There was a time when the Texas High School Coaches Association all-star game was a big deal ... like just a few years ago. However, with more top prospects enrolling early into college and with others simply turning down the opportunity to play in the game, Tuesday's 2009 edition of the game felt like an imitation of a game that used to serve as the unofficial kick-off to the football season.
With that being said, it's time to break down the game, which the South squad won 48-21. Let's start with the top players on hand:
Madisonville running back Chris Whaley (Texas signee) - The future Longhorn was the biggest name present in this year's game and big things were expected of the four-star running back/athlete prospect coming in. Well, he delivered ... kind of. Whaley won offensive MVP honors with 52 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries, but he never really settled into a groove during the course of the night.
If we're being honest, Whaley is going to be a little bit of a project as a running back for Texas running backs coach Major Applewhite, which doesn't mean that he's not a big-time running back prospect, but it does mean that the 2009 expectations probably need to be tempered. Despite playing against below-average competition, Whaley didn't really stand out from the pack as an athlete and he's going to need to learn that he has to make quicker decisions at the next level. More than anything, Whaley seemed a little unsure about what he wanted to do at times and he just doesn't have the speed/quickness that will allow him any missteps or hesitation. Like Henry Melton before him, he he'll have to learn to get North/South faster and he has to become a better one cut/explode runner. If he cannot square his shoulders faster, he's going to struggle.
When the South squad got into the I-formation late in the game, Whaley was finally able to get his shoulders squared and he looked more comfortable than he did out of the one-back set that had him lined next to the quarterback in the shotgun. Whaley's combination of size/speed/athleticism was never really on display tonight and it might take some time before the entire package is ready for prime-time at the next level.
As good as he looked in the Army All-American game, he looked a little like a guy that's used to dominating people with ease at a small classification and not a guy that's primed for a quick start at the highest level of college football. But, it was just one night. We'll see what happens when practices start in a few weeks.
Aldine Eisenhower wide receiver Greg Timmons (Texas signee) - Timmons finished the night with a pair of catches for 50+ yards, but he could have easily finished the night with five catches for about 200 yards and a couple of touchdowns, if not for a couple of bad throws on deep balls. He was easily the best looking prospect at wide receiver from a physical standpoint and he made a couple of very nice grabs with his hands when given the opportunities. He didn't have a great night, be he looked the part.
Livingston athlete Dustin Harris (Texas A&M signee) - This future Aggie was far and away the game's most impressive performer, as he finished the night with a kickoff return for 99 yards and a score, a 95-yard fumble return for a touchdown, an interception on defense and 270 total yards. He was so far and away the best player on the field that I really couldn't tell how good he was. On both of his touchdowns, he didn't really have to do anything to make them happen and he could have called a fair catch on his interception. He looked like a kid that had a little Nate Vasher in him, but the competition in this game was so bad I can't tell if he's that good or just had a great game against the JV.
Schertz Clemens linebacker Sean Porter (Texas A&M signee) - He might have played in this game, but I don't ever remember seeing him.
Converse Judson linebacker Chris McAllister (Baylor Signee) - The former Judson star was probably the only pure defensive player on either side of the ball that caught my eye and impressed me. He showed good closing speed, he made some nice plays in space and he finished strong. Nobody else was in his league. Baylor got a good one.
Garland Naaman Forest running back Jonathan Miller (Oklahoma signee) - This kid barely played and when he did he lined up at wing-back and not as a true running back. For a kid that broke the 2,,000-yard mark and dominated the Metroplex, I was shocked that he wasn't featured at all. It was like the coaches went out of their way not to give him the ball. He must have been dinged up or he had a miserable week of practice because you would have known he was an OU-caliber prospect by his playing time and workload.
More thoughts on the game…
1. I really hate to belabor the point, but this was not a great crop of players to watch. There were more players headed to JUCO's or low-level directional schools or players not playing college ball at all than there were good players.
2. I don't understand how there could have been 11 quarterbacks from the 2009 class in my state top 50 and almost 30 quarterbacks from this state signed D1 LOI's and yet none played in this game. The quarterback play was abysmal. I knew the North wasn't going to come within 30 points of the South after the North's first offensive series.
3. The Texas contingent of players that were at the game (at least a dozen) showed very strong support for Timmons and Whaley. It should be noted that while Whaley wasn't a superstar in this game, the Texas players on hand seemed to treat him like one. Not only did they rise out of their seats on every carry, but they ribbed Fozzy Whittaker that Whaley would take his job after he scored touchdown No. 3.
4. The only lineman on either side of the ball that truly caught my eye was Lewisville Hebron offensive lineman Joel Gray, who is headed to Texas Tech . He showed some nice knee bend and really did a pretty good job at tackle. He looks the part.
5. The game might have been a snoozer, but at least the weather was decent. If it's that cool for the Louisiana- Monroe game next month, I'll be smiling wide.