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December 12, 2005

Shrine Bowl: Five sleepers to watch

SPARTANBURG, S.C.-The 69th annual Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas will feature the top prospects from both North and South Carolina.

The game, which pits the top prospects from both states against one another, will kick off at 1 p.m. Dec. 17 at Gibbs Stadium.

But before they get to square off in the border challenge, the prospects will go through a week of practice where they will work against one another under the watchful eyes of college recruiters. In so many ways, this week will serve as a litmus test for the top talent in these two states.

As always, sleepers will come from seemingly nowhere and scholarship offers will be won.

Here's a look at five prospects who could potentially break through with a good week of work.

Dekoda Watson from Aiken (S.C.) had impressive senior film to build on a strong showing at the Athens NIKE camp in May at the University of Georgia. The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder has scholarship offers from Kentucky and North Carolina, but could pick up offers from South Carolina and Virginia Tech with a strong showing this week.

The biggest issue with regards to Watson has been what position he will play at the next level. He plays down in high school and there are questions as to if he can make the transition to linebacker (his likely home) at the next level. Regardless, Watson looks the part of a college player both in person and on film. His performance against the best the Palmetto State has to offer and subsequent game against the North Carolina squad will go along way toward Watson picking up additional offers.

Offensive lineman Chris Hairston from Winston-Salem (N.C.) Carver was introduced to you by TigerIllustrated.com, an officially licensed site of the Rivals.com network, on Sunday morning. The 6-foot-5, 270-pounder grew three inches between his junior and senior season and blossomed into a Division I-A prospect just this year.

Scholarship offers from Clemson and Duke have already been extended and there is talk in coaching circles that Hairston could walk away with perhaps as many as a dozen offers from Division I-A schools before the week is done.

D.J. Moore, the hometown hero from Spartanburg Broome has been committed to Vanderbilt for several weeks. There have been whispers, however, that the Commodores got a major steal in the talented athlete because of his explosive speed and ability to play cornerback, a position that is at a premium nationwide in the class of 2006.

The 5-foot-10, 173-pounder is solid to Vanderbilt, but it wouldn't be shocking if he picked up a few more scholarships with a big week in practice, thus solidifying that he is a huge pick-up for the Dores.

Stan Doolittle from Ninety-Six (S.C.) is a sharp quarterback prospect who is sure to throw his share of passes in the high-octaine scheme of South Carolina offensive coordinator Bobby Bentley, the head coach at four-time defending state champion Byrnes.

Doolittle is a sharp prospect whose hard work has paid off. On film he looks talented and poised and has command of the offense, perhaps due in part to the fact that Doolittle's father Mike, a Shrine Bowl assistant this season, is the head coach at Ninety-Six.

Stan Doolittle caught the attention members of the University of South Carolina coaching staff, including head coach Steve Spurrier, with his performance in the Gamecocks' summer camp and this season. He will attempt to continue to be impressive as he's thrust onto a bigger stage, with more eyes on him, this week.

His intangibles unmatched, Stan Doolittle is going to try to show that though he comes from a small school, he can be big-time. Traditionally, Ninety-Six prospects have impressed during Shrine Bowl week and given the offense he will be running and the fact that he's a level-headed, intelligent quarterback, it would not surprise to see Doolittle walk away with several Division I-A offers when all is said and done.

Pikeville (N.C.) Aycock safety Cortez Gilbert has drawn the interest of several programs throughout the Southeast. On film, Gilbert shows off a great nose for the football and is fearless in run support.

He ran a 4.71-second 40-yard dash at the Blacksburg NIKE camp in April, but on film it is clear that he has football speed. Also, according to most in attendance at Virginia Tech that day, the times were slower than average.

Gilbert, who has gotten attention from South Carolina, East Carolina and others, could leave with a few offers if he has a good week this week.

Though these five stand out at the moment, more sleepers could emerge throughout the course of the week. Practice for both teams begins at 9 a.m. Monday morning at Dorman High School.


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