The "Unheralded 2013 Player of the Week" series has been inactive since week nine, though I had hoped to write a post each week leading up to the end of the high school football season. Various circumstances interrupted its continuation after week nine, and in the month or so that has passed since the state championship games I'vebeena bitbusy. I realize that posting this now (the week before National Signing Day) is almost the equivalent of turning in a term paper one semester late, but I really liked all of these players and went through the trouble to contact their coaches (as far back as November in some cases) to ask about them and I didn't want to have the series end after nine installments without a satisfactory conclusion (which would make it the BON equivalent of the first season of The Killing). The following seven unheralded seniors are all talented and worthy of their own feature but will be grouped together here for the sake of putting a bow on this series. If you like, you may consider them my picks for weeks 10-16.
Antoine Arboleda (Rosenberg Terry) - Quarterback, 6-3 191 pounds
As a junior in 2011, Arboleda completed 65% of his passes for 1,761 yards, 27 touchdowns, and only 4 interceptions, and led his team to within a point of a district championship (Rosenberg Terry lost in overtime to an Angleton team that won its first 13 games before falling in the 4th round of the playoffs). For his efforts, he was voted the Offensive MVP of district 23-4A and got his name onto a number of "players to watch" lists going into the summer. He began the 2012 season as a third-year starter at QB and had a chance to break several school passing records, but unfortunately, he broke his collarbone instead. He suffered the injury in the 1st quarter of Terry's first game and didn't play again until the final week of the regular season.
Suffering that injury and having to effectively sit out nine games in his senior season basically stopped what recruiting momentum Arboleda had established. His head coach told me in November that Arboleda had yet to receive a scholarship offer from a school at any level. Whether or not he has since then, I don't know. It would be a shame if the injury ended up keeping him from getting a scholarship and a chance to play QB somewhere at the next level. At 6'3" he's a tall QB with good running skills who - despite not having the most picture-perfect throwing motion - generally puts the ball where he wants to and appears to have a good feel for the game. In his high school years he has quarterbacked offenses that ran the spread and later the split-back veer, and that experience with varied sets should help him find a home with a college football program that recognizes his versatility and upside as a quarterback.
Alec Salas (Laredo United) - Quarterback, 6-0 200 pounds
In trying to reach his goal of playing quarterback for a college football team, Alec Salas has a lot going against him. For starters, he's listed as 6' but looks shorter than that. He plays in a pass-heavy spread offense, the likes of which has been known to get players the dreaded (and often unfair) "system quarterback" label. He lives in far south Texas, which doesn't get nearly the level of attention from recruiters that the big city areas do. And to top it off, he has injury concerns; Salas broke his femur while being tackled on a touchdown run in a game in September, ending his high school career four weeks into his senior season.
The offensive system at Laredo United has put up big passing numbers in recent years and most of the last few United quarterbacks have gone on to play college football at some level. 2007 grad Alvaro Garcia threw for a then-state record 595 yards in a 2006 playoff game against San Antonio Reagan. He signed with Texas State, redshirted as a freshman, then switched to wide receiver in his second year with the team. Garcia's predecessor David Garza went on to start at QB for Texas A&M-Kingsville. Alec Salas's older brother, 2011 grad Tony Salas, was a three-year starter at QB for United from 2008 to 2010 and passed for 7,770 yards and 72 TDs. Tony signed with NAIA program MidAmerica Nazerene University but left after a year in that program and, according to Alec, will attempt to walk-on at UT-San Antonio.
That was quite the QB legacy to live up to, but as a first-year starter in 2011, Alec Salas passed for over 3,600 yards and 44 touchdowns, completed just under 66% of his passes, added 478 yards and 9 touchdowns rushing, and led his Laredo United team into the 3rd round of the playoffs. He was well on his way to challenging most of those stats in 2012 before his season-ending injury in his team's fourth game; he had two 500-yard passing performances in United's first three games, and in those three games he completed 108 of 156 passes (69.2%) for 1,292 yards, 9 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. His season ended about half-way through the next game.
Sure, he's not as tall as you would like a college quarterback to be, and he has spent his high school career in a shotgun spread offense, but he might just have a bit of Todd Reesing to him (perhaps a lazy comparison, I admit). He's got good arm strength and he'll put the ball through a very tight window on a post route one play, and hit a receiver 40 yards downfield perfectly in stride the next. He says he has run the 40 in as fast as 4.65, and he is a very strong kid for his size and can bench press 365. If Johnny Manziel is "Johnny Football", then Alec Salas just might be "Alec Futbol Americano". You may not see him in Division 1, but that doesn't mean he won't one day light up the scoreboard for a lower division college somewhere.
