Skip to main contentSkip to main content
You are the owner of this article.
You have permission to edit this article.
Edit
alert top story

The 2022 A-List: Ranking the Richmond area's top high school football recruits

  • 0

Each year, in collaboration with college recruiters, high school coaches and local media, The Times-Dispatch names The A-List, the top high school football recruits in the area.

Recruiters were promised anonymity to allow for candid responses. Here is this year's list, along with the college they will play at.

20211216_SPO_ALLMETRO_CLAIBORNE_AWE01

Senior running back Demond Claiborne, the All-Metro player of the year, helped King William win the Class 2 championship, rushing 214 times for 2,946 yards and 47 touchdowns in a 14-game schedule. He has committed to Wake Forest.

1. Demond Claiborne (Wake Forest)

King William running back, 5-10, 180

The All-Metro player of the year and four-star recruit (247Sports) finished the 14-game season with 214 carries for 2,946 yards and 47 touchdowns. Add four receiving scores and a kickoff return TD, and his 52 house calls for the season left him third on the VHSL season list behind Elijah Davis of Heritage and TreVeyon Henderson of Hopewell. Davis had 59 touchdowns in 15 games, Henderson 53 in 14.

Recruiters think if Claiborne had been at a bigger school, he would have had offers from everybody. But sometimes recruits at smaller schools (KW plays in Class 2) can fly under the radar, in part because recruiters question production based on the level of competition. Penn Sate coach James Franklin came to watch Claiborne during King William's state title run, but the Nittany Lions entered Claiborne's recruitment too late to draw him from the first school he visited, Wake Forest.

The Demon Deacons’ program felt like home from the outset, said Claiborne, who also had offers from Virginia, Virginia Tech, Michigan and West Virginia, among others. Wake went 10-3 and reached the ACC title game this season.

"I think he's at a spot where they'll instantly utilize his talent," said Gary Criswell, a high school football analyst and former college coach.

Recruiters lauded Claiborne's speed, vision and pass catching ability, saying he's a great weapon to create mismatches with and Wake is sure to find creative ways to get the ball in his hands. They also agreed that his size and level of competition are not cause for pause -- a track and field state champion in the 100-meter dash (in 10.67 seconds, a Class 2 record), his tools should translate just fine to ACC competition. Recruiters also love his intangibles as a soft-spoken, humble kid who's smiling all the time and works hard in the classroom. Plus he's a talented pianist to boot.

St. Chris receiver Andre Greene Jr.,

Receiver Andre Greene Jr.

2. Andre Greene Jr. (North Carolina)

St. Christopher's wide receiver, 6-3, 185

North Carolina cornerbacks coach Dré Bly, a former Pro Bowl DB, Super Bowl champion and member of the college football and Virginia sports halls of fame, is a leader in the Tar Heels' recruiting efforts in Virginia.

The Chesapeake native praised Greene's athleticism, and said he's been in Chapel Hill since mid-June.

"What made 'Dre a person we recruited so highly was how athletic he was; he's very dynamic as a receiver," Bly said. 

"Knowing what we look for in that position, he was a guy who was very versatile, played multiple sports. Any time a receiver shows the ability to play another sport like basketball and play above the rim, that can make him a very dynamic football player. When you look at his highlight tape and you look at 'Dre in person, it just all makes sense."

The Under Armour All-American set a Saints record for career touchdown catches with 25 and has already drawn praise from NFL receiver DeAndre Hopkins. The VISAA player of the year, Greene hauled in 42 balls for 823 yards and 15 touchdowns, threw a TD, picked off three passes and scored a defensive touchdown in his senior year for 10-1 St. Christopher's.

Some recruiters tend to have reservations about perimeter players at private schools because their stats can be inflated by big games against inferior competition. But all agreed Greene has the potential and tools for big-time production in Chapel Hill and perhaps beyond.

Recruiters were also wowed by Greene's athleticism on the basketball court -- perhaps Hubert Davis' Tar Heels have a reserve guard spot open?

