Fort Worth-area football heroes overlooked in college recruiting

Posted Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Underrated?

The top 10 area seniors still waiting on a major-college offer:

RB Kenneth Burks (5-8, 185), Mansfield: Ran for 1,885 yards, 23 touchdowns as a junior and was leading the area in rushing with 907 yards and nine scores through five games in 2012 before tearing his ACL.

RB Larry Cheeks (5-9, 170), Crowley: The second-team all-state selection as a senior led Crowley to an undefeated District 8-4A title by rushing for 1,923 yards and 23 touchdowns. Cheeks amassed more than 4,100 yards and 40 touchdowns on the ground as a three-year starter for the Eagles.

DB Andre Chineme (6-0, 195), Arl. Bowie: His best fit at the next level is at safety, but spent most of the 2012 season at linebacker for the District 3-5A champs. Chineme is a fast, aggressive player who routinely delivers punishing hits.

QB Quade Coward (6-4, 210), Cleburne: The District 8-4A MVP threw for 3,270 yards, 36 touchdowns and rushed for 603 yards, 15 scores to lead Cleburne back to the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

WR Nathan Crouch (6-3, 180), Colleyville Heritage: The big target runs a 4.5-second 40 and wins most jump balls as a deep threat, averaging 18.6 yards per reception in 2012. Crouch caught 56 passes for 1,039 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2012.

QB Austin Henyon (6-1, 190), FW Trinity Valley: Threw for 2,554 yards and 23 touchdowns as a junior, then 1,416 yards and seven scores, along with 350 yards and eight scores rushing, in just seven games in 2012.

DB Tanner Jacobson (5-10, 185), Southlake Carroll: Tallied 311 tackles and six interceptions as a three-year starter for the Dragons. Won two district championships and a state title as a starter. Averaged almost 16 yards a punt return in 2012.

OL Andreau Kirby (6-3, 340), Euless Trinity: It's rare when a Trojans offensive lineman goes unnoticed, but Andreau only played one full season after suffering minor injuries earlier in his career. The all-district and Super Team selection uses a great combination of power and surprising athleticism at the point of attack.

RB Aaron Stevenson (6-0, 190), FW Western Hills: The second team all-state and Star-Telegram Super Team selection rushed for 1,880 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior. With good size and speed (4.5-second 40-time) he should have several big-school offers.

DB Matt Waller (5-11, 215), Arl. Martin: A three-year starter at safety, the two-time first-team all-district performer played on all special-teams units and added quarterback to his résumé midway through his senior season. Waller collected 254 tackles and nine interceptions over his career.

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At 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, Quade Coward of Cleburne has the look of a prototypical top-tier college quarterback.

The 2012 District 8-4A MVP threw for 3,270 yards, 36 touchdowns and rushed for 603 yards and 15 touchdowns to lead Cleburne to the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Coward also became a town hero after leading a handful of last-second game-winning drives.

First-year coach Jeff Merket and Coward hoped scholarship offers would pour in, but a little more than a week away from the Feb. 6 National Signing Day, that has not been the case.

"It's been slower than I thought it would be," said Coward, who has been offered by several NCAA Division II schools. "We had a pretty good season and put up some pretty big numbers, and I thought that would kind of jump-start the recruiting process, but it's a tough deal having an all-right junior season and then having to step up your senior season. There's already those guys that did well their junior year and they are ahead of you."

Coward is not alone. Considered too small, too slow or a late bloomer, several top-producing area players are hoping for a last-minute big-school scholarship offer.

"Colleges are trying to find players who can play right now," said Arlington Bowie coach Kenny Perry, who has sent dozens of players to top college football programs during his tenure. "No. 1 they are looking for the upside of the kid; the tangibles such as speed, size and are they a good football player. Then, how fast can they come in and play for us."

At 5-foot-9, 180 pounds with a 40-yard time of 4.7, Crowley running back Larry Cheeks is neither especially big nor fast, yet has been one of the most productive running backs in the area over the past three seasons.

After churning out more than 4,100 yards and 40 touchdowns on the ground as a three-year starter, Cheeks has numerous accolades, such as second-team all-state, Star-Telegram Super Team and first-team all-district selections. What he doesn't have is a Division I scholarship offer.

"I will play somewhere, it may not be a Division I school, but I will play somewhere," said Cheeks, who plans to visit Southeastern Oklahoma State and Arkansas Tech. "I think it's just my size for the position I play, but I can play multiple positions. I just think that they don't want to take that chance."

Arlington Martin coach Bob Wager considers helping his players attain scholarships one of the most important facets of his job and calls this period their "second season." In the seven years since Wager's arrival, the Warriors have sent players to top programs such as Michigan, Oklahoma, Oregon and TCU as well as Division II and III schools.

At one point last week, Wager said recruiters from Oklahoma State, Alabama, Notre Dame and Texas were outside his office at the same time and all of the attention has a snowball effect for fringe Division I players.

"Maybe their forearm isn't quite thick enough, their feet aren't quite long enough, they are a few inches short, or whatever it might be, but then you look at them on film and they just make plays all of the time," Wager said. "I think that's a whole separate sub-category of recruiting in itself. The guys that we've had who fall into those categories over a period of time make it because they grind."

Matt Waller, a three-year starter at defensive back for the Warriors, falls into the grinder category. Waller finished his career at Martin with 254 tackles, nine interceptions, participated on every special teams unit and even stepped in to play quarterback over the final half of his senior season.

"I get out of class, I come down for 30 minutes, talk to the coach, go back to class and maybe 10 minutes later someone else is down there and I have to leave again," said Waller, who is holding out for a Division I scholarship. "So it's been kind of hectic and kind of up and down at times. Some days I'm talking to four recruiters, other days it's none. It's been a roller coaster for me, but I've enjoyed it."

Jarret Johnson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JohnsonJarret

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