One of the things I have said several times is that if I
included Hargrave Military Academy in my Southern Recruiting Rankings, they
would finish in the Top 3 every year. Of course, Hargrave has to recruit 60
players every season, but the Tigers and Coach Robert Prunty have the luxury of
getting some of the very best players in the country that signed with regional
powers like Florida State, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, NC State, and
Arkansas just to name a few.
Hargrave held a media day on Thursday of last week, and long
after everyone else had enjoyed their free lunch, I stuck around to watch the
Hargrave team in action on the practice field. No longer is it the glamorous
life of dozens of college coaches coming through the school and the local
newscasters with their cameras; now it's time to go to work
Getting Ready to Run on a muggy day.
And work they do. The players at Hargrave were finishing up
the last of their three-a-day practices last week on a lonely field back off of
the beaten path away from everyone. It's now just the coaches and the players
all alone in a military school environment. It makes more than one kid wish he
had studied a bit harder as a freshman in high school and made his grades.
It was already game week last week for the Tigers, and Coach Prunty wanted to
see who was ready to suit up. The players had to run 14 100 yard intervals under
set amount of time depending on their position.
"Anyone that can't make the times, doesn't travel this weekend,"
bellowed Coach Prunty across the field. "Anyone starts complaining,
coaches, pull them out of the line, and they can sit this week."
The players ran hard, and some players more ready for the run
than others shined. Maybe the most impressive display was seeing big Khalif
Mitchell, al 6-6 and 285 pounds of him, finish all of his runs under the time
that was required of the skill players.
After the conditioning was over, Hargrave went to a live 11v11 passing drill.
Sizing up the defensive line that included standouts Marcus Hands, Terry Hunter,
Mitchell, Brian Soi, and Brandon Setzer, I knew it was going to be tough for the
offensive line to keep them out of the backfield.
I was not wrong.
Hands, Hunter, and Soi generally made life miserable for the quarterback. When
they weren't getting the "touch" sacks on the quarterback, Philip
Brown, Jonathan Hefney, and Travis Tolbert were picking off the passes and
taking them the other way.
The linebackers didn't have a chance to show their stuff in the coverage drill,
but players like John Baranowsky kept the intensity high.
The entire defense reads like a who's who of 2003 recruiting, and the offense
has some gems of their own. Decody Fagg looks like he will miss the season, but
Justin Harper and Armand Cauthen look like two players ready to pick up the
The running back slot will be well manned with Danny Ware and
Darrell Blackmon, and the above group of Arkansas signees will give the Hargrave
OL plenty of size.
It's a tough job for Coach Prunty to rebuild his team every fall. There is no
senior leadership, and the kids he and his staff teach this year will be gone
next year. There is an abundance of talent though, make no mistake about that.
The negativity on a college site message board picks up when a player doesn't
qualify, but there are certain things to keep in mind when dealing with a prep
1. It doesn't count against a player's eligibility. He can report to school a
year older, stronger, wiser, and more disciplined and still have five years to
2. The competition that these players will play with and against is better than
just about anything they would have seen as a scout team redshirt.
3. They are in good hands with Coach Prunty and the Hargrave Staff.
Sending a player to Hargrave can be a very good learning experience for the
players involved. They come to college much more focused and ready to handle the
rigors of the college game and atmosphere.
After the lonely three a day practices on the hot and muggy fields in Chatham,
VA, college is a breeze.