Prosper's Pancake House: Meet the Five FBS recruits on Eagles' O-Line

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Prosper offensive line coach Brian Thompson scanned the faces in his first position group meeting of the 2023 season and wondered what he'd done right in a previous life. Seven future FBS linemen sat before him, a scenario he'd never seen. So, he laid the law down.

The Division I recruits - seniors Ellis Davis and Tyler Mercer, juniors Connor Carty and Logan Cahill, and sophomores Zaden Krempin, Sean Stover and Bryce Gilmore - would have no college football discussion in the film room. When they walked into that sacred space, the only thing that mattered was how good they were for the Prosper Eagles.

"We would say, 'Stars don't mean crap when you get on the field,'" Stover said. "You can be as recruited as you want; you've got to work harder than everybody else."

Those select seven bought into that mantra, as evidenced by the 11–2 record. Ego management is inherent to becoming an offensive lineman. Defensive guys need one sack a game to garner an all-district selection. Thompson has a running joke that there’s usually one person watching his group - their moms. 

"Your dad's watching the whole ball game and seeing what's happening," Thompson said. "Your mom is watching you. She's the only one that knows you're playing… until you give up a sack."

Despite the position's unsung nature, Prosper's five returning linemen have gained notoriety as one of the state's most talented units. And with the recruiting stars comes the responsibility to be the team leaders. It means speaking up. Thompson believes there's no such thing as leading by example. That's just doing your job and hoping others follow. 

"A leader is somebody that goes and gets somebody that's not doing what they're supposed to do and pulls them with them," Thompson said. "If you're just leading by example, you're only taking care of yourself."

This is what Mercer, now at North Texas, and Davis, now at Texas Tech, excelled at. Stover credits Mercer with integrating him into the Varsity offensive line family as a sophomore, ensuring he was included in all meetings and workouts. Mercer was the group's captain at center, and now Stover's attempting to be his version of that example as he slides from guard into his mentor's position.

"What you get in the program, you tend to give back," Stover said. "I think it's a great program for that."

Stover's potential transition to center has as much to do with his character as it does the talent that's brought in offers from Oregon, Penn State, Texas Tech and Duke.

"Sean just has natural leadership," Thompson said. "He notices when guys are struggling. He can chew a guy out but do it in such an encouraging way where the guy's like, 'Man, he really cares about me.'"

At the guard spots next to Stover are seniors Carty and Cahill. Carty is the unit's headliner, the No.4-ranked guard in the DCTF Hot 100 with 28 total offers, including Texas A&M, Texas, TCU, Texas Tech and Oklahoma. The first-team all-district selection is one of the state's most talented prospects, but his work ethic sets the tone for Prosper.

"He's a natural freak when it comes to being an offensive lineman," Thompson said. "He's so innately talented, and over this last year, he's figured out how to really work to get really good at it."

Cahill would be the headliner at 99 percent of Texas high schools, yet flies slightly under the radar on Prosper's loaded line. That's because colleges haven't yet measured his mind. Thompson says current Texas center and Prosper alum Jake Majors was the smartest offensive lineman he's coached. By the time he was a senior playing left tackle, Majors knew every position's role on the offensive line. Cahill, ahead of his senior season, is growing towards that. It helps that Cahill's played center in spring ball and rotated between guard and tackle during games. Still, he's intentionally honed his football IQ with a booklet of tendencies on every defensive lineman he's faced.

"Logan comes in with a notebook filled every week of what his guy wants to do and how his guy wants to attack him," Thompson said. "He's just a football junkie. Majors was that way. (Former Rice lineman) Adam Sheriff, the other tackle opposite Majors, was that way."

If Cahill's shown the most mental growth, sophomore Krempin wins the award for physical transformation. The 6-foot-5 tackle hopped on the vertical diet - a caloric surplus consisting of red meat, rice and potatoes - to go from 198 pounds ahead of freshman year to 255 pounds today. And the former basketball player has maintained his athleticism. Prosper's basketball coach borrowed Krempin one morning ahead of a district game so the left tackle could run on the scout team, acting as the opponent's premier post player.

Gilmore, the tackle opposite Krempin, also comes from a basketball background. In fact, he strictly competed on the hardwood until high school, when assistant coach Beau Smith convinced him to come to football strength and conditioning camp. 

Gilmore has the size (6-foot-4, 245) and football pedigree (his father, Bryan, was an NFL wide receiver from 2000-07) of a future star, and he might've been the most dominant JV player in Prosper's history as a sophomore. Since Davis had the tackle spot locked down as a senior, the coaches decided to play Gilmore at the sub-varsity level so he could build valuable reps instead of being a reserve on Friday nights. Despite it being just his third year playing football, Gilmore is now prepared to step into the Texas Tech signee's shoes.

"I knew if I was going to be on Varsity in 6A for Prosper, I wasn't going to do as good because I still needed to build up some of my technique and strength aspects," Gilmore said.

He's one of the more intriguing prospects to watch in the state, with offers from Texas Tech, Purdue and Oregon despite little varsity game film.

"I think he has so much untapped potential," Thompson said. "I don't think we've even seen the surface of what he's going to become."

For a program that's graduated numerous offensive linemen to Division I football, the 2024 iteration has the opportunity to be the most talented group. They understand the level of play their predecessors established. They also understand they're expected to break past that.

"There’s always conversations of the standard," Cahill said. "But, every year we've set a new standard."

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