Braircrest standout Rashad Muhammad patterning his game after Bo Jackson

Rashad Muhammad is only 15 years old.

Still, his young age doesn’t prevent him from studying the game of football.

'RAGING' RASHAD --- Briarcrest Christian School running back Rashad Muhammad emerged as one of the area's finest rusher despite a a year in which the sophomore endured an early-season knee injury. With two season left in his high school career, Muhammad has already drawn rave reviews from college scouts. (Photos by Steve Austell)

RISING STAR — Briarcrest Christian School running back Rashad Muhammad emerged as one of the area’s finest rusher despite a a year in which the sophomore endured an early-season knee injury. With two season left in his high school career, Muhammad has already drawn rave reviews from college scouts. (Photos by Steve Austell)

Muhammad, who plays running back for Briarcrest Christian School, admittedly spends a lot of time studying the likes of former NFL greats Emmitt Smith, Herschel Walker, and Bo Jackson.

No one appears more intriguing than Jackson who, according to Muhammad, is the best rusher to ever play the game.

“Bo Jackson is my all-time favorite player,” Muhammad told MemphiSport during a recent interview. “He was an all-around player. He can play all sorts of sports.”

Jackson, a former Auburn star and the 1985 Heisman Trophy winner, was a force on the gridiron, which ultimately gave way to a solid professional career. Nowadays, Muhammad is clinging to lofty aspirations of making a name for himself in the backfield much like Jackson did in the 1980s.

To his credit, Muhammad has quickly blossomed into one of the top rushers in the Shelby-Metro area in his brief time as a starter for Briarcrest. In helping the Saints to a postseason berth this past season, Muhammad emerged as a the team’s featured back during a year in which he finished as the team’s top rusher.

Through 10 starts, Muhammad showed no signs of rust as a first-year starter, having produced 745 yards on 54 carries and 10 touchdowns for a Briarcrest team that advanced to the playoffs despite a losing record (4-8).

Credit Muhammad for the Saints’ late-season surge, in large part because the speedy, durable back showed that despite his lack of experience on the varsity roster, he could manufacture impressive numbers against the area’s best defensive units.

WATCH RASHAD IN ACTION VIA VIDEO:

“I don’t want to be known as an average player,” Muhammad said. “I want to be known as a great player, a great student average.”

If nothing else, Muhammad appeared destined to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark in his first full season as a starter before a knee injury weeks into the season reduced his effectiveness. Muhammad injured his right knee during a Week 4 28-27 loss at Germantown. After undergoing an MRI the following day, doctors discovered that an in-grown bone was chipped, an injury they said needed to heal on its own.

As a result, the Briarcrest coaching staff kept its featured back out of action for two weeks for precautionary reasons. Consequently, the Saints dropped their next two games, a sequence Muhammad sensed would have played out much differently if not for his early-season injury.

RAISING THE BAR --- Muhammad said among his goals for next seasons to to rush for 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns.

RAISING THE BAR — Muhammad said among his goals for next season is to rush for 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns.

 

“I wanted to play because I didn’t want to sit on the sideline,” Muhammad said of being sidelined. “But I had to cheer my team on. Looking back, I probably would have been more careful in what I was doing (before the injury).”

While Muhammad recouped comfortably from his knee injury, the Saints used him sparingly in the lineup the rest of the regular season. Still, he managed to register impressive numbers which, fortunately for him, have already generated interest from multiple colleges.

Currently, Muhammad has garnered letters from Duke, Cincinnati, Georgia, Memphis, Colorado, and Ole Miss, among others, according to his father, Clarance Muhammad.

And, with a summer itinerary that includes appearances at a host of camps and combines — one of which is Auburn — the possibility exists that Rashad will receive more feedback from colleges heading into what figures to be an intriguing junior season. In addition, Rashad is scheduled to participate in a month-long tour in June in that will include visiting eight major Division 1 colleges.

“Rashad Muhammad is an exceptional young man with tremendous football ability,” said Major Wright, who coached Rashad the previous two seasons at Briarcrest. “His progress from his freshman season to his sophomore season was a testament to the amount of works he puts into it. He also places heavy emphasis on his academics. He will be a heavy contributor to the Briarcrest football team over the next two seasons.”

Arguably the biggest reason Rashad is expected to witness his production increase next season is that he worked intensely this offseason to upgrade his mechanics, a trend that, according to him, has inspired him to set what he describes as an “attainable feat” during the 2014 season.

“I had set some goals for myself,” Rashad said. “I want to get 2,000 yards (next season). I figured 1,000 is for average person. So I plan to get 2,000 and 20 touchdowns. (My coaches) are hoping for big things for me this upcoming season.”

As Clarence Muhammad tells it, the sky’s the limit for his son, whom he said handled the maturation process well, particularly after his early-season injury.

“Rashad embodies exactly what every coach covets and that’s hard work and respect,” Clarance Muhammad said. “Also, he’s blessed to be in a two-parent home with support for his God-given athletic ability. He’s tough. He’s coachable, and he has had exposure, meaning he has seen the world from both sets of eyes, white and black. He desires success for himself.”

