Tommie Harris and Roy Miller are two of the best defensive tackles produced by Texas high schools in the past 15 years, and arguably the two best to come from the central Texas region in that time. Both played for Killeen ISD high schools - Harris starring at Ellison, and Miller at Shoemaker - before moving on to decorated college careers at Oklahoma and Texas, respectively, and then to the NFL.
Today, Shoemaker's roster includes a massive young defensive tackle who looks ready to follow in the footsteps of Harris and Miller. Kendell Jones stands 6-foot-5 (at least three inches taller than Miller, and about two over Harris), weighs just over 300 pounds, and has very little body fat. Remember Ralphie's daydream in A Christmas Story, the one in which he imagines turning in his assigned essay on what he wants for Christmas, and his teacher reads it and reacts with effusive praise, giving him a grade of A+++++++? That's approximately how Jones grades on the eyeball test, give or take a few plus signs. Oh, and he's only a 15-year-old sophomore.
Yes, it's early, but I predict he'll be a top contender for the "best defensive tackle in the 2016 class" belt, at least as far as Texas kids are concerned. Not much, if anything, has been written about him in the recruiting press so far, but his is a name that should be very familiar to recruiting enthusiasts a year from now.
Channon Hall, Shoemaker's head football coach, tells me that Baylor, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State (to name a few) are among the programs that have already taken notice of Jones. "Everybody who sees him is interested," he says. Whether Texas has seen him yet or not, I can't say, but given the Longhorns' recent recruiting success in the area (signing Darius James and the Hughes brothers from Harker Heights in the 2012-2013 cycles), they're sure to take a look at him before long.
He's still very young and playing his first varsity season so he has a long way to go. In his available highlights - which can be viewed here (hint: Jones is #50) - he lines up as a 0-tech or 1-tech, depending on the play and the opponent. He is very quick off the snap at times (particularly in one or two clips from Shoemaker's game vs. Round Rock Stony Point), and he can be seen pushing offensive linemen backwards on his way into the backfield. But he also occasionally runs too far upfield or is re-directed away from the play by opposing offensive linemen, and he will need to get better at finishing tackles. That said, as young as he is (still about six months away from turning 16), it would be unfair to expect Jones to be a dominant force on every play, especially with Shoemaker being part of an athlete-rich district that has produced several Division 1 offensive linemen in recent years.
Jones is far from a finished product, to be sure, but the ability he flashes when he's on the field portends a very exciting upside. While talking with Coach Hall a week or so after first watching Jones's highlights, and learning of how big and how young he really was, I said, "He does not look like a 15-year-old on film. And the way he moves he certainly doesn't look 300 pounds."
"Everyone who sees him says the same thing!", he replied.
I later told Hall, "I hope Shoemaker's parking lot has enough spaces for all the college coaches that will be visiting campus in the spring." What I thought, but didn't say at the time: I hope at least one of the coaches taking up a parking space is employed by the University of Texas.
Here is Killeen Shoemaker's remaining regular season schedule:
October 18 - vs. Killeen Harker Heights
October 25 - at Waco Midway
November 1 - vs. Belton
November 8 - at Killeen Ellison