He told me in December that the only schools that had been recruiting him were in Division III, with Abilene's Hardin-Simmons being the most prominent. When he made a visit to Abilene, the Hardin-Simmons defensive coordinator mistook Salas for a linebacker because of his build and upper body strength. I think he would do well for the HSU Cowboys but he is also considering walking on at UTEP, as he is originally from El Paso and says he has always wanted to play for the Miners. Before his injury he was getting mail from Ivy League schools and grades are definitely not an issue for him (he made 2nd Team Academic All-State). The recovery period following a broken femur is supposed to be 3-6 months, and the doctors working with Alec have told him this is the fastest they've ever seen a femur break heal, and that he should be able to play again in the fall. Good luck to him.
1-30-2013 Update: After this post was published Alec Salas informed me that Division II Oklahoma Panhandle State had strong interest in him and had offered "a pretty good scholarship."
Joshawa West 5-11 175 pounds; Richard Cooper 5-10 180 pounds (Angleton) - Running Backs
Joshawa West (also called "Josh" in some places) and Richard Cooper were key cogs in a well-oiled wing-T machine at Class 4A Angleton that rolled to a combined record of 23-4 over the past two seasons. The two backfield mates had fine senior years, leading Angleton to a 10-3 record (their three losses were by a combined 14 points) and into the third round of the playoffs.
Josh West was named the MVP of district 23-4A after a season in which he compiled over 1,500 yards and 22 TDs rushing, over 400 yards and 5 TDs receiving, contributed at defensive back in Angleton's nickel package, and - this is one of those stats one would think must be a misprint, but isn't - returned 3 kickoffs for touchdowns and averaged over 40 yards per return! He is the speedier back of the two, and is capable of going the distance when he bursts through a hole in the line or catches a swing pass and beats his defenders to the edge. Angleton head coach Ryan Roark describes West as "a one-cut slasher with great speed", but he shows off a move or two in the open field as well.
Cooper plays the fullback spot in the wing-T-based attack and was voted as a 1st team all-district running back. He is "very explosive" (Coach Roark's words), but also "a patient runner with great lateral quickness and terrific vision." He finished the year with 1,545 yards and 15 TDs on the ground. He is a strong runner and shows some elusiveness in the open field, breaking a lot of tackles in his senior highlight video.
Quarterbacks who run pass-heavy four- and five-wide spread offenses sometimes get the dreaded "system quarterback" label, and I think at times running backs who pile up the yardage in misdirection-heavy wing-T or flexbone option offenses are marginalized as "system running backs". Such an assessment would be wrong and unfair if applied to Cooper and West. Cooper is a player who could succeed in a variety of offensive systems as an every down back, and West is as good of an under-the-radar all purpose back prospect as you'll find in the state. Roark told me in November that several colleges had expressed interest in his backfield stars, and though neither West nor Cooper had received an official offer at that time, he expected "several" schools to offer the pair before Signing Day. I'll get back to him for an update on the pair soon.
When I watched Kade Harrington's junior year highlights over the summer, I thought I was looking at a smaller version of former Longhorn Brock Fitzhenry. Fitzhenry (listed as 5'9" 178 on UT's football roster) was a very prolific option quarterback at Giddings High School before converting to receiver at UT. He ran circles around Class 3A competition to the tune of over 7,000 yards and 99 touchdowns rushing in his high school career. Harrington is very similar to Fitzhenry in size and speed, and as a junior he played quarterback in a flexbone option offense and ran for 1,214 yards and 13 touchdowns.
With a new head coach and a new offensive system in 2012, Harrington was moved to tailback and his team ran a more varied offense that featured a lot of I-formation plays. Facing defenses that were almost certainly leaps and bounds beyond anything Fitzhenry faced at Giddings, Kade Harrington ran for 1,994 yards and 22 touchdowns, and also caught 23 passes for 212 yards and 2 more scores. In his team's 8 district games he averaged 245 rushing yards! He capped off his high school career with 450 yards from scrimmage (335 rushing, 115 receiving) and 5 total touchdowns in a 59-56 shootout victory over Spring in week 10.
