By T. Scott Boatright
After watching his Panthers go 7-5 this season and reaching the second round of the Class 1A playoffs, Lincoln Preparatory School head football coach Glen Hall looked back on the past season while also considering what his team might have ahead in 2022.
The most questionable Panther for Hall to have a shot at playing college is linebacker Emmanuel Bryant.
And for Bryant, Hall said it’s all about experience.
“If Bryant would have played last year he would have been on everybody’s radar this season,” Hall said. “He came out and played incredibly for us, and for him, it was all new. He had never played a real, regular season organized football game before this season. And he tore it up.
“He’s probably going to have to try and make it as a walk-on, but only because he doesn’t have that football IQ. He’s still learning the game. I still hope someone might take a chance on him based on pure, raw potential.”
The only question mark for 6-3, 280-pound Panthers offensive lineman Imani Marcel is whether he’ll get a shot at FBS play based on his sheer size and strength alone or if an FCS school would be the better route for him.
“He’s a legitimate shot, probably as a guard on the FCS level,” Hall said about Marcel. “But the fact he’s versatile enough to also play center makes him even more attractive to colleges. I know he was able to help us a couple of times with that role this season. It’s very hard to find a good college center with his feet and strength. He’s a great snapper who does a good job with both the quarterback under center and in the shotgun and on punts.
“I think FCS would be his best bet because those schools can give him a year or two to put in him and help him get his weight under control. Then they’ll have a heckuva player. The big DI schools want you to be able to come in and play right now.”
Ta’Rell Simmons (6-0, 160) had an outstanding season as Lincoln Prep’s quarterback, but probably better projects on the college level as his original position as a Panther — wide receiver.
“He can play that doggone receiver position,” Hall said about Simmons. “I hate I had to pull him from receiver to quarterback, but I really didn’t have a choice. But he never complained. With him, it’s team first. He ran with it, but between him and (Dmitry) Payne, you’re talking about two guys that accounted for most of our scoring. And Simmons can play defensive back, too.”
Hall sees his biggest weapon — Payne — as signing as an athlete to play college football after his return to the gridiron this season after taking a year off and excelling as a return specialist, receiver, ball carrier and defensive back.
“Payne is a shut-down corner,” Hall said. “I used him at cornerback as a sophomore and he was doing great until a shoulder injury shut him down for the last four games. He scored enough times on returns this season (eight) where someone should want him to do that. If it was me I would sign him as a returner and let him play cornerback, too. He’s already defined as a cornerback and knows things like the ‘step and slide,’ he knows the ‘mirror motor,’ he knows everything that most college guys are just starting to get on that level.”
Even with nine seniors moving on, Payne believes he has a solid group of returnees for 2022, starting with Braylin Mayfield, a receiver who saw late season action behind center for the Panthers.
“Mayfield is definitely going to be the quarterback,” Hall said. “He had a rocket for an arm and we’ll spend the offseason teaching what he needs to know to help us at quarterback next season. He’s really mobile, too. He has the potential to be the prototype quarterback college coaches really look for.”
Running back and defensive back Chauncy Harper has started since he was a freshman and will be back for his senior season, and the Buggs brothers — Jamarion (wide receiver/cornerback) and Jamarius (running back/strong safety and defensive end) was both coming off productive seasons as junior starters and will be asked to play increased roles next season, as will others like lineman Lathan Elmore and linebacker/defensive end Jacobie Bedford.
“What we’re going as a staff is working to better develop more younger guys,” Hall said. “We’re going to spend a lot of time working with our junior high players. So we’ll have a good group returning next season, but in 2023, once we have those guys in junior high now with solid football IQs as young high school players, look out. That’s when I expect us to be really good.”
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