These posts haven’t been quite as fun to write this season, partly because of the class’s small size, but mainly because some of the class’s headliners have lost time due to injury or suspension. Sam Ehlinger, whose recaps were always fun to write last year, has played in barely one game in 2016, and his senior season is almost certainly over. Defensive ends LaGaryonn Carson and Taquon Graham have missed multiples games, for different reasons.
The three defensive back commits - Kobe Boyce, Josh Thompson, and Montrell Estell - have all put together impressive senior highlight clips, but all of their teams have had inconsistent seasons. Speaking of Estell, can we get a show of hands for anyone who predicted he’d have the most impressive senior season stat line out of UT’s 2017 commits? Maybe there were some out of BON’s Hooks readers (and I know we have at least one) who saw it coming, but I sure didn’t. He and his highlights have been really fun to watch each week. He could end up being one of the very best members of the 2017 signing class in a few years.
At this time last season the Longhorns had 13 total commits, nine for the 2016 class and four for 2017. They still have yet to reel in their first 2018 commit, and the 2017 class shrank to seven members this week, as DeSoto offensive lineman Xavier Newman decommitted and flipped to Colorado.
This turn of events was cause for glee by a number of Aggie trolls on Twitter (and probably other corners of the web), who pointed to UT’s class being (as of this writing) ranked 58th nationally in 247Sports’s Composite Ranking. This would truly be cause for concern for the Longhorn and their fans if National Signing Day were on, say, Halloween. Or if they all pretended that the last weeks of the 2015 and 2016 recruiting cycles never happened. Or if they paid no attention to the fact that Texas has five (5!) four-star commits in its seven-member class, while the Aggies have six (6!) composite four-star recruits within its class of 22 commits.
A lot can and will happen in three and a half months’ time, both on the field and off. Regardless of how UT’s season ends or whether or not Charlie Strong is still its head coach this February, I predict with 100% confidence that Texas will have a higher-rated signing class than Arkansas, Boston College, Central Florida, Duke, Houston, Illinois, Iowa, Iowa State, Kentucky, Maryland, Memphis, Mississippi State, Missouri, Northwestern, Oregon State, Rutgers, South Florida, Syracuse, Texas Tech, Wake Forest, West Virginia and Western Michigan(!), all of which currently have classes higher ranked than UT’s on the 247Sports Composite Ranking right now. It’s October 21st, I’m not that worried.
After the notes on each commit and their scheduled games for this week, I’ll profile an under-the-radar recruit in central Texas who has had a decorated career in both football and basketball.
QB Sam Ehlinger (Austin Westlake)
Last week: Idle
This week: Friday, October 21 at 7:30, vs. Kyle Lehman
Notes: Ehlinger suffered a thumb injury early in Westlake’s Week 7 loss to Katy, and he will most likely miss the rest of the season. His backup at quarterback, senior Matthew Gense, suffered a season-ending injury of his own the week before, so Westlake will likely go the rest of the season with sophomore Taylor Anderson under center.
Westlake’s opponent this week, Kyle Lehman, ended an 18-game losing streak with consecutive wins in weeks three and four, but has since lost four straight games by a combined score of 199-28. With or without Ehlinger, this likely won’t be a close game, but fans who watch it can catch Navy WR commit Tyler Henderson on the Lehman side. Henderson was my Unheralded 2017 Athlete of the Week pick for Week Five.
WR Damion Miller (Tyler John Tyler)
Last week: Caught 2 passes for 66 yards and a TD, and made 5 tackles in a 48-0 win over Rockwall-Heath
This week: Friday, October 21 at 7:30, at Longview
Notes: Miller’s 56-yard TD reception in the 1st quarter opened the scoring in what would be a lopsided affair in favor of the John Tyler Lions. Rockwall-Heath has run the single-wing on offense this season and has gone almost exclusively to the run. They entered last week’s game having completed just two pass attempts all season and averaging nearly 350 yards per game on the ground, but the John Tyler defense limited them to just 68 total yards (all rushing) while forcing four turnovers.
John Tyler will have to stop another powerful running game this week if they hope to move their district record to 4-1. Their Week Nine opponent, Longview, is 6-1 on the season (4-0 in district play) and averages 335 yards on the ground and 130 passing, and the Lobos’ top two rushers have run for over 1,500 yards and 18 TDs between them. According to the ETSN’s preview of the game, Friday night will mark the 90th meeting between the longtime east Texas foes, who first played each other in 1912.
DE LaGaryonn Carson (Texarkana Liberty-Eylau)
Last week: Team defeated Paris North Lamar 38-14
This week: Friday, October 21 at 7:30, at Anna
Notes: Carson was reportedly suspended from his team three weeks ago, and his name was not mentioned in any recaps or box scores I’ve seen from last week’s win over Paris North Lamar. I’ve found no reports indicating whether or not his suspension has been lifted.
