February 7, 2013 11:20:31 AM
Trae Collins didn't know where football was going to take him.
As a standout on the New Hope High School football team for the past two seasons, Collins was confident he was going to get an opportunity, but he couldn't help feeling a little doubt when he didn't receive a bounty of offers.
When it comes to recruiting, though, just wait because things will change in a hurry.
The University of Southern Mississippi's move to bring in Todd Monken as its new football coach after an 0-12 season opened new doors for a lot of student-athletes, including Collins.
On Wednesday, Collins capitalized on that chance when he signed a scholarship to be a Golden Eagle in Hattiesburg. Collins, Juan Cedano (Itawamba Community College in Fulton), and James Hill (Coahoma C.C. in Clarksdale) signed scholarships in a ceremony in the school library.
Collins, who likely will compete for playing time at cornerback, will be reunited with former New Hope High standout Jonathan Guerry, who was a redshirt junior offensive lineman with the Golden Eagles this past season.
"With a new coaching staff, there are no favorites," Collins said. "Coming in as a freshmen, it is like everybody is a freshman."
Collins said he had received interest from junior and senior colleges and believed something was going to happen. Still, he said he was "clueless" if Mississippi State University, the University of Mississippi, or Jackson State would make him an offer. That nervousness disappeared once things started to get serious with USM.
"It is (a load off his shoulders) to know where I am going to play football and I can start working out," Collins said.
Collins feels he improved his technique and learned to play on more than just talent. He feels his size, speed, and strength will give him a good chance to compete for playing time as a freshman.
"I went to a lot of camps (after his junior year) and I learned a lot," Collins said. "I think coaches saw that on my film and saw that I am a hard worker, and those things made them want me even more."
Cedano, who played linebacker and rush end for the Trojans, played on the offensive line in his first year back playing football. Cedano's speed and leaping ability don't fit someone who used to play up front. He hopes he will mature into his body and gain 15-20 pounds to be an even more dominating player.
"You have got to put in work to reach your potential, and that is kind of what they see in me," Cedano said. "Hopefully, I can play on a bigger level."
Cedano also sees the potential in himself. He said he can take himself as far as he wants to and that it is up to him to get himself where he wants to go. He recognizes he will have to work even harder, be more consistent in the weight room and in film study, and not take any days off if he is going to use a two-year opportunity to catapult to a four-year school.
"I feel like I just started," Cedano said. "I still can grow and this is the beginning of what I can do. I see myself making bigger plays."
Hill, a wide receiver, received a late offer from CCC and didn't know much about the school, so he did his research and discovered coach Freeman Horton is trying to build a program. He said his goal is to play a big role in a passing attack he hopes can help transform the program.
Hill said he talked to other schools but didn't receive any offers. He plans to use his opportunity to play at CCC that he deserved a closer look.
"I would like to show people no mater where you go you can do something with it," Hill said. "My goal is to try to make myself better."
Hill feels he is a physical receiver who is a player who will do anything to help the team. After limited playing time as a middle schooler, Hill transferred from Noxubee County and played the past two years at New Hope. He believes he has plenty of potential to grow and to improve as a player.
"I just have to work hard and be ready for it," Hill said. "It feels like it is a whole new world out there that I don't know. I hope I made the right choices."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.