Some of the FCS teams in Texas got recruiting steals on high school superstars; DCTF's Greg Tepper takes a look.
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On National Signing Day, for better or for worse, the focus of football fans is almost entirely devoted to the FBS schools. We can argue as to why that’s the case – the media saturation on the FBS level, for one – but that’s the reality.
And yet, here at the Dave Campbell’s Texas Football , we always find ourselves drawn to the FCS signing classes more than most. Why? Well, it’s simple: high school football in Texas is a big part of what we do, and the FCS schools are often the beneficiaries of FBS teams overlooking high school superstars.
And, sure enough, if you look up and down the list of in-state FCS signing classes this time around, there are dozens of big-time names in the high school ranks who will be taking their talents to one of the sub-FBS schools in Texas.
Who should you keep an eye out for in the future, when scanning the FCS box scores? Here are some high school superstars turned sub-FBS steals.
Navasota QB Kadarius Baker, Houston Baptist
Houston Baptist is starting its football program in the 2013 season, and the new FCS program will have a heck of a signal-caller to start things off with the explosive Baker. Just how good was he? In leading the Rattlers to the 3A Division II state title, Baker threw for 4,411 yards and 55 touchdowns against just 8 interceptions. He’s accurate, has a big arm and makes the right decision more often than not. What more could a Houston Baptist fan want? And he’s not the only big-name high school talent joining the Huskies: they also got Hewitt Midway RB B.J. Kelly, Midway LB Chrishard Buhl and Cedar Park WR Ethan Fry as well. Quite an inaugural haul.
Cibolo Steele WR Matthew Mayle and QB Breylann McCollum, Incarnate Word
It’s hard to separate these two offensive stars for the Knights, who are sticking together as a package deal for the Cardinals. Though they were a run-first offense, Cibolo Steele’s passing game went largely through the McCollum-to-Mayle connection, as they hooked up a team-high 49 times for 749 yards and 12 touchdowns – half of the touchdowns that McCollum threw all season. Mayle has good size at 6-0 and 170 pounds, and McCollum showed exceptional touch during his senior year. If they’re as productive at Incarnate Word as they were at Cibolo Steele, the Cardinals are in for a treat. And don’t forget some of Incarnate Word’s other signees, like Waco safety Adrian Norwood Jr., who is good enough to play at the FBS level.
Dayton K/P Juan Carranco, Lamar
Look, I know what you’re thinking: It’s just a kicker. But A) strong special teams are often hard to come by at the college level, and B) it really, really matters. Most recruiting gurus will admit that the kicker class in Texas was relatively thin, but Lamar snagged one of the best in the state in Carranco. He’s second all-time in career field goals with 42, and earned back-to-back trips to the All-State team. Plain and simple: every team needs a kicker, and Lamar got one of the best in the state in Carranco. And don’t forget about other guys like Longview RB Tory White, Kingwood RB Kade Harrington or John Tyler LB Richard Gipson; the Cardinals made a strong Signing Day push.
Kilgore LB A.J. Davis, Sam Houston State
I’ll be completely honest: I think that A.J. Davis is good enough to play at almost any FBS school. The linebacker for the Kilgore Bulldogs was a stalwart for one of 3A’s finest defenses, he won the District MVP for the “District of Doom”, 16-3A, and accumulated 457 tackles, 40 tackles for loss, six sacks, three interceptions and three field goal blocks in his illustrious career. Davis is a bona fide high school superstar, and Sam Houston State just got a heck of a player. And he’s one of many: from Katy OL Aaron Sowell to John Tyler WR/DB Darion Flowers to Lufkin DE Demontrai Moore, the Bearkats straight-up cleaned up on Signing Day.
Sherman QB Dru Smith, Stephen F. Austin
Last week, I raved and raved about Texas Tech’s signing of Sherman LB Kahlee Woods, a tackling machine for the Bearcats and the program’s all-time leading tackler. Well…Dru Smith is one of the best quarterbacks in Sherman history. He threw for 6,002 yards and 61 touchdowns in his career, earned Honorable Mention All-State, district MVP, all-region, and all sorts of other awards. He’s got a big, big arm, which is why Tulsa and Louisiana Tech were after him, and now he has a chance to shine for the Lumberjacks. Speaking of shining: keep an eye out for Henderson WR Patrick Brown and Rosenberg Terry ATH Eugene Wright as well.
UTSA DB Sal Martinez, Texas Southern
OK, we’re going a bit off the beaten path for this one, so follow me. Fans in the Valley no doubt remember Sal Martinez, who was a super-duper-star for Edinburg during his senior season in 2011. He opted to take a preferred walk-on role at UTSA – which did not give him a scholarship – but that was until Texas Southern came calling this year. Now, Martinez is on the move to the Tigers, on a scholarship. It’s great to see him get a chance like this; it’s even greater for the Tigers, considering what a dynamo he was in high school.
Greg Tepper is the associate editor of Dave Campbell's Texas Football and TexasFootball.com.