L-E is 2-5 and will have to win out to finish the regular season at .500, and will need to win at least two of their last three games to ensure a playoff berth. Anna, their opponent this week, is 6-1 and coming off their first loss of the season, a 35-28 defeat at the hands of Paris, a team that beat L-E 16-8 the week before that.
DE Taquon Graham (Temple)
Last week: Was credited with 5 tackles, 2 tackles for loss and a sack in a 48-45 win over Waco.
This week: Idle
Notes: Temple pulled off a narrow win over Cen-Tex rival Waco, despite their defense allowing the Lions to gain 577 total yards, including 301 rushing yards by Waco’s junior running back Terrance Hamilton, according to stats reported to MaxPreps. Temple trailed 14-0 early on and 38-28 going into the 4th quarter, but they outscored Waco 20-7 in the final frame for a come-from-behind win to move their record to 6-2 for the season.
Temple gets a bye this week to rest up and prepare for undefeated College Station, Class 5A’s 8th-ranked team in this week’s AP poll.
A Temple-related note I haven’t previously mentioned that might be of some interest to BON readers: Temple’s wide receivers coach this season is none other than former Longhorn All-American Kwame Cavil, who got to coach against and beat his alma mater Waco High (and some of his former high school and junior high coaches) last Friday.
CB Kobe Boyce (Lake Dallas)
Last week: Made two tackles in a 65-42 loss to The Colony.
This week: Team beat Carrollton Creekview 42-14 in a Thursday night game.
Notes: In last week’s post, I noted that Lake Dallas’s defense has had a tendency to get gashed against the run this season, and in the team’s three losses up to that point they had allowed an average of 330 rushing yards. Sure enough, last Friday against The Colony, a team that has had a strong running game in recent years, Lake Dallas gave up 531 total yards, 376 of them on the ground.
The Colony jumped out to a 17-0 lead after two 1st quarter scores and a pick-six on the first play of the 2nd quarter. Lake Dallas fought back to pull within 23-21 with 1:08 left in the 2nd, but The Colony responded with a TD run 54 seconds later to take a 30-21 halftime lead, and between the last minute of the first half and the first play of the 4th quarter, The Colony outscored Lake Dallas 35-7.
The loss to The Colony dropped Lake Dallas’s season record to 3-4, with a 2-2 record in district play, but they raised their district record to 3-2 with a Thursday night win over Carrollton Creekview, which is now 1-4 in district play and no doubt wishes it still had 2014 alum and current Purdue starting QB David Blough on its roster. I’ll have a more detailed recap of the win over Creekview in next week’s post.
CB Josh Thompson (Nacogdoches)
Last week: Caught 2 passes for 46 yards and a TD in a 24-20 loss to Corsicana.
This week: Friday, October 21 at 7:30, vs. Whitehouse
Notes: Thompson’s TD reception was a 23-yard grab that helped tie the game at 17 with just 0:17 left in regulation. Nacogdoches settled for a field goal to begin the overtime period, but Corsicana responded with a touchdown on their possession to win the game.
Nac is 4-3 overall this season and 1-1 in district play. District 17-5A has only six teams, so to achieve a playoff berth a team just has to be better than the district’s two worst teams. Nac can clinch a playoff spot with a win over Whitehouse (which is 0-2 in district play) tomorrow night and a loss by Lindale (0-2 in district, with a loss to Nac two weeks ago) in any of its last three games
S Montrell Estell (Hooks)
Last week: Caught 2 passes for 54 yards, rushed for a 7-yard TD, and returned an interception 76 yards for a TD in a 33-20 win over Daingerfield.
This week: Friday, October 21 at 7:30, vs. Omaha Paul Pewitt
Notes: Hooks entered the 4th quarter trailing 20-19, but took the lead on a TD run by Montrell’s brother Malik Estell with 1:30 left in regulation. On Daingerfield’s ensuing possession they reached the Hooks 44-yard line, but Montrell Estell picked off a pass and returned it 76 yards to put Hooks ahead by 13 with 0:54 left and end Daingerfield’s hope of a last-minute comeback. Below you can see Estell’s game-clinching pick-six from three different camera angles.
Hooks, which won’t have its bye week until the last week of the regular season (week eleven), is 3-1 in district play and is a half-game ahead of three teams that are all 2-1. They’ll be the champions of district 7-3A Division II if they win out.
According to the Texarkana Gazette, in eight games this season Montrell Estell has compiled the following stats: 47 carries for 654 yards and 11 TDs; 19 receptions for 337 yards and 4 TDs; 74 tackles and 2 interceptions. I think he’s going to be a popular man in Austin in a few years.
