While the name of the game in 7-on-7 is putting the ball
in the end zone, getting stops on defense can swing the momentum of games, kill
drives and give fuel to an offense. That said, there are plenty of talented
defensive prospects in the 2011 class who will be participating in this weekend’s
7-on-7 State Tournament in College Station, including a few prospects who found
their way onto Texas’ recruiting board.
Without a doubt the position that will feature the most talent this weekend is the defensive back position. Tyler Lee’s Cortland Browning, Lewisville Hebron’s David Jenkins, Klein Collins’ Charles Jackson and Mansfield Legacy’s Tevin Mitchel are among the top defensive back prospects in the country and headline a strong field of defensive backs in the field.
Linebacker features a Longhorn commit in Carthage’s Kendall Thompson and one of the country’s most highly-recruited linebacker prospects in Dallas Skyline’s Anthony Wallace. Oklahoma has two of their top defensive prospects in the field as linebacker prospects P.L. Lindley of Round Rock Stony Point and Wallace’s teammate Franklin Shannon bring some Sooner flavor to the table.
Add those big names to a group of talented, yet under-recruited group of athlete prospects and the defensive prospect list for the two-division, 128-team field rivals that of the tournament’s offensive stars.
CLASS OF 2011 DEFENSIVE PROSPECTS BY POSITION
The lone Longhorn defensive commit participating in this year’s 7-on-7 State Tournament is Carthage linebacker Kendall Thompson. The 6-foot-3, 225-pounder excels in pass coverage because of his instincts and hands, but Thompson may not be the linebacker most eyes will be on this weekend.
That could very well be Dallas Skyline’s Anthony Wallace as the Raiders are making their first ever appearance at the tournament. Wallace is Skyline’s top college prospect for 2011 and the 6-foot-2, 225-pound Under Armour All-America linebacker has been offered by most of the major college programs in the country, including Texas. It remains to be seen if the Longhorns will jump back into the Wallace sweepstakes with both feet, but regardless look for the Skyline tackling machine to make plenty of plays across the middle of the field this weekend.
Oklahoma is one of the schools believed to be at the top of Wallace’s list of schools and the Sooners will one of their defensive commits in the tournament this weekend with Wallace’s teammate Franklin Shannon. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound versatile defender is very likely to be an outside linebacker when he arrives in Norman, but look for Shannon to play mostly safety this weekend as the Raiders will need his closing speed and playmaking ability to prevent big plays down the field.
Another Oklahoma-bound defender who should have a big weekend is Round Rock Stony Point’s P.L. Lindley. The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder is tremendous in the 7-on-7 format because of his athleticism, one-on-one coverage skills and range. Lindley was arguably the top underclassman linebacker in the tournament last year as Stony Point won the Division I tournament and look for him to spearhead the Tiger defense again.
Copperas Cove’s Brandon Durant looked strong during the Bulldawgs’ drive to the state tournament as the vocal leader of the defensive unit. The 6-foot, 200-pounder plays a hybrid outside linebacker position in 7-on-7 and he shows quick feet and good reactive quickness in the secondary where he mainly covers the seam.
SMU commit Derek Longoria of Brownwood made one of the plays of the year across the state last fall when Brownwood defeated Graham in the regular season as the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder blocked a potential game-tying extra point to give the Lions a thrilling win. As the Lions’ top defensive player, look for Longoria to be all over the field as Brownwood makes a serious run at winning the Division II title.
Other Linebackers to Watch: Klein Collins’ David Santos, Richland’s Nico Ornelas (Committed to Oklahoma State), Edna’s Nick Morrow, Plano West’s Nathan Broussard and Beaumont West Brook’s Collin Garrett.
Even though none of Texas’ four potential defensive back commits from the state of Texas will be in the field this weekend, the secondary talent in College Station looks to be the best at any position in the entire 128-team event.
The defensive back crop is headlined by a couple of one-time Longhorn targets in Lewisville Hebron’s David Jenkins and Klein Collins’ Charles Jackson.
Jenkins’ stock rose as much as anybody’s in Texas this spring thanks to a strong showing in spring football and a very solid academic track record prompting Texas to show serious interest and Arizona, Boise State, Colorado State and most recently LSU to be among the schools who issued offers. Coaches also took notice of Jenkins’ 6-foot, 190-pound frame and playmaking ability as he could play either safety or cornerback in college.