At the conclusion of the regular season, Harrington was the leading Class 5A rusher in the Houston area, which had more Division I running back talent this season than several states can boast of. Harrington's Hudl page states that he runs a 4.44 forty, has a 33" vertical leap, and can bench press 295 and squat 415. Kingwood's head coach Barry Campbell told me Harrington "isn't one to exaggerate", and believes those numbers are probably accurate. The speed figures certainly look accurate from watching on film how he blazes down the field on several long touchdown runs, making several defenders miss and breaking a lot more tackles than you would think a guy his size could.
He was named a first team running back on the AP's Class 5A All-State team. Despite the accolades and his very impressive stats, he hasn't been heavily recruited or been written about much in the recruiting press. You won't find a profile for Harrington on Rivals, 247Sports, or Fox Sports Next. Coach Campbell believes that colleges not recruiting Harrington "are missing out on a great player". In November, Campbell told me Harrington had drawn interest from a few FCS programs but none had offered. At 5'7' or 5'8" and less than 190 lbs. most schools would likely look at him as a slot receiver rather than running back. Campbell has "no doubt" that Harrington could play the receiver position if asked to. "Our offense didn't call for Kade to be in a bunch of our passing plays, but he has the best hands on the team."
I, for one, hope he gets to show them off at the next level.
Taller offensive linemen can have difficulty getting low enough to block shorter defenders on running plays. Dillon Vaughan - despite checking in at 6'6" - maintains good pad level on run plays and stays low pretty consistently on film.
Vaughan has spent time at both right and left tackle and he was a preseason 1st team all-region pick by TexasHSFootball.com. He lived up to those expectations and was voted as a 1st team All-District offensive lineman by the coaches of district 30-4A. The Corpus Christi Caller-Times named him a 1st team offensive lineman on its All-South Texas team. When I asked about Vaughan, the head coach of a team that played Calallen this season told me, "Dillon Vaughan has excellent feet; excellent run blocker. Doesn't take plays off."
Vaughan also puts his big frame to good use on the basketball court, where was an all-district honoree as a junior. The arena in which he is perhaps most accomplished, however, is the classroom, where he ranks 7th in a class of 259. In a November article in the Caller-Times, Calallen's longtime head coach Phil Danaher was quoted as saying, "I don't know if we've ever had a lineman as smart as Dillon." That from a coach who has spent almost 30 years as the head man at Calallen and who had an offensive lineman sign with Rice in 2009. (Another tidbit about Coach Danaher, he is the answer to the following trivia question: "Who is the winningest Texas high school football coach not named G.A. Moore or Gordon Wood?")
That November Caller-Times article didn't specify whether or not Vaughan had any scholarship offers (though he would presumably qualify for plenty of academic ones), but it did say his goal is to become a doctor and that he was "considering attenting and playing football for" UTSA, West Texas A&M, or Incarnate Word in San Antonio. (Worth noting: his older brother Dustin is the starting quarterback at West Texas A&M. Dustin Vaughan was a NCAA Division II All-American in 2012 and will be a senior in 2013.) Vaughan visited UTSA this past weekend and likely has an offer from the Roadrunners. He would be a fine addition to any team and I'm sure he'll be successful athlete and student wherever he attends.
For an offensive lineman, Jake Wallace is light on his feet. The bad news: he's light, period. And he was a lot lighter as recently as 2 years ago. When he first became a starter on the offensive line at Victoria West, he was a 190-pound sophomore. As a senior he was up to 250, but somehow, despite putting on some 60 pounds in two years, he looks on film to have plenty of room to add more. His head coach agrees. Says Victoria West head coach Leonard McAngus, "Jake's work ethic is second to none. I believe he could put on 30 to 40 pounds and carry it well. He has excellent flexibility, which leads me to believe he can carry the weight and not slow down."
Wallace played left tackle for Victoria West (and also ably filled the role of long snapper) but is likely bound for the interior at the next level, whichever level that turns out to be. McAngus told me in early December that Wallace had not received any offers yet but "his name is starting to get out there." He's a punishing run blocker at the point of attack and also plays well in space, getting to the second level on some plays and showing promising pulling ability on others. Hopefully his current weight won't ward off recruiters who take a look at him or his film. As Coach McAngus told me, "Whoever gets him will not regret it."
This concludes my Unheralded 2013 Players of the Week series. I plan to make one last post after Signing Day and give an update on the colleges choices of the 16 players featured. Whether or not I take on this thing next year remains to be seen, but it was a fun series to do and I hope those of you who followed it enjoyed reading along.