Unheralded 2017 Athlete of the Week: Kobe Hailey (Frost)
At 6’ and 185 pounds, Kobe Hailey has pretty good size and speed to go with it, and his numbers on the field this season are very impressive, but geography and the size of his school have almost certainly hampered his recruitment. Hailey is a senior quarterback/defensive back at Frost, which competes in the UIL’s smallest classification for 11-man football: Class 2A Division II. Frost is a small town of less than 700 people and located about halfway between Hillsboro and Corsicana on State Highway 22.
Though he’s arguably among the more explosive football players in the central Texas region, he first made a name for himself in a different sport. As a freshman, he started on Frost’s varsity basketball team and averaged 16.7 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists per game, and the Waco Tribune-Herald named him their Super Centex Newcomer of the Year. He continued to shine on the hardwood in subsequent years. Last year as a junior, he was named the MVP of District 12-2A and earned Super Centex 2nd Team honors after averaging 18 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists per game.
Success in football didn’t come as quickly for him, partly due to injuries: he suffered a broken ankle his freshman year and a concussion as a sophomore, and Frost won just five games between his sophomore and junior seasons.
As a junior he played in a variety of positions early in the season before taking over as the team’s quarterback at around the season’s mid-way point, and Frost head coach Coy Barker says with Hailey handling the ball on every snap the team’s offense “took off” from that point. After scoring 18 points per game in their first five contests of the 2015 season, the Polar Bears averaged 33 points in the second half of the season, winning three of their final four games after going winless in their first six. For the year, Hailey had a hand in 23 touchdowns and finished with 971 yards rushing, nearly 600 yards passing and just under 300 yards receiving, and he was named the Utility MVP of District 10-2A Division II.
That momentum carried over into the start of the 2016 season, as Hailey led Frost to wins in its first four games, scoring four rushing TDs in each game and intercepting five passes on defense. He suffered an injury in Week Five and was limited in Frost’s following games, and Frost lost three consecutive games, but despite not being 100% he still produced some big numbers.
He had a remarkable performance against Bremond last week, rushing 14 times for 225 yards and scoring touchdowns on runs of 61, 62, and 72 yards. You can see clips of his performance vs. Bremond here. Frost still lost 56-22, as Bremond QB and Texas A&M commit Roshauud Paul accounted for over 300 yards of offense and six total TDs, including one on a kickoff return. You can see a few clips from the game here.
The game was a blowout according to the final score, but Bremond is Class 2A’s top-ranked team and the two-time defending Class 2A Division II state champions. Going into last week’s game against Frost, Bremond owned a 37-game winning streak and had compiled a record of 49-1 since the start of the 2013 season, and during that stretch only four teams had scored more than 21 points against Bremond, with none scoring as many as 30. Frost’s 22 points, which Hailey was almost single-handedly responsible for, was more than anyone had scored against Bremond since its 34-24 win over Mart on September 18, 2015, and Bremond had allowed just 37 total points in its first six games of 2016.
With a 0-2 district record and three games left in the regular season, Frost can ill-afford another loss if it wants to play in the postseason, and their hopes will probably ride heavily on Hailey getting back to 100% and moving as well as he was early in the season.
His name has been very seldom mentioned in print in a recruiting context. An August story in the Stephenville Empire-Tribune that re-capped Frost’s preseason scrimmage with Dublin referred to Hailey as “a dangerous SMU recruit”, but I’ve seen nothing anywhere else that mentions him being on the radar of FBS teams.
Frost coach Coy Barker believes Hailey is D1 player. In a previous coaching stop, Barker served as defensive line coach at Austin-area Class 5A powerhouse Cedar Park, and says Hailey “can play with any of those kids I coached there”.
You can get a glimpse of his speed below in clips from Frost’s Week One win over Cross Plains, in which Hailey rushed for 159 yards and 4 TDs and also returned an interception the length of the field for a pick-six.
Here is remaining 2016 schedule for the Frost Polar Bears:
October 21 - vs. Dawson
October 28 - at Meridian
November 4 - vs. Chilton
Previous Unheralded 2017 Athletes of the Week
Week One: RB Ted Fuller (Harleton)
Week Two: RB/DB Caleb Twyford (Farmersville)
Week Three: DE/TE Xavier Waggoner (Electra)
Week Four: RB Roman Turner (Wichita Falls Hirschi)
Week Five: WR/TE Tyler Henderson (Kyle Lehman)
Week Six: none
Week Seven: RB/S Trey Sterling (Sunnyvale)
Week Eight: OL Luke McCleery (Grapevine Faith Christian)