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Texas Longhorns commits: Week Two preview

UT commits aim to continue solid play, avoid further injuries

2017 DB Josh Thompson and Charlie Strong
2017 DB Josh Thompson (left) had a solid performance in his first game as a Texas Longhorn commit.

The Texas Longhorn football program's seven committed recruits from the 2017 class had a good Week One showing on the stat sheet and in the win column (mostly, anyway), though a few will be spending some extra time with their school's training staff in the coming weeks.

All-Everything QB Sam Ehlinger led his team to a win over longtime 6A/5A powerhouse and defending state champion Katy in a gutsy performance that picked up right where he left off in 2015. Elsewhere, Josh Thompson scored a touchdown on special teams, Kobe Boyce showed his skills on both sides of the ball, and LaGaryonn Carson did his usual damage in the opponent's backfield, though not enough to get his team a win.

Here's what we know after Week One and where UT's commits will be playing in Week Two. And following that, we’ll move on to a small town northeast of Dallas where we find this week's Unheralded 2017 Athlete of the Week.

2017 commits

QB Sam Ehlinger (Austin Westlake)

Last week: Completed 18 of 30 passes for 250 yards and 1 TD, rushed 16 times for 64 yards and 1 TD, and passed for two successful two-point conversions in a 32-29 win over Katy.

This week: Friday, September 2 at 7:30, vs. Henderson (Nevada) Liberty

Notes: Our own Wes Crochet was in attendance last Friday night to watch Ehlinger’s heroics against the defending 6A Division II state champions. In case you missed it, you can read his thoughts on the game here. After a scoreless 1st quarter, Westlake scored twice in the 2nd to take a 14-0 lead with 4:30 left in the first half. This against a team that had allowed only two opponents to score in double digits in 2015. Katy scored the game’s next 19 points to take a 19-14 lead with 5:53 left in the 3rd quarter, but Westlake answered with a quick scoring drive capped off by a 4-yard Ehlinger TD run, and a successful two-point conversion put Westlake ahead 22-19. A Katy field goal late in the 3rd tied the score, but Westlake answered with a field goal of their own to take a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, and Ehlinger’s 17-yard TD pass to Andrew Boykin with 2:25 left in regulation gave them a 32-22 lead. Katy cut the lead to 32-29 less than a minute later but wouldn’t score again.

It was Katy’s first loss since a 23-20 defeat to Cedar Hill in the 2014 6A Division II state championship game, and their first regular season loss since they fell 24-7 to The Woodlands on September 12, 2014. It was also Katy’s first loss in a season-opener since a 10-6 defeat against Galena Park North Shore to kick off the 2008 season (that 2008 Katy team, which also was defending a state championship, lost its first two games and its regular season finale, but would blow out six playoff opponents by an average of 30 points to win the 5A Division II crown).

Katy entered the game as the state’s top-ranked team, according to the AP’s preseason poll for Class 6A. Following their win, Westlake jumped up from #5 to the top spot in this week’s AP poll. It is Westlake’s first time to hold the top spot in the AP poll since the start of the 2001 season.

A couple of days after the game, it was revealed that Ehlinger had been injured in both knees at some point during Friday night’s action. He had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in at least one knee (and possibly both) on Tuesday morning. The timetable for his return is unknown as of this writing, but if you were hoping to watch Ehlinger play in person this season it would probably be wise not to make plans to do so for at least the next few weeks. We’ll pass on any further reports that come out on his condition. Westlake’s scheduled opponent this week is Henderson (Nevada) Liberty, who lost to national powerhouse Las Vegas Bishop Gorman in the 2015 NIAA Division I state championship.

WR Damion Miller (Tyler John Tyler)

Last week: Caught 4 passes for 133 yards and 2 TDs in a 45-14 win over Plano West.

This week: Friday, September 2 at 7:30, at Ennis

Notes: Miller’s first TD came on an 18-yard pass with 9:14 left in the 3rd quarter and increased an already big 24-7 John Tyler lead to 31-7. JT’s quarterback, Houston commit Bryson Smith, hit Miller again for a 70-yard scoring strike three minutes into the 4th quarter to give their team a 45-7 lead, and Plano West’s second and final TD came with just 25 seconds left in the game. This week Tyler will face Ennis, who they defeated 40-29 in a district game in 2015. Ennis opened their season last Friday with a 30-20 win over South Oak Cliff.

OL Xavier Newman (DeSoto)

Last week: Team gained 616 total yards (348 rushing) in a 47-13 win over Dallas Jesuit.

This week: Friday, September 2 at 7:30, vs. Denton Guyer

Notes: DeSoto, led by four-star 2017 QB Shawn Robinson, a TCU commit, went ahead 14-0 before the game was ten minutes old, but a pair of 2nd quarter turnovers kept them from padding that lead before halftime. DeSoto led 14-3 going into the 3rd quarter, but scored on all five of their possessions in the second half to turn the game into a rout. Jesuit’s only TD of the game came with 2:55 left in the 4th quarter.

Newman reportedly was injured before DeSoto’s week Week One game and did not play. Over the weekend, Inside Texas reported (in a public thread that has since been moved behind the site’s paywall) that Newman has a knee injury and will be out 3-4 weeks.

DeSoto moved up from #6 to #3 in this week’s AP poll for Class 6A. You won’t be able to see Newman take the field this Friday when DeSoto faces Denton Guyer, but that game should still be a very good one and will feature extra intrigue with Shawn Robinson playing against his former school. Robinson attended and played football for Guyer during his sophomore and junior years, then transferred to DeSoto earlier this year when his mother was hired as that school’s new girls basketball head coach.

DE LaGaryonn Carson (Texarkana Liberty-Eylau)

Last week: Team lost 61-55 to Gilmer.

This week: Friday, September 2 at 7:30, vs. Carthage

Notes: Liberty-Eylau’s defense limited Gilmer to 75 yards rushing on 35 carries, but it also allowed Gilmer’s junior QB Aaron Brown (who was making his varsity debut) to throw for a school-record 569 yards and 6 TDs. The Football Brainiacs reported that Carson had 7 tackles and 2 sacks in the game, while Rivals’s Nick Krueger wrote that he was somewhat inconsistent in his play over the first 3+ quarters but “took over the final four minutes of the game”. Unfortunately, the final points of the game were scored with 4:29 left in the 4th quarter, which brought L-E to within six points, but Gilmer was able to run out the clock on their ensuing possession to end the contest.

A year after these two teams combined for 95 points and 971 total yards to open the 2015 season (Gilmer won 50-45), they began the 2016 season by combining for 116 points and 1,123 offensive yards. A defensive struggle, this was not.

Gilmer led 28-20 at the half, aided by three L-E interceptions. The teams traded scores for the first half of the 3rd quarter, then Gilmer extended their lead to 48-35 after Morton’s fifth TD pass with 2:35 left in the 3rd. L-E didn’t give up and three different times in the 4th quarter they scored to cut the deficit to six points, but each time Gilmer answered with either a scoring drive of their own or a clock-eating drive to end the game.

L-E next plays Carthage, currently the #5 team in the AP’s Class 4A poll. Carthage led Gladewater 14-10 in their Week One contest, but the game was delayed by weather conditions, then ultimately cancelled late in the 2nd quarter due to a power outage, so Carthage has yet to play an official game.

CB Kobe Boyce (Lake Dallas)

Last week: Credited with 6 total tackles and one tackle for loss; had one carry for 9 yards, and caught one pass for 13 yards in a 42-28 loss to Denton.

This week: Friday, September 2 at 7:00, vs. Frisco Centennial

Notes: Boyce played multiple roles for his team in Week One. In addition to lining up at the right cornerback spot, he also caught a screen pass and got a carry off a reverse play. Lake Dallas’s defense allowed 160 yards and 3 TDs through the air, and 303 yards on the ground. The teams were roughly equal in their number of first downs converted and penalties, and Denton only outgained Lake Dallas by 79 yards, but Denton won the turnover battle 4-1, and the game really wasn’t as close as the 42-28 score would indicate. Denton led 28-0 with 0:39 left in the 2nd quarter and only lost the shutout when Lake Dallas scored on a 72-yard TD pass with eight seconds left in the half. Denton took a 35-6 lead into the 4th quarter, and led 42-13 when they put their last points on the board with 4:27 left in regulation. Lake Dallas scored two TDs in the game’s final minute to make the score look more respectable.

Lake Dallas’s Week Two opponent, Frisco Centennial, lost 16-13 last week to cross-town and inter-district rival Frisco High.

CB Josh Thompson (Nacogdoches)

Last week: Scored on a 95-yard kickoff return and forced and recovered a fumble in a 48-21 win over Kilgore.

This week: Friday, September 2 at 7:30, vs. Lufkin

Notes: 5A Nacogdoches dominated its 4A Division I opponent Kilgore to open its season. Nac made a field goal on its first possession to take a 3-0 lead, and led for the entire game afterwards. Thompson’s TD came on the opening kickoff of the 3rd quarter. You can watch Thompson’s highlights vs. Kilgore in the video below (his KO return TD starts at about the 0:55 mark).

Nacogdoches will next look to avenge a 38-0 loss it suffered last season at Lufkin’s hands. Class 6A Lufkin will pose a much stiffer challenge than Kilgore did, and their offense features Texas State commit Kordell Rodgers at quarterback and senior Dhailon Phillips (who has offers from Texas State and Air Force) at wide receiver.

