With each passing season the Midstate area is pumping an increasing amount of talent into the college football ranks.
A quick glance at the previous three Tennessean Dandy Dozens — which has produced 18 Southeastern Conference football players, in addition to five SEC commitments in class of 2016 — affirms this.
“When I first got here from Kentucky (in 2005), there weren’t a lot of skill guys coming out,” said Hillsboro coach Craig Clayton, formerly at Franklin. “Tennessee has always produced a lot of linemen and linebackers, but now a lot more people are throwing and you’re developing receivers, defensive backs and quarterbacks.”
As of Aug. 22, there were 111 area players listed on Football Bowl Subdivision rosters.
“Actually it’s probably one of the hot spots in the country right now considering the population,” Clayton added.
But, does having a stable of FBS talent equate to success at the high school level? Not necessarily.
As expected, a pair of Nashville-area private schools, Brentwood Academy and Ensworth, are Middle Tennessee’s top talent producers.
As members of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association’s Division II, both schools, which have a combined 19 players on FBS rosters, can provide athletes with need-based financial aid.
“It’s expensive to go to school here; it’s expensive to go to any (Division II school),” said Brentwood Academy coach Cody White, whose school has 11 former players on FBS rosters. “The fact that we make it accessible for parents that have a need — and it is need, it does not have anything to do with merit — and have a history of doing that, allowing some people to get to experience Brentwood Academy, I think it gets good kids here.”
Fellow Division II private schools Father Ryan and Montgomery Bell Academy, which each have six former players on FBS rosters, are also among the state’s top college football feeder programs.
“As far as players, some of them are on financial aid (at BA) and some aren’t — we don’t get involved in that,” White said. “That’s for the admissions department.”
According to the 2014-15 TSSAA Division II Financial Aid report, Montgomery Bell Academy had 41 football players receive at least some need-based financial aid a season ago — the most of any area school. Brentwood Academy (39), Ensworth (32), Pope John Paul II (27) and Battle Ground Academy (17) rounded out the top five.
Christ Presbyterian Academy has produced seven current players on FBS rosters — including the previous two Class AA Mr. Football Linemen of the Year in Parker Howell (Western Kentucky) and Paul Adams (Missouri).
And unlike their Division II counterparts, the Lions, a Division I private school, are not allowed to provide players with financial aid.
“God has a whole lot to do with kids being D-I players — a lot more than coaches,” CPA coach Ingle Martin said. “I can’t make a kid tall enough or fast enough. What we try to do is coach the best we can and make football a positive experience for them … Our coaches have done a good job turning 5-10, 170-pound kids and making them into productive players.”
Independence (6) has produced the most current FBS talent of any Midstate public school, including a trio of SEC players in punter Landon Foster (Kentucky), Rashaan Gaulden (Tennessee) and Finis Stribling IV (Missouri).
Third-year Independence coach Scott Blade can’t take credit for all of them, though
“I walked in three years ago to some guys with a lot of talent already on board,” Blade said. “Those guys were already going to sign, but some of it is when you have talent, (college scouts) come out to watch practice and so other kids get some exposure.”
Franklin (4), Hillsboro (4), Oakland (4), Pearl-Cohn (4) and Siegel (4) have also yielded their fair share of college talent.
But again, does FBS-level talent always equal championships at the high school level, though? The short answer is no.
“It helps, but it doesn’t always equate to success,” Blade said.
For Christ Presbyterian Academy and Ensworth, the influx of FBS-level talent has transformed the Lions and Tigers into prep football powerhouses.
Since Martin’s arrival in 2011, CPA has made four straight trips to the postseason, notched a pair of Class 3A championship appearances and compiled a 56-4 overall record.
Former Ensworth running back Corn Elder, the 2012 Midstate Player of the Year and a Miami Hurricanes junior, helped string together three of the Tigers’ four consecutive Division II-AA titles from 2010 to 2013, racking up 6,590 yards rushing and 85 touchdowns in the process.
Brentwood Academy and MBA, on the other hand, have won a combined one championship since 2007.
“I think with us and the rest of Division II-AA, people know that’s probably the highest level of football in the state of Tennessee,” White said.
Tennessee sophomore running back Jalen Hurd had a similar effect at Beech, leading the Buccaneers to the 2012 Class 5A championship behind 3,357 yards and 43 touchdowns.
“Good players make good coaches,” Hendersonville coach Bruce Hatfield said.
Hendersonville hasn’t produced an FBS scholarship player since former center Joe Townsend, who played the last four years at Vanderbilt, but the Commandos have still three 10-win seasons and a pair Class 6A title game appearance since 2010.
“It’s all about the process,” Hatfield added.
