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Spiegelman's Notebook: Closing the door on November

Saivion Jones
Saivion Jones (Sam Spiegelman)

Rivals regional analyst Sam Spiegelman spent the latter part of November in Louisiana and then two more days in the Dallas area checking out some (potential) five-stars and prospects committed to Texas, Oklahoma, Stanford, LSU, Boise State, Miami, SMU, Houston, Tulsa and San Diego State.

Spiegelman takes a look back at his last four games covered with some major takeaways, a stock report and new prospects that caught his eye.

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CLASS OF 2021 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team | State

CLASS OF 2022 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team | State

COVERAGE: Rivals Transfer Tracker | Rivals Camp Series

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St. James vs. E.D. White

It's been an atypical offseason, but one that led St. James into hosting a virtual college combine back in the summertime that had its top two FBS prospects -- Saivion Jones and Shazz Preston -- run 40-yard dashes. Jones, a Rivals250 defensive end committed to LSU, clocked a 4.55 while Preston, a Rivals100 wide receiver, turned in a 4.45.

Now, take the electrifying track times and pair it with strong efforts on the field in a district-sealing performance.

Jones was a man on a mission for St. James playing on the edge against a run-dominated offense featuring multiple players in the backfield on a given play. Jones was explosive off the ball and consistently disrupted E.D. White's rhythm running the rock with his length and ability to get penetration in a hurry.

Jones notched multiple sacks and tackles behind the line of scrimmage and also blocked a punt and returned it for six in the first half. He was dominant and flashed his most dominant performance to date. He's a prospect whose game centers on raw potential, but as his senior year nears an end the LSU commitment seemingly has put it together. Jones has notched double-digit sacks each of the past three years and further established himself as one of the premiere edge-rushers in the South.

His teammate, Preston, was featured heavily on offense making plays downfield in the passing attack and also as a possession receiver capable of moving the chains. Despite the extraordinary 40 time in the summertime, Preston's big plays came as a result of contested catches downfield, showing off his ability to battle through contact and make difficult grabs on a consistent basis.

Preston was equally impressive as a route-runner, getting enough separation in and out of his breaks, and then showing off his offseason work in the weight room to keep the chains moving and find holes in the defense.

Denison vs. Frisco Liberty

Liberty was without its star 2022 wide receiver Evan Stewart, who missed the game with a minor injury but is expected to return to the lineup as early as this week or the postseason. Stewart is a Rivals100 prospect having a stellar junior campaign as the focal point of Liberty's passing attack, especially as it pertains to big-play potential.

Fellow junior Jadarian Price, a Rivals250 all-purpose back, is healthy in 2020 and while the Denison staff is keeping his snap count low, it didn't prevent Price from putting his touch on the game's outcome.

Price, who battled injuries last year, is playing healthy -- and the difference is clear. Price, who possesses great straight-line speed, was quick enough to get around the edge for long gains. Being the focal point of the Denison offense drew plenty of attention from the defense, but Price responded with the ability to run through contact and at times, continue to push the pile forward.

Price has shown in different settings that he's a playmaker with the ball in his hands in space and can be a difference-maker as a pass-catcher out of the backfield, too. Stanford, Texas and Oklahoma State have emerged as favorites.

Frisco Independence vs. Denton Ryan

A first look at Miami tight end commitment Elijah Arroyo should get Hurricanes fans excited about the future of the offense. Miami has a storied history of churning out talented NFL tight ends and Arroyo brings that same sort of talent.

At 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, Arroyo is still a bit raw as a route-runner and needs to continue to work on his hands. However, he's a natural athlete and he's dynamic on the receiving end. Arroyo's best two plays came on a one-handed grab falling down in the end zone and then a pass just shy of the goal line in which he tried to power his way into paydirt. Both were contested passes that Arroyo battled for.

There's a lot to like here and even more to be excited about. Of course, Arroyo has some room to polish up aspects of his game that'll only come with more experience.

One of the defenders tasked with slowing down Arroyo was recent Oklahoma commitment Billy Bowman Jr., who maintained his perch as the No. 1 athlete in the country on Rivals. Bowman was excellent on both sides of the ball playing cornerback and receiver.