S Montrell Estell (Hooks)

Last week: Team lost to New Boston 14-12.

This week: Friday, September 2 at 7:30, at Redwater

Notes: Hooks trailed 14-6 for most of the 4th quarter in a very low-scoring affair. A Hooks TD late in regulation gave them a chance to tie the game with a two-point conversion, but their run attempt was stopped short. They’ll look to even their record and get their first win of 2016 on Friday versus Redwater, who lost 25-13 to Elysian Fields last week.

Unheralded 2017 Athlete of the Week: Caleb Twyford (Farmersville)

Regular readers of this column may recognize Caleb Twyford’s name, as I previously mentioned him in my post previewing Week Eleven last year. His hometown, Farmersville, is about 35 miles northeast of Dallas and a short distance from Lavon Lake near the eastern edge of Collin County. It’s a small town whose high school competes at the 3A Division I level, and Twyford has been arguably its top playmaker over the past few years, though he may be one of the least-known FBS prospects in his own county, which also includes Allen, McKinney, Plano, and over half of Frisco.

He has been a varsity football starter since his freshman year and has played primarily at wide receiver and running back while on offense, and cornerback when on defense. As a freshman he made first team all-district at wide receiver and second team at safety. As a sophomore he was voted the Utility MVP of District 5-3A Division I, and also was named an honorable mention all-state wide receiver. His exploits on both sides of the ball again earned him district Utility MVP honors as a junior in 2015.

He led his team in receiving yardage in each of his first three seasons, topping the 1,000-yard mark as a sophomore. In his junior year - his first as the team’s starting running back - he rushed for 1,252 yards and 21 touchdowns and produced 1,745 total offensive yards and 25 touchdowns. He also made 51 tackles and intercepted four passes, returning one for a TD.

If his performance in Week One is any indication, he could blow those numbers away in his senior season. Last week, in a 30-8 win over Cooper, he produced 313 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns on just 11 touches. His three TDs came on first half scoring runs of 92, 65, and 76 yards. He finished the game with 9 carries for 295 yards.

He’ll probably spend most of his offensive snaps lining up in the backfield this season, but at around 6 feet and 175 pounds, college coaches mostly see him as a future slot receiver, though his size and skill set may also eventually lead him to cornerback. 247 Sports, the only recruiting site that has a profile for Twyford as of this writing, lists him as both a CB and WR.

Texas State, which recruited him as a receiver, extended Twyford his first offer in early June. Rice, Louisiana-Lafayette, and New Mexico have all shown varying levels of interest in recent months, but Texas State remains his only offer. It shouldn’t be for long if he has a few more stat lines like the one he produced last week.

His reported track times have been pretty unremarkable, but according to Farmersville head football coach Sammy Burnett, Twyford “carries his pads very well” and plays as fast if not faster on the football field than some players who are much better sprinters. He’s elusive and a threat to reach the end zone any time he has the ball in his hands, and he has shown himself to be a physical tackler as well.

Burnett has worked with a number of Division I athletes in his coaching career, including a few who eventually earned NFL paychecks, and when recounting some of the top talents he has worked with he says Twyford “blends right into that crew”, and he has no doubt that his senior star has the talent to play college football at the FBS level. Burnett coached former five-star running back Jermie Calhoun (who went on to spend three injury-plagued seasons at Oklahoma) as the offensive coordinator at Van High School in the late 2000s, and he says Twyford’s lateral movement and burst is similar to Calhoun’s, albeit in a smaller package.

Cooper High School’s defense got an up-close look at those attributes of his last Friday, as you can see in the video below.

In addition to his work on the field he is also reported to be a solid citizen off of it. Coach Burnett praises Twyford for his “outstanding work ethic” and “great character”, and describes him as a guy you never have to worry about getting into trouble. His grades are also good, and he has already earned the requisite test scores that the coaches from academically selective Rice said he would need to be admitted there.

There are still five months between now and Signing Day, and a lot can happen between now and then, but at this time I believe Caleb Twyford is one of the state’s most under-recruited athletes, but if he continues to show what he’s capable of doing on the field there’s no reason he shouldn’t pick up more (possibly several more) Division I offers between now and the end of the season.

For anyone who might like to see Caleb and his also talented brother Cade Twyford (a junior running back) this season, here is Farmersville’s remaining schedule.

September 2 - at Nevada Community
September 9 - vs. Emory Rains
September 16 - at Caddo Mills
September 23 - vs. Commerce
September 30 - at Winnsboro
October 7 - vs. Mineola
October 14 - at Quitman
October 28 - vs. Mount Vernon
November 4 - at Grand Saline