ATLANTA -- The first day of practice was underway Friday for the Rising Seniors Junior Bowl, and the East Team took some time to install the playbook and get warmed up to contact after being out of pads for a few weeks following the end of their junior seasons.
The most-heralded prospect in the event made his presence known early on, while Ohio State coach Urban Meyer is doing his best to dip into the talent-rich Peach State for the 2014 recruiting cycle.
Buckeyes lead for hard-hitting LB McMillan
ESPN Watch List linebacker Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County) admits he is not used to playing with or against the type of talent he saw on the field Friday at Grady Stadium.
“It has been an adjustment with the defensive line and the fast gameplay,” McMillan said. “The holes open up and close faster than what I am used to.”
With an estimated 50 scholarship offers already, the 6-foot-2, 245 pound junior might want to get used to being surrounded by big-time talent. If his signing day were today, McMillan would be headed to play for a team that went 12-0 in the Big Ten this season.
“Ohio State is my leader,” McMillan said. “They have a great coaching staff, and Urban Meyer builds championship programs. You just feel at home when you go up there.”
Clemson is second.
“Every time I go to Clemson, I get that family vibe,” McMillan said. “Coach Dabo Swinney is amped up and fiery, and Coach (Jeff) Scott, my recruiter, is a really cool guy. I love it there.”
Georgia rounds out the top group.
“Georgia is my top in-state school, and my family loves Georgia,” McMillan said. “Every time I visit there I bring smiles to their faces, so I go up there every now and then, because I really like seeing them happy.”
Fortunately for the Tigers, Bulldogs and countless other programs, signing day is not on the horizon for McMillan, nor is his decision. As he has said for months now, McMillan intends to make his announcement at the 2014 Under Armour All-America Game next January. The college football landscape could be very different by then.
“I want to see how the coaching staff pans out over the next year and what the depth chart looks like,” McMillan said. “I am not scared of competition, but I need to be realistic. Why would I want to go to a school that just signed three guys at my position?”
RB Autry also has Ohio State at No.1
Running back Myles Autry (Norcross, Ga./Norcross) will be out of action until Aug. 1 due to a knee injury suffered in his team's semifinal playoff win over Colquitt Co., but he was in attendance for Day 1 of Rising Seniors practice, where, like McMillan, he named the Buckeyes as his leader.
“Ohio State is No. 1, because they have a great head coach up there, and they are my dream school,” Autry said. “Ever since I was a little kid, I was a big fan of Santonio Holmes, Ted Ginn and Troy Smith.”
Autry actually spoke to Ohio State over the Holiday Break.
“I called them on Tuesday, and they asked how I was doing and wished me Merry Christmas,” Autry said.
The ESPN Watch List selection said he has no No. 2 or No. 3 school after Ohio State but maintains he is still open-minded and any program could take the lead in the future. Autry did mention visiting Columbus, Ohio, in the near future, and he intends on bringing a few highly-touted prospects with him from Rising Seniors.
Trending: McMillan making a name for himself
Last year, linebacker Reuben Foster (Auburn, Ala./Alabama), then at LaGrange (Ga.) Troup, showed during Rising Seniors practice why he was one of the hardest-hitting prospects ever to come out of the Peach State. On Friday, McMillan established himself as the next big-time linebacker prospect by engulfing running backs during practice.
“He hits like a ton of bricks, yet he is light on his feet, like a feather and can run,” said Newton head coach Cortez Allen. “Like Reuben Foster, McMillan is an old-school linebacker that brings the hammer. One thing he has over Foster is that he is actually bigger.”
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Biggest hit: Raekwon McMillan. On the first full-contact play of the day, McMillan showed why he is considered by many to be the best prospect in Georgia for next year, laying the wood to University of Georgia commitment Stanley Williams.
Physically dominant: Elisha Shaw (Tucker, Ga./Tucker). Shaw was able to penetrate and collapse the pocket at will, making it almost impossible for the East offense to get any running game going between the tackles. Simply put, the 6-5, 280-pound defensive lineman is a monster inside.
Best arm: Deshaun Watson (Gainesville, Ga./Gainesville). Watson continued where he left off at the State Championship game two weeks ago, making accurate throws with velocity throughout the first day of practice. His ability to hit his target outside the pocket was particularly impressive.
Biggest surprise: Terrone Prescod (Decatur, Ga./Columbia). The physical mauler was the only one who could slow Shaw down today. His coach reports Ole Miss and Virginia recently have offered the 6-4, 310-pound offensive lineman.
Most upside: Christian Harris (Suwanee, Ga./Collins Hill). The 6-6, 265-pound offensive tackle has no bad body weight and long arms, which combined with his natural athleticism make for a prototypical left tackle. His recruitment could blow up as he fills out his incredible frame.
Quickest: Stanley Williams (Monroe, Ga./George Walton Academy). The 5-9, 192 pound running back was a blur all day, getting to the second level and making life miserable for linebackers and safeties alike. If he gets an angle, the Bulldogs’ commitment is gone.