High School Sports

What major-college football recruiters find so eye-catching about Providence Day freshmen

Providence Day freshman Porter Rooks, left, and Jacolbe Cowan on Monday, April 3, 2017. Rooks and Cowan are beginning to climb into the national recruiting discussion as freshmen Between them, they have 11 Power 5 offers and interest from Clemson, Alabama and Southern Cal. on Monday, April 3, 2017.
Providence Day freshman Porter Rooks, left, and Jacolbe Cowan on Monday, April 3, 2017. Rooks and Cowan are beginning to climb into the national recruiting discussion as freshmen Between them, they have 11 Power 5 offers and interest from Clemson, Alabama and Southern Cal. on Monday, April 3, 2017. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Providence Day’s high school football team was 3-7 in 2016, and it has only one winning season since 2012. But that could be changing in the fall.

Providence Day will return three players who are receiving major-college interest, including two freshmen - defensive lineman Jacolbe Cowan and wide receiver Porter Rooks -- who are piling up college scholarship offers this spring.

Cowan, 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, has received eight offers in about a month - from Georgia, Iowa State, South Carolina, Syracuse, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wisconsin.

Rooks, who is 6-2 and 190 pounds, received an offer from Louisville in eighth grade. He’s since added offers from East Carolina, Iowa State, North Carolina, N.C. State, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest. Rooks was scheduled to visit Alabama and Auburn this weekend.

“I’m just really blessed,” said Rooks, who has 4.52 speed in the 40-yard dash. “You have to balance all the recruiting stuff with school work, working on your craft, and if you play another sport -- and I run track -- it can get a little difficult. But that’s part of being an elite athlete. I’m honored to be in this position.”

Rooks caught 35 passes for 531 yards and five touchdowns last season. His receiving yardage ranked No. 22 nationally among freshmen and second in North Carolina behind Cherokee High’s Cade Mintz, who caught 34 passes for 616 yards and six scores.

Rooks also played quarterback and rushed for 308 yards with two scores during the Chargers’ final three games.

“When you see his (video) tape and see his size, people realize he’s a player with a future that is unlimited,” Providence Day coach Adam Hastings said. “He’s able to do things most freshman can’t do, (like) his ability to (make tough catches against defenders). He just doesn’t lose jump balls. He’s just farther along with those things than most kids are.”

Hastings said because Rooks is a good student and a “class kid,” it has also led college coaches to Providence Day.

“There’s a lot of talented players,” Hastings said. “But once coaches talk to him, they’re like, ‘OK, we need to get on this kid now.’ He’s a leader. He’s humble. You talk to him 15 minutes and you realize this kid is a little different.

“Attitude and determination are not measurable things but the things that make the difference between a good high school player and a really good college player. Porter has those.”

Hastings said Cowan’s recruiting has taken off this spring. Georgia was the first to offer last month and Virginia Tech offered the next day. Iowa State and Wisconsin delivered offers a week later. Hastings said he expects many more colleges to get involved with Cowan.

“Man, he’s 6-5 and 250,” Hastings said, “and having coached a lot of really good defensive ends, Jacolby has the first two steps very much like what the big-time defensive ends have. And he has time to grow.”

Cowan, who injured his shoulder during basketball season and needed surgery, said he’s thankful so many schools are still following him closely.

“Really,” he said, “it’s just a blessing. It shows the hard work I’ve been putting in has finally paid off. I think college coaches like (mine and Porter’s) work ethic and the people we are.

“We are very positive people and always wanting to uplift. We’re also very close. We spend the night at each others’ houses, hang out, go to the movies. We didn’t know each other before we got to Providence Day, but ever since last summer he’s been my best bud.”

Next season, Hastings will count on the best friends, along with 6-4, 290-pound junior defensive tackle Elijiah Brown, to return Providence Day to the CISAA conference and NCISAA state championship races. Brown has offers from East Carolina, Louisville, N.C. State and Wake Forest.

“We’ve got some talent,” Hastings said. “Elijiah is special. The two freshmen are special. I was talking to the coaches at Notre Dame and they kept telling me, ‘Coach, those kids (Rooks, Cowan) are not (freshmen). (The Notre Dame coach) found it hard to believe they were rising sophomores.

“Right now, I hear from South Carolina, Clemson about both of them, and from national schools like Southern Cal, Alabama, Penn State. I think we’re getting to that realm with both of them.”

Wertz: 704-358-5133; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr

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