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August 21, 2012
As many speculated he would, running back Taquan 'Smoke' Mizzell announced at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon at Bayside High School in Virginia Beach that he would play his College Football in the ACC for Coach Mike London and the University of Virginia Cavaliers.
The 5-foot-10, 187-pound Mizzell picked the Cavaliers over more than 20 offers that included such schools as Boston College, California, Clemson, Illinois, Miami (FL), Notre Dame, Ohio State and Tennessee among others. His final three consisted of UVA, North Carolina and West Virginia.
Recently, Rivals.com named Mizzell a five-star prospect and he moved up 23 spots in the national rankings to #20 overall, which also made him the top all-purpose running back in the country from the Class of 2013.
"You'll find some backs in the country that have got a whole lot more numbers than he does, but you're not going to find a more talented back. He can run inside and outside, has excellent speed, marvelous hands, the ability to avoid the big hits and the ability to make five-yarders 50-yarders," Bayside Head Football Coach Darnell Moore says of the versatile Mizzell.
"He reminds me of Marshall Faulk from the standpoint of being able to do everything and do everything so well as far as run inside, run outside, catch the ball out of the backfield. He also reminds me of Barry Sanders in that ability to make people miss, and Barry was truly phenomenal in that regard."
Since Rivals began ranking players across America in 2002, only five others from the Tidewater area have been named five-star football prospects - - Kai Parham, Michael Johnson, Marcus Vick (all in 2002), Percy Harvin (2006) and Tyrod Taylor (2007). At #20 overall, Mizzell is the highest rated Hampton Roads player since Harvin, who went on to win two National Championships at the University of Florida and currently plays in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings.
Mizzell becomes the first five-star recruit for UVA since offensive tackle Eugene Monroe chose the Cavs in 2005. Monroe, who hailed from New Jersey, was ranked #3 in the nation and went to be chosen in the first round and eighth overall in the 2009 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Last season while playing on a bad ankle that limited him, Mizzell rushed for 992 yards and 21 touchdowns on 212 carries. That followed a sophomore campaign where he earned Second Team All-Eastern Region honors by rolling up 1475 yards on the ground and scoring 22 total touchdowns. During the postseason, his play went up a couple notches, gaining 593 yards and scoring six touchdowns on 92 carries during the regional playoffs in helping Bayside win its first regional title since 1992.
Over the spring and summer, Smoke shined at numerous invite-only camps and combines, such as Nike's 'The Opening,' in Oregon as well as the Gridiron King in Florida and the Rivals Five-Star Showcase in Georgia. In January, he will participate in the U.S. Army All-American game in San Antonio, Texas.
UVA has built a solid pipeline with Bayside players in a short period of time. Currently on the Cavs' roster are three players from the Virginia Beach program in starting sophomore corner Demetrious Nicholson, starting sophomore linebacker Henry Coley and incoming freshman defensive back Anthony Cooper.
Matthew Hatfield has covered Eastern Region Football & Basketball since 2004 for VirginiaPreps.com, part of the Rivals.com Network. Check out Hatfield's Twitter page for more sports related updates, and you can also read his work in the Suffolk News Herald. To contact Matthew, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, and don't forget to listen to him on the VirginiaPreps.com Hour every Saturday at 11AM on ESPN Radio 94.1 plus watch him on the Cox 11 Sports Report.