Countdown to signing day

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Both Auburn and Alabama are expected to ink nationally ranked football prospects from Shelby County when signing day rolls around next Wednesday.

Pelham’s Montez Billings, ranked as the No. 21 receiver nationally by, and Charles Hoke of Briarwood Christian, the No. 23 tight end, will sign official letters of intent during ceremonies held at their high schools next week.

Along with Hoke and Billings, at least five other athletes from Shelby County will sign with Division I college football programs Feb. 2, national signing day for high school seniors.

Billings, who verbally committed to Auburn in early November, caught 154 passes for 2,315 yards and 18 touchdowns during his career at Pelham. At 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, he is widely considered the top receiver prospect in the state.

The Tigers also enter the week with a commitment from the No. 20 tight end in the nation in Andrew McCain (6-6, 260), who was used predominantly as a defensive lineman at Briarwood.

But McCain’s high school teammate, Charles Hoke, is expected to honor his commitment to Alabama and sign with the Crimson Tide. Hoke (6-7, 240) finished as Briarwood’s second all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards behind Tim Castille.

Hoke will be joined at Bama by Oak Mountain offensive lineman Scott Deaton (6-4, 258).

The Eagles can boast two SEC prospects in this year’s signing class as linebacker Chris Johnson (6-1, 215) recently committed to Vanderbilt. Deaton and Johnson will make their choices official next week at OMHS.

Johnson wasn’t the only player to be lured out of state to play major college football. Pelham defensive end Michael Adams (6-4, 240) committed to Louisville and all-purpose player Tyler Grisham (5-11, 183) chose Clemson during his junior year at Spain Park High School.

While the verbal agreements are not legally binding, most of Shelby County’s prospects are considered solid commitments in recruiting circles. However, any of them could change their minds before signing official letters of intent, which are binding agreements.

Last year, Briarwood prospect Simeon Castille honored his commitment to Alabama after announcing his decision at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas.

Thompson’s star linebacker Tony Bell didn’t make his college choice known until he donned an Auburn hat moments before signing with the Tigers in the THS auditorium.

Castille and Bell were considered two of the state’s top prospects. On Wednesday, they will be joined by the newest crop of local talent.

Several other Shelby County athletes are expected to sign scholarship offers to play football at the college level.

Thompson offensive guard Landen Vickery (6-2, 285) has committed to Jacksonville State and Briarwood tight end Larry Hedden (6-5, 228) is a Furman commitment