Prescott Burgess will be the player to watch this fall; Ursuline's Louis Irizarry is ranked No. 3.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
Warren Harding High junior Prescott Burgess has come a long way in a short time.
"This is his third year of organized football," said Raiders coach Thom McDaniels. "He's made a big impression with very little playing experience."
What does that mean? Burgess, a 6-foot-4, 218-pound strong safety, could have a bright future in the game.
Ohio Football Recruiting News (OFRN) already thinks so. In its May issue, the publication ranks Burgess, who will be a senior in the fall, as the state's top prospect. Ursuline tight end Louis Irizarry is No. 3.
Lesson in football
"The best thing about him," McDaniels said of Burgess, "is that he's still growing and getting stronger and learning the game."
OFRN reports that Burgess is interested in Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Notre Dame and Michigan State.
"He's been offered by virtually everybody," McDaniels said. "He's going to let the process play itself out and make a decision at some point in his senior season."
The suspense already has started to build.
"Based on his junior performance, we expected him to be one of the guys to command attention," McDaniels said.
In his junior season at Harding, Burgess made over 100 tackles and intercepted two passes.
"He's very physical. He's instinctive, and he's an excellent tackler," McDaniels said. "[Former Canton McKinley standout and current Ohio State strong safety] Mike Doss was a great hitter, but he wasn't a great tackler."
But when Burgess pursues the ball carrier, you can almost guarantee the tackle being made.
"He gets to the football," the coach said.
According to OFRN, Burgess bench presses 300 pounds and squats over 400 and, depending on his size, could play outside linebacker in college.
"He may outgrow the strong safety position," McDaniels said.
Still, that's where Burgess will play later this year.
"We'll do some different things with him as a strong safety to get him near the line of scrimmage," said McDaniels, who added that Burgess, through his own effort and that of his coaching staff, needs to improve his pass defense.
Burgess will give Harding a top senior prospect for the second straight season.
Running back Maurice Clarett was Ohio's Mr. Football in 2001 and is now at Ohio State.
"That's OK with me," McDaniels said of having that talent around. "Those top prospects make you a pretty good coach. I've been at two great high schools [Canton McKinley being the other] and I've had a lot of great players."
Standing tall at Ursuline
Within the Steel Valley Conference is another player that is drawing serious attention -- Ursuline's Irizarry, a 6-5, 235-pound tight end.
The college that lands Irizarry will be getting a top athlete and solid student. He carries a 3.9 grade-point average.
"He is the complete package," Ursuline assistant coach Dan Chiaberta said.
Irizarry caught 31 passes for 558 yards and seven touchdowns during his junior season. OFRN reports that he has scholarship offers from Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State, Wake Forest, Boston College and Maryland, with his top two being Ohio State and Penn State.
"He'll turn it up a notch this year. He seems to turn it up every year," Chiaberta said.
Players to watch
Harding defensive back Mike Phillips (18th), Chaney defensive end/tight end Keilen Dykes (20th) and Ursuline running back/defensive back Terrence Graves (29th) are included in OFRN's list of the state's top 30 prospects.
Other area players listed by OFRN who are drawing interest include: Boardman kicker Andrew Good, Ursuline offensive lineman Matt Maizel and Lowellville defensive back Andy Peterson.