East Texas may not see quite as many recruiters head through as the major hubs of Houston and Dallas but there is plenty of talent to be found in the Piney Woods.
Defensive tackle DJ Williams could be close to an offer from Texas.
One of the top programs in the state year-in and year-out is Lufkin and the school has produced NFL players such as Dez Bryant, Jorvorskie Lane, Terrence Kiel, Rex Hadnot and Reggie McNeal as well as current college players like Carrington Byndom and Jamarkus McFarland.
The Panthers have multiple prospects sign Division I every year and the next few classes will certainly be no exception.
The headliner among the seniors-to-be is wide receiver Jamal Jeffery. The 5-foot-9, 168-pound prospect made an early commitment to Texas A&M in December and has remained firm in his pledge since. He is on the small side but he has great wiggle and can make defenders miss in the open field.
The top uncommitted member of the class of 2014 at Lufkin is defensive tackle DJ Williams. The defender is surprisingly tall and lean for a tackle at 6-foot-4, 275 pounds and has a quick first step off the ball. He almost looks like a 3-4 defensive end right now but he has the frame to bulk up and play the three-technique.
Williams has yet to receive his first offer but he did make a trip to Texas this past weekend and the Longhorn staff and evaluating him very closely. He is taking the ACT for the first time in two weeks and when he has a test score back he should begin to see offers come in. With the lack of defensive tackles in the state this year and the fact that two of the top ones in DeShawn Washington (Texas A&M) and Zaycoven Henderson (TCU) are already off the board, schools will definitely take a lot more notice of Williams is spring ball.
Which way for Coutee?
The 5-foot-9, 155-pound athlete spent some time at cornerback too but made his mark the most at receiver. However, it seems like colleges like him on the defensive side of the ball. In fact, he likely would have picked up his first offer this past weekend had he been a little more open to the idea.
Standout wide receiver KeKe Coutee's future appears to be at cornerback.
“I’ve been to Texas a couple times,” Coutee said. “I went last weekend for their sophomore day. They want me to play defensive back. They were going to offer me as a DB but I told them I didn’t really want to play there. I’d rather play receiver.
“A lot of schools want me as a DB, I think. I think with my size most of them like me as a corner.”
From talking to people around the program, there seems a prevailing sentiment that Coutee will eventually warm to the idea of cornerback. He did not completely shut the idea down but it’s clear he would much rather play as a slot receiver right now. As a cornerback he will bait receivers that aren't quite as athletic and will blanket the better athletes and his potential there is through the roof.
Though it is still early for the sophomore he has a favorite school.
“Texas – I’ve always been a big fan,” he said. “It’s a great school and the sports are all really good. It’s a good program.
“Jamal talks to me about A&M a lot though. If I go to A&M, we’d probably be pretty good together.”
Small town, Big talent
About an hour northeast of Lufkin is the town of Center. Much smaller than Lufkin, the Class 3A Roughrider program has not produced an FBS recruit in quite some. The area has had several in the past such as TCU running back Justin Watts and Texas A&M defensive end Mike Montgomery.
Center safety Johnny Shaw could be one of the top prospects in Texas for the class of 2015.
College recruiters will be making their way to the school the next few years, though, as head coach Kevin Goodwin has lot of talent on his hands.
The top prospect at the school is sophomore safety Johnny Shaw. The 6-foot-2, 188-pound defender is a big hitter who loves to come downhill against the run.
A yes-sir, no-sir player off the field, Shaw shows serious intensity once he puts the pads on. He was named the district’s Newcomer of the Year as a testament to that intensity as well as his work habits.
“It’s a big compliment,” Shaw said. “It came out of nowhere. I was putting in the work and my coach says good things will come out of it if you do that. I put in the work and got it. That was really nice.”
Goodwin recently sent his film to several schools such as Auburn, TCU, Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech and it drew a ton of interest right away. In fact, he is making his first campus visit this upcoming weekend.
“My coach is sort of dealing with schools right now,” he said. “He’s just letting me focus on football. I’m going to the Texas sophomore day this weekend for their spring game. It’s going to be a lot of fun to look around their campus and meet the coaches and everything.”
There is a pair of schools that stand out to Shaw in the early going.
“I’ve grown up a fan of Texas,” he said. “It’s just Austin, the Lone Star State, the capital of Texas – I love Texas. I do want to hear from Oregon, though. That’s the kind of school I’d like to go to because I like their speed.”
Shaw would like to attend several camps this summer and says he has one already planned at Texas on June 9.
Another player to keep an eye on at the school is 6-foot-5, 195-pound freshman wide receiver Kam'Ron Parks. He played subvarsity this year to get used to the transition from middle school football but Goodwin is very excited about his potential.
More Lufkin prospects
Lufkin has a tremendous sophomore class that should see a lot more players besides just Coutee receive interest.
Wide receiver Terry Mark is the younger brother of University of Houston defensive tackle Tomme Mark and the Cougars actually offered the 6-foot-2, 185-pound younger brother when he was just a freshman. A standout on the track, the big receiver missed this past year due to an injury.
Once he works out this spring, schools will definitely take notice of his combination of size and speed. Though he also plays safety, his future is on the offensive side of the ball.
Offensive lineman Erik McCoy plays tackle for the Panthers but will likely play on the interior at the next level. The 6-foot-3, 265-pound sophomore has played a bit of guard as well but the coaches are going to try his hand a bit at center.
Lufkin is looking to replace its starting quarterback and Trey Cumbie appears to be the one in line. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound sophomore has a strong arm and is also a very good runner.
In addition, a couple of other juniors could also end up going the FBS route when all is said and done. Though he is on the small side, Missouri has shown an interest in offensive lineman Dominick Hall. Fellow offensive lineman Wacey Hartman has also drawn attention from some smaller programs. Safety Michael Farley has good size at 6-foot, 180 pounds and could impress some programs on the camp circuit this summer.