South Central Spotlight: Rankings questions for the fall
Whether there is a football season next fall and what that looks like continues to be debated and discussed at high school athletic associations across the country. If a season does take place, it will be the first time seeing the majority of the top college prospects since the end of last season. Here are six big questions we are looking to get answered in the South Central region this fall.
CLASS OF 2022: Top 100
1. How will the QB pecking order in Texas shake out?
The 2021 QB crop in the Lone Star State is way deeper than 2020 and there’s even more talent at the top and among the national ranks. Texas commitment Jalen Milroe is the top-ranked dual-threat embedded in the Rivals100 and LSU commitment Garrett Nussmeier leads the way as far as pro-style prospects. He’s also inside the Rivals100. Milroe has incredible arm strength and is home-run threat with the ball in his hands. Nussmeier throws with as much anticipation as any passer in the country and has fantastic accuracy all over the field.
Tennessee commitment Kaidon Salter recently added a fourth star and is one of the quarterbacks that broke out onto the scene last fall in the Cedar Hill offense. All eyes will be on Salter to see what progress he made this offseason. Dematrius Davis, who flipped from Virginia Tech to Auburn in the spring, is coming off a second consecutive Class 6A state championship. He could make even more history with a three-peat, and while he’s one of the most decorated quarterbacks in Texas high school history, his best football may still be ahead of him. Eli Stowers, who has been committed to Texas A&M for a year, is one of the best pure athletes in the state regardless of position. With a strong senior season and continued development, Stowers has as high of a ceiling as any dual-threat in-state.
Let’s not sleep on Preston Stone either. Another Rivals100 talent who’s committed to SMU, Stone is a modern-day Johnny Manziel-esque quarterback. Last season, he captured a TAPPS state title for Parish Episcopal and is one of the best improvisers in the nation. Lucas Coley enjoyed a breakout season for Cornerstone Christian in 2019 and took home QB MVP honors at RCS Houston. The Arkansas pledge has the potential to make even more noise this fall.
Kyron Drones led Shadow Creek to a state championship last December. He’s a playmaker at the position and is currently committed to Baylor. Mississippi State commitment Sawyer Robertson is a two-sport standout with a tremendous arm and grabbed the entire country’s attention with his junior campaign. Another Bulldogs pledge in Texas, Daniel Greek, orchestrates Liberty Christian’s high-scoring offense. Florida commitment Jalen Kitna will be handed the reigns at Burleson and physically, he could turn heads. Texas Tech-bound Behren Morton and Shedeur Sanders are both dual-threats capable of making some noise with strong outings this fall.
Now, all eyes will be on these quarterbacks this fall to see where each finishes in the rankings come Signing Day.
2. Who could pick up a fifth star?
There are always prospects in the five-star discussion or some that make the leap into the Rivals250 with strong senior seasons. Entering the season, there are no shortage inside the South Central region.
Three players right on the five-star bubble include wide receivers Chris Hilton and Quaydarius Davis as well as athlete Billy Bowman Jr., who’s currently tabbed as the top prospect at his position nationally.
Hilton was injured parts of his junior campaign, but has added to his frame and will receive an upgrade at the quarterback position. He’s on track for a very productive senior season for Zachary. Davis, a USC pledge, has been steadily climbing in the rankings since last summer. He’s proven to be one of the premier playmakers at the position nationally with a strong offseason under his belt. Bowman plays on both sides of the ball for Denton Ryan and will likely line up in the secondary when he arrives in Austin. He’s an instinctual playmaker that can make home-run plays on offense and is a ballhawk on defense.
As far as other potential big risers this fall outside of the five-star discussion, keep an eye out for Clayton Smith. The Oklahoma commitment was a versatile defender last season, displaying the ability to pressure opposing quarterbacks, drop into coverage and make splash plays on offense and defense. Texas commitment Ishmael Ibraheem is a long, lockdown cover corner with elite speed. He’s continued to make strides at the position and could be in store for his best season yet.
Four-star DeSoto defensive end Shemar Turner has been excellent since moving to a four-man front. He’s put in extra time in the weight room all offseason and could be due for a productive campaign. Reuben Fatheree, a Texas A&M pledge, is a two-sport standout and brings a ton of athleticism to the tackle position. We’re anxious to see what’s in store this fall as Richmond Foster’s anchor upfront.
3. Will Louisiana WRs meet expectations?
Louisiana tends to produce the most NFL talent per capita nationally, so it should come as no surprise that there’s a wealth of talent coming out of The Boot in 2021, particularly at the wide receiver position.
