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August 22, 2011
In this two-week series, Rivals.com is taking a look at the high school football talent in rival regions - breaking down the best prospects, best teams and giving our vote for which area is superior.
TODAY'S MATCHUP: Memphis vs. Nashville
The Case for Memphis
To put it mildly, Memphis is skill position city.
The headliners this season are running backs Brian Kimbrow of Memphis East and Jovon Robinson of Memphis Wooddale. The top-rated player in the Volunteer State and a Vanderbilt commit, the diminutive but speedy Kimbrow (5-foot-9, 165 pounds) is a U.S. Army All-American and one of the country's top home run threats. Give him a crease and he's capable of doing serious damage.
A four-star talent, Robinson is more of a power back. However, the 6-1, 218-pound Auburn commit also has excellent speed, good moves and solid hands, all of which makes him among the most complete backs nationally in his class.
In Memphis East's Will Redmond, a Mississippi State commit, you have someone who excels both as a dual-threat quarterback and at defensive back. Redmond could play either cornerback or safety at the next level. Memphis commit Sheldon Dawson of Memphis Ridgeway is another two-way standout; he's solid both at running back and corner. Meanwhile, his teammate, Ole Miss commit Jaylen Walton, was a Mr. Football Finalist in 2010 after rushing for over 2,200 yards.
At wide receiver, three-star recruitNathan Cole of Memphis Mitchell is the top guy. He caught nearly 60 passes for almost 1,000 yards in 2010. Jamil Golden of Memphis Ridgeway and Memphis commit William Gross of Memphis Melrose give the city two solid three-star quarterbacks.
Memphis isn't bare on the interior either.
Cordale Boyd, a three-star player, is the state's No. 16 recruit and ranks 29th nationally among offensive guard prospects. He's headed to Arkansas. Another Razorbacks commit, Brandon Lewis of Memphis Ridgeway, is a three-star defensive end. Texas Tech defensive end commit Chase Robison of Memphis Christian Brothers is yet another solid player inside.
The case for Nashville
Almost the opposite of Memphis, Nashville's strength is up front.
There, the highest-rated prospect is Michigan four-star offensive tackle commit Blake Bars of Nashville Montgomery Bell Academy. The 6-5, 275-pounder is ranked No. 6 in Tennessee and No. 34 nationally in the offensive tackle grouping.
Graham Shuler, is another local offensive tackle with big-time talent. The Brentwood Academy standout is headed to Stanford. Two other offensive linemen of note - Jamie Bradshaw of Nashville Montgomery Bell Academy and Antonio Head of Nashville Hunters Lane - might also be FBS-bound.
On the defensive line, three-star end Caleb Azubike of Nashville McGavock, a Vanderbilt commit, is a physical specimen at 6-5, 240. His stock has risen substantially after a strong camp outing this summer in North Carolina. Defensive end Woody Baron of Brentwood Academy is another good one. He's Virginia Tech-bound after a 17-sack junior season.
Skillwise, the main attraction in the metro Nashville area is Ole Miss running back commit and four-star recruit I'Tavius Mathers of Murfreesboro Blackman. All he did in 2010 was produce 2,614 yards rushing on only 240 carries. Meanwhile, three-star quarterback C.J. Beathard of Franklin Battle Ground Academy also is headed to the Rebels after passing for 2,382 yards last year. The area's top receiver is Cory Batey of Nashville Ensworth, a steady performer and Vanderbilt commit.
Nashville's 2013 class will have one of the South's top receiving prospects in Jalen Ramsey of Nashville Brentwood Academy. He already has a handful of SEC offers.
While Nashville is very solid on the interior, it simply lacks the abundance of skill position talent possessed by Memphis. In Kimbrow, Robinson and Walton, Memphis has three running backs that probably could play for any college program in the country. To its credit, Memphis also has excellent products at positions across the board. Quite frankly, this is a very good year in the River City.
It is amazing that this debate has even surfaced but it is a testament to the level of football in Memphis being on the rise. The prospects have been there but the team talent has been a mixed bag until recently when a more concerted effort has been put into coaching hires and practices. While depth and quality teams may be a wash this season, the top of the charts is likely a question that will be answered in the playoffs. Memphis University School will likely enter the playoffs as the top team in Division II and possibly the top team in the state, giving the western third of the state the edge over the Mid-State area. This year it is unclear whether Brentwood Academy, Nashville Ensworth or Nashville Montgomery Bell will be the top private school competitor or if a public school team, such as Smyrna High will ascend. Entering the year, give the edge to Memphis but it is far from a concrete answer.
- Dallas Jackson