2011 Texas commit Jaxon Shipley throws his Horns up at the Texas 7-on-7 State Championship (photo by the author).
Jaxon Shipley, Brownwood wide receiver: Jordan's younger brother and Case McCoy's future roommate at Texas appears ready to step out of the considerable shadow cast by his brother. Now standing at a legitimate 6-1 and a much more chiseled 180 pounds (up about 12 pounds from last season), Shipley has grown and filled out over the last year and his body is starting to look college-ready.
What has been ready for some time has been his route-running -- his ability to create separation is nationally elite and a result of not only running crisp routes, but also selling his routes with his head and shoulders, something that few receivers of his age do well. It's a result of a lot of hard work and the tutelage of both his father, the coach at Brownwood, and his brother, with whom he works constantly on all the subtle aspects of the position.
Like his brother, his double moves are virtually unstoppable and his height allows him to go up and high-point the football in traffic, while his strong hands allow him to bring the ball down more often than not. As with the rest of his game, he catches every pass with his hands and attacks the football each and every time. Not once did he let the ball get into his body.
Shipley inspires such a high level of confidence in his play that it was extremely surprising when he wasn't able to come down with a football in traffic, which rarely happened. Judging by his reactions, the Brownwood star expects to make every play possible, too.
His speed is not his greatest asset and he's still not as fast or dynamic with the ball in his hands as his brother was at the same age, but he's more advanced as an overall wide receiver and his added height makes him an easier target. And frankly, though faster receivers may be able to get open more often on fly routes, Shipley can consistently beat his man because he doesn't reveal what route he is running until he has eaten up the defensive back's cushion and at that point, only the most elite defensive back would even have a chance against him. All that is not to say that he isn't a strong athlete, because he is and his improvements in that respect over the last year reflect that.
In a word, Shipley was simply unstoppable and one of the top players at the entire event regardless of classification. He averaged about three or four touchdown catches a game and it's not a stretch to guess that he scored 25 or more touchdowns in the two days he competed. HIs showing at the tournament may help him make a greater impact on the national scene and adds fuel to the argument that he is the best receiver in the state, but ultimately none of the rankings or accolades matter because it's impossible to fault the Texas coaching staff for taking Shipley above Trey Metoyer.
In talking with him at the event and watching the way that he goes about his business, it's clear that he's every bit the solid citizen that his brother was and that he will represent the University of Texas every bit as well. An extremely likeable kid with a quick smile, it was impossible not to come away from College Station as an absolute Jaxon Shipley fan. He's going to be fantastic, folks.
David Ash, Belton quarterback: Belton didn't have one of the stronger teams in the tournament, but managed to make it out of pool play and into the championship division, where they had the unfortunate luck to match up against the most talented team at the event in the first round of the winner's bracket, Dallas-area powerhouse DeSoto.
The loss ended their Saturday early, but Ash was impressive at the event. Between 6-2 and 6-3 and 215 pounds, Ash was physically the best-looking quarterback there and has clearly spent a significant amount of time in the weight room. More so than Colt McCoy, Garrett Gilbert, or Connor Wood, Ash looks physically ready to play the quarterback position in college and the hope is that his increased strength will help him become more durable after losing much of his junior season to injury.
In terms of throwing the football, Ash can make all the throws with ease, showing the arm strength to zip the ball into tight windows, but also the ability to change speeds and throw with touch. However, like most quarterbacks his age, Ash could improve on his accuracy, though it falls under the category of something every quarterback could stand to improve, regardless of level. His mechanics are sound and clean and his arm strength was the most impressive of any quarterback at the competition -- it's not like he sprays the ball around without knowing where it's headed.
The major concern, and it could have been a result of his receivers consistently failing to create separation, was that Ash was often forcing throws and it resulted in a relatively high number of interceptions, including three during his first game on Thursday. He has strong chemistry with fellow senior Adrian Henderson and doesn't seem to trust his other receivers much and probably with good reason. It probably won't be until he gets on the field in college that his ability to go through his reads could accurately be measured. Either that or a combine setting or all-star game.
There's potential for Ash to raise his stock by staying healthy and showing the same potential he has shown in 7-on-7 on the field on Friday nights this fall and it will be intriguing to watch how his increased strength will translate. The thought here is that Ash is in line to put himself right back in that discussion with JW Walsh as the top Texas quarterback in his class.
Kendall Thompson, Carthage linebacker: The format is not conducive to properly evaluate linebackers, but Thompson did show that he is in excellent shape at 225 pounds, having lost some of his baby fat from last season. Like almost every kid his age, Thompson still has some room to grow and, like Ash, looks physically ready to compete in college. Right now, it looks like he could still grow into a Buck position linebacker or remain at a pure linebacker position in college.
Thompson showed the ability to range sideline to sideline and the speed to track down running backs out of the backfield, not a small feat for someone of his size. His experience playing Cover 2 during the season helps him in this event and he looked fluid in coverage, demonstrated by several interceptions over the course of play, including one that he took back for a touchdown.
There's no question that Thompson is primed for a monster senior season that could see him rack up close to 200 tackles and Carthage once again looks positioned to compete for a state championship.