Much like Bo Jackson did in the mid-1980s.

Not bad for a talented 15-year-old.

Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at [email protected] Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Cottonwood (Ala.) QB Cory Gill drawing interest from Vols, other SEC schools

'HIGH COTTON' --- Cottonwood (Ala.) High quarterback Cory Gill enjoyed a memorable junior season that resulted in him becoming the top passer in the state. His performance didn't go unnoticed by scouts, including those at the University of Tennessee. (Photos courtesy of Cottonwood Athletics)

‘HIGH COTTON’ — Cottonwood (Ala.) High quarterback Cory Gill enjoyed a memorable junior season that resulted in him becoming the top passer in the state. His performance didn’t go unnoticed by scouts, including those at the University of Tennessee. (Photos courtesy of Cottonwood Athletics)

Following an efficient junior campaign, Cory Gill is about to partake in what will be a busy summer.

Among the reasons is that the Cottonwood (Ala.) High quarterback is scheduled to attend a number of camps and combines, most notably the University of Tennessee camp in the coming weeks.

To his credit, Gill’s stock on the recruiting circuit has steadily progressed in recent years, primarily because he has evolved into the centerpiece of the Bears’ potent offense.

For starters, the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Gill was the catalyst of coach Toby Greene’s Cottonwood team that recovered from a midseason three-game winless streak and clinched a trip to the Alabama Class 2A playoffs. In engineering the Bears to a 6-5 finish, Gill demonstrated why college scouts have taken notice of his keen ability to manage an offense.

The two-year starter, for instance, enjoyed a masterful junior season, generating a career-best 2,574 passing on 183 of 325 attempts (which was best among Alabama quarterbacks) while throwing 27 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

AERIAL ATTACK --- Gill passed for more than 2,000 yards and 27 touchdowns last year for a Cottonwood team that advanced to the Alabama Class 2A playoffs.

AERIAL ATTACK — Gill (No. 6) passed for more than 2,000 yards and 27 touchdowns last year for a Cottonwood team that advanced to the Alabama Class 2A playoffs.

Add to the fact that he has proven he’s capable of extending plays with 211 yards rushing on 47 carries through 11 games, and it’s no wonder why the senior campaign of his resilient passer figures to be a memorable one.

In other words, as Gill goes, so does the Bears.

“I feel like I played pretty good this past season but there are some things I need to work on in order to improve my game and to get ready for the next level,” Gill told MemphiSport during a recent interview. “I led the Wiregrass in passing yards.”

Gill, a multi-sport athlete, also starred on the mound for Cottonwood's baseball team.

Gill, a multi-sport athlete, also starred on the mound for Cottonwood’s baseball team.

Fortunately for the 17-year-old Gill — a speedy, durable passer who worked intensely last summer to upgrade his mechanics — various recruiters have monitored closely his performance under center.

So far, Gill has garnered interest from Auburn, Southern Miss, Samford, South Alabama, Alabama State, West Alabama, Florida, Florida International, Troy, Western Kentucky, Appalachian State, Jacksonville State, and Furman, among others.

Such an impressive list is expected to expand as his senior season looms, considering Gill — who also starred in basketball and baseball for Cottonwood — is scheduled to attend an array of camps and combines this summer, including the Southern Elite Top 150 Mississippi Combine.

According to Gill, the knowledge he will acquire this summer will enable him to pick up where he left off after a productive junior season.

“The mechanics that I need to work on in order to be a better quarterback would be my footwork, my ability to extend the play, and my ability to read the defense,” Gill said. “Spring practices this year went pretty good! The whole team gave it their all every chance it got. I feel good about this team. We all have a good mind set and we’re looking to be state champs.”

That the Bears will return the nucleus of a team that showed signs of things to come during the season’s latter stages, many of the Cottonwood faithful believe an elusive state championship isn’t unrealistic goal.

At least not with Gill orchestrating the offense.

“He has been as good a leader for us and we expect the same (next year),” Cottonwood assistant coach Joshua Allen said. “I explained to him often that he needs to be remembered and that people don’t remember losers. We expect Cory to be the motivator, leader by example, and the face of a (team) that has put in the overtime to become the best. He is a smart, humbled, disciplined young man that has a bright future and will be successful in life because he wants to be.”

On and off the field.

A trend various recruiters have taken notice of.

Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at [email protected] Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Quarterback instructor Joe Dickinson having huge impact on Mid-South-area players

JOE COOL --- Joe Dicksinson, who served as an assistant to former Oklahoma legendary coach Barry Switzer in the mid-1980s, has trained a number of Mid-South-area quarterbacks during a football coaching career that spans nearly 30 years. (Photos submitted by Joe Dickinson0

JOE COOL — Joe Dickinson, who served as an assistant to former Oklahoma legendary coach Barry Switzer in the mid-1980s, has trained a number of Mid-South-area quarterbacks during a football coaching career that spans nearly 30 years. (Photos submitted by Joe Dickinson0

For Joe Dickinson, New Year’s Day essentially is a time of reflection.

