2011 Record: 14-1
Team Info: Kenton High returns for its third straight Music City Classic, but this year's team figures to be a little different than the previous two. Three-star quarterback Maty Mauk has moved on to the University of Missouri and talented athlete Brice Fackler will play at Kent State this fall. Head coach Mike Mauk appears to have another quarterback waiting in the wings in rising junior Grant Sherman. The 6-foot-4, 190-pound passer completed 55-percent of his passes during mop up duty last season, including four touchdowns. He's already starting to receive attention from FBS programs including some in the MAC. Sherman will still have a number of targets from last year's squad to throw to, including fellow 2014 prospect Justin Sawmiller. The 6-foot-1 target led the team with 137 receptions for 1,813 yards and 19 touchdowns a year ago. Fellow rising junior Matt Bahr caught 55 passes for 995 yards and 14 touchdowns last year as well. Linebacker Noah Furbush is yet another 2014 prospect that's started to make some noise. The 6-foot-3 defender was one of the top performers at the Toledo 7-on-7 event earlier this month. Seniors Zach Wolowicz and Caleb Halsey are a couple of Wildcats that should also give Coach Mauk production and leadership. Kenton may have lost some big names from last year's team, including the accomplished Mauk, but there still appears to be plenty of fire power for another deep run in the tournament. The Wildcats captured the Music City Championship in 2010 and reached the third round of the tournament last year. Kenton fielded both a Red and White team last summer, and might do so again this weekend.
Lake Hamilton Wolves
Location: Perry, Arkansas
Head Coach: Jerry Clay
2011 Record: 12-2
Team Info: Lake Hamilton strolled into the Music City Classic last summer as a first year participant and left Nashville as the tournament champions with a upset defeat of top-seed Wren High. The Wolves, which feature a multi-level passing attack, were led by a group of talented seniors including Music City Classic MVP Dre Bennett, quarterback Levi Runyan and Dante Ransom and fought through a couple of close games before pulling away on Wren in the final, 32-22. This year's squad will feature a number of players from that championship team, but with more significant roles. Nathan Sawrie, a rising junior, takes over at quarterback. A standout baseball player, the 5-foot-11 passer directed Lake Hamilton to a championship at the 0BU 7-on-7 in June. Some of his top targets will be senior Cody Smith, junior Trevor Mittelstadt and junior Hunter Lipton. The trio won't blow anyone away with their size, but have reliable hands and run good routes. The Wolves will also feature defensive back Alec Young, running back Stephen Shirley and linebacker Chris Eastburn. The Wolves will be a little younger than last year's team but the team's offensive system should not miss a beat this weekend. The biggest question mark will be the defense as the Wolves will certainly be tested by some of the events more athletic teams.
Lone Oak Purple Flash
Location: Paducah, Kentucky
Head Coach: Jack Haskins
2011 Record: 10-3
Team Info: Lone Oak makes its first appearance in the Music City Classic, but brings with it a lot of accolades. The Kentucky program is led by legendary head coach Jack Haskins, whom has been an innovator in terms of high school passing attacks. A few years ago, Haskins directed current Troy University quarterback Corey Robinson to a national high school record of 91 passing touchdowns in 2007. His passing attacks have since gotten only better in recent years and he may have one of the nation's most prolific 2014 quarterbacks in Cole Ousley. The 6-foot-3 passer threw for 3,517 yards and 51 touchdowns in 2011 after throwing for 3,372 yards and 34 TDs. Ousley has already received attention from FBS programs and participated in the US Army National Combine earlier this January. Ousley will have a plethora of receivers to throw to this year as seniors Derek Collier and Jakyron Burnside, as well as sophomores Tyrae Caldwell and D'juan Sherrill return. The Purple Flash will also feature senior linebacker Tanner Riley and sophomore defensive backs Rasheed Jones and Cole Womack. The Purple Flash also welcome in a very talented 2016 prospect in Zyaire Hughes. The 6-foot-1, 165-pound could play a variety of positions this year, but he's expected to play receiver this weekend. Lone Oak is not considered to be a very big team and may only have average athleticism, but like many teams in 7-on-7 events, the timing of the passing game and versatile route execution could make the Flash a hard team to beat this weekend. Lone Oak could make a very deep run in the MCC.
