Takeaways from Texas state championship games
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Just as the Early Signing Period revved up, so did state championship games in the Lone Star State.
There was talent all over the field throughout the week at AT&T Stadium culminating with a historic Saturday with three very tightly contested games. Rivals.com National Recruiting Analyst Sam Spiegelman was on hand for the games throughout the week.
Here are his takeaways from the games, thoughts on some known recruits or those surfacing on the big stage, as well as recruiting buzz along the way.
KLUBNIK ETCHES HIS NAME AMONG ALL-TIME BEST
There is no stage bigger than the Texas high school state championships. Cade Klubnik is accustomed to it and in his finale in Jerry's World, he provided one more memorable performance to further pad his legacy.
After a modest first half in which he threw a touchdown and a pick, Klubnik tossed three second-half touchdowns and finished 14-of-21 for 279 yards with four touchdowns in arguably his most difficult matchup against a blitzing Denton Guyer front with four Power 5 defenders on the back end in coverage.
That's three championships for Klubnik, who caps a two-year run as the Chaps' starter as the storied program's all-time leading passer in yardage and touchdowns. He's the first-ever Westlake signal-caller to eclipse 7,000 yards passing in his career. In that span, Westlake has beaten opponents by 50 points per game and Klubnik has completed better than 69-percent of his passes with another 1,000 yards and 27 touchdowns rushing.
The ascent of Klubnik over the past two-plus years has been an absolutely remarkable journey -- one that's vaulted the five-star Clemson signee to not only the No. 1 quarterback in Texas over Texas A&M signee Connor Weigman but tops in the country ahead of Walker Howard (LSU), Ty Simpson (Alabama) and Devin Brown (Ohio State).
Stats are impressive, sure, and Klubnik's skill-set, resume and surefire ability to overcome adversity are as good as it gets. He has an outstanding vision of the field and can place the ball anywhere with conviction. He plays with poise and has underrated athleticism to extend plays and take off and run. Klubnik overcame a talented Quinn Ewers-led Southlake Carroll squad in the 6A title game a year ago a week removed from a separated shoulder. He took home MVP honors in that tilt just as he did at the Elite 11 last summer and had a compelling case after overcoming his first halftime deficit of the season in Westlake's comeback win.
Klubnik has an infectious personality with immense leadership qualities and an unrivaled work ethic. He checks every box as far as intangibles go. This type of player at this position certainly belongs in the conversation for No. 1 overall.
ARROW UP ON QB1 ARNOLD
Denton Guyer held a one-point advantage on defending champion Westlake at halftime largely in part to the play of its talented secondary as well as its do-it-all playmaker at quarterback Jackson Arnold. After an in-person evaluation during the season, Arnold debuted in the Rivals250 as the No. 1 junior passer in the Lone Star State. After a near-heroic effort in the 6A state championship game, Arnold only cemented his place.
Arnold was under duress throughout the contest with Westlake's pair of 6-foot-7 edge-rushers and a fiery interior rush from the interior as well. Arnold was on the move for much of the evening with 32 carries for 56 yards, including two scampers into the end zone which kept Guyer in range for much of the game.
In spite of the pressure, Arnold completed 18-of-27 passes for 183 yards and another touchdown. He was sacked all of nine times but unsurprisingly continued to get up and try to find holes in the Chaps' defense. Notre Dame, Ole Miss and TCU have long been in pursuit of the four-star Dallas quarterback, but Ohio State and Oklahoma are two other programs to watch -- and more offers might be coming for this gamer.
BROOKS BOASTS HIGH-END UPSIDE ON BOTH SIDES OF THE BALL
After a long-winding Wednesday headlined by the start of the Early Signing Period, Rivals100 junior athlete Dalton Brooks provided the nightcap with a hat-trick as Shiner repeated as Class 2A Division I champs. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound hybrid playmaker piled up more than 250 yards from scrimmage, including 194 on the ground with three scores, also added three receptions for 63 yards and added five more tackles and an interception in the win.
Brooks is actively being recruited by schools within Texas and prominent programs out-of-state. Texas, Texas A&M and Houston are all after the four-star and the Cougars are also in play with his older brother, Douglas Brooks, an athletic interior defensive lineman who plays downhill and is mean-spirited albeit a bit undersized.
