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Texas Longhorns commits: Week Four Preview

It was a good week for future members of DBU

2017 commit Kobe Boyce (Lake Dallas)
Justin Wells (Inside Texas)

In Week Three, the three defensive back commits in the Texas Longhorns’s 2017 recruiting class all made some big plays, while wide receiver Damion Miller made the most of his only reception, and Sam Ehlinger and Taquon Graham (and possibly Xavier Newman) all sat out with injuries.

Two of the eight commits have a bye this week, and at least one whose team does have a game (Ehlinger) won’t be suiting up. So next week’s recap should be a fairly short one.

Here I’ll recap the Week Three performances of the commits and/or their teams and list where they’re scheduled to play this week. And for the Unheralded 2017 Athlete of the Week feature, I’ll profile a running back/track star from Wichita Falls.

2017 commits

QB Sam Ehlinger (Austin Westlake)

Last week: Did not play in a 35-0 win over Pflugerville.

This week: Friday, September 16 at 7:30, at Austin Bowie (Burger Stadium)

Notes: Ehlinger, now two weeks removed from knee surgery, will almost certainly not play this week. Last Friday his QB understudy, senior Matthew Gense, completed 12 of 20 passes for 126 yards and a touchdown, with no turnovers. Westlake begins district play on September 23 with a road game at Austin Vandegrift. Westlake faces district rival and 2015’s Class 6A Division II runner-up Lake Travis on October 7, but it remains to be seen if Ehlinger will be cleared to play by that time. Westlake remained the #6 team in Class 6A in this week’s AP poll.

WR Damion Miller (Tyler John Tyler)

Last week: Caught one pass for a 74-yard TD in a 41-6 win over New Orleans (LA) Warren Easton

This week: Friday, September 16 at 7:30, vs. Rockwall

Notes: Miller’s long TD reception came in the final minute of the 1st quarter and increased John Tyler’s lead to 13-0. Tyler’s defense dominated in the “Battle on the Border” matchup in Shreveport versus Warren Easton, which has been one of Louisiana’s top 4A teams over the past few years. Tyler’s defense forced four turnovers and limited Easton to 53 rushing yards on 45 carries, and 238 total yards. Easton’s only score of the day came in the third minute of the 4th quarter with Tyler leading 34-0 at the time.

Tyler begins its district schedule this week with a home game versus Rockwall, which may be Class 6A’s best 0-3 team. A year ago, Rockwall lost its first three games but won its next ten to advance all the way to the regional finals before losing to Lake Travis. In the past two weeks Rockwall has lost by single digits to Rowlett and Southlake Carroll, both very good Metroplex programs. Rockwall’s offense features one of the best wide receivers Tyler will face this season in senior Sam Crawford, who had over 1,400 receiving yards in 2015 and reportedly holds a dozen FBS offers.

OL Xavier Newman (DeSoto)

Last week: Team’s offense gained 635 total yards in a 49-43 win over Midland

This week: Idle

Notes: DeSoto came out on top in a high-scoring road contest against an inspired and senior-laden Midland squad. It was a rare non-district game pitting a Dallas-area team against a school from the Midland-Odessa area, but its scheduling can be explained by DeSoto head coach Todd Peterman having served as offensive coordinator at Midland High in the late 90s/early 2000s. Newman was injured a few weeks ago and I haven’t read a report indicating whether or not he played in last week’s offensive shootout. Regardless, DeSoto’s bye week comes at a good time for him to heal up and get ready to face south Dallas County rival Cedar Hill next week.

DE LaGaryonn Carson (Texarkana Liberty-Eylau)

Last week: Team lost to Texarkana Texas High 48-39

This week: Friday, September 16 at 7:30, vs. Atlanta

Notes: Liberty-Eylau, having lost its first two games of the season to the teams ranked 4th and 5th in Class 4A in last week’s AP poll (Gilmer and Carthage, who will face each other this week), put up a valiant fight against 5A’s 10th-ranked Texarkana Texas, producing 612 offensive yards in the process, but was unable to come away with the win. As a result, L-E fell to 0-3 for the first time since 1970.

