Maybe the Best Backfield in the Nation

When it comes to which high school has the best backfield in the nation, Dr. Phillips High in Orlando, Fla., has a stake to the claim. Halfback Embry Peoples, fullback Thomas Shuler and quarterback Chris Wilkes, are garnering interest from a lot of top schools across the country, including Notre Dame.

Dr. Phillips head coach Kevin Pettis said that Irish assistant Bernie Parmalee has been by the school asking about his three talented players, and told him Notre Dame would be recruiting them.

"I think we have the best backfield in the nation," Pettis stated. "We have an Elite 11 quarterback, and we have those guys."

Those guys being the speedy 5-foot-9, 175-pound Embry Peoples, and the powerful 5-foot-10, 230-pound Thomas Shuler. Pettis reports they have a written offer from Colorado and verbal offers from Auburn and Georgia Tech.

"You could compare them to what USC had with Reggie Bush and LenDale White, but it's more like Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams from Auburn," Pettis said. Dr. Phillips won its district and finished the season 9-3 in Florida's 6-A class. "You have that power back in Ronnie Brown, and that speed back in Cadillac Williams. That's what we've got here."

Peoples was the team's leading rusher, carrying the ball 132 times for 1,130 yards and 11 touchdowns. At the combine in Jacksonville, he ran a 4.5 second 40-yard dash and a 4.28 second short shuttle.

"He is the real deal," Pettis said. "He was national champion in the 100 meters for kids 16 and under. He has 10.5 speed in the 100. He has the best vision of any kid I've seen in my life. He just has great vision. He sets up his blocks well, and he has a burst, He can really explode through some things."

When Shuler wasn't paving the way for Peoples, he carried the ball 108 times for 1,005 yards and 12 touchdowns. Pettis reports 4.5 second 40-yard dash speed for Shuler.

"He is just a bruiser, just a man," Pettis stated. "He is such a powerful back. He is a 600-pound squat kid, and a 400-pound bench kid. He is so powerful, and always falling forward. One guy isn't going to bring him down."

Shuler's strength makes him sound comparable to Notre Dame fullback Asaph Schwapp.

With two big-time backs and only so many Friday night carries, how does Pettis divide the opportunities?

"Its real easy, whoever gets the hot hand gets the ball," he said, using a basketball analogy. "We beat on them with Shuler and we run around them with Peoples. They are unselfish kids, and they play with a lot of passion."

The strong-armed Wilkes didn't have too many opportunities to throw the football with Peoples and Shuler eating up most of the game reps, but when he did get a chance to sling it, he completed 62 percent of his passes for 1,600 yards with nine touchdowns and only one interception.

"He has a lot of interest, but nobody has pulled the trigger yet with an offer," Pettis said. "A lot of coaches have come through here and said he is a no-brainer. I know Wilkes is going to go to a quarterback school, so he will be interested in the University of Miami and Notre Dame."

What about Peoples and Shuler?

"Being the mecca of football, it's a great school, and I think they would be interested," Pettis said. "I try not to influence them in any way. They will have every school in the country on them.

"They are just phenomenal kids with great families. Schools are going to be lucky to get them."

Pettis reports that Shuler has a 2.4 core GPA. He said that Peoples has a 2.8 core GPA and a 900 SAT score. He said that Wilkes has a 2.8 core GPA and a 1,000 SAT score. Top Stories