Recruiting: Solid group of prospects put El Paso on recruiting map

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By Jonathan Wells, Special Contributor
Posted May 16, 2013
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It's an oft-repeated fact that El Paso is closer to Los Angeles than Texarkana. When it comes to football recruiting, it might as well be closer to Idaho. Though one of the nation's 20 most populous cities, and located in football-crazy Texas, El Paso doesn't get nearly the level of recruiting traffic seen in the state's other major population centers, and its schools produce as few as one or two FBS signees in some years, and usually four or five at the most. But things are looking up for El Paso, as the city's 2014 and 2015 classes boast a solid group of prospects who will merit D1 consideration.

It's not easy getting college coaches to make the trip out into the Mountain Time Zone corner of Texas, considering how remote it is and the paucity of big-time football talent it normally produces. For reference, since 2002 the city of Abilene (population: 117,000) has produced roughly the same number of FBS signees as the city of El Paso (population: 650,000). As of right now, a mere four El Paso athletes from the 2014 and 2015 classes combined have prospect profiles on Rivals. Jim Althoff, the head coach at El Dorado High School in El Paso and a native of the city, says that going to school in El Paso is, by itself, enough for an athlete to be considered "under the radar." Althoff coached UT tight end M.J. McFarland in high school, and says he essentially cold-called the Texas staff in an early effort to bring his star receiver to their attention. When Texas later offered McFarland, his only other offer at the time was from UTEP.

A little over half of El Paso's FBS signees in the past decade have signed with one of the schools closest to that region: UTEP, Texas Tech, New Mexico, and New Mexico State. Texas signed the two highest-rated prospects during that time (McFarland and the ill-fated Andre Jones), and a handful of others signed with other Big 12 schools. With the football talent El Paso expected to have over the next two years, the city's high schools should receive visits from more recruiters from bigger programs than they have in a long time, if ever before.

Here are 14 players who will be (or at least should be) closely watched over the next two years. I'll start with the prospects from the 2014 class and move on to the 2015s afterwards.

LeDerrick Wilson (El Paso El Dorado) - 2014 running back

At 5-8 and 160 pounds, Wilson is definitely undersized for a running back, but he's got speed to burn and showed great versatility on the field as a junior. He led his team in rushing (121 carries, 907 yards, seven TDs), was in the top three in all receiving categories (38 receptions, 602 yards, eight TDs), and averaged just under 39 yards on kickoff returns. An every-down back he's not, a reality reflected in both his size and the fact that he recorded more than 12 carries in a game only twice between his sophomore and junior seasons. He set his career-high for both carries (21) and rushing yards (184) in El Dorado's 34-33 win over Odessa Permian in the bi-district round of the 2012 playoffs.

He'll go into his senior season with the following career totals: 1,417 yards rushing, 12 rushing TDs, 60 receptions, 1,027 receiving yards, and 12 TDs receiving. Most players who go into their senior years with over 2,400 yards from scrimmage and 24 touchdowns on their ledger can expect to get at least some attention from college programs, and El Dorado coach Jim Althoff reports that Wilson has received letters from Missouri, among other schools, but his size will be a concern, one he'll have to make up for with his speed and heady play on the field. Althoff says his star running back is a "very cerebral" young man whose intelligence "really transfers onto the field." Wilson qualified for the regional track meet in the 100 meters as a sophomore, and this year he competed at regionals in the 400 meters, an event in which he has run sub-50 second times.

LeDerrick Wilson's highlights:

Orlando Garcia (El Paso Americas) - 2014 quarterback

Garcia will be a third-year starter this fall, and multiple head coaches that I talked to named him as the area's best QB. At 6-2.5 and 200 pounds, he's got good size for the position. Americas ran the ball on nearly 2/3 of their offensive plays in 2012, so Garcia didn't post eye-popping stats. He completed over 55% of his passes for 1,778 yards, 13 touchdowns and just one interception, and was the team's third-leading rusher with 421 yards and seven TDs. Americas coach Patrick Melton says Garcia has very good grades and he expects his soon-to-be senior quarterback will have college offers very soon. Garcia is also a talented baseball player and Melton says a scout from the Arizona Diamondbacks has come to watch him. His older brothers Oscar and Omar Garcia were both baseball stars; Oscar was drafted by the San Diego Padres in 2010, and in the same year Omar was the El Paso Times area Player of the Year. Both played at Northwestern State. Orlando Garcia has a good chance to play at a more prestigious level than the Southland Conference, though it remains to be seen if his name will be called during the MLB draft in June of 2014.
Orlando Garcia's highlights:

Isak Washington (El Paso Americas) - 2014 running back

As a first-time varsity starter in 2012, Washington had some of the biggest shoes to fill out of anyone in the city: those of Boise State running back Jack Fields, who rushed for over 2,400 yards and 25 touchdowns as a senior in 2011. Washington, at 5-7 and 145 pounds, is considerably smaller than Fields (who was listed as 6' and 210 pounds), and didn't come close to matching his rushing yardage in 2012, but he used his speed and versatility to gain over 2,000 yards from scrimmage. Washington rushed for 1,132 yards and nine TDs, and caught 51 passes for 898 yards and six TDs, leading Americas in all five categories. As his diminutive stature suggests, he was not an every-down back; in only one game did he have more than 16 carries, but he averaged nearly 10.6 yards/carry and defenses always had to account for him in the passing game as well, which they apparently didn't do a good job of.