Madison-Ridgeland Academy Patriots
Location: Madison, Mississippi
Head Coach: Forrest Williams
2011 Record: 7-5
Team Info: MRA makes its second straight trip to Nashville after a strong 7-5 showing last summer. The Patriots were highly competitive during the three rounds of pool play last year and then reached the quarterfinals of the tournament before falling to Rochester in a thrilling 45-42 contest. Coach Williams team went on to post a 7-5 record last fall, and featured a three-headed monster at quarterback that combined to throw for 3,571 yards and 45 touchdowns. Two of those passers, senior Matt Porter and junior Patrick Daniels, return and should lead the Patriots once again. Porter started a handful of games in 2011, throwing for 18 touchdowns and 1,440 yards. He set a state record in his classification for throwing for over 500 yards and seven TDs in one game. Daniels also started a couple of games last season, including a pair of late season losses. The more athletic of the two, Daniels ran for nearly 500 yards in addition to passing for 1,000. MRA lost its leading receiver to graduation, but returns senior Will Trammell and junior Zack McCraw. The duo accounted for 55 total catches and 11 touchdowns a year ago. Defensively, the Patriots will feature senior defensive back JT Williamson, junior defensive lineman Michael Bishop and linebackers Michael Gordon and Collins Pace. The Patriots should be another efficient squad to watch this weekend. What the team will lack in size and athleticism, they seem to make up in strategy and execution.
Model Blue Devils
Location: Rome, Georgia
Head Coach: Lynn Hunnicutt
2011 Record: 1-9
Team Info: Model High becomes one of two Georgia teams to make its first appearance in the Music City Classic. Led by former Pepperell state championship head coach Lynn Hunnicutt, the Blue Devils have struggled the last two years in Class 2A, but the team returns a few promising young players this summer. Rising junior quarterback Cameron O'Neal returns after serving as a backup to Dustin Fincher a year ago. The 6-foot-2 passer made several appearances last season while Fincher was effected by injuries. Running back Nakia Watkins also returns after splitting carries with Chris Hill in 2011. The 6-foot, 225-pound prospect has received some interest this spring as both a linebacker and ball carrier. Junior receiver James Brown was the Blue Devils third or fourth option a year ago but he figures to see his role grow due to graduation. Model is not a big school and has played with just about 50 players over the last couple of years. Teams that size don't tend to do that well in the MCC, but if O'Neal and Watkins are as good as advertised, the Blue Devils could offer up some surprises.
Montgomery Bell Academy Big Red
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Head Coach: Marty Euverard
2011 Record: 6-6
Team Info: MBA has been a fixture in the Music City Classic ever since the events first run in 2006. The Big Red will typically field two teams during the event and are expected to do so once again this year. Last season was MBA's first under head coach Marty Euverard, and though the first season had it's struggles, MBA did finish 6-6. MBA has made a few changes this off-season and will return a number of talented players this fall including recent 2014 Vanderbilt commitment Jashon Robertson. The 6-foot-3, 275-pound prospect enjoyed a strong year as a sophomore and will play both defensive tackle and H-back for the Big Red. He's expected to be a four-star level prospect in 2014. He will be one of many targets for returning starting quarterback Dylan Hall. The senior passed for nearly 1,200 yards and nine touchdowns last fall. Hall struggled with his accuracy at times, throwing for nine interceptions, so his decision making will need to improve this year. Two of Hall's top receivers, Brooks Best and Tony Birdsong, return, as well as tight end Andrew Einstman. The three combined for over 600 yards on 50 plus receptions. MBA will also feature talented 2015 defensive back Michael Lacey. The 5-foot-8, 185-pound defender was a standout on the Big Red's freshman squad last year and lettered in five varsity games. He's already attracting the attention of college coaches. Other players of note for the Big Red include defensive end Brandon Key, linebackers Bryson Jarrett and Franklin Garstin, running backs Tony Drew and JeTarri Donald. Cade Hopper and Gary Jackson are two more players to watch this weekend. With several young and experienced players returning, MBA should take a step back in the right direction this year and should be competitive in the MCC.
Mount Vernon Presbyterian Mustangs
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Head Coach: Reggie Burnette
2011 Record: 4-7
Team Info: Mount Vernon Presbyterian is the second team from Georgia to make its first appearance in the Music City Classic. The Mustangs will feature one of Altanta's top 2014 quarterback prospects in Elijah Burnette. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound athlete threw for 2,695 yards and 28 touchdowns against just 10 picks in 2011. The rising junior also ran for 1,109 yards and 19 more scores. Burnette has already received attention from several FBS and FCS schools, despite playing for a GISA school. His top target is rising sophomore Mikell Lands, and he may be a 2015 prospect to watch in the future. The 5-foot-10 athlete caught 51 passes for 970 yards and 10 touchdowns last fall. He also ran for 334 yards and four more scores. Lands also returned 18 kicks for 465 yards. Another rising sophomore, Ty Hudson, caught 41 passes and 611 yards last fall as well. All three Mustang standouts will play defense, along with defensive end Judge Jones, defensive back Keon Douglas and linebacker Browning Dunn. Mount Vernon Presbyterian might be somewhat of a mystery team in the tournament field, but the Mustangs have more than enough talent to compete. Burnette and Lands talent may neutralize some of the bigger teams in the field.