Jackson is the highest-rated prospect in the field this weekend as the ESPNU 150 member checks in at No. 5 in the Inside Texas 2011 Top 100. The 5-foot-10, 180-pounder is one of the state’s most explosive athletes and his aggressive man-to-man style and 38-inch vertical jump make up for what he lacks in height. Jackson also received serious interest from the Longhorns and has been offered by Florida, Michigan, Nebraska and Oklahoma among others.
Throw Mansfield Legacy’s Tevin Mitchel into the group of corners whose stock took off this spring as Mitchel’s rise was due to a standout effort at the Nike Football Training Camp at TCU. The 6-foot-1, 175-pounder is a true one-on-one cover corner with fluid hips, long arms and a great ability to drive off his back foot and make plays in front of him.
A player who was once considered a sleeper is now rising up recruiting boards as Tyler Lee’s Cortland Browning is proving to be one of the top defensive back prospects in Texas. The 6-foot, 190-pounder has high-point ball skills and has shown that he’s not afraid to strike people, but it will be his ability to make plays on the football and be physical on an island that should keep a talented Red Raider team playing well into Saturday’s single-elimination bracket round.
Despite Texas commits Sheroid Evans and Leroy Scott being absent from the field, the question as to who is the top defensive back in Texas might go a long way toward being answered this weekend.
Other Defensive Backs to Watch: Tyler Lee’s Ian Simon (Committed to Missouri) and Chad Reese (Committed to Wyoming), Houston Lamar’s Earl Foster (Committed to Houston), Arlington Bowie’s Quentin Sargent, Pflugerville’s Alex Matlock (Committed to Kansas), John Tyler’s Chris Hackett (Committed to TCU), and Klein’s Eric Rowe (Committed to Utah).
A few of the prospects in the “athlete” category haven’t seen their recruitments pick up, but they bring plenty to the table and several of them will be big reasons why their teams have success this weekend.
One of the few commits in this group is John Tyler’s David Bush. The TCU commit will provide plenty of sparks on the offensive side of the ball and the Horned Frogs have nabbed a 5-foot-10, 165-pound electric playmaker who can get up the field vertically just as fast as he can move laterally. His ability to make people miss and create big plays should carry over to the 7-on-7 format if he can get the ball in space in one-on-one situations.
Last year Round Rock Stony Point won the Division I tournament thanks in big part to the effort of do-it-all sparkplug Stephen Williams. The cousin of Texas cornerback Aaron Williams has plenty of speed, quickness and the ability to make plays in space, but colleges have been slow to recruit the 5-foot-8, 165-pound playmaker.
The same can be said for Arlington Lamar’s Tracy Smith. The Vikings routinely advance deep into the championship bracket and Smith made big plays on both sides of the ball last summer and last fall when the pads came on, so expect much of the same this weekend. The 5-foot-9, 170-pounder can body up receivers in the red zone and make plays in the vertical passing game.
Whitehouse’s Quincy Aldridge excelled in the Wildcats’ first ever trip to the state tournament last year and the 6-foot-2, 190-pounder can get it done on both sides of the football. Aldridge can form a potent receiver combo on offense with Oklahoma commit Trey Metoyer and then slide over to defense where he displays good range and ball skills at safety.
An injury was a big reason why Abilene’s Darius Joseph saw his recruiting stock fall, but the two-way star is making plays for the Eagles this summer and he could be in for a big weekend. The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder worked the middle of the field as a go-to possession receiver on offense and flipped over and made plays as center field-type safety last summer and drew the interest of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, which speaks to his talent level.
Other Athletes to Watch: El Paso Chapin’s Milton Roberts, Snyder’s Xavier Malone, Round Rock Stony Point’s Aaryn Sharp, Abilene’s Ronnell Sims, Georgetown’s Cal Spangler, Carthage’s Jalen Claiborne, Grandview’s Daniel Spencer (Committed to Houston) and Somerset’s Will Harlos (Committed to Wake Forest).
Pool play in the Division II State Tournament begins on Thursday afternoon at 1 p.m. at Texas A&M’s Penberthy Fields. Bracket play in the Division II tournament begins at 8 a.m. on Friday while the Division I field begins pool play later in the day Friday at 1 p.m.
The tournament semifinals and championships for both divisions and both brackets are played at Texas A&M’s Kyle Field.