The 2012 Texas high school football season is winding down with the U.I.L. playoffs going into the third round this weekend and most of the state championship games a mere three weeks away. The playoffs are a time when the superstars shine the brightest, such as when Cedric Benson and Johnathan Gray literally carried their teams to multiple state titles. But the playoffs can also be a stage for players who were previously little-known (especially underclassmen) to put themselves squarely on the recruiting map.
One such player who has shown up in a big way when his team needed him most and subsequently had his name spread through recruiting circles over the past few weeks is that of Sotonye Jamabo, popularly known as "Soso" for short. (If you thought Altee Tenpenny was the 1st team running back on the All-Name squad, you'll love Soso.)
He's only a sophomore and won't be signing a letter of intent for another 26 months, but he has made a lot of people very excited about his athletic future. If you haven't heard or read his name somewhere already this month, you undoubtedly will soon.
Standing at around 6'2" 190, Soso Jamabo lines up at running back for the Plano West Senior High Wolves. West has produced 3 NFL players since opening in 1999 (with Jackson Jeffcoat soon to be the fourth), but its football program hasn't experienced much in the way of postseason success. Before this season, the Wolves had never advanced beyond the 2nd round of the playoffs, and had not even reached that round since 2004. This year they are on an unprecedented run into the 3rd round, and much of that success is due to the recently spectacular work of young Soso Jamabo.
Coming into this school year Jamabo was known more for his basketball exploits than for football. His AAU team, the Texas Titans, includes two class of 2015 players who have already been awarded four stars by Rivals: Mickey Mitchell (whose older brother Mike you may have heard of) and King McClure. He had not played varsity football until this fall, but once the season began, he was off and running. The following is a recap of Soso Jamabo's sophomore season up to now.
He ran for 12 yards and a 1st down on Plano West's 2nd offensive play of the season. On the first play of West's second drive, Jamabo took the 2nd carry of his high school career 75 yards for a touchdown. Naturally, he followed this up by not touching the ball again until nearly four minutes into the 3rd quarter, but he had three more carries in the 4th quarter that went for 16 or more yards. He finished with 155 yards on 7 carries as West defeated Flower Mound Marcus 35-25.
Jamabo had a much tougher time in West's 2nd game, a 34-19 loss to Lake Highlands (home of 2013 Texas commit Kent Perkins). He ran for 12 yards on his first carry (again) and later scored West's first touchdown on a 41 yard run, but most of his carries for the rest of the game went for short gains or losses. With seconds remaining in the 2nd quarter and Lake Highlands holding a 21-7 lead, West faced 4th-and-1 on the LH 2 yard line. Jamabo got the carry and a chance to pull his team within a touchdown to end the half (with Lake Highlands due to receive the 2nd half kickoff), but was stopped for a loss. He was credited with 82 yards on 15 carries, but after scoring on the 1st quarter touchdown run, his last 11 carries netted a mere 32 yards.
The following week against South Garland he had 17 carries for 129 yards and a touchdown but effectively split carries with junior running back Auston Anderson in a 31-21 win. He had decent but far-from-spectacular production over the next three games, and did not lead his team in rushing yards in any of those games.
Jamabo was injured and did not play in a week 7 matchup with state-ranked Allen, a 47-25 loss that dropped West to an 0-2 record to start district play and left the Wolves needing to win their last three games to secure a playoff spot, or to win two of the three and hope to advance on a tiebreaker.
This is where Soso's stock began to really blow up. West kept their playoff hopes alive with a 64-36 drubbing of McKinney in week 8, a game in which Jamabo piled up 304 yards from scrimmage and 4 touchdowns on 16 offensive touches.
In week 9 against crosstown rival Plano Senior High, he had a 72 yard touchdown reception and ran for 131 yards and 2 touchdowns, the 2nd of which he scored with 25 seconds left in the game to give his team a 37-35 win.
In week 10 he put an exclamation mark on his regular season campaign with a 24 carry, 273 yard performance that included 2 touchdowns as Plano West defeated Plano East 47-28.
Having clinched a playoff berth, the Wolves faced a re-match in the 1st round with Lake Highlands, the team that had defeated them in their 2nd game. Jamabo was up to the challenge as he reached the end zone twice in the 1st quarter, again in the 2nd, and once more in the 3rd to put West ahead 35-14 with 8:44 remaining in the 3rd quarter. Lake Highlands proceeded to score three unanswered touchdowns to tie the game early in the 4th quarter. Jamabo answered by carrying the ball 6 times on West's ensuing drive and capping it off with his fifth touchdown of the game, a 5 yard run with 6:54 left in the contest. It ended up being the game-winning score as West won 42-35. In all he carried the ball 30 times for 175 yards.
West's 2nd round game presented another re-match, this one with their game 3 opponent South Garland. Once again Jamabo was the star of the game, rushing for 170 yards on 18 carries and scoring 5 TDs for the 2nd time in as many weeks. Eight of his carries came in the 4th quarter, the final one was a clutch 28 yard touchdown run on 4th and 5 to give West a 10-point cushion with 2:29 left in the game. The Wolves defeated South Garland by 10 (again), 38-28, and will play Lufkin at 2:00 this Saturday in Waco.
In the 5 games Soso Jamabo has played since sitting out the week 7 loss to Allen, he has carried the ball 106 times for 868 yards (8.2 yards/carry) and 16 touchdowns while adding 9 receptions for 332 yards (36.9 yards/catch) and 3 touchdowns. He has scored roughly 80% of his touchdowns this season during those 5 games. The Dallas Morning News's SportsDay HS page for Plano West has these season totals for him: 189 carries for 1,458 yards and 21 TDs, and 17 receptions for 431 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Those stats have earned him a lot of online buzz in the recruitoverse and headlines in the local sports pages. In a recent communication I had with the head coach of a team that played Plano West this season, I asked him about Jamabo. His answer was brief but on point: "He is a big physical kid and has deceptive speed."
Jamabo's frame, running style and basketball skills lead Metroplex high school reporter David McNabb to compare him with Eric Dickerson, Adrian Peterson, and Kyrie Irving in the same article! According to that article, Jamabo was voted Offensive Newcomer of the Year by the coaches of District 10-5A. That honor is likely the first of many he'll receive in the next two years.
College football coaches have also taken notice of him, and several recruiting writers and bloggers have reported that Texas A&M and Ohio State (among others) have sent coaches to watch him in person over the last two weeks.
Jamabo was already a known name in basketball circles before he exploded onto the football scene over the past few weeks, and legitimate arguments will be had over which of the two is his best sport. For now he still has at least one game left before he exchanges his cleats for basketball sneakers. It will be interesting to see if he dominates the district competition on the hardwood the same way he has on the gridiron.
As for who his favorite schools are, at this point it's anyone's guess. He's still a long way away from having to decide on which sport to play in college, or on whether to try and play both, ala Charlie Ward, Ronald Curry, and (currently) Ricky Seals-Jones.
The only clue I've found regarding where his collegiate fan loyalties may lie is in a picture he posted on Twitter March 8 during the Big 12 Basketball Tournament, on which he added the hashtag #HookEm. After watching his sophomore year football highlights and AAU basketball highlights, one can only hope that is an indicator of where he'd like to spend his college years.
Sotonye Jamabo's Hudl page, with game-specific highlights from the 2012 football season.
Soso's summer basketball highlights: