Playing catch-up
Playing catch-up
2011-06-20 00:00:00

By Greg Tepper // TexasFootball.com

Here on TexasFootball.com, we’ve spent the past two weeks building up to the release of the magazine. It’s been a lot of fun – interacting with fans, remembering past issues, talking to the great Dave Campbell himself – but one of the unintended consequences of that is that we fall behind on recruiting news.

Our 2012 pledges page is updated – you can go there now to check out where you school stands as far as 2012 recruits is concerned – but we haven’t been able to give a lot of commitments their due diligence.

You know what that means? Mega-sized recruiting update!

(Spoiler alert: tomorrow means mega-sized coaching change update!)

Let’s start with news that just broke on Sunday night: the verbal commitment of Sanger quarterback Dane Evans to Tulsa. Now, we at Texas Football are particularly high on Evans: we chose him to be our 3A Coverboy in the 2011 magazine. And for good reason: Evans threw for 3,411 yards and 37 touchdowns in his junior season. But more impressive than that is that Evans completed over 65 percent of his passes, showing the type of astounding accuracy that made him a top target of a variety of different FBS colleges. Well, on Sunday, Evans made the call, choosing the Golden Hurricane over tons of other schools, including but not limited to LSU, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Notre Dame and Oklahoma State.

Dominique Wheeler is one of the state’s most dynamic, versatile athletes. Now, he’ll take those talents to Lubbock, as Wheeler recently committed to Texas Tech. The pride of 2A Crockett, Wheeler rushed for 1,187 yards and 16 touchdowns, threw for 497 yards and 5 touchdowns, and caught 16 passes for 305 yards and 7 TDs. Wheeler is a homerun threat in the truest sense of the word. Some people are not as high on Wheeler as I am, and I recognize that; I think the 2A competition plays some role in that. But if you ask me, Wheeler is a legitimate top-tier get for the Raiders, and he’ll find a nice home in the Tech offense.

Sticking with Tech for a moment, we’re just a couple weeks removed from Waco La Vega lineman Michael Starts committing to the Red Raiders. He’s got company: Rice Consolidated center Jared Kaster pledged to Texas Tech last week. Now, this is notable for a couple of reasons. First of all, Kaster was an early pledge to Rice who recently decommitted and switched to Tech; that’s a relatively big loss for the Owls and a very big gain for the Raiders. And Kaster is quite a catch: a first-team All-State center, he’s used to running the show of the multiple-formation Rice Consolidated offense, meaning he has experience in running complicated offensive schemes. That’s got to be a big reason why he was so attractive to the Red Raiders, aside from his obvious size (6-4, 255) and ability (84 pancakes, and didn’t allow a sack last year).

South Houston defensive back Kenneth Marshall was an early verbal commitment to Oklahoma State, way back in April. But though he’ll still call the Big XII home, it’ll be in the maroon of Texas A&M instead, as Marshall decommitted from Oklahoma State and committed to the Aggies. I think Marshall is a game-changing defensive back for the Ags, and once he made the choice to decommit from the Cowboys, you have to wonder how big a role the opportunity to play for a former NFL head coach in Mike Sherman played in his decision to go to College Station. But it speaks to what has become at least a small trend in recruiting in the past month: Oklahoma State’s inability to hold verbal commitments. The Marshall defection (kind of sounds like an action movie) comes on the heels of Van linebacker and superstar recruit Dalton Santos – perhaps the state’s best linebacker – decommitting from Oklahoma State. Just something to keep an eye on throughout the course of the recruiting season.

The Cowboys, however, did have something to cheer about despite the Santos and Marshall decommitments: Carthage tackle Greg Brantley verbally committed to Oklahoma State last week. At 6-7 and 305 pounds, Brantley is a monster in Class 3A and has a winning pedigree, as he helped lead the Bulldogs to a state championship last season…and was also on the team that won the 2009 3A DII title. He’ll bring that winning attitude to the Cowboys program.