"He's pretty special," said Gary Hess, the longtime voice of high school football in Richmond on 910 The Fan. 

Bly said Greene excels at high-pointing the ball and has already wowed some coaches and teammates.

"Those are the type of players you look for at the skill positions, guys who are very loose and athletic and that can excite folks," Bly said. "That's what we hope for from 'Dre. ... We're very excited to have him."

Monacan-Manchester football game (copy)

Former Manchester running back Ramon Brown “has a chance to be really special,” at Maryland, said Lancers coach Tom Hall.

3. Ramon Brown (Maryland)

Manchester running back, 5-11, 195

Brown carried 166 times for 1,132 yards and 17 touchdowns as the centerpiece of the Lancers' high-flying attack. Manchester averaged 40 points on its way to the Region 6A semifinals behind Brown, a four-star prospect (247Sports) who verbally committed to Virginia Tech in July 2021 before signing with Maryland on early signing day amid coaching changes in Blacksburg.

Brown was No. 1 on the junior list in 2021, but slipped down a couple spots because, although he was still first team All-Metro and had a great year, was a tad inconsistent and didn't post numbers quite as wild as some thought he might.

Clearly a dynamic athlete, questions remain about how best to employ Brown's attributes.

"If he plays in a one-back system, where does he fit in?" Criswell said, adding that Terrapins coach Mike Locksley, the former offensive coordinator at Alabama, is a great talent evaluator.

"Can he contribute somewhere else? I feel like he can, but I couldn't tell you what position that is. I couldn't promise you anything beyond maybe being a great special teams player."

"When you look at how big he is and how he runs, you can totally get what all the fuss is about," said Hess, who ranked Brown ahead of Claiborne because of the former's more imposing frame.

Lancers coach Tom Hall said the Terrapins were extremely high on Brown, and that he's been up in College Park since graduating. 

"The sky's the limit with him. He's a kid that can probably see some early playing time," Hall said. "But I think he's got a chance to be really special for them."

20211003_SPO_MATOACA_AWE10

Matoaca defensive end Keyshawn Burgos, the Region 4B defensive player of the year, signed with Virginia Tech after committing to Virginia in July.

4. Keyshawn Burgos (Virginia Tech)

Matoaca defensive end, 6-5, 240

Burgos had 45 tackles, 13 sacks and 23 tackles for loss and was named the Region 4B defensive player of the year and first-team all-state. He also forced four fumbles and blocked two kicks.

A state champion and first team All-Metro heavyweight wrestler, one recruiter said he has the highest potential of anyone in this class because "he can do so many different things." Burgos initially committed to UVA in July 2021 before signing with the Hokies on early signing day.

Coaches and recruiters say a wrestling background is a plus for linemen, and that Burgos is still raw and on an upward trajectory. 

"The balance and the power in short distances, I'm a big proponent of that," said Criswell, a former wrestling coach at Henrico High.

5. Rashaud Pernell (Liberty)

Highland Springs edge rusher / linebacker, 6-4, 250

RashaudPernellAll-MetroHeadshot.jpg

Pernell

Pernell was the leader of a talented and deep front wall for the region champ Springers, finishing the season with 40 solo tackles, 18 assists, 11 sacks and 21 tackles for loss. He also forced four fumbles and had two pass breakups.

Pernell announced in May that he had reopened his recruitment and decommitted from Virginia Tech after verbally committing to the Hokies nearly 11 months ago and signing his NLI in December. He committed to Liberty on June 13 after comments from Hokies coach Brent Pry that Tech "didn't feel good about bringing him here."

Recruiters lauded the discipline and work ethic of players from Springers coach Loren Johnson's program. Pernell is long and athletic, and has room to add more bulk on once he gets in a college weight room, one recruiter said.

"He can really get off the ball," Hess said. "When he really gets motivated he spends a lot of time in the backfield."

Criswell said he stood out on an always loaded Springers defensive unit. 

"Highland Springs has been consistent with the defensive product they put at the next level," Criswell said, adding that the Springers ability to produce top defensive talent goes back generations.

