Scouting Denison vs. Sulphur Springs

One of the top playoffs games last weekend in the state of Texas was the Friday night showdown at Texas Stadium between 12-0 Denison and 10-2 Sulphur Springs. The game featured two of the top juniors in the state in Denison running back D.J. Jones and Sulphur Springs safety Bryant Jackson as well as one of the nation's top senior quarterbacks in Tyrik Rollison of Sulphur Springs.

The 4A division has featured their fair share of big time games in 2007, but Friday night in Texas Stadium may have been the most anticipated yet. The Denison Yellow Jackets rolled into Irving a perfect 12-0 on the season and looking to avenge a 2007 non-district loss to Sulphur Springs.

The Wildcats looked to continue their hot streak having won five games in a row behind the stellar play of Rollison and senior running back Ryan Young on offense and Jackson and senior defensive end Colton Nash (will go to Colorado or Baylor) on defense.

The Wildcats dominated from the start by recovering a pop kickoff, all the way through the end of the third quarter with a 42-7 lead behind the play of Rollison, who threw for 334 yards and rushed for 73 in three quarters, and a physical defense that seemingly filled every gap on defense.

The Denison running game could never get going until Sulphur Springs called the dogs off in the fourth quarter. Junior running back D. J. Jones had to scratch and claw for every yard in the opening three quarters having only one inside zone play in which the 5-11, 195-pounder had a crease and could show some burst to the second level.

Bryant Jackson (Sulphur Springs)

While D.J. Jones was the marquee junior headed into the game, the 6-3.5, 175-pound safety showcased his array of skills even though he didn't start due to a two week illness that limited his snaps the prior week against Waxahachie.

The first thing that jumps out about Jackson is how much range he has. He covers as much ground from sideline to sideline as any safety in the state of Texas regardless of classification. One can always find Jackson around the play whether it he is making an open field tackle, using his long arms and leaping ability to make a play on the ball, or his quick reactions to make contact on arrival.

In the run game, Jackson is not going to be a player that will fill and make the big hit. What he did show on Friday night was the ability to make key tackles over the course of a game. On a Denison fourth and two in Sulphur Springs territory, Jackson covered ground quickly and met D.J. Jones at the hash mark. The result was Jones being tackled one on one for a gain of nearly two yards, but not enough for the first down after an official measurement. The Wildcats played off the momentum going down the field and scoring.

After watching Jackson up close, there is little doubt he will be one of the more highly recruited prospects in the 2010 class in Texas. He has a wiry frame that will carry 195-200 pounds in time. He is smooth in his pedal, showed good change of direction and possesses make-up speed because of his quick speed turn (throws the shoulder with quick hip turn) and long stride that follows.

Most programs are evaluating Jackson at safety, but a couple of colleges have their eye on the corner or nickel position.

Jackson also provides versatility as a prospect because of his ability to run and play the ball at its highest point. There will be several programs that will inquire about the possibility of playing receiver at the next level.

Through 13 games, the top 25 junior in Texas has recorded 88 tackles; eight pass break ups and five interceptions. In three playoff games, Jackson has 20 tackles, two pass break ups, and two interceptions.

D.J. Jones (Denison)

Jones is a legit 5-11, 195-pounds, but not the 6-0, 215 to 220 listed in several places. Jones is a prospect that is at his best when running down hill. Not a darter or a back that will make violent lateral cuts, but a back that will see the first hole and has enough burst to get to the second level quickly. Jones has what many of the very good backs have - he runs very hard and often times with no regard for his body.

On video, Jones shows a good 15-20 yard burst. Friday night against a stingy and fast Sulphur Springs defense, he only had a couple of chances to show the burst that has led to setting a Denison single season rushing record. Instead, Sulphur Springs forced Jones to turn his pads east and west. That is not his strength, as Jones doesn't possess the elite quickness and speed to get to the corner and outrun the pursuit.

Jones' vision is another strength. With running lanes few and far between, the strongly built junior did a very good job of finding the cracks to maximize three, four and five yard runs even though he doesn't run high to low as ideally as one would like to see in a downhill back.

On the fourth and two play in which Jackson came up and stopped Jones just a few chain links short of a key first down, Jones didn't get his pads down to make his body small, withstand the contact and give his strength a chance to run through the one on one tackle against a player that is not nearly as physically strong. Jones ran the ball hard on the play, but didn't have his body in position to finish the run. There were two or three other runs that were very similar.

As a blocker and receiver, Jones showed a lot of ability. He caught a screen pass where he sold the screen with perfect timing. The subsequent turn to get his body in position, the catch, and the turn up the field that followed were all very smooth and natural. On the first play from scrimmage, Jones stoned the weak side defensive end and showed the willingness and the ability to block on several occasions with Denison junior quarterback Jordan Taylor under heavy duress.

Jones has terrific arm length for a running back as the ball fits the pocket perfectly.

Down the line, Jones will be a 5-11, 210-215-pound back. There is no doubt he will be a very good college player. He fits a downhill scheme, but will have a tough time excelling in a lateral running game. Jones is an all-around back that can run, catch and block. If he shows the ability to make his body small on contact and run through the first or second tackler more consistently, he will become one of the top backs in the nation in the 2010 class.

Tyrik Rollison (Sulphur Springs)

A year ago at this time, Rollison was a shade under 6-2 and weighed about 175 pounds. The senior is now a legit 6-2, maybe a shade taller, and 185 pounds with added lower body strength that pops out when pressured and fighting off defenders. The key for Rollison has been his ability to keep his quick feet with the added ten pounds.

As a thrower, Rollison's elbow falls perfectly in position to be an accurate quarterback. He possesses the ability to throw from every platform. He is one of the top throwers of the screen pass. He has the feel and changes velocity perfectly as need be on the tunnel screen, slip screen, swing passes and routes in the flats.

Rollison has a gun for an arm and while his high spin rate throws can be fun to watch on intermediate routes, it is his ability to change speeds as the throw dictates that is most impressive as well as his ability to drop the ball in the bucket on every throw down the field. The right-hander excels on smash routes, fades and any timing throw to the sidelines. On Friday, the only throw he would like to have back was a fade in the end zone in which he committed the mistake of not getting the ball to the outside shoulder and the Denison defender made a very good play to pull the interception down. Rollison's weakness also plays to his strengths. He will force a ball in tight windows from time to time in the intermediate game and is not afraid to throw deep trying to place the ball in very tough spots with double coverage.

One of the instinctive skills Rollison possesses is the ability to have pass rush close in around him and not panic or react in a flustered way. Almost too calm at times, Rollison calmly slides around in the pocket while keeping his eyes down the field. Even though he can run the ball with effectiveness, the 2007 first team all-state signal caller works through his progressions before looking to tuck the ball.

When Rollison does look to run, he's a scooter. He runs with quickness, lateral darting ability and choppy feet. Not a guy that will run away from defenders, Rollison maximizes runs by slipping off of the first and second tacklers finishing with body lean. At the next level, he will have to learn to get down earlier as he takes hits on the high school level that will put him in harms way in major conference football.

Rollison is being heavily recruited by Kansas State and Oklahoma State. He'll be a late senior year qualifier.

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