Location: Clarksville, Tennessee
Head Coach: Isaac Shelby
2011 Record: 7-5
Team Info: Northeast is the second team from Clarksville that will compete in this weekend's tournament and the Eagles could make its first appearance in the MCC a very successful one. Northeast is led by All-State standout and prime BCS target Jalen Reeves-Maybin. The three-star prospect is known for his leadership qualities and he could make many plays on the fly as either a offensive or defensive player. He registered over 100 tackles last season and accounted for 2,735 yards of total offense with 46 touchdowns. Reeves-Maybin isn't the only standout for Northeast as the Eagles return 17 other starters, including nine on offense. Running back Dontavious Fort, fullback Jerome Jones and receiver/defensive back Damoni Franklin will likely serve as Reeves-Maybin's top targets this weekend. Fort and Jones have received some college attention this spring. The Eagles will also feature linebackers Zack Walker and Jovon Seal as well as defensive back Cliff Taylor. Defensive lineman Warwick Marsh also returns. The Eagles finished 7-5 last season and are expected to compete for a Class 5A state title this fall. With Reeves-Maybin's play-making ability on both sides of the ball as well as several other starters, Northeast should have the talent to compete with anyone this weekend in Nashville.
Location: Franklin, Tennessee
Head Coach: Charles Rathbone
2011 Record: 6-6
Team Info: Page will be the fourth school from Williamson County to participate in the Music City Classic this weekend, and the Patriots will have a new look with new head coach Charles Rathbone. He takes over after serving as an assistant at the school since 2001. Quarterback Zak Mizell returns to direct the offense. He passed for 1,200 yards as a sophomore starter. Running back Damian Lockridge and receivers Booker Leach and Austin Madge will serve as weapons for Mizell, as well as tight end/linebacker Joe Robertson. The Patriots will also feature linebacker Jake Laster, defensive end Zac Weiland-Roberts and defensive back Taylor Wallace. The Patriots have been a regular playoff contender in recent years and Rathbone could use the MCC event this weekend to improve on the team's spread attack as well as pass defense.
Location: Rochester, Illinois
Head Coach: Derek Leonard
2011 Record: 12-2, State Champions
Team Info: Rochester came into the Music City Classic last summer with one of the nation's top quarterbacks and made it to the semifinals of the tournament. Four-star passer Wes Lunt has moved to Oklahoma State where he'll open the season as a freshman starter for the Cowboys, leading rising senior Austin Green to take over for the Rockets. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound athlete started a few games last season while Lunt was out with a foot injury, and passed for 1,285 yards and 13 touchdowns. Green received interest from FBS and FCS schools this spring as he can also play linebacker. 2011 All-MCC standout and three-star linebacker Garret Dooley will be one of the tournament's top prospects. The Wisconsin commitment rushed for over 1,200 yards and caught 500 passes last season, in addition to 146 tackles. Joining Dooley on defense will be defensive backs Gabe Ferguson and Reed Watson as well as defensive ends Matt Swaine and Drake Leeper. Senior receiver Blake Pasley is the team's top returning pass catcher. The Rockets may have lost a little fire power without Lunt, one of the MCC's stars last year, but the defensive excellence of Dooley and the emergence of Green should still make Rochester a team to watch this weekend.
Union City Golden Tornadoes
Location: Union City, Tennessee
Head Coach: Darren Bowling
2011 Record: 6-7
Team Info: Union City makes its third trip to the Music City Classic and the Golden Tornadoes will be looking to improve from last summer's 2-8 finish. The Class 1A program returns the core of last season's team including fullback Keylon Hyde, quarterback Travis Rutland and receiver Khiry Lewis. The 5-foot-8, 225-pound Hyde was named the District 14-A Offensive Player of the Year after rushing for 1,800 yards and 17 touchdowns. Rutland, a 6-foot-1 prospect, missed half of the season with a finger injury but returned to lead UC back to the playoffs and earn all-district honors. The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Lewis transferred from South Fulton a year ago, and led the Tornadoes with 891 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. He also caught four TDs. Other top players returning include athlete Joseph Shanks, linebacker Tymaine Strickland and cornerback Keontre Murrell. Union City is another small school that would be at a major disadvantage if it was an 11-on-11 match-up, but the fact that the MCC is a skill position event, the Golden Tornadoes may have a chance to compete against some of the better teams this weekend.