6. Bryson Jennings (North Carolina)

Clover Hill defensive end, 6-6, 245

BrysonJenningsAll-MetroHeadshot.jpg

Jennings

Jennings dealt with some injuries later in his high school career, and was asked to do a lot for a Cavaliers program that went 2-8 in 2021 and hasn't recently possessed the depth of talent as many of the programs on this list.

He still had 50 sacks for his high school career, and this past season had 57 tackles, eight sacks and 11 tackles for loss in seven games en route to first-team all-region and All-Metro honors. 

Jennings committed to the Tar Heels in July of 2021, and had narrowed a long list to UNC, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Penn State and Kentucky. He said the final choice was between UNC and Tech, where his father, Cavaliers coach Bryan Jennings, was a first-team all-Big East tight end.

"When you watch him play, you see what all the fuss is about," Hess said. "His size, he's lean, he gets off the ball. But it's hard to really assess him sometimes because he didn't have a lot of help."

Bly said that since Jennings arrived on campus, it's evident that football is part of his lineage. 

"You can see that football is in his background, he was raised in a football family," Bly said.

"He's a really hard worker, it means something to him. Guys like that have great careers because they're going to outwork the next man. That's what I see in Bryson. He competes. We're all fired up and excited to see what he can bring to our football team."

7. Trevyon Green (North Carolina)

Life Christian offensive lineman, 6-8, 338

TrevyonGreenAll-Metro.jpg

Green

A simply gargantuan human being, Green had 42 pancake blocks in 10 games for the Eagles, regularly tossing aside would-be tacklers in space and mauling opposing lineman at the point of attack to create rushing lanes.

He was a first-team all-VISAA and All-Metro selection. Recruiters praised Life Christian's development of interior linemen.

"He'll fit in great [at UNC]," said Life Christian coach Charles Scott.

"He'll definitely play early, he's a smart dude who can pick up playbooks quickly. Just a strong, physical, big human being. God didn't make too many human beings that size. He's not supposed to sit behind a cubicle. Football is going to be his thing."

North Carolina's strong connections in the Richmond area "go back decades," Criswell said. 

"They have consistently gone into the state of Virginia and recruited players. And they've gotten marquee players, too," he said. 

Bly echoed the praise of Life Christian's development in the trenches.

"They've done really well with developing players across the board," he said.

Green was roughly 400 pounds when UNC started recruiting him, Bly said. When he signed, he was about 370. And now he's down below 340.

"He's continuing to work, he's amazed every last person here in this program with his work ethic, how nice he is, how athletic he is, how big he is. We're really excited about him," Bly said, adding that "Big Tre" wears a size 18 shoe. 

"He doesn't move like he's 6-8, 340 pounds, size 18 shoe. I can't wait to watch him. If I was a running back or quarterback, if I had a joker that looks like that protecting me, I would sleep good every night. ... From Day 1, he's been all-in."

8. D'Andre Martin (South Carolina)

Life Christian defensive lineman, 6-5, 300

Initially a North Carolina-area recruit out of Durham's Hillside High, Martin transferred to Life Christian and "has a big upside," one recruiter said. He committed to Virginia Tech in August of 2021, decommitted in December then committed to South Carolina two days later. 

"He's a supreme athlete," Scott said, adding that Martin came to Life Christian as a receiver before putting on weight and moving to defensive end. 

"He can run, he's super agile. ... Definitely a kid that's going to do well over there as soon as he learns the system and plays D-end a little bit more, he'll definitely be on the field."

9. Jayden Mines (James Madison)

Patrick Henry wide receiver / defensive back, 6-0, 185

A swiss army knife of a weapon for the region finalist Patriots, recruiters compared Mines to Varina's Anthony Fisher, the All-Metro offensive player of the year, in terms of their versatility and importance to their programs.

Mines lists himself as a wide receiver at JMU on Twitter, and recruiters think he could play either or both sides of the ball. A standout student, he had interest from Air Force, Navy and Army and offers from Columbia, Dartmouth, Pennsylvania, William & Mary and Richmond.

