High School Football

Payne takes Seahawks on annual college recruiting road trip

ccox@islandpacket.comJune 19, 2013 

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Hilton Head Island High School head football coach B.J. Payne greets Joella Edwards and her son, Jon Baty, shortly after being named the coach in 2012. Baty was one of several Seahawks who went with Payne on a college recruiting road trip this year.

SARAH WELLIVER — Sarah Welliver -- The Island Packet

Michael Julian's offer sheet didn't truly grow until the former Hilton Head Island High School quarterback took part in coach B.J. Payne's week-long recruiting trip, an annual journey he has made with every one of his teams.

That's when the signal-caller went from having only a handful of colleges expressing interest to double-digit scholarship offers.

Payne once again took his team on the football excursion over the weekend, hoping to bring interest to Hilton Head High athletes.

"These guys get seen by and talked to by probably a total of 500 college coaches," Payne said. "So the exposure they get is just invaluable. If you want to be a college football player, going on this and getting a chance to showcase your talents is how to do it."

Eleven players hopped in the van with Payne and Co. for this year's trip. No prospect was bigger than 2014 defensive tackle Poona Ford, who has more than 20 scholarship offers. Tennessee, Louisville and South Carolina continue to lead for the lineman's services.

Ford's status as one of this year's elite recruits has helped bring exposure to the Seahawks program in the same way Julian did a year ago. The lineman has helped grow the interest in other players, such as rising senior tailback Khalil Lewis, who has offers from Florida Atlanta, UNC Charlotte and UMass. A stop at Toledo -- which signed Julian in the 2013 class -- brought interest from the Rockets in the Hilton Head High tailback. Youngstown State is also close to offering, Payne said.

"Poona is in the position he's in because of Michael Julian," Payne said. "College coaches came down to see Michael Julian and they went, Oh my God, who's that guy?'"

Players made five other stops in addition to Toledo, as Payne's group took in Ohio State, Cincinnati, Purdue, Indiana and Tennessee. Competing alongside other prospects helped improve other Hilton Head High college hopefuls, as quarterback Aidan Hegarty "wowed (coaches) with his speed," while Jon Baty showed substantial improvement at corner.

"For him, it was a chance to work on his skills," Payne said. "Halfway through the camps it clicked for him and he became a shutdown corner for the next three days."

Senior linebacker Chase Rhinehart, receiver/corner Chris Skager, defensive lineman Jerome Maddox, wideout Jestin Morrow and receiver/safety Aaron Frazier also took part in the trip. Incoming freshman tailback P.J. Franklin and fellow newcomer Tyler Hamilton also tagged along.

"It gives them a chance to expose themselves," Payne said. "And to help develop them as players."

Payne expects Ford's exposure to create more interest for rising seniors in future Hilton Head High classes. And he's hoping their offer sheets grow in size on next year's recruiting trip, just as it did for Julian.

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