RALEIGH — Keith Marshall tries to ignore the commotion created by his recruitment.
Marshall, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound running back at Millbrook, is the state's top-ranked junior prospect and among the country's best running back prospects. He already has accepted an invitation to next January's Under Armour All-America game and is a five-star recruit by both the Rivals.com and Scout.com recruiting services.
But Marshall tries to pay little attention to what evaluators and recruiters think of his potential. He is being recruited by most major college football programs in the Southeast and other top programs throughout the country.
About the only time he thinks about those things, though, is when he needs a reason to push himself harder in practice.
"That stuff shows that hard work pays off," Marshall said. "If you keep working hard, you get better."
Marshall rushed for 1,539 yards and scored 17 touchdowns in 2010 despite missing most of two games after suffering a concussion.
There are hundreds of high school runners who can match those numbers but very few, if any, who can equal his 4.25 seconds, his time in the 40-yard dash.
He has broken 4.3 a couple of times and consistently breaks 4.35, which makes him one of the country's fastest football players - with the emphasis on football. He is no track and field star who also plays football.
Marshall is an elusive, powerful runner. He blocks and he catches passes. Warren Marshall, his father, played with the Denver Broncos; Keith Marshall has played football since he was a young boy.
"He is tremendous," said Miller Safrit, an evaluator for Scout.com. "He is a running back with legitimate speed to break every play."
Marshall said he is at the beginning of the recruiting process and doesn't have college favorites, but he hopes to establish a list of 10 schools within the next two weeks.
He is the most prominent prospect in the state in a year where linemen dominate the list of top prospects.
"This year, when you think of North Carolina, you think of offensive linemen," Safrit said. "There are a half-dozen or more outstanding offensive line prospects. This is the year of the offensive lineman."
Heading the interior players is 6-foot-5, 261-pound D.J. Humphries of Charlotte Mallard Creek, already a 2012 U.S. Army All-America selection.
Humphries doesn't have the weight of some of his contemporaries, but his quickness and strength are outstanding. Scholarship offers, including Oregon and Auburn, are rolling in, and he is beginning a list of a half-dozen or so schools.
LSU, Florida and hometown favorite South Carolina (he grew up in Union, S.C.) are expected to be on Humphries' list, according to Scout.com.
Among the other top interior blockers are Nick Davidson of Charlotte Ardrey Kell (6-6, 280), Casey Lawson of Person (6-4, 290); D.J. Reader of Greensboro Grimsley (6-3, 330), Brock Stadnick of Western Guilford (6-5, 280) and 440-pound bench-press machine J.J. Patterson of Roanoke Rapids (6-3, 310).
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