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On The Road: Central Gwinnett Black Knights

Irish Maven recruiting contributor Brian Smith headed to Central Gwinnett to evaluate the Black Knight program

Several cities and states make up a big portion of a college coach’s recruiting itinerary. One of those would be Atlanta. Here’s the first installment of looking at top programs, from the inside out.

While interviewing prospects and creating position lists is important to this site, here’s a different perspective. A glimpse at what it’s like to witness a major high school football program from the inside. This particular program has one of the most impressive stadiums in the country.

When a person walks up to Tally Johnson Field, home for the Central Gwinnett Black Knights (Lawrenceville, Ga.), it will be an eye-opening experience. How many castles are associated with an NFL stadium, let alone a high school stadium?

Welcome to Gwinnett County, Georgia.

“I remember when Coach (Urban) Meyer used to come here,” said Central Gwinnett head coach Todd Wofford. “He would stand out in the parking lot just look at it for like fifteen minutes.”

Coach Wofford went on to describe how Meyer would hold his first satellite camp at Central Gwinnett. He loved the stadium with the castle and wanted to be a part of it. Perhaps that explains why so many kids are invested in the program. Also, why so many college programs recruit Central Gwinnett.

2018 signee for the University of Miami and now starting quarterback (when healthy), Jarren Williams, hails from Central Gwinnett High School. He’s one of numerous players to be selected for post-senior season all-star games for the Black Knights.

Soon to be NFL player Adonis Thomas (LB, Florida State), Khamari Thompson (WR, Missouri), and the next big name that college coaches from across the country are recruiting, 6-2, 195-pound wide receiver Daejon Reynolds all played or play for Central Gwinnett.

Reynolds holds 29 offers, including programs like Auburn, Florida, LSU, South Carolina, and Tennessee. With a plethora of offers, he’s considering all his options to where he attends college.

“Just where I can play,” Reynolds commented about his college preference.

That’s how it works in today’s college football world. Reynolds is a well-spoken young man with the academic profile to back it up. He’s currently leading the state of Georgia in receiving yards. Considering the competition, that’s impressive.

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“Everybody down here has a Division I guy,” Coach Wofford explained. “I don’t care what team it is in Gwinnett County.”

To keep the players happy, as well as the program boosters, it’s a balance. That balance includes helping players travel for visits and tournaments. It’s also changed recruiting dramatically.

Gone are the days of just going to “State U” because of peer pressure and convenience. Here are the days of 7-on-7 tournaments and players traveling the country to see college campuses before the beginning of their junior year of high school.

Georgia is one of the leading states for sending players outside its borders to play college football. Considering how the Atlanta population continues to explode, it should not surprise anyone.

Additionally, there are only two Power 5 programs – Georgia Tech and Georgia – within the Georgia state borders. Only so many players can sign with the Yellow Jackets and Bulldogs. Reynolds fits that mold of a player that might leave Georgia.

He’s already been to a big 7-on-7 tournament in Tampa. These out-of-state experiences help shape the attitudes and expectations of college prospects like Reynolds, in addition to their home turf.

High school football in Gwinnett County is similar to playing college football. Literally. The routine includes everything that happens at the college level. Weight rooms, meeting rooms, and as much access to film as any high school player could want.

While Reynolds continues to explore his options, many people just think he will end up at Georgia. Don’t believe that. Reynolds is truly open. He is a young man that’s as much a part of the new generation of recruiting as any 17-year old could be.

Active on Twitter (like his teammates), Reynolds can check on any college he wants in an instant. College coaches do the same. It’s an incredible transformation and Gwinnett County programs are keeping up with the Joneses.

Just looking at these programs from inside the hallways makes one wonder what’s next? How will the next domino fall in an ever-changing college football recruiting landscape? Can anyone produce better facilities and opportunities than what’s being created today?

For Coach Wofford and his Central Gwinnett Black Knights, football is life. The parents and community invest their time and money to support the program. Castle Included.

Part II will feature Lilburn, GA (Parkview).