Week 0: Vista Ridge vs. Bowie and Westlake @ Cedar Park
The Vista Ridge Rangers don't have many bright spots in their 0-2 season thus far but they can certainly be excited about the play of their outstanding offensive tackle Richard Rainey (6'4 240) who has committed to Army. He is not that big but he moves very well for his size and in that triple option offense Army runs he will be a perfect fit.
The Bowie Bulldogs who have started the 2009 season 2-0 and they have one of the best WR prospects in Central Texas. Deandre Perry was nearly unstoppable when Bowie faced off against Vista Ridge in Week 0 as he caught 5 passes for 89 yards and 2 touchdowns, one of which was a beautiful bomb in the back of the endzone with the defender draped all over him. Perry is 6'4 (legit) 215 with great body control, he has solid hands and decent speed. His size makes him an asset in the redzone. Bowie Head Coach Jeff Ables made the comment that all he does is score touchdowns and that comment is appropriate especially after a 2008 season when Perry scored 8 touchdowns on 59 grabs racking up 600 yards. All those numbers are expected to increase this year. Perry recently committed to The University of Houston and with their wide open spread offense he should be able to contribute early. If he continues to progress he could see early playing time at UH as a freshman much like Emory Blake is now at Auburn (the Austin High WR now Auburn Tiger).
Westlake's top prospect this year is standout DB and preseason All Central Texas pick, Louie Swope, the brother of Texas A&M freshman WR Ryan Swope. Last year he racked up 95 tackles and 9 pass breakups. He played at corner and safety at times last year but this year his play will be relegated to the safety position. Swope is 6'0 170, with good speed and a knack for making big plays. In his first two games this season he has been a play maker, he had an interception against Cedar Park that may have been the turning point of the game and in Westlake's losing effort against Lake Travis he had one blocked PAT and a blocked punt. Swope has a nose for the football, a terrific motor and is effective in zone or man coverage. He is currently committed to SMU and there is no doubt he is looking forward to the 3-year series that SMU begins against Texas A&M in 2011 when the Swope brothers will face off.
This year's Cedar Park Timberwolves football squad is absolutely loaded with big time football talent. Let's start on the offensive side of the ball where Cedar Park has one of the best offensive lineman in the state in Dominic Espinosa (6'3 260). Espinosa is committed to the University of Texas and he has proven his worth already this year by switching from offensive tackle to center. He has great feet and he is surprisingly strong. He is not that big, but his style of play reminds me of Kasey Studdard. He is obviously an intelligent player being able to make the transition from tackle to center and that versatility is something that Texas values in its offensive lineman. He is a god run blocker and he uses his low center of gravity to uproot bigger defenders and he knows how to use football leverage but he will need to gain about 25 lbs to reach his full potential on the next level. Cedar Park's offense also features another UT commit, Nathan Thornhill but instead of the football field he will join that already talented bullpen of Augie Garrido's Longhorns. Thornhill's rocket arm is an asset at QB for Cedar Park.
Now lets look at the defensive side of the ball where Cedar Park is apparently growing D1 linebackers on trees or so it seems. The crème of the crop is Holmes Onwukaife (6'3 220) who recently committed to Florida State, where he is expected to play outside linebacker. In anticipation of this transition, Onwukaife has moved from defensive end, where he tallied 36 tackles and 5 sacks in 2008, to OLB this season. He has been clocked at a 4.55, which is impressive for his size. Most teams run away from him and it is easy to see why. After an injury cut his season short last year, Onwukaife looks back to his old form. He can't be blocked one on one which is the best compliment for a pass rusher. He could easily fit the mold of that 3-4 hybrid DE/ OLB that has become so popular as of late. Joey Nichols is an ILB for Cedar Park, he is 6'2 220 and has offers from Harvard, UTEP and Air Force. He has decent size but his biggest asset is his physicality. He loves to hit and does it well, although he is not that fast he shoots gaps extremely well. Last season Nichols led the team in tackles tallying 117 tackles (17 tfl). He has great football instincts and Cedar park coaches praise his football IQ, which is why he has been Cedar Park's starting ILB since his sophomore season. OLB Chet Moss (6'3 230) is only a junior but he has a lot of potential. He has the size of Holmes Onwukaife, but he's faster and is better in coverage. He will have to prove that he can be a force as a pass rusher, but there is no doubt that he has the potential. This defensive unit for Cedar Park held Temple's Lache Seastrunk to 31 yards on 15 carries last week. Seastrunk is Temple's all time leading rusher and considered the one of the top running back prospects in the nation.
