The Greater Houston area is expected to produce more than 150 Division I athletes in 2008, but it could be more if some of the city's biggest sleepers have breakthrough seasons.
With the likes of national prospects such as J.B. Shugarts (Ohio State-commit), Sam McGuffie, Andrew Luck, Daniel Campbell, Damion Square, DeSean Hales and Darryl Stonum headlining the Houston recruiting scene, there are several other prospects who could receive Division I offers with good showings at summer camps and after early regular season success.
Defensive back Jordan Osborne (6-foot, 180 pounds) of The Woodlands had a tremendous spring and ran a sub-4.4 in the 40-yard dash at the Greater Houston Football Coaches Association combine in early May.
"He's played behind some Division I defensive backs," The Woodlands coach Mark Schmid said. "It is his time. He is very punishing hitter and can run. He's going to get some looks this summer and fall, but coaches are going to want to see him practice."
Also at The Woodlands is offensive lineman John Neill (6-foot-4, 285 pounds), who complements Highlander headliner Brandon Thompson. Neill is receiving significant interest from Division I-A and I-AA schools that have been on hand to see Thompson. Thompson was offered by Nebraska Thursday morning.
Katy Seven Lakes could have its first Division I athlete in only its second year of existence. Offensive lineman Matt Villanti (6-foot-3, 300 pounds) did 35 reps on the 185-pound bench press at the GHFCA combine in Houston and has impressed recruiters from Oklahoma State, Baylor and Rice. He will be at the Oklahoma State one-day camp in Houston next week and could receive an offer.
"Matt is the senior class president, meaning he has great leadership qualities," Seven Lakes coach Kevin O'Keefe said. "He's has great desire and is learning his position. He's always used his strength to push people around, now he's becoming a technician."
Cypress Creek had four Division I signees this past February and is hoping to have another in 2008. Offensive lineman Kenny Onwubuya (6-foot-4, 270 pounds) has a wing-span of someone 6-foot-8 and has drastically improved his strength. Louisiana Tech, Baylor, Tulsa, UTEP and Kansas State have all taken notice and are expected to closely track his development.
"Kenny will be a three-year starter and is a very smart player," Cy Creek coach Greg McCaig said. "We will spot him on defensive line also because he's so physical. He could end up playing defense in college."
Two of the area's best kept secrets are receivers Brandon Smith (6-foot-2, 195 pounds) of Cypress Ridge High School and Houston Sterling's Ronnie Williams (5-foot-11, 170 pounds).
Williams has brought recruiters back to the inner city Houston school in droves. The first-team, all-district pass-catcher had 750 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns as a junior, and also boasts a 3.7 grade-point-average and a 1,300 SAT score.
"He's a stud and schools from Oklahoma to UCLA have been here," Sterling coach Dwayne Colbert said. "He has great hands, speed, route-running abilities and creates separation. He plays safety, receiver and kick-returner for us and does it well."
Smith will have a breakout 2007 season with the development of 2009 star quarterback Russell Shepard. He combines size, speed, blocking and great hands, and will benefit from the residual recruitment of Shepard.
Two multi-sport athletes have also sparked the interest of recruiters passing through the Bayou City. Willowridge athlete Mark Ellis (6-foot-5, 210 pounds) will be a two-year starter, but his future is at receiver, tight end or defensive end. Ellis runs the option for the Eagles, which displays his athleticism.
"Marc starts for our basketball team and plays quarterback for us," Willowridge coach Darrell Scurlock said. "He has great grades and doesn't mind sticking his head down and getting physical. North Texas and SMU are very interested."
Getting back on the football field is tight end Emerson Herndon (6-foot-5, 235-pounds) at Worthing High School. Herndon also combines great grades with athleticism and has a brother who plays for Air Force.