Kevin Whitley had a decision to make when Marquez Ezzard arrived at Stockbridge (Ga.) High School for his freshman year. The athlete had been a promising quarterback for most of his time playing football, and at Stockbridge his development could continue.
Stockbridge, at least for the time being, was already set at quarterback and Ezzard was too talented to leave on the bench to develop. At least in the short term, Whitley decided to stick Ezzard at wide receiver.
“It just kind of took off from there,” Whitley told DieHards.
In his varsity debut, Ezzard led the Tigers with 5 catches for 51 yards during a loss to Central High School of Phenix City, Ala. A week later, Ezzard pulled in another 59 receiving yards plus his first touchdown. He added games of 54, 51, 84 and 96 receiving yards as the season went on and finished the year as Stockbridge’s top receiver with 518 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Ezzard never slowed during his career. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound pass catcher was the Tigers’ leading receiver during all four seasons and the 4-star athlete put together back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons to wrap up his high school career. Now, he’s bringing his unprecedented level of production to Miami. The senior made his public commitment to the Hurricanes on National Signing Day and signed his national letter of intent with Miami to kick off the day.
“Right before I left my official visit, I told them that I would be signing with them,” Ezzard told Chad Simmons of Rivals.com after he made his commitment public Feb. 7. “Me and the coaches already had the vibe, so I just needed to get down there, see what it was like and when I got on campus, I knew Miami was the school for me.”
Ezzard, who spent most of the fall committed to Florida State, ultimately picked the Hurricanes over Mississippi, which he also officially visited during January. Oregon was also a suitor for Ezzard before former coach Willie Taggart departed for the Seminoles.
It became the ultimate Signing Day win for Miami. The Hurricanes already boasted one of the best wide receiver classes in the nation after the early signing period and adding a player like Ezzard would mostly be a luxury.
Wide receivers coach Ron Dugans is one of the best recruiters in the country, though. With a chance to further bolster a strength, he leapt at the opportunity. Ezzard, who could also play free safety, adds a different dimension to a Class of 2018 group which includes two other 4-star wide receivers. Mark Pope is the slightly undersized speedster, capable of terrorizing zone defenses in the middle of the field or shredding man-to-man coverage on the outside. Brian Hightower is the big-body target with the deceptive speed to become a prototypical outside receiver.
The WR room is STACKED.
From GA to FL, Welcome to The U, Marquez Ezzard! pic.twitter.com/ddSYz2NUMr
— Canes Football (@CanesFootball) February 7, 2018
Ezzard falls somewhere in the middle. He isn’t a towering presence, but he makes up for it with his strength. He can win jump balls in traffic or shed tacklers in the open field. Some have thrown out a comparison to former Cardinals Pro Bowl wide receiver Anquan Boldin.
“His skill set is just his physical nature, his toughness and that he’s a bulldog. That’s what you want to bring to this program,” Dugans said during a Signing Day interview. “He reminds me of himself right now. I’ve got a name in my head, but I won’t say it.”
A single 1,000-yard season at Stockbridge is impressive enough. Back-to-back seasons, Whitley is certain, hasn’t happened since he took over.
The Tigers play a run-heavy style, which meant handing it off twice as often as they threw in 2017. Stockbridge threw 171 passes this fall and completed 95 of them for 1,798 yards. Ezzard accounted for 46 of those catches and 1,023 yards. No one else on the team caught more than 11 balls.
The stat line was similar in Ezzard’s junior year. The Tigers threw 150 passes and completed 99 for 1,759 yards. Ezzard finished with 50 catches for 1,015 yards. His next closest teammate caught 16 passes.
Stockbridge’s offense was never particularly complex in terms of passing. Ezzard’s route tree mostly consisted of fly routes and screen passes, and he made it work at record-setting levels. With college polish, Ezzard could become one of the best wideouts in the entire class.
“We’re a running team and we want to be a running team, but he’s been so good that we had to get him the ball,” Whitley said. “Him getting 1,000 yards the last two years in our offense is like 1,500 for someone else because we just don’t throw it a whole lot.”
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