Evolve or perish.
It is true for the smallest of organisms and the biggest of beasts. It’s also true of high school football beasts. A good junior year doesn’t promise success in the senior year.
Los Angeles (Calif.) Cathedral four-star defensive end Hunter Echols is currently going through an evolution. After collecting 27 tackles for loss and 17 sacks as a junior, he’s having to adjust his game because teams are game planning specifically for him this season.
Through three games, Echols has only one sack as Cathedral’s opponents have tried to run the ball away from Echols, throw quick passes or utilize rollouts away from him and have used a tight end or running back to chip him on the end of the line.
“I'm not even going to be selfish,” Echols said after Cathedral waxed Lynwood, 50-6, Friday night with Lynwood’s only score coming on defense. “They gameplan around me, but we have another great defensive end, who is on the other side of me and he's a baller, so I just let him try to make some plays. I just rely on my other teammates to make plays and we have fun as a defense. It's a group sport.”
It has been frustrating at times for Echols, who is used to being the guy making the big play.
“Trying to compete and just really trying to make plays. Teams are staying aways from me this year and I've just got to realize that. I just got to let... I'm too used to worrying about getting 1,000 sacks like I did last year, so I've just got to let the game come to me.”
Against Lynwood, Echols didn’t record a sack, but he was often in the backfield. He got multiple shots on the quarterback and nearly recorded a safety when he perfectly played a read-option quarterback keeper on the goal line.
The 6-foot-4, 220 pounder will have to make another adaption next year when the USC commit gets to campus. He is being recruited to be a pass rushing outside linebacker in defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast’s Predator role that is currently occupied by sophomore Porter Gustin.
While Echols is adapting his own game, the No. 2 defensive end in the West and No. 163 overall prospect in the 2017 Scout 300 is loving the evolution of the defense he will be playing in next year under Pendergast. USC gave up 52 points in the opener, but Echols says the score wasn’t reflective of their effort.
“The defense was balling. It was just certain plays on offense that changed the momentum in the game,” Echols said. “I love how their defense played. I don't care the score. I can see myself fitting into that defense really good. I love what Coach [Johnny] Nansen and Coach Pendergast are doing with the defense. It's awesome.”
Echols will be at the Coliseum today as USC tries to bounce back against Utah State and said he will likely take his official visit during the Notre Dame game because “I'm trying to reel in [Las Vegas (Nev.) Arbor View defensive lineman] Greg Rogers, so just know Greg, we're coming after you. I love you. I hope you come commit to us,” Echols said with a laugh.
That will be Echols only official visit. He has no interest in taking others.
“I'm not taking any [other] official visits. Y'all will not trap me with these official visits. No. I'm shutting it all the way down. I'm going to USC. That's 100 percent. My mom and dad wear USC stuff.”
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