Nashville area players on FBS rosters listed below photo gallery
NASHVILLE AREA PLAYERS ON FBS ROSTERS
As of Aug. 22
Brentwood Academy (11): Derek Barnett (Tennessee), William BeAird (MTSU), Kwazel Bertrand (Navy), Christian Carpenter (Maryland), Dawson Knox (Ole Miss), Amos Mason (Navy), Jalen Ramsey (Florida St.), Nate Renfro (Tennessee), C.J. Sanders (Notre Dame), Graham Shuler (Stanford), Tyson Terrell (Memphis)
Ensworth (8): Corn Elder (Miami), D’Andre Ferby (Western Kentucky), Brycen Hopkins (Purdue), Justin Lloyd (MTSU), Conor McDermott (UCLA), Rico McGraw (Georgia), Donovan Sheffield (Vanderbilt), Parker Wade (Navy)
Christ Presbyterian Academy (7): Paul Adams (Missouri), Nolan Genovese (MTSU), Jay Hockaday (Vanderbilt); Parker Howell (Western Kentucky), Sam Johnson (Ole Miss), Thomas Richard (Missouri), Hunter Thurley (Ole Miss)
Montgomery Bell Academy (6): Alex Bars (Notre Dame), Blake Bars (Michigan); Cole Euverard (Navy), Wilson Johnson (Vanderbilt), Michael Lacey (Tennessee), Jashon Robertson (Tennessee)
Father Ryan (6): Prince Charles Iworah (Western Kentucky), Landon Knoll (Tennessee), Billy Nipp (New Mexico St.), Andrew Rector (Vanderbilt), Tyler Shoop (Penn State), Max Stoffer (N.C. State)
Independence (6): Landon Foster (Kentucky), Rashaan Gaulden (Tennessee), Steve Satchell (Navy); Finis Stribling (Missouri), Jalen Wade (Navy), Vic Wharton III (California)
Franklin (4): Joe Defatta (MTSU), Corey Fatony (Missouri), Josh Filbey (Appalachian St.); Matthew Moseley (Southern Miss)
Hillsboro (4): Robert Kelley (MTSU), Charles Okoreeh-Baah (MTSU), Vincent Perry (Tennessee), Kyle Phillips (Tennessee)
Pearl-Cohn (4): David Huey (Georgia St.), Carlos Johnson (MTSU); Ke’Shawn Vaughn (Illinois), Cameron Watkins (Illinois)
Oakland (4): Eric Abernathy (Memphis), Jack Jones (Tennessee), Emmanuel Smith (Vanderbilt), Josh Smith (Vanderbilt)
Brentwood (4): Houston Brown (MTSU); Trace Halpern (Virginia), Truett Harris (Alabama); Lucas Patrick (Duke)
Siegel (4): John Ross Dewberry (MTSU), Chase Pennycuff (MTSU), Jacob Schultz (Vanderbilt), Brent Stockstill (MTSU)
Overton (3): Ugo Amadi (Oregon), Justin Martin (Tennessee); Joseph Occhipinti (Western Kentucky)
Ravenwood (2): Wesley Horky (Oklahoma), Van Jefferson (Ole Miss)
Beech (2): Jalen Hurd (Tennessee), Riley Lovingood (Tennessee)
Blackman (2): Jauan Jennings (Tennessee), I’Tavius Mathers (MTSU)
Dickson County (2): Trevor Daniel (Tennessee), Holden Foster (Tennessee)
East Nashville (2): Patrick Smith (MTSU), Isiah Upton (MTSU)
Smyrna (2): Jeremiah Bryson (MTSU), Jonathan Reynolds (Tennessee)
Goodpasture (2): Jesse Moffitt (MTSU), Keenan Reynolds (Navy)
Friendship (2): AJ Long (Syracuse), Andrew Wood (Navy)
Station Camp (2): Kyle Anderton (Vanderbilt), Josh Malone (Tennessee)
Antioch (1): Steven Rhodes (MTSU)
BGA (1): C.J. Beathard (Iowa)
Centennial (1): Emanuel Hall (Missouri)
Columbia (1): Jackson Harris (Georgia)
Cookeville (1): Jesse Chapman (Appalachian St.)
Clarksville (1): Bruno Reagan (Vanderbilt)
Cornersville (1): Joe Stocstill (Tennessee)
Giles Co. (1): Cameron Ordway (Ole Miss)
Hendersonville (1): David Priddy (Tennessee)
Henry Co. (1): Andrew Jelks (Vanderbilt)
Houston Co. (1): Josh Tharp (LSU)
LaVergne (1): Quin Jernigan (Western Kentucky)
Lipscomb (1): Jackson Mitchell (Navy)
Marshall Co. (1): Aaron Medley (Tennessee)
McGavock (1): Caleb Azubike (Vanderbilt)
Nashville Christian (1): Alex Givens (Ole Miss)
Northeast (1): Jalen Reeves-Maybin (Tennessee)
Riverdale (1): Daniel Morris (MTSU)
Springfield (1): Acesa Brewer (MTSU)
Warren Co. (1): Cody Robinson (Duke)
West Creek (1): Darnell White (Troy)
Wilson Central (1): Kyle Coombes (MTSU)