MESQUITE, Texas - In a match-up between a pair of returning Texas 5A state quarter-finalists it should have come as no surprise that there was a ton of talent on display when Mesquite (Texas) Horn and Coppell. But when you consider the laundry list of prospects the two schools sent off to college football following last year's deep playoff runs - names like Cam McDaniel, Bennett Okotcha, Jakeem Grant, Jacorey Shepherd, among many others no longer litter either team's roster.
However, in a true sign of well-coached and talent-rich programs their Thursday night battle proved there are plenty of new names to be learned.
Of course as with any game in the Lone Star State that features a pair of future Red River Rivalry combatants it's hard to start anywhere else when looking at players.
While future Longhorn Nick Jordan showed off a massive leg as both a kicker and a punter DeVante Harris also showed himself as a two-way talent in his own right. The 5-foot-11 cornerback looks to have added some weight to his previously 160-pound frame and not surprisingly he was overly physical and drove one receiver after another into the boundary and completely out of the play.
While Harris is just now developing signs of the frame and strength he'll need to excel at the college level it's his long arms that make him a nightmare for opposing receivers. Not only do they enable him to get into passing lanes where others his size might not but in his favored press coverage he can get his hands on the opposing receiver before they can begin to fight him off.
He was rarely challenged and allowed only one completion on the night but was frequently eyed by Coppell quarterback Jake Larson who would often find that his primary receiver was covered by Harris and wisely elected to look elsewhere for a completion.
Often where he found himself looking was to 2013 wide receiver/safety prospect Jacob Logan.
The 5-foot-9, 175-pound prospect had made himself known as a potential safety prospect but after nine catches for 157-yards and four carries for 21-yards it's safe to say that some schools may find him worth of a look on the offensive side of the ball. Logan is something of a jack-of-all-trades who shows ability in all facets but may not be overwhelming in any particular aspect of his game. He is somewhat reminiscent of current Houston Cougar Bryce Beall in his multi-faceted game though he may have a little more ability to shake a defender in the open field than the former Tatum star.
"I thought I would play well, but I didn't expect to have a game like that. Really I don't care what my numbers are so long as we get the win," Logan said afterward.
Talent in the Trenches
While there was talent all over the field it's hard to deny it was on the line of scrimmage where both teams showed off plenty of college potential.
No player better embodied that high-ceiling ability than Coppell sophomore defensive end Solomon Thomas who relentlessly pursued Horn's talented sophomore quarterback Destri White from start to finish. If not for White's impressive athleticism Thomas might have logged an impressive amount of sacks for anyone, much less a player making his first high school start.
Thomas is every bit of 6-foot-3, and 235-pounds and celebrated his birthday No. 16 with his first high school start and the true emergence into a well-known name in recruiting circles. Thomas still has a lot of work to do as right now he is a raw player that simply overwhelms blockers physically but the tools are there for him to become a special player in the class of 2014.
Joining him on the Coppell defensive line is junior defensive end William Udeh who was equally as impressive on the hoof and at times was a similar terror for the Horn offensive line to deal with but thanks to the work of Jacob Brocker Horn did a much better job of dealing with the older defensive end. Udeh is one to keep an eye on but as he gets older and his size becomes less of an advantage he'll have to learn that his motor will have to make up the difference.
As mentioned Brocker had a solid outing and though a bit overmatched physically by Udeh he did a great job of keeping his feet moving and slowing down the big Coppell defensive end on his way to the quarterback. At 6-foot-5 and 240-pounds with good feet and an obviously lean frame, it's very likely that Brocker's best football is in front of him.
Brocker's game may be predicated on agility and quickness but his line mate Erick Wren makes his hay bodying up on defenders and trying to drive them out of the play. Now with a somewhat unique blocking system and the Cowboys use of a three-man front he spent a lot more time blocking on angles which may be just what the 6-foot-2, 320-pound prospect needs as continues to address his footwork, overall agility, and athleticism.
It's not coincidence that as the game wore on Coppell's offensive line began to create more and more funning lanes after spending the first two quarters completely stalemated. A big part of that success was their pair of senior bookend tackles Sam Rice and Jake Williams. Rice is an offensive tackle that moves his feet well and could have a future as a right tackle in the college game but to the liking of many college coaches he also has the frame to bulk up and become an interior player and quite possibly a very successful one.
Meanwhile Williams is a mauling guard but would surprise most with his ability to move his feet laterally with various defenders. Unlike Rice he is almost certainly an interior player in the college game and as his senior year goes it's likely he'll start picking up some offers in that role.
An Electrifying Backfield
Though they only managed seven points against Coppell's solid defensive unit the sophomore combination of White and Justyn Oliphant is a tandem that will give many defenses headaches in the coming games and seasons. White is a somewhat undersized quarterback who has a nice release and great athleticism, if he grows - as many think he has a chance to do - he could turn into a star at the position in the right offense and if not his athleticism will provide him many chances to excel elsewhere.
Meanwhile Oliphant is a player with great burst and plenty of top end speed that he showed off on his 24-yard touchdown run to open the game's scoring. Oliphant will need to keep adding weight to work on becoming a more complete back between the tackles however his quick feet, good speed and ability to create space for himself in the open field make him a name that will need to be remembered in the coming years.
* David Busby already holds offers from Navy and Utah but watching him move around it's pretty clear he isn't getting the attention he is due as he is considerably reminiscent of former Sooner Darien Williams. Busby is a safety type all the way but moves around well and isn't afraid to mix it up with the biggest of tight ends.
* And nowhere was that willingness more visible than on Thursday night as he faced one of the Dallas area's best kept secrets, Horn's Vincent Hobbs. The big man is just a hair under 6-foot-4, and roughly 230-pounds and runs as well as most of his receivers. He is still refining his game and for a tight end he'll need to get more comfortable finding soft spots in zone coverage. His three catches didn't allow much of a chance to see what his hands were all about but it is worth noting the three catches were the only three times he was targeted.
* Finally a name to file away is Coppell sophomore Gavin McDaniel, younger brother of 2011 Notre Dame signing Cam McDaniel. The younger McDaniel isn't yet the dominant force his brother became but did look elusive on a couple of kick returns as well as on his only carry of the night, a 25-yard dash.