With speed, length and outstanding ball skills, Brooks could be a high-level receiver or cornerback. As a runner, he's deceptively strong and can break tackles which make for yards-after-the-catch opportunities. Defensively, he's instinctual in coverage with size and a nose for the ball. He's a willing tackler. Michigan, Ole Miss and Alabama are all out-of-state programs in the mix.
2025 QB BAILEY IN RARIFIED AIR
North Shore's recent run of state championships was largely a credit to one of the state's most decorated quarterbacks Dematrius Davis, who as a freshman engineered the Mustangs to the promised land with a savvy group of playmakers around him.
Kaleb Bailey has picked up right where Daivs left off.
The freshman quarterback split snaps early on this fall, but was handed the reins for district play. North Shore hasn't lost since.
Bailey may be learning on the job, but he's an outstanding athlete capable of extending plays and creating opportunities for him to find receivers or pick up yardage with his legs. North Shore coaches have been careful not to much too much on the freshman's plate. He had 13 attempts against Duncanville, the biggest and most talented front seven Bailey has seen this season.
The Class of 2025 standout was on the move for most of the game, but stands and delivers the ball with authority and accuracy, and balances his playmaking skills with careful decision-making and the safety net to improvise. He's extremely agile and tough as witnessed on several well-earned first-down runs.
On top of everything else, Bailey delivered in the biggest moment -- a 39-yard game-winning connection to 2023 receiver David Amador to give the Mustangs a 17-10 lead with less than 3 minutes to play. The game's unquestioned MVP was clutch and played beyond his years with an efficient 10-of-13 passing for 107 yards, two touchdowns and another 54 yards on the ground.
SOUTH OAK CLIFF HAS ELITE CROP OF UNDERCLASSMEN
South Oak Cliff made history for Dallas ISD with the first state championship in more than half a century. A look at the roster for the Metroplex power and it should come as no shock.
Besides senior standouts on offense in SMU signee Kevin Henry-Jennings and North Texas-bound Qualon Farrar, South Oak Cliff is built on its defense. Largely, that group is set to return and could possibly vault these Bears right back to AT&T this time next year.
Class of 2024 athlete Jamryi Cauley, better known as SOC's Wild Man, has found a home at receiver making uber-athletic plays and offering playmaking ability after the catch from the physically gifted 6-foot-3, 200-plus-pound sophomore. However, Cauley possesses outstanding traits that could allow him to be one of the most devastating defenders in the country. He holds a double-digit offer list and recently added Texas. More will follow.
Four-star cornerback Jayvon Thomas headlined valiant efforts from the South Oak Cliff secondary in slowing down Liberty Hill's slot-T attack. The well-built defensive back is closer to 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, and certainly physical enough to also see action at safety, was excellent defending against the outside runs. He also chased down a runner at the 1 to prevent a touchdown before halftime. Texas and Oklahoma State are teams in pursuit. Rivals100 cornerback Malik Muhammad has excellent range and a willingness to defend the run.
THE HOUSE THAT GREATHOUSE BUILT
Jaden Greathouse quietly had four catches for 36 yards during Westlake's championship run in 2019, but he became a household name 11 months ago when he eclipsed 100 yards with a touchdown as Klubnik's go-to target since taking over as QB1. That chemistry has only strengthened with time culminating in 7 more receptions for 236 yards and three touchdowns against Guyer's talented defense. His three touchdowns and yardage total are both UIL records.
The Rivals100 wide receiver did it with an array of different skills. He flashed the vertical speed downfield with touchdowns of 69, 62 and 71 yards, and also caught a 50-50 ball and broke loose. Greathouse, also an outstanding basketball player, has elite ball skills and is explosive with the ball in his hands. He's severely underrated as the nation's No. 15 receiver.
ABOR, SIMMONS APPLY PRESSURE IN LOSS
After battling injuries for part of the season, Omari Abor found his stride during Duncanville's playoff run culminating in one of his most promising performances on the biggest stage. The Rivals100 defensive end piled up 7 tackles, including 2.5 for loss, and notched 1.5 sacks and even more pressure off the edge against a well-sized North Shore offensive line and an elusive quarterback.
Abor beat double-teams and just manhandled opposing linemen at times. He played full-speed ahead getting off the line in a hurry and closing quickly. He was solid in backside protection and hustling to the sideline to make a stop. One of the nation's top uncommitted players, Abor set to make a decision at the All-American Bowl on Jan. 8. He rocked Texas gloves and the Longhorns might have momentum with four-star also considering Ohio State.
