Published Saturday, January 19, 2013
From Staff and Wire Reports
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — It’s not quite the Blue-Gray game, but today’s inaugural Raycom College Football Classic hopes to instill many of the same traditions as the annual Christmas Day All-Star event.
For both Alan Bonner and Kyle Wilborn, it’s a chance to showcase their talents to NFL teams after playing for mid-major Division I or FCS schools.
Bonner is among 15 players from schools that comprised what previously was known as Division I-AA in the NCAA. During his senior season at Jacksonville State, the former Newnan High All-State wide-receiver led the Gamecocks in receptions (50), yards (859) and touchdowns (8) while posting career bests. He also averaged 8.7 yards over 11 punt returns and led JSU with 1,016 all-purpose yards.
A four-year contributor with the Gamecocks, Bonner caught 83 passes and 1,441 yards over his final 22 college games.
The 6-4, 300-pound Wilborn, who began playing football at The Heritage School, played all three positions on the offensive line during his four years at Troy, the last of which at center while being named a first team All-Sun Belt selection. The Trojans won three conference titles during his career.
Kickoff today is at 2 p.m., with coverage on CBS Sports Network. Over 100 NFL scouts have attended practices this week.
Both standouts from Coweta County will play for the Stars lineup coached by Jim Bates. Former Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Reeves heads the staff for the Stripes today. Bonner will be wearing jersey No. 19 and Wilborn is wearing No. 72 among an offensive line that includes Notre Dame’s Mike Golic Jr.
Wilborn is one of two players from Troy playing in today’s game. Safety Kanorris Davis, however, will suit up for the Stripes.
“All those times we’ve been in practice head-butting and now we’re on different teams,” Wilborn told the Montgomery Advertiser this week. “It’s a little friendly rivalry.”
Stars players spent their final day visiting with veterans at a local VA hospital in Montgomery, with Wilborn posting, “Big thank you to @theallstargame for giving us the opportunity to spend morning with our veterans!” #RaycomClassic,” on Twitter.
The game, and newly renovated Cramton Bowl, has had a makeover since the last one was played in Montgomery in 2002 before moving an hour away to Troy University’s stadium for one year.
It also features players from BCS national championship game opponents Notre Dame and Alabama and an assortment of other big-name schools.
“There’s just an awful lot of talent out there,” Reeves said. “When you only have 32 NFL teams and there’s just a small number when you think about the United States and how many great players there are out there. All they need is an opportunity and a chance. There’s a lot of talent here.”
Mars Hills’ Jon Richt — son of Georgia coach Mark Richt — is among two quarterbacks for the Stripes team.
That squad also features Georgia linebackers Michael Gilliard and Christian Robinson and defensive linemen Isaac Remington (Oregon) and Jamarkus McFarland (Oklahoma).
Pittsburgh’s Tino Sunseri, California’s Zach Maynard and Murray State’s Casey Brockman are the Stars quarterbacks.
While LSU kicker Drew Alleman is on the opposite side, four of his former teammates will line up for the Stars — wide receiver Russell Shepard, offensive lineman Josh Dworaczyk and defensive linemen Chancey Aghayere and Josh Downs.
Alabama kicker Jeremy Shelley, longsnapper Carson Tinker and backup defensive lineman Quinton Dial are on the Stripes.
The Crimson Tide beat the Fighting Irish 42-14 on Jan. 7 in the national title game in Miami. So moving right on to job auditions isn’t so bad for Golic.
“You’re obviously never going to forget something like that,” he said. “It’s going to stick around forever but to get back out here and be able to get back to work and what we all love doing, it helps take your mind off it a little bit and just get back to playing football.”