The above video features junior-season highlights of Texas Tech receiver commit Jaylon Robinson.
Inside The Red Raiders: How long have you been with Scout and what exactly do you do for the network?
Gabe Brooks: I joined Scout in Feb. 2014 to primarily cover the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and East Texas. That gradually became the entire state of Texas, and I just recently added Louisiana and Arkansas in addition to still covering the state of Texas. I'm originally from East Texas (Carthage, on the Louisiana state line) and my previous two jobs were in sports media in that region, so I have a lot familiarity with coaches and players out there.
ITRR: You covered Patrick Mahomes when he played for Whitehouse High School. What was your reaction to him getting drafted 10th overall? What are your memories of him from his high school days?
GB: I was ecstatic when he got picked. I've known him since his sophomore year of high school, when he was a starting safety for Whitehouse, which at the time had a quarterback who went to start at SFA. I thought he had a chance to go late first round, but to go 10th was awesome, and I think he's going to a great situation with Andy Reid and a veteran quarterback in Alex Smith to learn under. Mahomes may the best improvisational player I've ever covered. He has an unbelievable playmaking instinct and an ability to extend plays that is rivaled only by Kyler Murray, as far as guys I've covered personally. Pat was as good as it gets on the scramble drill. He was a three-sport star at Whitehouse and I got to see him compete in football, baseball, and basketball. I remember his senior season when Carthage went up 39-20 at Whitehouse in a huge non-district game, and Pat willed Whitehouse back for 43 unanswered in the final quarter and a half. That Whitehouse team won 12 games and that Carthage team went 15-1 with a state championship.
ITRR: Keke Coutee has emerged as Tech's top receiver. Did you cover him at Lufkin and could you see this coming?
GB: Yep, I got to cover him during his Lufkin days and what he's doing at Texas Tech doesn't surprise me at all. He was electric with the ball in his hands in high school and the Tech scheme is the perfect format to display his abilities. At first, he was a Texas commit and they were probably going to use him at cornerback. I think he could've played that there, but the fit as a receiver at Tech is so much better, in my opinion. Keke's an offensive player and the ball needs to be in his hands.
ITRR: Dylan Cantrell is another East Texas standout expected to put up big numbers this season. What do you remember from his days at Whitehouse?
GB: The thing that really stood out to me about Cantrell was just how big he was. You see the guys from the press box and you get an idea of size, but when you'd go down there on the sideline before the game, it really struck me how big a frame he had as a high school receiver. Plus, you can't argue with production. He put together consecutive 1,400-yard receiving seasons at Whitehouse and caught 36 touchdown passes in those two years. Sure, Whitehouse has long been a pass-happy program, but you don't catch almost 40 touchdown passes in two years without being pretty special.
ITRR: What are your thoughts on Texas Tech 2018 receiver pledge Jaylon Robinson?
GB: He fits the scheme very well. He's really athletic, both on the field and in testing. He's a verified 4.54 in the 40 and ran a blistering 3.88 shuttle in March at The Opening Dallas. He can make you miss in space but he's also a downfield threat in the vertical passing game. Putting him back there as a return guy will also be an option because of his athleticism and playmaking ability. He's done some gadget stuff in high school, like Wildcat QB, so you can move him around the formation to use his athleticism as needed.
ITRR: Who's looking good on the recruiting trail right now in the Big 12?
GB: Well Texas made a big push within the past few weeks to surge to No. 1 in the Big 12 at 11th nationally in the Scout team recruiting rankings. Kind of out of nowhere. They just flipped Caden Sterns, who was a longtime LSU pledge and one of the top overall prospects in the state of Texas. From a numbers standpoint, Oklahoma State and Baylor are doing very well. They're the first two Big 12 programs to hit double-digit commitments for the 2018 cycle. I believe 10 of Baylor's 12 commits are solid three-star guys, which is big for Baylor because it's in the middle of re-stocking its depth and needs numbers.
ITRR: What's your theory on why the Big 12 is missing out on a lot of the top-tier talent in Texas?
GB: This is something that gets talked about a lot when folks like Greg Powers (national analyst over Texas and the Midlands Region) and Brandon Huffman (national analyst over the West Coast and Scout national recruiting director) and myself get together each year for the Army Bowl and events like that. I think there are multiple factors. One that is undeniable is Texas A&M leaving for the SEC. When Texas A&M left, that opened up the state of Texas to the SEC, particularly the West Division, more than ever before. Alabama and LSU would get a guy here and there, yes, but when Texas A&M left, schools such as Ole Miss really poured recruiting attention into Texas. Ole Miss has recruited Texas extremely well, even landing the No. 1 player in the 2016, Greg Little. Ole Miss signed five Texans that cycle. The SEC led to the Big Ten and Pac-12 and now even the ACC getting high-profile recruits from Texas. Another factor that is more a theory of mine than hard evidence is technology, social media, just the modern age in general. The cliché "the world is smaller now" fits this theory. Kids go all over the country to offseason camps and combines and events and unofficial visits and all these things unlike any time in the past, and they don't see staying in-state as a necessity like in the past. Now combine those with the perception of the Big 12 frequently falling behind in the NFL Draft in recent years, and you see what we've seen: higher-profile players leaving the state more than ever.
ITRR: Who is the top uncommitted Midlands Region prospect in 2018?
GB: Since it's still about nine months until National Signing Day, eight of the top 10 players in Texas are uncommitted. Both in-state five-star prospects in the Scout rankings are uncommitted: cornerback Anthony Cook from Houston Lamar and receiver Brennan Eagles from Alief Taylor. And those are guys who could possibly wind up going out of state. With me adding Louisiana and Arkansas to my territory, we'll start including those states in the Midlands Region, and that gives us another five-star prospect who's uncommitted in Bossier City (La.) Parkway receiver Terrace Marshall Jr.. He's really, really good. In fact, the 2017 receiver group in Texas was as good as we can remember, and Marshall was the best receiver I saw during the 2016 season.