Washington had 207 total yards vs. El Paso Burges (97 rushing, 110 receiving), 309 yards vs. El Paso Eastwood (152 rushing, 157 receiving), 327 yards in a win over El Paso El Dorado (288 rushing, 39 receiving), and 207 yards on 18 offensive touches in a playoff loss to Abilene Cooper (including 185 rushing yards on 15 carries). He was named the area's Offensive Newcomer of the Year after the season and has had interest from Boise State, UT-San Antonio, New Mexico, and New Mexico State. He might not tip the scales above 150 pounds and Coach Melton doesn't believe he'll get much bigger than he is now, so colleges will have obvious concerns about his size. If Washington gets a D1 football scholarship it will be thanks to his versatility and speed. He was one of the area's top runners in the 200 meters this spring, recording a top time of 21.93 in March.

Isak Washington's highlights:

Eddie Sinegal (El Paso Andress) - 2014 wide receiver

He's definitely a guy whose highlights catch your attention the first time you see them. He can be seen breaking tackles, making some moves in the open field, and out-running just about every defensive back in El Paso who attempted to cover him. He's got good size at 6-2 and 170 pounds, and his talents also extend to the basketball court, where he was an all-district selection. He is not the first in his family to star in athletics. His brother Albert Sinegal ran track for Texas A&M-Commerce, and his other brother Aaron Sinegal played football for El Paso Chapin, but tragically died after an accidental shooting in 2007. Eddie wears jersey #21 in honor of Aaron.

Andress head coach Patrick Brown calls him "the best wide receiver in our area." The head coach of another school in the area said of Sinegal, "He's a good one. We had to game plan for him. Very athletic. Runs well, catches well...He really tore up our district." In the 2012 season he recorded 63 catches for 1,288 yards (20.4 yards/catch) and 13 touchdowns. He's one of the best receivers in the 2014 class that few know about. I'm referring more to recruiting services than schools, as he has gotten the attention of some of the latter. He has received interest from UTEP and New Mexico State, and a few weeks ago Coach Brown told me Sinegal was getting mail from Iowa State nearly every day. With another strong season in 2013, that mail box will only be getting more stuffed.
Eddie Sinegal's highlights:

Warren Redix (El Paso Montwood) - 2014 wide receiver

Redix has been one of the area's top playmakers since his sophomore year, and multiple head coaches named him as one of El Paso's top returning players. (One coach named Redix and the aforementioned LeDerrick Wilson and Isak Washington as the three best players returning in 2013.) In 2011 he had over 1,000 yards and 15 TDs receiving, and added 200+ yards and seven TDs rushing. In 2012 he had 857 yards and five TDs receiving. Standing about 5-11 and 175 pounds, Redix lined up in the slot in Montwood's spread attack and shows good change-of-direction and acceleration, but not elite speed. One opposing head coach who is a fan of Redix told me "he's probably a 4.6 guy" and worried that some colleges will overlook him because of that. His skills are well-suited to manning the slot for a spread offense, though, and his lack of home run speed shouldn't matter as much at that position. He does work on screens, swing passes, jet sweeps, and on basic crossing routes and seam routes. My favorite clip from his highlights (see below link) starts at around the 2:26 mark where he's lined up in the right slot, runs a post route, catches the pass about 15 yards downfield between three defenders, gets knocked in multiple directions like Brad Pitt in the car accident scene in Meet Joe Black, and still holds on to the ball.

Warren Redix's highlights:

Cameron Candelaria (El Paso Franklin) - 2014 quarterback

Listed as 6-2 and 185 pounds, Candelaria will be another top contender for the title of "best QB in El Paso" this fall. In 2012 he completed 66% of his passes and threw for over 2,400 yards and 25 TDs against just three interceptions. He also did some damage on the ground, running for over 550 yards and 12 TDs, but he didn't have to run the ball often with most of Franklin's 10 wins being lopsided and the team's top two running backs both having over 1,300 yards from scrimmage for the year. His best performance came in Franklin's bi-district playoff win over San Angelo Central, in which Candelaria passed for 194 yards and ran for 214 yards and five TDs. The head coach of one of Franklin's 2012 opponents called him, "the best QB in our area." At worst he should get offers from FCS schools, but he could definitely go higher.
Cameron Candelaria's highlights:

Seth Gonzales (El Paso Chapin) - 2014 quarterback

The most recent highlight video on Gonzales's Hudl page has - as of this writing - 99 views. It's a good bet that one or two of those was for the eyes of Trent Dilfer, because Gonzales was an invite to April's Elite 11 camp in Dallas. He not very big at 6 feet and 195 pounds, and doesn't have a cannon for an arm, but he's good in a lot of areas. Combine his football skills with his stellar work in the classroom (his mother is Chapin High School's principal) and he's all but certain to get scholarship offers at some level. He was advanced enough as a freshman that he played on the junior varsity football team, then as a sophomore he beat out a senior to earn the starting QB job. Chapin has averaged nearly 37 points and over 500 offensive yards per game in Gonzales's two seasons under center, and he he'll go into his senior year with 5,068 passing yards, 47 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions on his resume, along with 679 yards and 10 TDs rushing. His literal resume will show him having very good grades, good enough to rank him 3rd in his class and draw interest from Ivy League schools. Chapin head coach Rene Hernandez says Harvard and Penn have "really showed interest", and when I talked on the phone with Hernandez recently, he said a coach from BYU had called earlier that day. Gonzales he has also received mail from Texas Tech, UTEP, and New Mexico State.

Seth Gonzales's highlights:

Jaylan Addison (El Paso Chapin) - 2014 wide receiver
He will be a third-year starter at wide receiver this fall, and he's coming off a junior season in which he caught 72 passes for 1,182 yards and nine TDs. Year three of Addison catching passes from QB Seth Gonzales could very well see him lead the city in receptions and yards. Coach Hernandez calls the 5-11 170-pound Addison, "the best wide receiver in town", and says he's a great route-runner with "awesome hands." There are WRs in the city who I believe have more long-term upside, but Addison might be the most polished one at this point. He lines up on the outside for Chapin but looks like a future slot receiver. Hernandez reports that Addison has received interest from Missouri, Iowa State, Texas Tech, and UTEP. He was offered by New Mexico State before that program changed head coaches three months ago, and it's unknown if he still has one from them.
Jaylan Addison's highlights:

Top 2015 Prospects:

Steven Montez (El Paso Del Valle) - 2015 quarterback
The 2015 class might be the most talented one El Paso has produced in years, and Montez might be one of the city's most heavily-recruited prospects. Starting at QB as a sophomore in 2012, Montez passed for over 1,700 yards and 13 TDs in the regular season. He also threw nine interceptions and made some mistakes you'd expect a sophomore QB to make, but Del Valle head coach Jesse Perales says Montez has grown considerably, both physically and mentally, and he expects the game will really slow down for his QB in his junior year. Montez is a big kid at 6-5 and 192 pounds, and he's working to put on some good weight and get stronger. Perales reports the following testing figures from Montez, all from within the last 2-3 weeks: a 235-pound bench press, a 375-pound squat, a 34" vertical leap, and a 4.68 in the 40.

Montez is not the first star athlete in his family and likely won't be the last. His father, Alfred Montez, played QB for Division II Western New Mexico and once threw for over 600 yards in a game, then later was briefly on the Oakland Raiders' roster in 1996 after signing as an undrafted free agent. His mother played volleyball in college, and he has a younger brother who Perales believes "will be better than Steven when it's all said and done." Along with having great size for the position, Perales says Montez also possesses "great arm strength, accuracy, and delivery." You don't have to watch a lot of film on him to tell he's an outstanding QB prospect and a special athlete, and he could definitely force his way into the "top ten 2015 QBs in Texas" conversation next fall. He has received interest from Arizona, Arizona State, New Mexico, New Mexico State, UTEP, and even Texas A&M (that last one is largely because of tight ends coach/special teams coordinator Jeff Banks, who coached at UTEP through the 2012 season).
Steven Montez's highlights:

Q Drennan (El Paso Americas) - 2015 wide receiver

If you're looking for an El Paso prospect who could break out in a big way in 2013, look no further than Q Drennan. (Note: the Q isn't short for anything, that's his real first name.) He's a very good athlete at 6-3 and 180 pounds, and Coach Melton reports that he runs a 4.5 forty and has a 37" vertical. Orlando Garcia and Isak Washington provided most of Americas' offensive fireworks in 2012, and Drennan didn't put up attention-grabbing stats (12 carries for 82 yards, 14 catches for 208 yards), but he should be a lot more involved in the offense this fall, and Melton believes he'll be a Big 12-caliber player by the time he's a senior. When I asked about Drennan, Melton said that a year ago when college recruiters were checking out his star running back Jack Fields (now a Boise State Bronco), he was already saying that Drennan (then a freshman) would be the best player to come out of Americas' program during his time there. Look for him to put up big numbers at wide receiver in the fall, and to be his team's starting QB after Orlando Garcia graduates.
Q Drennan's highlights:

Nick Bingham (El Paso Franklin) - 2015 running back
As a sophomore, Bingham was the fourth-leading rusher on a Franklin team that went 10-2 in 2012. He'll be counted on to provide more production in 2013 with the team losing its top two running backs and top four wide receivers to graduation. Sources vary slightly on Bingham's size, though he was most recently listed as 6 feet and 194 pounds when he participated in a combine last month. He's a tough kid and a very aggressive blocker who can be seen putting a number of linebackers on the ground, and when running the ball he'll often get tackled only after a few defenders have made contact with him. His sophomore highlights make me want to see what Rex Burkhead looked like at the same age. He ran in the 100 meters in the mid-11s during track season and ran a 4.59 forty at the aforementioned combine in April. He could be one of those guys who has better football speed than pure track speed. He only rushed for 370 yards and four TDs as a sophomore, but he'll likely get the bulk of Franklin's carries this fall (as a team, Franklin averaged around 225 rushing yards per game over the last two seasons). And unlike the RBs mentioned above, he has the bulk to be an every-down back. I'll make the bold prediction that Nick Bingham will lead the city of El Paso in rushing yards in 2013, and have at least one D1 offer a year from now.
Nick Bingham's highlights:

Karee Carter (El Paso Chapin) - 2015 defensive back

Like many kids from the El Paso area, Carter is from a military family. He moved to El Paso from Missouri last year, then was one of Chapin's starting cornerbacks as a sophomore. Though listed as 6 feet and 165 pounds on his Hudl page, Chapin head coach Rene Hernandez says Carter is now 6-3 and 175 pounds, and labels him as the team's "lockdown corner." 6-3 or not, he appears to have good length for a corner and tackles fairly well. His sophomore year film is less than two minutes long, and he doesn't blow you away the first time you watch him like fellow 2015 defensive back Deionte Thompson does, but he looks promising for such a young player and should be one to watch. "New Mexico State likes him a lot", says Coach Hernandez, and Carter has also received interest from UTEP. A year from now he may have the attention of more than just the FBS schools in that region.
Karee Carter's highlights:

Ricky Olivas (El Paso Austin) - 2015 athlete

As a 5-11 and 155-pound sophomore, Olivas has some maturing to do, both physically and in his style of play, but he'll be one to watch over the next two years. He plays mostly running back for Austin, which runs a wing-T scheme. He was third on the team in rushing (50 carries, 393 yards, and five TDs) and tied for first in receptions and receiving yards (seven for 200 yards and one TD), but he'll be a bigger part of Austin's offense in 2013 with its two leading rushers from 2012 both graduated. He made his biggest impact on special teams in 2012, averaging 37 yards per kickoff return and taking four of them all the way to the end zone, and he also had one punt return for a touchdown. From what little Hudl film is available on him, you can see glimpses of his speed and athleticism, the kind that allowed him to qualify for the 4A region 1 track meet in the long jump (in which he lept nearly 22 feet this season) and 100 meter dash (he ran a 10.99 in that event at his school's area meet). In 2011, Olivas broke the El Paso ISD 8th grade boys record for the long jump with a leap of 21-7.5.

Austin head coach Ruben Batista says Olivas is "gonna be a great one", but still has to break some of the habits he showed as a sophomore, habits like dancing around and trying to juke defenders when he should be running the ball upfield, as the wing-T isn't an offense where you want to see a back doing a lot of unnecessary movements. It's also not an offense best suited for speedy players to get the ball in space. Batista acknowledges that fact and says that to take advantage of Olivas's abilities the team may lean less on the wing-T in 2013 and employ some shotgun looks and/or have Olivas take the direct snap in Wildcat-type packages. The head coach at another school describes Olivas as, "Very fast with a very strong upper body", and said he came off as a "very humble" kid when they got a chance to talk during a track meet. This coach did not sound overly excited to have his team play against Olivas two more times.
Ricky Olivas's highlights:

Sebastian Ortiz (El Paso El Dorado) - 2015 defensive tackle

Ortiz was voted an all-district first team defensive tackle (as a sophomore) by the coaches of district 1-5A. That may have been more of a nod to his college position, as he played a lot of defensive end in El Dorado's 3-4 front in 2012. He's fairly quick off the ball and good in ball pursuit, and according to El Dorado's Maxpreps page he lead the team with 12 tackles for loss. He is currently 6-2 and 260 pounds, and Coach Althoff says he has had a great offseason and has worked a lot on improving his speed. Althoff sees his young defensive lineman as a Division I-caliber prospect and I agree with him. He'll definitely be one of the city's top defensive players to watch in 2013.
Sebastian Ortiz's highlights: sounds promising. 



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