As it stands today, Hilton is the top-ranked pass-catcher in the state and will be featured in Zachary’s offense quarterbacked by 2023 standout Eli Holstein. Right behind him is another Rivals100 talent in Brian Thomas, who’s a playmaker with size and speed and a hoops background as well. Walker could have a more balanced offense in 2020, which means defenses won’t be able to focus so much attention on Thomas.
Destyn Pazon and Malik Nabers are two other four-star wideouts. Pazon was the WR MVP of RCS New Orleans and is the No. 1 target for Karr’s dynamic passing attack. Pazon brings 4.4 speed to the table and is a home-run threat with excellent ball skills. Nabers recently transferred to Southside, where he’ll have a chance to play primarily wide receiver instead of quarterback and safety. Nabers boasts excellent hands and is a mismatch when it comes to jump-balls.
Three other receivers to keep tabs on include Jack Bech, Tyrese Johnson and Keon Coleman. All three are certainly in the four-star discussion. Bech, a Vanderbilt commitment, is a big-framed receiver at 210 pounds and has fantastic hands and athleticism. Johnson, also a basketball standout, is one of the premier playmakers in New Orleans and is due for a bigger role in his offense this fall. Coleman is a multi-sport standout that can jump through the gym and make plays downfield.
4. Will injured stars return to full strength?
The 2019 football season was missing some notable talent due to injury. Among those sidelined included five-star offensive tackle Tommy Brockermeyer, top 100 players Latrell McCutchin and Shadrach Banks, as well as Kendrick Blackshire, the top-ranked middle linebacker in Texas.
Brockermeyer has been training alongside his twin brother James all offseason and his father, Blake, who recently left his role at SMU to coach up his sons at All Saints. Brockermeyer is already practicing and has a chance to finish as the best offensive tackle in the country after a dominant campaign as a sophomore.
McCutchin tore his ACL early on last fall and has been rehabbing throughout the fall and spring. He’s set to resume football activities on July 4. McCutchin is a lockdown corner who’s fluid in coverage with excellent speed, length and instincts. This season could be his best to date.
Banks, at one point, was the top-ranked receiver in Texas for the 2021 crop, but injuries hampered the playmaker before, during and even after his junior year. Banks is finally healthy, which is a scary sight for defenses lining up against North Shore. Banks is dynamic with the ball in his hands and can take the top off of defenses.
Blackshire missed his first season at Duncanville an ACL injury. This fall, he’ll play beside 2022 standout Jordan Crook and SMU commitment Jadarius Thursby and in front of a massive defensive line featuring four-star Omari Abor and Rivals100 tackle Savion Byrd. Blackshire could be in store for a colossal campaign.
5. Who could add a fourth star?
The quest for a fourth star in the South Central includes a trio of talented running backs and several pass-catchers, athletic linebackers and high-upside linemen.
Tavierre Dunlap, Logan Diggs and AJ Green open the conversation as potential risers at the running back position. Dunlap boasts 4.6 speed with a 6-foot, 200-pound frame. He can run between the tackles, outside and contribute in the passing game. Diggs enjoyed a breakout campaign for Division I state champion Rummel last year and is another all-purpose back that never has to leave the field. He’ll be featured this fall and we’re anxious to see what comes of it. Green, an Arkansas pledge, was originally evaluated as an athlete that could play corner or running back at a Power 5 level. Now that his future is in the backfield, we’re anxious to see what comes of his speed, lateral quickness and ability to make plays in space.
Andrew Mukuba saw his offer sheet swell up after a strong junior season in the Lyndon B. Johnson secondary. He can hit, he can cover and he can cover a ton of ground in a short period of time. With McCutchin back healthy, we’re anxious to see what Mukuba can do as a playmaking safety.
J. Michael Sturdivant is a big-framed pass-catcher that can stretch the field vertically and make a ton of plays in between the numbers and with the ball in his hands. He showed great chemistry with his quarterback, Nussmeier, last fall, and the two could make a lot of noise again in 2020. Landen King, a one-time Texas pledge that’s since landed with Auburn, will be the focal point of Atasocicta’s passing game. He’s an athletic tight end that flexes out and can make plays at multiple levels.
Linebackers Terrence Cooks and Morice Blackwell are two of the most athletic linebackers in the nation. Blackwell, a Longhorns commitment, is a stout run defender with excellent sideline-to-sideline speed and the ability to make plays in coverage. The same goes for Cooks, who turned heads at RCS Houston earlier this spring. He could be in store for his best season to date.
Lastly, we’ll have eyes on Texas A&M commitment Matthew Wykoff. Wykoff surrender only one sack last fall and anchored an offensive line that produced 3,000-plus yards rushing. He’s been active this offseason. Baylor commitment Connor Heffernan plays with a chip on his shoulder. He plays multiple positions and has tremendous upside as an interior lineman.