L-E will try to get its season on track this week by picking up its first win over 1-1 Atlanta, which had a bye last week. Atlanta advanced four rounds into the 4A Division II playoffs in each of the last two seasons. L-E narrowly beat Atlanta 44-43 a year ago, but both teams graduated a lot of talent this past spring. If you watch this game, keep an eye on Atlanta’s senior linebacker Tristan Allen, who is one of the more underrated and under-recruited LBs in the state, and in east Texas in particular. He holds an offer from UTEP, but should pick up more by the end of the season.

DE Taquon Graham (Temple)

Last week: Did not play in a 26-20 loss to Waco Midway

This week: Friday, September 16 at 7:30, vs. Round Rock Cedar Ridge

Notes: Local reports from last week’s game indicated that Graham sat out with a hip injury. After losing to Waco Midway in Week Three, Temple will face a Cedar Ridge team that beat Midway 52-3 in Week Two, and which received a few votes in this week’s AP poll for Class 6A but not quite enough to make the top ten. Cedar Ridge has won its first three games by a combined score of 131-10. The head coach at Cedar Ridge is former Baylor QB Shawn Bell.

CB Kobe Boyce (Lake Dallas)

Last week: Caught one pass for 73 yards and made five tackles in a 59-40 loss to Plano Prestonwood Christian

This week: Idle

Notes: Facing the defending TAPPS Division I state champion last week, Lake Dallas actually held the lead three different times, the last being a 31-30 lead following a TD run with 8:40 left in the 3rd quarter, but Lake Dallas’s offense wasn’t able to do much in the game’s final 20 minutes, while Prestonwood Christian scored four touchdowns during that period to pull away.

Kobe Boyce’s long reception (which you can watch in the video below) happened late in the 3rd quarter after PCA had scored to take a 45-31 lead. Facing 3rd-and-14 from their own 21-yard line, Boyce caught a long pass between two defenders, spun away and eluded multiple would-be tacklers before being tripped up at the PCA 6-yard line. Lake Dallas turned the ball over on downs four plays later after failing to breach the end zone, but they forced a PCA safety three plays later to cut the deficit to 45-33. That was as close as they got, though, as their offense went three-and-out after receiving the ball following the safety, and PCA scored on their ensuing possession to push the lead to 52-33 with 7:24 left in the game. Lake Dallas has a bye this week, then opens district play the following week with a road game against Carrollton Newman Smith.

CB Josh Thompson (Nacogdoches)

Last week: Had a 75-yard punt return TD in a 24-17 win over Tyler Lee

This week: Friday, September 16 at 7:30, at Hallsville

Notes: Thompson’s punt return TD came with 6:35 left in the 2nd quarter and gave Nacogdoches a 24-0 lead that held up over the rest of the game. He caught the punt between a few players who may have been expecting him to call for a fair catch, and Thompson proceeded to speed away from the coverage, run over one defender, take off down the left sideline and juke the last Lee player who had a real shot at tackling him. You can watch the play in the first clip of the video below. Tyler Lee cut the deficit to 24-14 before halftime, but a Lee field goal in the 4th quarter was the only score by either team in the second half.

Nacogdoches faces a 0-3 Hallsville team this week, then has a showdown with Gilmer the following week before diving into their district schedule.

S Montrel Estell (Hooks)

Last week: Team defeated Mount Vernon 25-13

This week: Friday, September 16 at 7:30, vs. Hughes Springs

Notes: For whatever reason I’ve seen a paucity of local reports on Hooks’s games, so most news of Estell’s exploits has been from recruiting reporters. In last week’s win, he reportedly scored two rushing TDs and blocked a PAT attempt. Hooks’s opponent in Week Four is 2-1 Hughes Springs, who, for what it’s worth, has beaten Daingerfield, who has beaten New Boston, who beat Hooks 14-12 in Week One.

Unheralded 2017 Athlete of the Week: RB Roman Turner (Wichita Falls Hirschi)

Football players who excel in track and field sometimes will initially attract the attention of college recruiters through their exploits in the latter sport. In 2012, Jay Bradford had a fine sophomore season at running back for Splendora High, rushing for well over 1,000 yards and going over 300 yards in his team’s last game, but for the next five months he got almost no interest from college football coaches. Then he became a hot commodity in the spring of 2013 - six months after his football season had ended - after he won the 100 meters and long jump at the Class 3A state track meet. Several major offers followed, and he committed to Texas A&M just before the start of his junior year.

