GARLAND, Texas - In a marquee non district match-up last Friday night, the Longview Lobos made the long trek from East Texas to the Dallas Metroplex to battle a talented Lake Highlands squad that features the nation's No. 2 defensive tackle Franklin Okam.
Longview showed that they deserved their No. 4 ranking in the state by picking up the tough road win, 24-14.
But the game was also a great opportunity for several other solid Division I prospects to showcase their talent. It featured a number of division I prospects, most notably Okam of Lake Highlands and super junior Malcom Kelly of Longview.
It was a difficult game to scout, as neither team looked sharp. The game featured countless fumbles and interceptions. In the end, the amazing talent on the field was too much to ignore as the seniors strutted their stuff, and the juniors gave us something to watch for next season.
OKAM COULDN'T BE BLOCKED Okam has a big, and we mean big body with his 6-foot-5, 300-pound frame. That alone makes him a one-man defense.
Okam is comically big upon first glance, but he hardly looks like a lineman. Okam is trim and fit, belying his massive bulk. He has a very athletic frame, and despite his already impressive size, he has plenty of room to grow.
Okam does not stuff the run the way that one might expect. He is much more than a big body that clogs the middle of the line. Okam's most impressive asset might be his mobility and speed.
Watching him pursue down the line on sweeps and toss plays, Okam can be seen hurdling fallen defenders and avoiding much smaller blockers. Okam can run sideline-to-sideline track down perimeter running plays.
Okam also has great stamina. He played about half the series on offense, and nearly every play on defense. After the game, he hardly seemed tired.
"We do too much running for me to be tired," Okam said. "All that running doesn't wear me down anymore. I love getting out and running people down."
Okam is hardly a finesse player either.
He is powerful, and keeps himself low on the snap. He is often able to split double teams to create havoc on interior runs, and when he arrives in the backfield, he has the ability to make the tackle.
"When I go against double teams, I just have to stay low and drive through them," he said. "I see doubles and triple-teams most of the time, so I have just gotten used to it."
As good as Okam is against the run, he is sometimes very average against the pass. He has few pass-rushing moves, and attempts to simply run over smaller opponents. He is a factor because he is aware in his pass-rush situation, and gets his long arms into passing lanes to deflect passes.
But there is no doubt that Okam is one of the best in the country, and makes play after play against the run, but he will have to refine his technique before he is ready to shine rushing the passer.
CAMPBELL AN INTRIGUING PROSPECT Linebacker Jeremy Campbell is a solid looking prospect.
He looks good in his uniform, but he does look somewhat narrow, but might not have the ability to dramatically increase his size. It is often difficult to tell how filled out a player is in their pads, but Campbell didn't have noticeably broad shoulders.
Campbell didn't make all that many plays, but he wasn't totally silent either. Campbell was seemingly always in traffic around the ball. He had some issues avoiding blocks, but when he was able to shed, he showed good quickness to the ball.
Honestly, Campbell looked good. He made his share of plays, and played tough despite appearing to be dinged up. One last note is the leadership that Campbell provides. It is obvious that his team looks to him, as the middle linebacker, for leadership on the field.
CASEY HAS GOOD TOOLS Longview tight end Tate Casey is a guy that looks really pretty, but on this night, he was shut out, and was truly unimpressive.
The first thing that stands out about Casey is his height. He is extremely tall. His build looks a lot like that of current Oklahoma freshman Joe John Finley and Texas tight end David Thomas, and he will need to have a similar style of play.
Casey could fill out and be an impressive physical specimen, who will then have to learn the finer parts of playing tight end. There is definitely potential for improvement because of Casey's size, but he did not stand out in the Longview win.
Casey showed good straight-ahead speed, but was unable to get separation from Lake Highlands safety Steven Coleman, who intercepted two passes.
Casey is also more of a screener than a blocker. He uses his long arms to get in the way of defenders, effectively taking them out of the play, but you won't see him drive block a linebacker.
KELLY A JUNIOR WAR-DADDY Malcolm Kelly, is a junior receiver from Longview that going to be a big-time recruit in the Class of 2005.
Kelly did not have a big statistical night, but he was hardly disappointing against a game Lake Highlands secondary.
Kelly's size just jumps off the field at you in the stands.
He is listed at 6-foot-4 200 pounds in the program, and he looks to be every inch, and nearly every pound.
Kelly is big and physical, and Longview can have a 10-yard hook whenever they want it because of him.
On a crucial drive late in the game, Kelly caught two important passes for first downs.
The second pass was thrown high, and Kelly climbed the ladder to reach up and snag it.
After the catch, Kelly turns his shoulders up-field and fights for extra yardage.
He shows good, but very elusive speed.
He runs so smoothly that it seems as though he is hardly moving, yet he gets behind his defender when he wants, and he quickly snaps off hooks and creates separation.
The only bad play that Kelly had was on a deep post on the second play of the game.
Kelly loped through the route, and didn't use his body to get position on a much smaller defender.
In short, Kelly is for real.
He could wind up a jumbo sized wide receiver in the mold of Plaxico Burress or Mike Williams before he is done growing.
Look for him to hold a lofty national ranking next season, because he's definitely the real deal. If he can work on his speed a little bit and continue to develop his hands and his frame, he could be really special and the focus of an intense recruiting battle next season.
DON'T OVERLOOK JUNIOR DE The second of two very impressive Longview juniors was defensive end Roderick Allen. He was easy to spot on the field with his big frame at a legit 6-foot-2 210 pounds. In fact, he really looks a lot like a younger version of current Oklahoma commitment Alan Davis, who is ranked as a four-star prospect by Rivals.com.
Allen is very quick off the edge, and displayed very good all-around athleticism while blocking a punt and coming very close in a number of other plays. Allen is a flash into the backfield on most plays, and actually owns some pass rushing moves.
Allen found himself lined up across from Okam many times throughout the night. Allen absolutely owned Okam on many passing plays by using superior quickness to get the big man off balance.
On running plays, Okam mainly blocked down on the tackle, which left Allen singled up against a tight end. Allen was able to maintain the point of attack against the tight end, and pursue down the line to make a number of tackles around the line of scrimmage.
When Okam matched up against the young defensive end on running plays, Allen got pancaked. He is simply not big enough to hold position against a big man like Okam.
Allen also plays out of control at times. Allen uses his great speed to fly up-field much of the time, but he loses containment, and runs himself out of the play.
Allen has a lot of physical talent, but he must learn to harness his aggressiveness at times.