The eighth annual Georgia Elite Classic, brought to you by “The Hamilton Hotel”, will stage a trio of All-Star games this Sunday at Rome’s Barron Stadium that will be broadcasted live on PeachtreeTV. Over the past seven editions of the Classic, more than 900 players that participated in the games went on to play college football, and this year’s rosters will once again feature the state’s premier talent. The competitiveness of the games will also get a boost under the new format adopted for this year’s games. For the first time, graduating classes will be going head-to-head with a Seventh vs. Eighth Grade, Freshmen vs. Sophomores and Juniors vs. Seniors game.
Recruiting Expert and Georgia Elite Classic Director of Player Personnel Rusty Mansell offered his insight on some of the talented players set to star in this year’s games and how the matchups could play out.
The Senior Team’s trio of running backs stand out to Mansell, who says that this group of Class of 2021 ball carriers are big backs with the ability to succeed at the next level. This includes Temple’s Phillip Jonson, Carrollton’s Christian Lett and Rome’s EJ Lackey. Johnson is 6-foot-1, 220 pounds and racked up 1,312 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns this year with the Tigers. As for the senior defense, Mansell points to the defensive line where Riverwood’s Johnathan brown and Greenbrier’s Beau Shugarts are expected to make a major impact.
The Juniors will have an opportunity to make a statement when they take on the seniors. Leading at the quarterback position will be Cherokee’s AJ Swann—a multi-year starter and three-star that threw 21 touchdowns this season. Swann will have plenty of targets to throw to—including Mansell’s sleeper performer in Southeast Bulloch’s Tyler Griffin. The 6-foot-5 wide receiver will create mismatches and has already received offers from Colorado, Georgia Tech, Virginia and Virginia Tech. On the defensive side, Cedartown defensive end CJ Washington is returning to the Classic after earning the Defensive MVP in last year’s Sophomore Game. Walton defensive backs AJ Brown and Marcus Allen will lead the secondary. Brown is a three-star prospect and Allen has already received 19 collegiate offers. At linebacker, Marietta’s Daniel Martin is a 6-foot-3, four-star prospect that is currently rated as the nation’s No. 5 ranked outside linebacker for the Class of 2022.
Sunday’s finale will showcase top prospects from the Class of 2023 and Class of 2024 in the Sophomore vs. Freshmen game. Mansell believes that the wide receivers and defensive line could prove to be the strength of the Sophomore Team roster. Thomas County Central defensive lineman Gabe Harris is back after participating in last year’s Freshmen game. Harris is a 6-foot-4, 235-pound prospect that averaged 4.4 tackles per game this season with the Yellow Jackets. Lining up alongside Harris is Mansell’s sleeper pick for a breakout performance: Tattnall Academy’s Zavian Hardy. The 6-foot-6 sophomore is a two-star prospect with tremendous potential to rise up the recruiting ranks. Additionally, Thomas County Central receiver Adam Hopkins led the Yellow Jackets this season with 387 receiving yards and a team-high six touchdowns. Hopkins is joined out wide by Hart County receiver Paul Davis—a 6-foot-3, three-sport athlete for the Bulldogs.
The Freshmen Team has its own set of strengths heading into kickoff and Mansell says that the size lining up on the offensive line far exceeds what one would expect from a group of ninth graders. This includes offensive tackle Web Davidson out of Tattnall Academy—who Mansell says showcases outstanding upside and footwork for his 6-foot-4 frame. Taking advantage of the size up front will be a young, but experienced tandem of running backs with Commerce’s Sammy Brown and Doughetry’s Kam Davis. Brown finished his breakout freshman season with 133 carries for 1,368 yards and 19 total touchdowns. Commerce has been playing football since 1909 and Brown became just the 32nd player in the school’s history to surpass the 1,000-yard mark for a season. Dougherty played just five games this year as a result of its abbreviated season and Davis racked up a team-high 554 rushing yards and five touchdowns. The size of the offensive line and talent in the Freshmen Team’s backfield will compliment a trio of up-and-coming quarterbacks: Rome’s Reece Fountain, Walton’s Jeremy Hecklinski and Cass’s Devin Henderson. Fountain passed for 1,085 yards and eight touchdowns this season, Hecklinski threw five touchdowns and Cass has been described by his head coach Steve Gates as “mature beyond his years and a leader that is going to be one of the best he’s ever coached.”
In the middle school game, quarterback Antwann Hill Jr. is a promising young passer poised to play at Houston County at the varsity level. Another player to watch according to Mansell is seventh grade linebacker Grayson Villar. Mansell calls Villar a wrecking ball out on the field that has an opportunity to set the tone with his physical style of play.
2020 GEORGIA ELITE CLASSIC SCHEDULE
At Rome’s Barron Stadium
SUNDAY, DEC. 20
Eighth Grade & Seventh Grade [10 am]
Juniors vs. Seniors [1 pm]
Freshmen vs. Sophomores [3:45 pm]