Among the reasons is that he has the luxury of watching a number of the nation’s premiere quarterbacks, many of whom he trained intensely long before they entered the collegiate ranks.

“You’re just happy that you can give something back to the game,” Dickinson told MemphiSport during a recent telephone interview from Jacksonville, Fla. “It makes you feel very proud obviously. It makes you feel you’re still apart of the game. I stay in touch with a lot of them.”

Having served as quarterbacks coach for several high-profile coaches during his well-publicized tenure on the sideline, Dickinson is currently the lead quarterback instructor and cam director for DeBartolo Sports University, a position he’s held since 2007. Dickinson frequently conducts quarterback camps and private training nationwide. And, since 2007, more than 1,100 quarterbacks have been trained by Dickinson, ranging from amateur to professional levels.

Since joining DeBartolo Sports, Dickinson, 57, has had a profound impact on a plethora of up-and-coming quarterbacks, many of whom ultimately signed National Letters of Intent with major Division 1 programs.

This year was no exception for Dickinson, a quarterback coaching guru whom many have labeled the mastermind behind having trained an assortment of America’s most sought-after passers for the Class of 2014.

So far, at least seven high school quarterbacks who trained under Dickinson at DeBartolo Sports have inked with major colleges: David Cromwell (Alabama), Rafe Peavey (Arkansas), Landon Root (Northern Illinois), Travis Smith (Wake Forest), Collin Feller (Miami, Fla.), Tristian Threatt (Harvard), and Alexander Diamont (Indiana).

His Class of 2015 quarterbacks appears promising, considering Shawnee (Okla.) High highly-touted prospect John Jacobs III last week made a verbal commitment to play at East Carolina University next fall.

So how to explain the continuous success of Dickinson who, according to former San Francisco 49er offensive lineman Randy Cross, has had a major impact of how today’s collegiate game is played?

MID-SOUTH PRESENCE --- Since joining DeBartolo Sports in 2007, Dickinson has trained more than 1,100 quarterbacks, several of whom have ties to the Mid-South.

MID-SOUTH PRESENCE — Since joining DeBartolo Sports in 2007, Dickinson has trained more than 1,100 quarterbacks, several of whom have ties to the Mid-South.

For starters, Dickinson, a Wayne, Okla. native, has enjoyed a career in which he has been afforded opportunities to work alongside college football finest coaches, most notably former Oklahoma and Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl-winning coach Barry Switzer. Dickinson served as a graduate assistant to Swizter from 1983-85 during which he helped the Sooners to the 1985 national title.

“I’m a big fan of the way Joe coaches and handles quarterbacks,” said Cross, whose son, Brendan, trained under Dickinson before playing quarterback for Wake Forest. “There are people who have PR firms and all sorts of sponsors and stuff for quarterbacks. But the way Joe does it, he has invented the new way to throw. He knows it from a fundamental standpoint, from a mechanical standpoint.”

Not only that, Cross, who starred for the 49ers and won three Super Bowls between 1976-1988, said Dickinson’s contributions are still impacting the way the college game is played today, although he doesn’t remotely assist college coaches.

“College football coaches are recruiters,” Cross said. “They don’t have time to coach guys up. So they need guys like Joe Dickinson. He can help with footwork. He can help with throwing. He can help with film study, especially for young players who must know how defenses are set up. I think his insight is unique.”

Prior to joining the DeBartolo Sports staff, Dickinson enjoyed a prosperous collegiate coaching career that spanned nearly three decades.

From 1986-1989, for instance, Dickinson was the running backs coach at the University of Tulsa before assuming an offensive coordinator position at Marshall University in 1990. Consequently, he took his play-calling skills to nearby Northern Illinois, where he served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 1991-95, a stint that allowed him to oversee the nation’s leading rusher, LeShon Johnson, who amassed 1,976 yards on 327 carries while finishing 6th in the Heisman Trophy voting.

In addition, Dickinson moved back to his native Oklahoma in 1996 during which he assumed a second stint with the Sooners’ coaching staff. He started as the running backs coach from 1996-97 before being promoted to offensive coordinator for the 1998 season. To his credit, Dickinson helped the Sooners to their best finish since 1995, but would leave the program four seasons later after the arrival of OU’s current coach, Bob Stoops.

Dickinson later accepted a running backs coaching position at Tulane before assuming a joining staff at Central Oklahoma from 2003-2006.

Having devoted a majority of his life to helping enhance the lives of athletes, Dickinson admittedly has never grown tired of his craft as arguably one of the best quarterback coaching minds in the game.

“I’ve played (football) in high school and college and I’ve always wanted to coach,” Dickinson said. “I’ve never thought of it as a job. It’s a great sport. It’s allowed me to do a lot for kids. It’s the best sport that teaches how the lessons of how life is.”

Something by which Dickinson, one of football’s brightest minds, relishes quite often.

Especially when he’s watching the annual New Year’s Day bowl games.

Andre Johnson, a senior writer for MemphiSport, is a regular contributor for Bleacher Report. To reach Johnson, email him at [email protected]. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.