The Patriots lined the team captain up outside, in the slot and in the backfield. He used standout instincts and ball skills to catch 31 passes for 514 yards and seven touchdowns while rushing 41 times for 368 yards and four more scores.

"The versatility, answers a lot of questions, solid on defense, used to carrying a big load," Criswell said of Mines. "He was a guy that got more and more impressive as [Patrick Henry] got deeper and deeper into the playoffs."

"He's amazing," Hess said. "He could just make plays, dynamic with the ball in his hands, can catch anything near him. He impressed the heck out of me."

10. Malachi Madison (Virginia Tech, PWO)

Thomas Dale defensive lineman, 6-3, 310

A starter for Dale as an underclassman, Madison went to Georgia to play his junior year before returning for his senior season at Dale. It looked as if he was headed to Central Florida for a time, before announcing a final three of the Knights, Hokies and Mississippi State, then committing to Tech as a preferred walk-on (PWO) in October.

With size and the agility to track ball carriers, he had 23 solo tackles and 36 assists, eight sacks, 20 tackles for loss and 14 quarterback hurries on the way to first-team Region 6A and All-Metro honors.

Hess saw the Knights play Dinwiddie in November and, though the Generals won 35-21 behind a dominant ground game, he said Madison "lived in Dinwiddie's backfield."

11. Wesley Bostic (James Madison)

Prince George offensive lineman, 6-4, 285

The Dukes are a good fit for Bostic, Criswell said. The Royals have sported an explosive ground game in recent years behind running back Curtis Allen, and Bostic has been the fulcrum of that attack.

A scholar-athlete of the month this past fall, Bostic also had offers from William & Mary, Richmond, Columbia, Dartmouth and Brown. He'll rejoin former teammate and fellow first team All-Metro honoree Jaelin Montgomery on the Dukes offensive line.

12. Anthony Fisher (Virginia, PWO)

Varina athlete, 6-0, 180

You name it, and the All-Metro offensive player of the year did it on both sises of the ball for the Blue Devils on their run to the Class 4 title.

It wouldn't surprise recruiters and pundits to see him earn a scholarship in Charlottesville before long. Nobody's sure what his position is at the next level, and Fisher himself said UVA recruited him as an all-around athlete and a preferred walk-on (PWO).

"They told me that I could come up there and compete. They like me on offense, they like me on defense, and I'm just ready to go roll," Fisher said at his college announcement.

"I'm somebody that's never going to give up. I'm a hard worker, and if you're on my team, we will win regardless."

Intangibles also stood out to recruiters for the demonstrative leader and strong student who also had offers and interest from Norfolk State, VMI, Yale, Army and Air Force.

OTHER 2022 NOTABLES

Name, position(s), high school, college

Leon Haughton, WR, Benedictine, Maryland

Sean McElwain, TE, Glen Allen, William & Mary

Desaun Williams, OL, Life Christian, Campbell

Quanye Veney, WR/DB, Highland Springs; Richmond

Akim Sledge, DB, Life Christian, Campbell

Kamaree Wells, DB/WR, Varina, Mercer

Latrell Sutton, LB/WR, Highland Springs, Virginia Tech (PWO)

Trent Hendrick, LB, St. Christopher's, James Madison

Jordan Allen, QB/DB, Patrick Henry, Richmond

Quentin Johnson, RB, Matoaca, Hampton

Noah Hartsoe, OL, JR Tucker, Virginia (PWO)

Carlo Thompson, Varina, Virginia (PWO)

Dylan Faniel, DL, Benedictine, Army

Cam Sturdifen, DB, Manchester, Hampton

Bradley Perkins, RB/DB, Douglas Freeman, William & Mary (PWO)

Camden Byrd, EDGE, Patrick Henry, Richmond

Caleb Warren, RB, Atlee, Virginia State

Christian Berry, TE, Patrick Henry, Davidson

ZJoachim@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6555

Twitter: @ZachJoachim

0 Comments

Related to this story

Most Popular

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

Breaking News