By Chris Whitfield
The Southeastern 7-on-7 Championship gives area high school football fans a summer taste of fall Friday nights.
But it might also provide spectators a glimpse of players they’ll eventually be watching on Saturday afternoons.
The third annual edition of The Daily Citizen’s tournament, presented by AstroTurf, will feature 42 teams competing in pool and bracket play on Saturday and Sunday in the Dalton area.
With the participating schools spanning from throughout the Southeast and up into the Midwest, a wide variety of skills — some of them at very high levels for high school football players — will be on display. Those who attend may be able to look back one day and remember seeing a college star in action up close at the Southeastern.
Here are 10 players to keep an eye on:
• QB Brandon Barden, Cartersville: A 6-foot-3-inch, 210-pound gunslinger, Barden is a typical coach’s son — his father Frank Barden is the head coach of the Purple Hurricanes, who won last year’s championship bracket at the Southeastern — boasting a mix of ability and knowledge of the game. He was named Georgia’s Class 3A All-State Offensive Player of the Year by The Associated Press in 2012, and even more is expected of him this year. As a junior, Barden passed for 2,436 yards and 36 touchdowns with two interceptions. He has scholarship offers from the University of Massachusetts and Arkansas State.
• QB Devin Hayes, Bowling Green, Ky.: Hayes was one of the main reasons the Purples went undefeated in 2012, going 15-0 as they claimed the Kentucky High School Athletic Association’s Class 5A state championship. A standout on the football field and in the classroom, Hayes was recently invited to the Wharton School Prep Leadership Program, which is sponsored by the NFL. The 6-foot-2-inch, 177-pound senior passed for more than 2,700 yards and 40 touchdowns last year while maintaining a 4.0 grade point average in advanced placement classes.
• WR Nacarius Fant, Bowling Green, Ky.: Hayes’ top target is fellow senior Fant, who has been an all-state selection for each of the past two seasons. A 5-foot-10-inch, 175-pound speedster with excellent hands and leaping ability, Fant committed to hometown school Western Kentucky over a scholarship offer from Illinois and interest from Kentucky, Purdue and several other BCS-conference programs. He has a time of 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash and hauled in 70 receptions for 1,335 yards and 19 touchdowns last year.
• QB Kendrick Doss, Florence, Ala.: Doss came into the summer with scholarship offers from three Southeastern Conference schools — Alabama, Ole Miss and Mississippi State — plus Georgia Tech and at least one school in every other major NCAA Division I Football Bowl Series conference. The senior committed to Ole Miss in June. A 6-foot-1, 210-pounder who is dangerous through the air and on the ground, he should be one of the best athletes in the tournament. Doss accumulated more than 3,900 yards of total offense and 37 touchdowns last season for the Falcons.
• LB Eder Mora, Dalton: As a freshman, Catamounts linebacker Eder Mora was impressive. As a sophomore last year, the 6-foot, 180-pound speedster with a knack for always being around the ball earned a spot on the Georgia Sports Writers Association’s Class 4A All-State Team. And he’s likely to get even better. A flex player from the Dalton defense, Mora is dominant as a middle linebacker, skilled enough to drop back into coverage and a terror to opposing quarterbacks as an outside linebacker coming on a weakside blitz. He was Dalton’s leading tackler in 2012.
• WR/DB Tanner Wroblewski, Paoli, Ind.: One of the biggest terrors for a defensive back is a tall and rangy wide receiver who also has a lot of speed. Put this senior in the nightmare category for the DBs this weekend. At 6-5 and 200 pounds, Wroblewski can go up and get just about any “jump ball” thrown to the deep corner. Named one of Indiana Football Digest’s “Prime Time 25” players heading into the 2013 season, Wroblewski is also a prized basketball recruit.
• OLB Bryson Allen-Williams, Cedar Grove (Ellenwood): How valuable is Allen-Williams? In terms of football potential at the next level, he is pure gold. Already committed to coach Steve Spurrier at the University of South Carolina, Allen-Williams had offers from 28 other schools around the country, including Alabama, UCLA, Auburn, Georgia and Clemson. At 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, Allen-Williams has great lateral speed at his outside linebacker position and delivers jarring hits when he gets to the ball. The senior’s quickness will especially be on display this weekend in the no-contact format.
• QB Devon Meadows, Victory Christian (Charlotte, N.C.): The only thing hurting Meadows in the recruiting wars is his size at his position, because schools certainly can’t be turned off by his performance. In 2012, Meadows (6-0, 170) threw for 2,640 yards and 30 touchdowns while leading the Kings to the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association Division III championship. The senior recently participated in the Elite 11 regional quarterback showcase competition in Atlanta.
• WR Kameron Uter, Pace Academy (Atlanta): While Pace is in town this weekend for a football competition, it probably isn’t a good idea to challenge the Knights to a baseball game, either. Uter will shine as a wide receiver this weekend with his 6-5, 205-pound frame, but he is probably better known for his exploits on the diamond. A right-handed pitcher with a 92 mph fastball, Uter has helped his East Cobb select baseball team to a pair of national titles.
• FB Jacob Kraut, Fletcher (Neptune Beach, Fla.): Although seven-on-seven competitions aren’t the best showcase for a fullback, Kraut is worth a look. He was rated by recruiting website rivals.com as the nation’s No. 1 college prospect at fullback and recently committed to Rutgers following interest from across the nation. A bruising 5-foot-11 and 247 pounds, the senior’s offers included Auburn, Maryland, Middle Tennessee and Georgia Southern.