High School Sports

Gautier’s Gainer to provide drama on Coast’s historic Signing Day

What has been a historic year for recruiting on the Mississippi Gulf Coast comes to a close Wednesday, and there should be at least one top football prospect providing some suspense.

Gautier offensive lineman Paul Gainer is set to become one of 15 high school seniors in the state's southernmost six counties to sign with Division I programs on National Signing Day.

Gainer knows where he's going, but very few will know where plans to attend college until a little after 1:30 p.m. Wednesday when he makes his announcement in the Gautier High School library.

Gainer said Monday afternoon that he planned to inform coaches at his future school before he lets the world know about it on Wednesday.

He will be deciding between Southern Miss, Tulane and Louisiana-Lafayette after visiting all three schools over the last three weeks.

Gainer dropped his verbal commitment to Mississippi State on Jan. 4, making him one of the state's top free agents over the last month of the recruiting season.

“It's been hectic,” Gainer admitted. “You're trying to decide where you're going to be the next four years, if not the next five years.”

Gainer feels like he had all his questions answered while making his recent official visits.

“I spent most of my time asking the players how the coaches were,” Gainer said. “The players (at the school he will sign with) told me their coaches were great guys. I'll have a great opportunity to come in, learn some things and play early.”

Huge class

While Gainer is keeping fans waiting, the other 14 players set to sign with Division I schools have been locked in on their verbal commitments for a while.

It's the largest class of signees anyone can remember and the most talented since 2008 when six players signed. That year, DeAndre Brown of Ocean Springs signed with Southern Miss and George County's Alonzo Lawrence signed with Alabama.

Harrison Central defensive lineman Noah Vance was the most recent Coast prospect to announce his commitment to a Division I program, pledging to Southeastern Louisiana on Saturday. Red Rebel quarterback Tavis Williams will join Vance on the Division I level and sign with Jackson State on Wednesday.

Picayune running back Josh Littles is also set to sign with Jackson State.

St. Stanislaus will have the largest group of signees on Wednesday and one of the Coast's most coveted recruits in recent memory, quarterback Myles Brennan, will sign with LSU.

SSC will have three other players signing Wednesday on the Bay St. Louis campus. Tight end Darius Pittman will ink with Purdue. Receiver Corbin Blanchard will follow through and sign with Air Force and tight end Chase Rogers is expected to sign with Louisiana-Lafayette.

Those three players combined for 2,916 receiving yards and 40 touchdowns during the 2016 season.

Brennan will become the first player from the Coast sign with LSU since Ocean Springs tight end Travis Dickson did it in 2010. Brennan is the first football player to be named the Sun Herald Player of the Year for three consecutive seasons.

Rare achievement

St. Martin quarterback Wayne Overman will join Blanchard in signing with the Air Force Academy. He threw for 3,056 yards and 34 touchdowns as a senior.

Overman will become the first football player to sign with a Division I school straight out of St. Martin High School in quite some time.

“It's an awesome opportunity for Wayne,” St. Martin coach Eddie Wayne Whitehead said. “We're really excited for him and his future. It not only sets him up for the next few years, but for a lifetime. He'll have an opportunity to play in the near future. It's great for our program to have our quarterback sign.”

Long Beach defensive lineman/linebacker J'arius Warren will give the Coast three players signing with military academies when he signs his letter of intent with the Naval Academy.

When Biloxi receiver Tim Jones signs with USM Wednesday, he will be the first Indian to sign with the Golden Eagles since USM's all-time leading rusher, Damion Fletcher, did it in 2006.

Two other Coast products are set to sign with USM – D'Iberville defensive back Tyler Barnes and Pearl River Community College cornerback Tyler Jack, who played his high school football at George County. Jack flipped from Troy to USM last week.

Another former George County star, Tyrese Fryfogle, will sign with Indiana on Wednesday after choosing the Hoosiers over Ole Miss on Jan. 17. Fryfogle made the Sun Herald All-South Mississippi Team in back-to-back seasons and could prove to be a steal for the Hoosiers.

In neighboring Jackson County, East Central offensive lineman Conner Estes is set to sign with Louisiana Tech on Wednesday.

At Gulfport, defensive back Princeton Fells will sign and join former Admiral Cleveland Ford at Alcorn State.

Ford is one of three Coast players who graduated early and enrolled at Division I schools. Pascagoula defensive tackle James Jackson and Ocean Springs receiver Austin Williams are both at Mississippi State already.

Live Updates

Go to SunHerald.com for live updates as the Coast’s top football prospects sign their Letters of Intent on Wednesday. Also, you can watch Gautier’s Paul Gainer and other top recruits in the region sign their letters on the Sun Herald’s Facebook page, at Facebook.com/sunherald.