Each Wednesday during the Texas high school football regular season, I'll be featuring senior players who, for whatever reason, lack scholarship offers and/or remain under the radar of most college recruiters. These guys may not light the world on fire at the FBS level, but I'm a fan of all of them and believe they're good enough to warrant more attention than they have received up to now. My week two pick is Killeen Harker Heights safety Tyrel Stokes, who has two teammates committed to Texas (and a former teammate currently on UT's roster) but who has made nary a blip on recruiting radars, despite a productive junior season.
Last week's post featured Belton wide receiver Derick Bates. This week we move just a few miles west on US-190 to Harker Heights High School in Killeen, where Tyrel Stokes stars in the secondary. (Really, the central Texas region is so loaded with talent I could probably do the rest of this series on players from there.) Like Bates, Stokes has a teammate committed to Texas. In fact he has two: Darius James and Naashon Hughes. (Also, his former Harker Heights teammate Camrhon Hughes is in his freshman year in the Longhorn football program.) He hasn't received the level of attention from D1 programs that those two have, but he has impressed opposing coaches (who voted him first-team safety on District 12-5A's all-district team in 2011) and recently got a mention from Orangebloods' Jason Howell. Howell attended Harker Heights' August scrimmage vs. Leander Rouse and his thoughts($) included the following note:
Keep an eye on Harker Heights safety Tyrel Stokes. He was a playmaker in the secondary today and made some nice moves returning his INT towards the end of the scrimmage.
Stokes's listed height and weight varies depending on the source; he measures out between 5'11" and 6', with his weight in the 160-175 range. In 2011 he lead his team in tackles with 112 (86 of them solo) while intercepting 2 passes and breaking up 7 others. In his highlights he is mostly shown lining up at free safety in what appears to be a 3-3-5 defensive look, but he has also spent time at cornerback.
Tyrel Stokes's junior highlights
Stokes isn't a guy who will get top grades on most eyeball tests and he likely won't blow coaches away on agility and speed tests. He doesn't have the speed of Vonn Bell or the linebacker-like build of Texas commit Eric Huhn, to compare him with a pair of his fellow 2013 safeties. This is not to say he doesn't possess athleticism, it's just not the most striking aspect of his game. He does have good speed - reportedly, he runs his 40s in the low 4.5 range - and when he uses it while also employing his instincts for the safety position he is a player who ends up around the ball a lot. When a player leads his team in tackles it's usually not by accident.
On the very first play of his highlight video (posted above) he anticipates a quick pass going to the receiver in the left slot with his teammates blitzing from that direction, and when the pass comes he picks it off and easily returns it 40 yards for a touchdown. His hits pack more of a punch that one might expect, given his size, and ballcarriers rarely advance any further when he wraps them up (see: plays beginning at 0:33, 0:42, and 0:58).
On other plays he is shown knifing through blockers to get to ballcarriers, sniffing out a reverse play and running from one side of the field to the other to trip up a receiver before he can turn the corner, diagnosing zone read plays and stopping the carrier after a short gain, breaking up passes intended for receivers breaking for the far corner of the end zone, and even making his presence felt on special teams as the gunner on punt coverage (see play at 2:10) and on kickoff coverage. In the very last play - beginning at 3:12 - he streaks down the left sideline to outrun Temple's kick return unit on an (apparently designed) onside kick and pounce on the ball inside the 20 yard line.
His Rivals page (which was created within the past month) lists him as having "medium" interest in Texas State and Tulsa. An ESPN Recruiting Nation post from last May stated that Stokes was "getting early looks from UTSA". He has not been graded by any of the recruiting services that have pages on him.
That's the extent of what the internet tells us regarding schools that have interest in Tyrel Stokes, or vice versa. With a good senior year I could see him doing a poor man's Adrian Colbert impression and rising from relative recruiting obscurity to being a sought-after player during the last months of the recruiting season. I doubt it will be Big 12 schools fighting for his signature but he's a guy I think will eventually be on the roster of a FBS program. As BON's unofficial advocate for under-appreciated players, I'll say Stokes is one of my favorite safeties in the class and a guy I'd be glad to have on any team of mine.
For anyone interested in watching Tyrel Stokes, Texas commit Naashon Hughes (and Darius James if he returns from injury at some point this fall) and the rest of the Harker Heights Knights, I've posted the remainder of their 2012 schedule below:
September 14 - vs. Cedar Park
September 28 - vs. Belton
October 5 - at Killeen
October 12 - vs. Killeen Ellison
October 19 - vs. Killeen Shoemaker
October 26 - at Temple
November 1 - vs. Waco Midway
November 8 - at Copperas Cove