, Port Arthur, Texas

February 6, 2013

COLEMAN ON RECRUITING: Heisman Trophy casts a long shadow in Texas

David Coleman
The Port Arthur News

— How far and how big a shadow does the Heisman Trophy cast? Judging by National Signing Day around Texas, the answer is pretty far and pretty wide.

Johnny Manziel capped a brilliant freshman season with the Aggies by winning a Heisman Trophy and the Cotton Bowl. He also influenced this year’s recruiting class for Texas A&M in a number of ways.

First of all, there’s high-profile quarterback Kenny Hill out of Southlake Carroll. Hill, the son of former Texas Ranger Ken Hill, who was named the Associated Press high school player of the year last season, and had originally committed to Texas A&M.

After seeing what Manziel did last season, Hill put more schools in play, but came back to the Aggies on National Signing Day Wednesday.

The Aggies managed to land an impressively big class, signing 33 players in all. That list includes two national Top 100 players in Sealy receiver Ricky Seals-Jones and Dallas Kimball defensive tackle Justin Manning.

Texas A&M added a pair of runners who will be familiar to Nederland fans. Little Cypress-Mauriceville runner Alex Sezer graduated early and enrolled with the Aggies this spring. Sezer rushed for 1,294 yards and 17 touchdown last season for the Bears.

Pearland Dawson runner James White also inked with the Aggies after running for 2,185 yards and 28 touchdowns last season before his team was beaten by Nederland in the regional round of the playoffs.

The University of Texas may have been overshadowed a bit by Manziel and the SEC-bound Aggies last season, but that didn’t prevent them from locking up a recruiting class that ranked in the Top 25 nationally. While small at only 15 prospects, the Longhorns made up with quality. Nine of those 15 prospects were four-star prospects and the other five were three-star guys, including Livingston athlete Chevoski Collins.

The Longhorn group is led by two offensive linemen in Lake Highlands star Kent Perkins and Harker Heights standout Darius James. Perkins was ranked as the nation’s No. 41 prospect while James was ranked No. 65.

Oklahoma came out of the Cotton Bowl a little bloodied by that Heisman shadow Manziel cast, but that didn’t deter them from making hay in Texas recruiting. The Sooners signed 13 of their 24 total recruited players from the state of Texas, including Port Arthur’s own Matthew Romar.

The Sooners didn’t stop there, signing Rival’s four-star running back Keith Ford, who had 1,868 yards and 24 touchdowns last season for Cy-Ranch, and four-star quarterback Cody Thomas, who threw for 4,154 yards last season for Colleyville Heritage. Oklahoma also landed four-star defensive tackle Kerrick Huggins out of Dallas Skyline, the No. 11 defensive tackle in the country.

Romar will also be playing with a former opponent, as the Sooners landed Manvel receiver Austin Bennett. Manvel beat the Titans in the bidistrict round of the playoffs last season and had three different receivers sign with Division I colleges.

Kliff Kingsbury is part of that shadow, having been offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Texas A&M last season. He left to take over his alma mater, Texas Tech, when Tommy Tuberville left for Cincinnati.

The charismatic Kingsbury has picked up where his old boss Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin left off, picking up more and more commitments late in the process. He successfully wooed Port Arthur Memorial safety Jalen Barnes away from Iowa State and also got one of the top prospects in the state, Bellaire receiver Devin Lauderdale, to choose Tech over offers from Baylor, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Notre Dame and Alabama.

Kingsbury may not be done in the Golden Triangle either, as Tech has been linked to both Memorial junior receiver Roderic Rucker and freshman phenom Kameron Martin. The Red Raiders have also offered Nederland standout defensive end De Shawn Washington, one of three offers Washington currently has.

Though they weren’t directly affected by Manziel, Baylor has its own Heisman shadow to contend with. A season removed from Robert Griffin III winning the award, the Bears came in a respectable third to A&M and Texas in the state.

The three jewels in Baylor’s recruiting crown are Fort Worth Southwest receiver Robbie Rhodes, a 6-foot-1, four-star recruit who was ranked the No. 8 wideout in the nation. He’s joined by Hargrave Military Academy linebacker Brian Nance, a four-star recruit who enrolled at Baylor this spring and Waco’s Andrew Billings, a four-star defensive tackle who switched from Texas this week.

The University of Houston is dealing with life without former head coach Sumlin, but still had a nice haul on signing day. Of course, one of their biggest additions could be former Memorial linebacker Elandon Roberts, who had 107 tackles last season for the Morgan State Bears, leading the team and finishing second in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in tackles. He also had nine tackles for a loss, two sacks, one interception, two pass breakups and two quarterback hits.

Roberts transferred to Houston for the spring semester and is already working out with the football team. He should compete for a starting spot once spring workouts begin, but he’ll have to wait a bit to join the rest of the 2013 Cougar signing class.

That list is led by a number of Houston-area players, including Roberts’ former teammate John Leday. The 6-foot, 180 pound receiver will join former West Orange-Stark wideout Mark Roberts in the Cougars receiving corps for next season. Houston only signed one other receiver in this class, Zachary (LA)’ Donald Gage, a 6-foot-, 170 pounder who was ranked the No. 40 prospect in the state by Rivals.

Houston also added some competition at quarterback for incumbent starter David Piland, signing one out of junior college. Billy Kosh led Butler County Community College to the national championship game last season, throwing for 2,856 yards with 25 touchdowns and nine interceptions. John O’Korn threw for 2,552 yards and 22 touchdowns last season for St. Thomas Aquinas high school in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Rounding out the area colleges is Rice University. Head coach David Bailiff inked 18 players on Wdnesday, but only four were ranked three star or higher by Rivals. Luckily, one of those three-star guys is El Campo tight end Cole Hunt, who will have to replace former East Chambers tight end Vance McDonald. The versatile McDonald is likely to be a mid-round NFL draft pick come April and finished his Owls career with 120 catches for 1,513 yard and 15 touchdowns.