Part of the reason why Bowman chose Oklahoma was the opportunity to be used in offensive packages, which is exactly how Ryan creates mismatches. Bowman, facing double-teams throughout the game, was the most effective when he had the ball in space and he could navigate in the open field as he does in return duties.

Personally, I have always been partial to Bowman playing defensive back at the next level. He was one of a few Ryan defensive backs to shadow Arroyo. He was able to be physical with receivers and used the boundary to his advantage. He also has elite anticipation and the closing speed to match, so when the Ryan defensive front got pressure, Bowman jumped a pass along the sidelines and returned it for a score.

Bowman is a Rivals100 talent just like teammate Ja'Tavion Sanders, one of the foundational pieces left in Tom Herman's 2021 recruiting class at Texas. Sanders, who consistently makes plays as an edge-rusher and pass-catcher for Ryan on a week-to-week basis, is putting himself into the five-star conversation as he continues to develop as a pass-rusher.

Sanders flashed his speed running downfield, getting easy separation for a throw-and-catch from Memphis quarterback pledge Seth Henigan for six. Sanders also took a slant and muscled his way into the end zone. That physicality was evident against Sanders -- who lined up in the Wild Cat like Denton Ryan did with Alabama freshman Drew Sanders a year ago -- stiff-armed the defender in his path for another score.

From a pass-rush perspective, Sanders is enormously explosive off the line and has noticeable speed from a wide-9 spot. The biggest challenge is his motor, but that's expected from most pass-rushers, especially those that play both ways for their teams. Sanders' blend of speed, length and an increasing appetite for physicality has him amongst the best in the country.

Moving onto the underclassmen, November has marked the return of Rivals100 defensive tackle Keithian Alexander to the Ryan lineup. Alexander, who is on his third school in as many years, is playing varsity ball again for the first time in two-plus seasons, and he hasn't missed a beat.

Alexander didn't start, but was a heavy part of the defensive line rotation. He was active with a consistent motor and proved to be nearly unblockable. Alexander used a long-arm approach to get to the quarterback or force errant throws -- one that eventually led to Bowman's pick-six. Alexander kept his legs churning and the motor for this 300-pounder is unreal.

Fighting double-teams for much of the evening, Alexander broke through to make a handful of tackles, flashing short-area quickness on a few runs up the gut. In spite of the size, Alexander is slippery and too quick to contain routinely. He packs twitch and suddenness and he's extremely reactive. He's undoubtedly a five-star candidate.

South Oak Cliff vs. Dallas Kimball

Stanford cornerback commitment Jimmy Wyrick wound up taking over this game in a dominant performance by South Oak Cliff. Wyrick, who is the elder statesman in a loaded young secondary, made a pair of pass breakups, including defending 6-foot-5 Kyron Henderson on a jump-ball in the end zone and then closing on a pass in front of him.

Wyrick was excellent in coverage and kept any passes thrown his direction in front of him throughout the game. He's a tactician and sound in coverage. He's also a sure tackler that came up to the line and made stops out in the flat on multiple instances. Wyrick also had two long punt returns, including a 35-yarder in which he let bounce and then caught the coverage unit sleeping as he raced past a host of defenders for the special teams score.

Boise State linebacker commitment Jai Jones has been the enforcer for this South Oak Cliff defense and despite lacking height, Jones plays downhill with speed to roam sideline-to-sideline. He puts himself in position to fill up the box score with tackles.

On Kimball's side, it was an underwhelming effort from Rivals250 cornerback Ishmael Ibraheem, who was rarely tested on defense and did not contribute much on offense either. The Texas pledge is one of the best coverage corners in the state, but was reduced to a second line of defense in this one.

Stock Report

... Class of 2022 lineman Dameon Smallwood flashed glimpses of why programs such as North Texas and New Mexico have extended early offers. While he's listed as a defensive tackle, Smallwood shined on the offensive line, blocking tough at the goal line and taking on multiple defenders on occasion. He's powerful enough to move people off the ball, but effort needs to be more consistent.

... Recent Tulsa quarterback commitment Braylon Braxton faced arguably the most talented defense he'll come across this season in Ryan and the pressure up front threw him for a curve. Braxton was under duress throughout the night, but came up with some impressive darts. He has good arm strength and is capable of delivering accurate, catchable balls.

