Ten storylines that will define high school football in 2011 (cont.)
If being the son of former NFL Pro Bowler Fred Taylor didn't warrant enough attention, Kelvin Taylor took his publicity to another level this spring: He created a personal Android smartphone app. Now, fans can follow his every move, monitoring the junior through his various recruiting updates, highlight reel plays and statistical exploits.
The decision does have roots. Taylor is a unanimous five-star recruit and has done nothing but slice through opposing defenses since enrolling at Glades Day (Belle Glade, Fla.). He accumulated 2,463 rushing yards and 34 touchdowns as a sophomore, an encore from his 213-yard, four touchdown performance in the Florida 1B championship in 2009. Come next fall, he'll likely receive attention as one of the BCS's most-coveted prospects. He's a bona fide prep playmaker.
More than anything, however, the move embodies the current self-promotional state of sports -- even at the high school level. If successful, it could spur a trend beyond the Facebook and Twitter antics that fans have become accustomed to, offering even more unfiltered access to athletes' thoughts and whims.
Recruiting. Now there's an app for that.
High school football loses two of its alltime great coaches in St. Thomas Aquinas's (Fla.) George Smith and DeMatha's (Md.) Bill McGregor, both who retired at last season's end. Legends in the prep circuit, both leave legacies that won't soon be forgotten.
Smith was 361-66 during his 34-year tenure, claiming six state and two national titles. He sent hundreds of players to Division-I schools, and several, including former Dallas Cowboys' wideout Michael Irvin, to the NFL. He also went out with a bang: The Raiders were 59-2 during his final four years on the sidelines, winning three 5A championships.
McGregor achieved similar success in his 29-year stint, going 280-39-3 with 17 conference titles. He coached running back Brian Westbrook and cornerback Josh Wilson, among others, and is largely responsible for the Stags' reputation as a D.C. area juggernaut.
Even in their absences, both teams face lofty expectations in 2011. St. Thomas Aquinas and DeMatha went a combined 23-3 last year, leaving Rocco Casullo and Elijah Brooks -- the team's new respective head coaches -- with giant shoes to fill.
A typical high school season features off-field recruiting drama as enthralling as on-field action, and this year should be no exception. The majority of the nation's top players have yet to declare, triggering an outpouring of speculation, rumors and debate about where each recruit will land. Though many won't commit until National Signing Day (Feb. 1), Texas and Florida State are off to the strongest starts.
|2012 Texas Recruiting Class (so far)|
|2012 Florida State Recruiting Class (so far)|
More interesting, however, might be the case of St. Edward (Ohio) offensive tackle Kyle Kalis. The 6-5, 302-pounder bolted from Ohio State to Michigan in July, switching commitments after former coach Jim Tressel's resignation. Though it's just one player, could it be a harbinger of things to come?
Few stories are as played out in sports as a son following in his father's footsteps. It's been chronicled on countless occasions, from the Mannings to the Griffeys to the Earnhardts. The dynamic seems surprisingly fresh, however, when the father is Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders.
Twenty-three years after hoisting the Heisman at Oklahoma State, Sanders's son is running wild in the Sooner State. The Heritage Hall (Oklahoma City, Okla.) standout resembles his elder in many ways, possessing the sturdy frame (5-9, 180), explosive speed and one-step acceleration that once gained his father unprecedented success. His numbers are also impressive: 81 carries, 1,136 yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior in 2010.
Perhaps best of all, Sanders Jr. has shown glimpses of his father's trademark elusiveness, the stunning cutbacks and sideline scampers that once dominated NFL defenses. As this clip from the 2008 2A Finals makes clear -- with Sanders Jr. splitting two defenders and hurdling another -- this could be the rare father-son remake that never gets old.
Mentioned in this week's magazine and the preseason Top 25, Don Bosco is brimming with talent. The Ironmen are overwhelming favorites, led by a sparkling senior class and a head coach, Greg Toal, who might be the best in the nation. It bears repeating: Their defense has a chance to be historically good.
Three blue-chippers (defensive tackle Darius Hamilton, cornerback Yuri Wright and safety Elijah Shumate) team with three under-the-radar stars (cornerback Jabrill Peppers, defensive end Mike Strizak and defensive end Alquadin Muhammad) for a unit that should surrender next to nothing. They gave up just nine touchdowns all of last season. They could best that total this year.
Before the team's practice on Aug. 9, Muhammad summed it up best. "We don't wanna give up eight points," he said, referencing the 8.1 points per game the Ironmen allowed in 2010. "We wanna come out and just blow teams out with the wind."