Speed out East
Believe the hype: East Texas has some of the state's fastest players. Greg Tepper explains.
Psychologists will tell you that stereotypes are an important part of how our brain works. The idea, in layman’s terms, is that if we approach every person we met with a completely open mind, it’d take far too long since there’s so much to take in for each person. Stereotypes are shortcuts, things that our mind needs to adequately take in all the data around it.
Obviously, stereotypes can be problematic, but in the case of East Texas high school football, it’s hard to say it’s not warranted.
That stereotype: East Texas high school football has speed.
Between the Arkansas border and the DFW Metroplex, there must be something in the water that helps to give the athletes out there exceptional speed. Maybe it’s a stereotype, but then again, if they keep pumping out speedy recruits, who are we to argue?
The 2014 recruiting class is no different, as East Texas is teeming with speedy athletes that all of the colleges are after. Just take a look at five of the top recruits out of East Texas, each of whom leave charred grass in their wake.
Mount Pleasant WR Kadarrius Cannon
Might as well start with East Texas’ best player, right? Cannon is an absolute menace on the outside, and it’s thanks to his blazing speed – which coach Mart Graham lists at 4.39, and do you really want to doubt him? The 6-foot, 165-pound receiver was one of Texas’ most unstoppable receivers last season, catching 105 passes for 1,592 yards and 28 touchdowns. And with his senior year coming up, he’s a favorite to top those numbers.
Tyler Grace Community ATH Kade Clayton
Sure, Clayton has exceptional speed – he runs a sub-4.6 40 – but it’s his versatility that has all the scouts drooling over him. He plays RB for Cougars, but he’s as much a threat receiving out of the backfield (26 catches for 502 yards and 6 touchdowns) as he is running the ball (1,511 yards, 26 scores). Oh, and he returns kicks and punts. When you’ve got speed like Clayton, you try to get the ball in his hands as often as possible.
Sulphur Springs ATH Willie Ivery
Just ask anyone else in District 14-4A: you do not want to see Willie Ivery with the ball in space. He does bad, bad things when he has the ball in space. Last year, the speedy WR caught 54 passes for 674 yards and 6 touchdowns, but when you take into account his kickoff and punt return ability, you have one of East Texas’ most explosive players. And, as we’ve explained, that’s saying something.
Longview WR Dorian Leonard
Longview coach John King knows athletes. He’s coached a heck of a lot of them en route to 100 wins with the Lobos. So when he draws a comparison of Dorian Leonard to Malcolm Kelly – you know, the Longview stud-turned-Oklahoma stud-turned-Washington Redskin – you know Leonard special. He’s got great size at 6-4 and 200 pounds, and his 4.5 speed can run by most cornerbacks. Will he explode this year, past his 21 catches for 440 yards and 4 TDs last year? I’d say the odds are good.
Newton RB Kevin Shorter
Newton’s offense last year was ridiculous. Absolutely silly. The Eagles averaged an astonishing 53.1 points per game last year. Fifty-three! A big reason behind that: the incredible Kevin Shorter, who ran for 1,810 yards and 31 touchdowns (and caught 15 passes for 315 yards and 5 TDs). He’s got good size at 6-1 and 185 pounds, and he’s being looked at by a number of schools at a lot of different positions. Wherever he lands – both school and position – they’re getting one of East Texas’ speediest athletes.
Greg Tepper is the associate editor of Dave Campbell's Texas Football and TexasFootball.com.