Duncanville has another elite edge-defender developing opposite Abor in 2024 standout Colin Simmons, who is every bit of 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds flying off the line and always finds his way near the football. Simmons is raw but possesses a ton of upside. He's a candidate to make a major leap into next year. Texas, TCU and Texas Tech are among early offers for the sophomore.
RECENT TEXAS FLIP BURKE HIGHLIGHTS ANOTHER 1-2 PUNCH
The Longhorns made a splash on Wednesday flipping local defensive end Ethan Burke away from Michigan. Burke gave the hometown crowd plenty to look forward to in Jerry's World.
The 6-foot-7, 235-pound Burke mustered two sacks and five tackles, including three for loss in Westlake's threepeat. The newest Texas signee flew off the edge and applied pressure on the mobile quarterback throughout. He deflected a pass and closed in a hurry. He's taken his game to new heights in a hurry.
Burke has a battery mate built in the same mold opposite him in Colton Vasek, the game's Defensive MVP following a three-sack effort. Like Burke, Vasek can get off the line rapidly and closes even faster. Texas Tech offered the defensive end after the game and more will follow. Fellow 2023 lineman Nate Weyand Jr. was also productive inside.
HARRIS MAKES THE CASE AS CB1
This time a year ago, Denver Harris suffered a torn ACL during the semifinals; one of the nation's best defensive backs was forced to watch from the sidelines North Shore's bid for a third consecutive title came to an end.
Since returning as a starter in November, the recent Texas A&M signee hasn't missed a beat. In the semifinals, he shadowed Ohio State signee Caleb Burton with success. He came up to slow down the Duncanville run game throughout the contest and was efficient in coverage, especially as time wound down. Harris, who boasts sub 4.4 speed, is stellar on an island and brings a rare dose of physicality to the cornerback position. He has a chance to finish as this year's No. 1.
-- TCU signee Kyron Chambers is enormously physical and could also play safety. The same goes for recent Horned Frogs offer Abdul Muhammad, the game's Defensive MVP. Muhammad, Chambers and aforementioned Thomas combined for 24.5 tackles from the secondary against Liberty Hill.
-- Guyer's secondary is full of talent. Rivals100 cornerback Ryan Yaites had his handful with a lot of 1-on-1 showdowns with Greathouse and was physical and pesky contesting catches. He sported LSU gloves. RIvals100 safety Peyton Bowen covered a ton of ground against the run and in coverage. Notre Dame is a team trending with the four-star. Bowen's little brother, 2024 corner Eli Bowen, recorded another interception. He's a ballhawk with an early Colorado overture.
-- Indiana offensive line signee Bray Lynch was rock-solid in pass-pro. Florida State signee Jaylen Early had ups but also downs. Texas signee Cam Williams is built like a mountain and surprisingly light on his feet. He doesn't bend particularly well but is agile and powerful.
-- SMU signee Kevin Henry-Jennings is another stock-up player. He completed 12-of-23 passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns. He's decisive and also can improvise on the fly.
-- Franklin 2023 athlete Bryson Washington has a future at safety or running back. He's well-built at 6-foot-1 and 185-pounds that comes downhill. The same applies to running back; he's strong and a consistent second and third-effort runner. UTSA and Iowa State both recently offered. Oklahoma State might be be next.
-- College Station DT Connor Lingren deserves more attention from Power 5 teams in the Late Signing Period. He's every bit of 6-foot-5 and 290 pounds with room to add to his frame. He battles in the trenches and absorbs multiple blockers to key his defense. Arizona State recently offered.
-- College Station 2023 all-purpose back Marquise Collins is also a sparkplug in the backfield. He's quick-footed and a fantastic cut-back runner and elusive in the open field. He's a big-play threat every time he touches the ball -- and that includes the passing and return games. Vanderbilt offered during the playoff run.
-- Another 2023 recruit that emerged is Katy Paetow linebacker Alex Gilgore. He flies to the ball with urgency and likes to deliver some pop. That produced a team-leading 10 tackles and a fumble recovery. Arkansas State has offered.
-- Hawley athlete Diontay Ramon is another 2024 prospect to know. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound sophomore is a downhill runner and has a future playing off the edge.