Stephens Another to Watch

Mack Brown and the University of Texas have had a stranglehold on the top football prospects in the state of Texas over the last several years, but Charlie Weis and his staff are going to work to change that. Junior linebacker Derrick Stephens will be one player the Notre Dame staff is going to target.

Cypress Falls High School in Houston produces a lot of Division I football players, and the Irish staff knows that. Next in line for Cypress Falls head coach David Raffield is linebacker Derrick Stephens.

"Derrick is a phenomenal football player," coach Raffield said of his junior standout. "He's very aggressive. He loves the game. There's no doubt that he's the type of player that can change a football game with a big play. He's a good kid.

"He's already 6-3, 217 pounds and he's still growing. He's real young; he's 16 and doesn't turn 17 until April or May. He hasn't settled into his frame. He plays a little tight end, but I think he'll be a defensive player. He has that attitude. I think he played at 185 last year, so he's growing. If he grows to 6-5, or 6-6, I can see him put his hand on the ground and being a big-time defensive end."

Stephens probably has the size and ability to play defensive end in high school, but he's such a playmaker coach Raffield is going to make sure he's in position to make plays for his defense.

"Exceptional," coach Raffield said of Stephens' ability to come off the corner. "He's put more than one fullback out of the game this year. There's a bunch that don't want to play much after he finishes with them. He's very aggressive and he has a great knack for the game.

"We're going to put him in the middle, because we think he can make plays all over the field. We want to put him in position where you can't run from him.

"He's a better cover guy than we thought he'd be. We've had several colleges come in and say that they like the way he plays in space," Raffield said of his linebacker's ability to defend the pass.

"He's a very emotional guy. He gets people fired up on the field," he added.

If you're one of the top players at a school like Cypress Falls as a junior you're going to get noticed by a lot of top college football teams.

"We had 11 in here yesterday," coach Raffield said of the college coaches that have stopped in to inquire about Stephens." I have one at my door right now. All the Big XII schools have been through here. Arkansas liked him early. Arizona will probably offer him early. All the top schools are sending him mail.

"Coach Weis was just here and coach Haywood has been here several times. He (Weis) came down just to talk to me. We've been producing Division I players yearly and he's just moving around looking at different schools who produce the type of kids that would be interested in Notre Dame. He wants to build that relationship so that when you do have a Derek Stephens or some of the other kids we've had in the past, we're not afraid to have them take a look."

"I was real impressed with him," Raffield said of his conversation with the Notre Dame head coach. "We just talked football. They had those two emotional losses and we lost in our regional final game weeks ago. We talked about how you handle a loss.

"He's an excellent coach. We talked about the recruiting process and how you play that game. Of course they want to be one of the powerhouses, they want to be one of the people, when they walk through the doors, jaws drop."

Raffield enjoyed getting to know the new Irish head coach, but he didn't need an introduction to know two of the coaches on Weis' staff.

"I've known coach Haywood for quite a few years," coach Raffield said of Notre Dame's offensive coordinator. "He recruited this area from when he coached at UT (University of Texas). The recruiting coordinator at Notre Dame, Rob Ianello recruited Houston for multiple schools." Top Stories