... I've grown more and more impressed by Memphis quarterback pledge Seth Henigan, who has quietly but effectively kept this offense scoring with the best in-state. Henigan is an excellent decision-maker who sees the field well and can attack weaknesses downfield or in between the numbers.

... Austin Jordan sits on the cusp of a fourth star as one of the best defensive backs in the Lone Star State for 2022. Jordan saw snaps across from the 6-foot-5 Arroyo, a tall task to say the least, but he was up for it. He has track speed, but also fantastic closing speed and flies to the football. He plays with a ton of confidence at cornerback and inside in the slot.

... Class of 2023 Ryan linebacker Anthony Hill is proving to be one of the best prospects at his position statewide regardless of classification. The sophomore has carved out a starting role on Ryan's talent-laden defense. He can roam sideline to sideline with great speed for a 6-foot-2, 220-pounder and nearly picked off a pass in coverage. He's young, but Hill has established himself as an impact player.

... Class of 2021 Ryan running back Ke'ori Hicks shouldn't be a sleeper any longer. He's been a driving force in this offense and is fantastic at earning yards after contact. At 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds, Hicks certainly has Division I skills.

... Class of 2021 San Diego State commitment Cam Davis was dynamic every time he touched the rock. The all-purpose back was explosive around the edge and gave the Kimball defense fits. He's slippery with big-play potential. Being 5-foot-8, comparisons to Darren Sproles seem fitting.

... Class of 2023 South Oak Cliff edge-defender Billy Walton is going to be a force to watch over the next few seasons. He's a high-energy defender that was a sure tackler in the open field and got after the quarterback. Kansas is an early offer.

... Another 2023 defender for South Oak Cliff is safety Lamodrick Spencer, who was physical playing down in the box and wrapping up ball-carriers in the flat. Kansas has also offered early on.

... Class of 2022 Kimball wide receiver Kyron Henderson provided a few sparks in a shutout, making the most of few opportunities. At 6-foot-5 and 180 pounds, Henderson is a massive target and made several contested catches on 50-50 balls downfield. With better quarterback play, Henderson has a ton of upside in the passing game.

... SMU running back commitment Brandon Epton wasn't left with much room to run, but flashed on special teams handling kickoff return duties and some action before falling behind on the scoreboard. Epton changes direction well, but was a main focal point of a talented South Oak Cliff defense.

...Class of 2023 South Oak Cliff wide receiver Randy Reece was on the receiving end of a pair of touchdown tosses. Reece made some contested catches and was able to quickly accelerate past a host of defenders for a score. He was also electric on a bubble screen. He's dangerous with the ball in his hands. Kansas and Illinois State are early overtures.

... Class of 2023 South Oak Cliff cornerback Malik Muhammad wasn't challenged much in the passing game -- for obvious reasons. The sophomore defensive back is a tall, lean 6-foot, 170 pounds, and certainly looks the part already. Muhammad made a concerted effort to slow down Kimball's rushing attack and also had a pass breakup.

New Profiles

... Class of 2023 Denton Ryan offensive lineman Kolt De La Torre has found a home manning the middle of the Raiders' offensive line. The sophomore has bloodlines linking him to Texas. At 6-foot-2 and 275 pounds, he was paving running lanes and executing pancakes in space and equally as solid in pass-pro.

... Another sophomore from Ryan that shined was 2023 receiver Jaydon Bailey. The sophomore is a good route-runner and made a big reception running up the seam. Bailey also made defenders miss when he was in space. He'll be someone to watch as he takes on more volume in this offense in years to come.

... Class of 2021 South Oak Cliff wide receiver Corey Flowers replaced injured Arizona State outside linebacker commitment Jaydon Williams in the lineup vs. Kimball, and wasted no time showing off his abilities as a pass-rusher. Like Williams, another converted wideout that found a home on defense, Flowers' length (6-foot-4, 215 pounds) and speed showed up putting pressure on the quarterback and his length to alter passing lanes. He's a tempting sleeper to know.

... 2022 South Oak Cliff quarterback Kevin Henry-Jennings impressed in stints in the Bears' convincing rout of Kimball. He's very mobile and can make throws on the move well. For a junior, he maintained poise and consistently made wise decisions throwing the ball. He finished 13-of-15 for 184 yards and two passing touchdowns.