Baylor got two commitments in the past couple weeks that are very important for very different reasons. First came Allen outside linebacker Thaddeus LaGrone, who committed on June 9. There’s a lot to like about LaGrone, especially his unique blend of size (6-2, 195) and speed (runs a 4.5 in the 40) as well as his experience in big games. But it’s especially important for Baylor because of its dearth of defensive playmakers. New defensive coordinator Phil Bennett is certainly a well-respected defensive mind (and for very good reason) but he needs the tools to work with if he’s going to turn the Bears defense around. LaGrone is an excellent start. The other commitment came three days later, when South Grand Prairie quarterback Jared Johnson pledged to the Bears. Now, landing Johnson at any time would be great – he threw for 1,600 yards and 18 touchdowns while running for another 579 yards and 7 scores – but it was especially important for the Bears to get a quarterback. Why? Simply, Baylor didn’t get a quarterback in the 2011 class, so they were performing without a net for a little bit. They needed an heir apparent to Robert Griffin, and they might have found him in Jared Johnson.

TCU, as it stands right now, is set at running back: Ed Wesley is only a junior this season and figures to be the big man on campus for the next two seasons. But you can never have enough good running backs, as evidenced by Linden Kildare’s Rashondrick Linwood’s recent commitment to the Horned Frogs. Linwood’s very much cut from the same cloth as Wesley – 5-9, 180 pounds, a 4.5 40 – and showed his skills last year when he rushed for 1,473 yards (an astonishing 9.4 yards per carry average) and 18 touchdowns as a junior. He might have to wait a bit to see the field in Fort Worth, but he’s the complete package to be a big contributor for the purple.

Now that Colorado has departed the Big XII for the Pac-12, there have been questions about whether the Buffaloes would be able to maintain a recruiting presence in Texas. Well, if the past week is any indication, the answer is yes.  Colorado scored two very nice commitments from Galena Park running back Terrence Crowder and Duncanville wide receiver Jeffrey Thomas in the span of five days. Crowder passed up offers from home-state colleges North Texas and UTSA to join the Buffaloes after rushing for 1,338 yards and 15 touchdowns for the Yellow Jackets as a junior. With Thomas, Colorado won out over schools like Cal, Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Boise State for the wideout’s services. The reason Thomas was so highly sought, besides his 383 yards and 9 touchdowns last year? Coach Jeff Dicus described him as a “tall, long-armed receiver who can go over the middle and deep.” In other words, the kind of guy any offensive coordinator would want.

One of the schools that has made major inroads in Texas in the past couple years is Boise State, and the Broncos recently came away with another pair of strong Lone Star State recruits in Arlington Martin guard Steven Baggett and Cy-Creek running back Devan Demas. Baggett is one of those under-the-radar guys that wasn’t heavily recruited nationally – New Mexico State and Air Force were probably the most notable programs in on him – but he’s got good size for a guard at 6-3 and 255 pounds. Demas was a little more widely recruited – Arkansas, Oklahoma State, Iowa, Texas Tech and Oregon all took looks at him – but the prolific runner chose Boise over them all. And he’s a very nice fit for the Boise offense: the 5-9, 165-pounder is the size that we’ve become accustomed to seeing dart around in the Broncos backfield, and he’s got the results – 1,750 yards, 21 touchdowns as a junior – to back it up.

To wrap it up, a few out-of-state commitment quick hits:

-Houston Westside guard Germain Ifedi committed to Missouri, passing up offers from Baylor, Houston, Wake Forest, Louisville and others. He becomes the fourth Texan to pledge to the Tigers in two months, joining Allen RB Jonathan Williams, Cleburne DB Chaston Cuffee and Everman DB Torrey Boozer.

-Hutto quarterback Ryan Higgins pledged to Louisiana Tech. At 6-1 and 183 pounds, Higgins has good size and has produced strong results (2,250 yards, 20 TDs as a junior).

-Lewisville defensive tackle Scott Ekpe committed to Minnesota. At 6-4 and 250 pounds, coach Dick Olin described Ekpe as player who is both strong and has good feet.

-Denton Guyer defensive end Dan Kottman committed to San Diego State. Kottman’s an explosive player whom coach John Walsh called “arguably the most dominant defensive player we have had at Guyer HS.”


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