Texas traditionally holds a large place in the initial ESPN player rankings, and the 2014 class proves to be no different. Of the athletes represented on the ESPN Watch List, 39 are from the Lone Star State.
The offensive side of the ball is well represented with players like receiver K.D. Cannon (Mount Pleasant, Texas/Mount Pleasant), offensive tackle Ty Barrett (Dallas/Skyline) and quarterback and Texas commit Jerrod Heard (Denton, Texas/Guyer). Recruiting wise, the Longhorns have five players verbally committed, and four of those players are offensive standouts for their high schools.
While the offensive players look strong, it’s the defensive side of the ball that seems to spark most of the national attention – particularly those players in the secondary. Of the 39 Texans on the Watch List, 12 are designated cornerbacks or safeties, and four additional players listed as athletes could find themselves lining up as a defensive back in college.
Cornerbacks Chris Hardeman (Houston/Alief Taylor) and Cedric Collins (Dallas/Skyline) have verbally committed to LSU and Texas A&M, respectively. Safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner (Mesquite, Texas/West Mesquite) has given his verbal to Clemson.
Cornerback Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen) has been extremely impressive and heavily recruited since the spring and is expected to be a dominant force in college. Mansfield Timberview (Arlington, Texas) has the luxury of having two physical defensive backs on the Watch List in safety Brandon Simmons and cornerback Ed Paris, both of whom have more than 20 offers each.
Nick Watkins (Dallas/Bishop Dunne) is another dominant cornerback who has been shining. Safeties Jamal Adams (Carrollton, Texas/Hebron), Edwin Freeman (Arlington, Texas/Bowie), T’kevian Rockwell (Wylie, Texas/Wylie), Arrion Springs (San Antonio/Roosevelt) and Jordan Thomas (Klein, Texas/Klein Collins) all have their share of high-FBS scholarships to choose from, as well.
Lone wolves are major targets in three states
Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska all only have one player each represented on the Watch List, but running back Christian McCaffrey (Highlands Ranch, Colo./Valor Christian) and offensive linemen Braden Smith (Olathe, Kan./Olathe South) and D.J. Foster (Lincoln, Neb./Lincoln Southeast) are three of the better players in the country, regardless of classification.
McCaffrey, the son of former NFL receiver Ed McCaffrey is averaging double-digit yards per carry. He has offers from Stanford, NC State, Penn State, Boise State and others. Foster, a big guard at 6-foot-3 and 316 pounds, has a Nebraska offer and looks from Ohio State, Georgia, Missouri and others.
Smith, a long, strong athlete at 6-6 and 275 pounds, can play guard or tackle effectively. He is being recruited by Ohio State, Michigan, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Texas, Texas A&M, Kansas State and several other schools.
Show-Me State has three, including two commits
The state of Missouri has three players on the Watch List, and two of them have already committed. Offensive tackle Andy Bauer (St. Louis/De Smet) has given his verbal pledge to Missouri, and quarterback Rafe Peavey (Bolivar, Mo./Bolivar) has committed to Arkansas.
Offensive tackle Roderick Johnson (Florissant, Mo./Hazelwood Central) is still uncommitted, but he has his share of options from a recruiting perspective. Johnson, at 6-7 and 320 pounds, has offers from Michigan State, Missouri and Iowa, and he has additional looks from Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas A&M.
Three talented players representing Oklahoma
Like Missouri, Oklahoma also has three players on the Watch List. Quarterback Justice Hansen (Edmond, Okla./Santa Fe) has been turning heads since the spring, and running back Devon Thomas (Broken Arrow, Okla./Broken Arrow) showed his combination of speed and power on a very talented Oklahoma Class 6A state runner-up team last season.
The third Oklahoman on the list, athlete Deondre Clark (Oklahoma City/Douglass), may be the most intriguing in the state. At 6-4 and 235 pounds, Clark can play defensive end and tight end, as well as inside linebacker if needed. He has offers from the likes of LSU, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
Hansen, a sharp, pocket-passing quarterback, has Arkansas and Missouri offers. Thomas has offers from Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Clemson and Houston.