Wichita Falls Hirschi senior Roman Turner has also experienced a lot of success on the track and rushed for a lot of yards on the football field. As a junior in 2015, he rushed for 827 yards on 88 carries while playing in just eight games during an injury-shortened season. Then this past spring he won nearly every 100 meter race he entered during track season, recording a top time of 10.49 in the prelim heat at the 4A Region I meet, and later taking 2nd at the state meet with a time of 10.75. He also anchored Hirschi’s 4x100 and 4x200 meter relay teams that both finished 7th at the state meet. But that success has yet to translate into scholarship offers, perhaps in part because he missed a couple games in his junior season due to injury, and because he played for a winless 4A team.

In 2014, Hirschi’s offense featured one of the state’s leading rushers in senior running back Cedric Battle, who ran for 2,700 yards in 11 games, though that senior-laden team went 3-8 overall. Turner took over at RB for Battle (who is now a sophomore at Trinity Valley Community College) in 2015, and though that year’s version of the Hirschi Huskies had some talent it also was a very inexperienced squad, with less than a dozen seniors on the varsity roster and almost all of its top skill position players being juniors or sophomores. Hirschi went 0-10 in 2015 while surrendering nearly 52 points per game and being outscored by an average of 33 points.

This season, Hirschi is 2-1 and one win away from equaling their combined win total from the previous two seasons. If they continue to have a winning season and put their struggles of the past few seasons behind them, Turner will no doubt be a big factor in that success. He has thus far rushed for 326 yards and 6 TDs on just 37 carries. Given his elite level speed on the track, his gaudy per-carry rushing figures aren’t surprising, but he is more than just a track athlete who happens to be good at football.

That’s not to say he won’t end up running track in college, and most of the college interest he has received in recent months has been on the track side, but he’s a legit football prospect as well and could play either sport at the D1 level.

At 5’9” and about 190 pounds, he’s got more than decent size for the running back position, and he has good natural strength to go with his speed. This past winter he competed in power lifting and had a top bench press of 300 pounds, a 485-pound squat, and a 475-pound dead lift.

In his highlights he can be seen effectively employing a spin move to elude defenders in close quarters, running through arm tackles while showing good balance, and sometimes turning what should be a loss into a first down run by turning on the jets and outrunning a defender to the sideline. In the first play of his junior highlight video (see below), he runs over or around at least six Springtown defenders - all of whom are within arm’s reach of him at some point - on his way to the end zone for a 75-yard TD.

At a Texas State camp in June he ran a 4.34 forty-yard dash (which was likely hand-timed) and recorded a 10-foot broad jump. Clearly he’s an explosive athlete, though he doesn’t grade as high on lateral quickness as he does with his speed and burst.

As of yet he has no college offers for football or track, but that should change as both the football season rolls along and as the winter signing period for track and field approaches. Turner says he has received at least some interest for football from SMU, Texas State, Sam Houston State, Northern Colorado, and A&M-Commerce, while Kansas, Louisiana-Monroe, Brown and the University of New Orleans are among the track programs that have been in touch with him this year.

If he goes the track route he’ll be just the latest collegiate track athlete in his family. His mother Antoinette (Reed) Turner was a member of the Arkansas women’s track & field team in the early 90s and was a two-time All-American in the indoor long jump, and his cousin Charles Brown (also a former Hirschi track star) is on the Texas Tech track team and won the long jump at this year’s Big 12 Outdoor Track & Field Championship as a freshman.

Turner is a future D1 athlete, to be sure, though what sport he ends up competing in at the next level remains to be seen. For now, he’s fun to watch on the football field, and still has at least seven games left in his gridiron career. If you’d like to see Roman Turner and the Hirschi Huskies in person this fall, here is their remaining schedule:

September 16 - vs. Vernon
September 23 - at Breckenridge
October 6 - vs. Sanger
October 13 - vs. Decatur
October 21 - at Burkburnett
October 28 - vs. Argyle
November 4 - at Gainesville

Previous Unheralded 2017 Athletes of the Week:
Week One: RB Ted Fuller (Harleton)
Week Two: ATH Caleb Twyford (Farmersville)
Week Three: DE/TE Xavier Waggoner (Electra)