Happy Hunting Ground
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
May 8, 2004 -- Former Sulphur Springs head coach Chuck King stood on the sidelines of the football practice field on Wednesday, nodded in the direction of a couple of spectators and remarked, "This is like old times."
The spectators he was referring to were Division I college scouts.
The buzz at the SSHS spring training this week was the number of college recruiters and coaches who have been visiting and evaluating. There were at least seven of them this week, including Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt, who recently had SSHS graduate Caleb Lewis drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Now, it is senior-to-be Keenan Clayton who is drawing the most attention, and SSHS head coach Brad Turner says the attention is good for Clayton in particular and the other players in general.
"The good thing about having a big-time recruit, it's good for him and it also sheds light on a bunch of other players," Turner said. "Keenan's drawing them in, but when they get here, we've got some other good players, too. The more exposure they get, the better. When they (the recruiters) walk out on the field, I get the opportunity to point out some other players as well."
A Sam Houston scout on Thursday had a sheet with more than half-dozen names highlighted. Along with Clayton, who has been projected as a running back or defensive back in college, the seniors-to-be who are getting the most attention are wide receiver Rolaundo Wright, linebacker Keidric Duffey, and defensive end Tremayne Jones.
But, Turner pointed out that the program just sent 10 seniors to various colleges, from Division I to Division III. Even if they're not noted initially, Wildcats can find a place to play in college.
The recruiters and scouts don't go unnoticed by spectators or players. Usually, they wear shirts sporting their college logo.
"It makes everyone practice harder," Turner said. "If I was a young player and I look out there and see three of four Division I scouts, it would make an impression. Our guys were running and diving for balls the other day. I wish they would come every day, it makes our guys work out harder.
"Even the younger guys, everyone wants to do good in front of those coaches. Those guys that come through, they look at the seniors-to-be, but they also want to know about the prospects you have as juniors-to-be. That'll just bring them back the next year."
Three former Wildcats are now in the NFL, and that legacy opens doors for this generation. King, who is now assistant principal at the high school, coached at some level Damion Lewis, Kwaesi Palmer, Tyreo Harrison and Lewis, four of the most high-profile recruits in SSHS history. He recalled when SSHS was a stopover for dozens of Division I recruiters.
It is that way again.
This week alone, Texas A&M, Nebraska, Arkansas, Texas, Sam Houston, SMU and Louisiana-Monroe visited.
"There have been a bunch of colleges through here," Turner said. "I've lost count how many. Sulphur Springs is really known for having good players, and we have some again. Hopefully, we can continue the tradition that's been set. It's good for our guys."
Currently, college scouts can only observe and talk to the high school coaches. They cannot have face-to-face contact with a recruit until December, unless that player visits their campus. What they can do, is get a feel for those they need to keep any eye on in the fall.
Everyone will be watching Clayton. He's already been offered full scholarships by Nebraska, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Texas Tech, Arkansas, LSU, Arizona, Purdue, Kansas State and SMU.
While programs like Sam Houston and Louisiana-Monroe won't be in the Keenan Clayton sweepstakes, they turn their attention to other Wildcats who they believe can play at their level.
"You kind of establish a rapport with those coaches," Turner said. "Recruiting is funny because their job depends on the guys they recruit. I think the more they trust me as a coach, and what I'm telling them about the facts about a player, the better it is.
"I can't tell them a guy runs a 4.5 when he runs a 4.9 or a guy is 300 pounds when he's 250. If you start doing that, you lose the trust of that scout, and it hurts everybody. It takes time to develop a rapport with those guys, year-in and year-out. It's very nice to have someone like Keenan bringing them in."
Notes: Turner continues to like what he sees from Tremayne Jones at defensive end and Travis Edmond on the defensive line. They have both been converted from offense (Jones from quarterback, Edmond from guard). ... Receivers Spencer Daniel and Eric Chenault caught the coach's eye by catching the ball well. ...The offensive line is the area which needs to most work, Turner said, though he pointed out the work of Chris Berry. ...At quarterback, junior-to-be Josh Riley and sophomore-to-be Logan Turner are alternating with the first team.