Location: Memphis, Tennessee
Head Coach: Rodney Saulsberry
2011 Record: 14-1
Team Info: Whitehaven has been a regular at the Music City Classic and the Tigers program has seemed to catapult every summer showing into a strong fall. Last year, the Tigers fielded two teams in the event, with the Gold posting a 8-4 record and the White going 4-6. The Haven then went on to post a 14-1 record during the season, reaching the Class 6A state championship game. Whitehaven returns the bulk of last year's team including two current Vanderbilt commitments, receiver Gerald Perry and defensive back Darrius Sims. Perry caught over 30 passes for 800 yards and 14 touchdowns. The 5-foot-10 slot is one of the fastest prospects in the state of Tennessee. Sims is ranked 34th among corners by Rivals.com and has been one of the Tigers top players the last two years. The 5-foot-9 prospect is one of the more physical man defenders and one of the team's most dynamic play-makers. The talent doesn't stop with those two, as the Tigers also feature four-star running back Mark Dodson Jr. The Rivals250 prospect is one of the nation's top all-purpose backs. The Ole Miss commit rushed for 2,000 yards and 28 touchdowns a year ago. Other top prospects for the Tigers include receiver Justin Hunt, quarterback Patrick Smith and linebackers Adam Collins and Terrignon Brown. All four have received interest from FBS schools this spring as well. The Tigers nave never reached the finals of MCC, but with all the talent returning, a deep run is not only likely, it's expected.
Wilson Central Wildcats
Location: Lebanon, Tennessee
Head Coach: Brad Dedman
2011 Record: 2-8
Team Info: Wilson Central makes its first appearance in the 7-on-7 as the growing program features some of middle Tennessee's best young talent. Receiver Chris Lee has become a popular name to college recruiters this spring after an active evaluation program. The 6-foot-1 pass catcher missed most of the 2011 season due to injury but he's expected to enjoy a big senior season. The Wildcats will also feature freshman sensation Gabe Angel. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound prospect has already picked up a scholarship offer from Mississippi State and should have every SEC program after him by the time he reaches his junior year. The Wildcats will also feature key seniors such as defensive backs Eric Simmons and tight end Rod Crutchfield, as well as 2014 prospects like quarterback Jordan Roundtree, linebacker Kyle Coombes and defensive lineman Jordan McCollough. The Wildcats are looking to rebound from last year's disappointing 2-8 season and this weekend's event could be a major step in improving as a team. The talent level of the squad should translate into a lengthy run in the tournament.
Wren Golden Hurricanes
Location: Piedmont, South Carolina
Head Coach: Jeff Tate
2011 Record: 8-4
Team Info: Wren looked virtually unbeatable in last year's Music City Classic, but the Golden Hurricanes fell in the championship game, 32-22. The loss was the only one for Wren in 14 games. The Hurricane went on to post a 8-4 record, but lost in the first round of the lass 4A playoffs. Running back Levi Bufford returns after a strong showing in last year's tournament. The 5-foot-8, 200-pound back has received interest from plenty of BCS programs since last fall. Also returning is receiver Brandon Coleman. The 6-foot, 185-pound senior earned All-MCC team honors in last year's tournament and went on to catch 39 passes for 682 yards and six touchdowns last fall. The two will be joined by fellow offensive standouts Dexter Jackson and Jacob Watkins. Joey Stansell and Jacob Clary should battle for the quarterback position. Linebacker prospect Mario Tackett will lead a defense that also includes Blake Little and Jacob Davis, defensive end Josh McNeil and defensive back Logan Wright. The Golden Hurricane possess a lot of speed and will be looking to make up from last year's title game disappointment.
Location: Wynne, Arkansas
Head Coach: Chris Hill
2011 Record: 9-3
Team Info: Wynne will be the second team from Arkansas to play in the Music City Classic this summer, and is the sixth from the Natural State to compete in the MCC during the event's seven year history. Like the programs before them, Wynne has experienced regular success on the football field, capturing state titles in 2001 and 2004. Rising junior quarterback Reed Wingo returns after a strong 2011 season. The 6-foot-1 passer threw for over 1,500 yards and was named Newcomer of the Year in his area. Wingo's top target is play-making running back Josh Selvy. The 5-foot-8 prospect rushed for 1,164 yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior, and caught 45 passes from Wingo. Also returning for the Yellowjackets offense will be receivers Joe Stampley, Nick Moody, Johnny Ratliff and Lathan McFadden. The group as a whole possess good size, speed and versatility. On defense, Wynne will be led by defensive end Xavier Stringfellow, defensive back Dallas Johnstone and linebackers Drayton Willis and L'Markus Holmes. All were named all-conference following last season. The Yellowjackets are predicted to be one of the top teams in Class 5A this season with so many key members returning. Wynne may not have a lot of star power like some of the bigger teams in the tournament, but the Jackets appear to be another worthy contender for the MCC title this weekend.
The MCC will begin the first phase of pool play on Friday at Vanderbilt's John Rich Practice Complex behind McGugin Center at 1:30 p.m. central time with a second phase beginning at 6:30. On Saturday, the action will resume with a final round of pool play at 8:30 a.m. before ultimately beginning the tournament starting in the afternoon. The championship final is scheduled to take place at 4 p.m.
Central Michigan NEWS