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May 1, 2013

Touring Ohio: Walnut Ridge

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - For college coaches that recruit the Central Ohio area, Walnut Ridge High School is always on the list of stops. The program has produced several BCS conference prospects over the years with players such as Gary Russell, Ernie Wheelwright, Rob Wheelwright, and Austin Traylor. That trend does not appear to be slowing down any time soon with another headliner in the 2014 class and a 2015 class that could be the school's best in years.

The big name in the 2014 class is defensive end Robert Bowers. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound prospect holds a handful of BCS conference offers already after dominating the City League as a junior. Walnut Ridge head coach Byron Mattox has coached multiple Division I defensive linemen over the years and he says Bowers has the potential to be as good as any of them.

"Robert is a real high energy guy," Mattox explained. "He's a heck of a blocker on offense (at tight end) and defensively, where I think he'll probably end up settling in at the next level, he has a high motor and he really likes to get after the quarterback. He's a good individual too, a good person."

While Bowers is the prospect that is attracting several college programs to Walnut Ridge this spring during the evaluation period, the 2015 class will keep those coaches coming back. The Scots boast several potential Division I prospects, including defensive tackle Joshua Jordan who starred last weekend at the Rivals Camp Series in Cincinnati (Ohio).

"With Josh, it's up to him what he wants to do," Mattox said. "He's got the tools, he's got the personality. He has to stay in his academics and the sky is the limit for him as far as his future goes, especially on the football field."

Another prospect that is catching fire right now is outside linebacker/strong safety Anthony McKee. McKee picked up an early offer from Toledo and on Wednesday afternoon added his first from a BCS conference program when Illinois came through.

"Anthony is one of those guys that can play any position on the defense," Mattox said. "He can play end, linebacker, safety, whatever. For what we need, he is going to play linebacker for us just to get him a little closer to the action and let him move around and everything. He's a phenomenal player."

Not to be lost in the shuffle is rising junior running back Jaisean Johnson. Johnson averaged approximately 10 yards per carry last fall and will see more touches this coming season.

"Jaisean is a good, solid kid," Mattox said. "He's a great running back and we're going to ask him to do a lot this year. He's so versatile and he has a demeanor where nothing fazes him."

For a program that has either made the playoffs or been right on the cut line the last few years, Mattox knows he has a team that is capable of breaking through with a deep run if everything falls into place.

"It's very exciting," he said. "We've got guys that really enjoy playing football. They don't just settle in at one position, they will do whatever is needed for the team. As a coach, that's a winning recipe, guys that are unselfish and just want to get some wins."



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