TOP PLAYERS Around Valley, standouts abound

Some area seniors have already made verbal commitments to college teams.
YOUNGSTOWN -- When college recruiters look at Ursuline senior Jerome Jones, they rave about his size, his athleticism and his potential. It's flattering, of course, but there's just one problem.
"They always say you have the potential to be great, they never say you're great," Jones said. "It's always about what you could be."
Jones, like all players, wants to be known as a good football player, not just a good athlete.
Still, when you're 6-foot-7, 220 pounds, you're going to get noticed. He's already got offers from Miami of Ohio, Toledo, Kansas and Akron and he's going to get more.
"It's nice, but it's a lot to deal with," he said. "I'm not sure what's going to happen."
The Irish lost two Division I players to graduation. Running back Alex Allen, who rushed for 2,455 yards last season, went to Akron. Wide receiver Derrick Stewart, who scored 12 touchdowns, went to Cincinnati.
But there's plenty of talent remaining.
Jones' teammate, senior linebacker Joe Underwood, already verbally committed to Miami of Ohio. (Mooney senior cornerback Desmond Marrow has also verballed to the RedHawks.)
Irish seniors Mike Bartos and Ray Hightower are also getting looks from Division I schools and will be just the latest Ursuline players to take their games to the next level.
"It's nice to carry on that tradition," said Hightower, a linebacker/wide receiver. "It makes me feel good to be up in those ranks."
Also likely to move on
The Mahoning Valley has long been a hotbed for football and this year is no exception.
Howland seniors Lance Smith (who verballed to Wisconsin) and Aaron Womack, Warren JFK senior Anthony Elzy and Warren Harding defensive tackle Antonio Reed are just a few of the top players who will likely play at Division I colleges.
"It makes you work harder sometimes because you don't want to just sit back and rely on your athleticism," Jones said. "You want to make the most out of what you've been given."
Liberty senior John Humphrey committed to Purdue earlier this year.
The Leopards' program has emerged as fertile ground for college recruiters as standouts such as Bradley Fletcher (Iowa), Marcellus Bowman (Boston College) and Keith Forestal (Toledo) have gone to top programs in recent years.
But the best high school football players aren't necessarily the ones who go to the biggest college programs.
Last year, Fitch lineman Brian Mellott (6-3, 255) earned a scholarship to Ohio University -- a nice accomplishment, obviously -- but he also watched as lesser high school players with prototypical size earned bigger scholarships.
"He was as good a high school player as you'll see and he watched kids he dominated in high school get recruited ahead of him," Fitch coach Neal Kopp said. "That's hard.
"There's no measuring stick for heart."

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