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August 15, 2011

Rival regions: Charlotte vs. Raleigh-Durham

MORE NC: Humphries picks UF | Mailbag | Bullard chat

For the next two weeks, 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 owns the superior talent.

TODAY'S MATCHUP: Charlotte metro area vs. Raleigh-Durham


The case for Charlotte

The Charlotte area is certainly rising in the minds of many when it comes to D-I football talent and schools such as Mallard Creek, Butler, Ardrey Kell, Charlotte Catholic and now Phillip O'Berry Academy of Technology are now consistently producing top players.

The clear headliner this year is offensive tackle and Florida commitment D.J. Humphries, the nation's No. 3 player out of Mallard Creek. Humphries opens holes for running back Jela Duncan, who recently picked up a big offer from South Carolina. Other Charlotte offensive linemen include Notre Dame commitment Mark Harrell from Charlotte Catholic, Duke commitment Casey Blaser from South Mecklenburg and Providence tackle Bentley Spain, a 2014 prospect.

While the big bodies up front are impressive and Duncan is shifty back, the Charlotte area is loaded with talent for a spread offense, led by quarterback Riley Ferguson from Butler. Talented wide receivers include Clemson commitment Germone Hopper from O'Berry, speedsters Jamel Harbison from Mallard Creek and Kedrick Davis from O'Berry (North Carolina commitment) and 2013 possession receiver Uriah Lemay from Butler, along with tight end Terrance Knox, a North Carolina commitment.

On the defensive side, the Charlotte area is deep at linebacker - Nick Dawson from O'Berry, Peter Kalambayi from Butler and Larenz Bryant from Vance - but lacks depth in other areas. Defensive end and Notre Dame commitment Romeo Okwara from Ardrey Kell leads the charge and is joined by 2013 defensive end Daniel Garces from Providence.

One final bonus for the Charlotte area is special teams with Purdue commitment Paul Griggs (kicker) from Latin and Florida State commitment Cason Beatty from Olympic (punter).


The case for Raleigh-Durham

Raleigh/Durham boasts running back Keith Marshall from Millbrook, who many feel could be the No. 1 running back in the country. Add in fellow running back Chris Mangus from Broughton and you have an amazing 1-2 punch from the area. But R/D also has targets in a passing game with tight end and Duke commitment Daniel Beilinson from Panther Creek, along with 2013 wide receiver Dante Jones from Southeast Raleigh and 2014 wideout Braxton Berrios from Leesville Road.

Raleigh/Durham is not very strong up front, with the offensive linemen of note being Casey Perry from Hillside, who is a terrific run blocker, Matthew DeGraffinreed from Millbrook and 2013's Mike Sutton from Panther Creek. Defensive end Jamal Marcus from Hillside is very talented and hard to handle off the edge, but there isn't much else on the D-line.

Linebackers Phillip Williamson from Jordan (North Carolina commitment) and Drew Davis from Broughton are a solid 1-2 punch at their position and there is some talent in the secondary with Aaron Krah from Hillside, Josh Sessoms from Southern Nash and 2013's Dominick Johnson from Panther Creek.


Bottom line

Charlotte gets the nod, in a big way. There just isn't enough talent up front for Raleigh-Durham and it in no way measures up to Charlotte's skill in the passing game. The Charlotte area, which last year produced perhaps the top recruit of the past decade in Rock Hill (S.C.) South Pointe DE Jadeveon Clowney, is again far ahead of its rival region from the north.


Team matchup

Having Butler and Mallard Creek among the best teams in the country - and clearly the top two teams in the state this season - gives this debate to Charlotte. Wake Forest-Rolesville is probably the most consistent and strongest competitor in the Raleigh area with five straight conference titles, three regional finals and a 2010 state runner-up finish. Durham Hillside and Durham Southern have been able to get into the mix recently, but not take over the top spots, which will again be claimed by Charlotte teams.

- Dallas Jackson



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