Another junior that has college scouts salivating is offensive tackle Spencer Drango. He is 6'6 260, has decent feet, but exceptional strength. He has good lateral movement and looks more comfortable as a pass blocker than a run blocker. With his size he should be moving defenders out of the way but that's a technique issue, he has good feet, sometimes they are just in the wrong place. He struggles to recover when beaten but that again is a technique issue but when he puts it all together no defender can get around him and they certainly cant get through them. Overall this kid has the natural gifts he just needs a little fine tuning, but once he gets a little more seasoning the sky's the limit.
Week 1: Connally @ Stony Point and Westlake @ Lake Travis
Stony Point is currently the 10th ranked 5A team in the state (75th nationally) and when you look at the talent on their team it's easy to see why. On offense Stony Point returns Sr. TE/WR Gerard Shillow who caught 46 balls last season for 745 yards and 9 touchdowns last season. Shillow is 6'3 225 lbs and plays a TE/slot WR position for the Tigers. He has good speed but his size allows him to out rebound smaller defenders for jump balls. He has a diverse skill set that allows him to play slot WR, split end, flanker and of course the traditional TE spot. I would like to see him bulk up a little so that he is a more effective run blocker but in Coach Chessher's system they don't ask him to block much. In the first two weeks of the season Gerard Shillow has caught 12 passes for 157 yards and 1 TD, because of his size, athleticism and versatility he is an instant mismatch for almost any high school defender. Stony Point also returns junior Stephen Williams who is listed as a RB/WR/ATH, he is 5'9 165 and last year he combined for 1100 total yards rushing and receiving for the Tigers. He is lightning quick and he is absolutely electrifying in open space. He's small but dynamic with the ball in his hands. I would compare him to DJ Monroe (the WR/ RB for UT), and Williams' is the cousin of starting sophomore cornerback for UT Aaron Williams. Stephen Williams has caught 12 passes so far this season for 213 yards and 1 TD.
Although the weapons for Stony Point's offense are impressive the defense may be even more impressive. First let's start in the secondary where the Tigers return their outstanding cornerback Kevin White (5'10 170). Last season Kevin White intercepted 5 passes for Stony Point while tallying 43 tackles. This year even more is expected of the TCU commit. In Stony Point's game against Connally, White matched up on WR Anthony Bryant (reigning 25 5-A 100-meter champion) the entire game and completely shut Bryant out. White has great overall speed and terrific closing speed. He has terrific instincts and his hands may be the best on the team. He can play man or zone and be effective in either. Alongside White is safety Desmond Martin (younger brother of Baylor Bear freshman RB Glasco Martin) who is currently committed to Texas Tech. The 6'1 180-pound senior has good size and speed. He plays down hill and has decent closing speed. He is very physical and tackles well in the open field. Two of the top junior prospects for the Stony Point defense are LB P.L. Lindley (6'3 215) and DT Jordan Wade (6'4 265) and both are very impressive. Wade is in the mold of UT freshman DT and former Stony Point Tiger Tevin Mims. He is extremely disruptive on the D line and he moves extremely quickly for a guy his size. He has great lower body strength. On more than one occasion I watched him push an OG into the opposing backfield. P.L. Lindley may be the fastest player on Stony Point's defensive front seven and he is always around the ball. He has great speed and uses his athleticism to avoid blocks. When he is blocked he gets off them very well and he excels as a blitzer.
As for Lake Travis, the post Garrett Gilbert era has begun and junior QB Michael Brewer is doing his best to make sure we don't miss the UT freshman. Brewer has completed 40/55 passes for 801 yards 5 touchdowns and most importantly, no interceptions in addition to rushing for 81 yards and 5 touchdowns. He has been absolutely phenomenal in the first two weeks of the season. Brewer is 6'1 170 and has a great football pedigree, his family can boast that they have had two UT quarterbacks in their family. Blocking for Brewer is junior left tackle Taylor Doyle, the 6'5 prospect could potentially be really good. He has excellent size, and like all Lake Travis lineman, Doyle looks great as a pass blocker, but he is an aggressive run blocker as well. He usually finishes every block with the defender on his back. He gets out of position sometimes but recovers relatively well. His technique needs work, but he is so young it's hard to make that assessment.
This week I will be watching Lake Travis @ Cedar Park on Thursday and Westlake vs. A&M Consolidated, where I will get a better look at some of the best Central Texas Football has to offer.