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Busy Weeks Ahead for Whitehouse Sophomore Justin Dunning

Whitehouse sophomore safety Justin Dunning has a busy six weeks in front of him. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Camps and spring football games will keep Whitehouse’s Justin Dunning busy during the upcoming weeks.

The 6-foot-4, 200-pound safety has something planned five of the next six weekends, starting with two events this weekend. Dunning will compete in Sunday’s Rivals/UnderArmour Camp in Cedar Hill, but first has a track meet in Fort Worth that will allow him to stop by TCU for a quick visit, he said.

Dunning added that he has been invited to a Texas sophomore day in Austin on March 23, one week prior to the Longhorns’ March 30 spring game, to which he is also invited.

Dunning said he recently spoke to Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, who invited Dunning to the Sooners’ April 13 spring game. Dunning’s hectic six-week schedule concludes with the Texas Tech spring game April 20.

“I’m planning right now to go to all of them,” he said.

Baylor and LSU are two programs Dunning said he has not heard from that he hopes to hear from soon. His recruitment has just started, but he has an idea of what he’s looking for in a school.

“I’ve gotta like the coaches and I’ve gotta like the football program overall,” Dunning said. “And they need to have good academics.”

Dunning had a big sophomore season, accumulating 61 tackles, five interceptions, three fumble recoveries, and five pass breakups. He returns for the fall with junior linebacker Reggie Long, junior cornerback Isaiah Burton, and sophomore cornerback Nate Brooks to give new head coach Adam Cook a strong nucleus on the back end of the Whitehouse defense.

But Dunning may not be limited to defense in 2013. An already loaded Whitehouse receiving corps, which welcomes back three juniors in Jake Parker, Coleman Patterson, and Jaylon Dews, could see the 6-foot-4 target join the offensive side of the ball. That would give standout junior quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who has football offers from Texas Tech and Rice, another potential playmaker in the passing game.

“I thin I’m gonna be playing both (defense and offense),” Dunning said. “I probably like offense a little bit more, but they’re about the same. It doesn’t really matter right now.

“Right now in offseason everybody’s out there working hard. I think we all have that goal of going to state.  We just wanna go out there and do as good as we can, which is hopefully state.”

Dunning’s size for his age suggests that his future home could be on the offensive side of the ball. If he grows to 6-foot-5 or 6-foot-6 and north of 200 pounds, he could be a matchup nightmare down the road as a receiver or even hybrid tight end/H-back.

If he remains at safety, he could be the headliner in a loaded 2015 group from East Texas.

Five sophomores had big seasons at safety this past fall: Dunning, Carthage’s Bryian Bolton, Sulphur Springs’ Larry Pryor and Zach Spigner, and Center’s Johnny Shaw.

Bolton had 74 tackles, eight interceptions, and seven pass breakups, but at 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, could be a running back at the next level. Junior Tevin Pipkin got the vast majority of carries in Carthage’s offense in 2012 with Bolton needed more at safety, but don’t be surprised if Bolton sees more carries behind Pipkin this fall.

Pryor, Shaw, and Spigner fit the safety mold from a height-weight perspective more than Bolton and Dunning. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Pryor had 118 tackles, one interception, two forced fumbles, and 10 pass breakups, while 6-foot, 180-pound Spigner had 89 tackles and six pass breakups. Shaw (6-1, 187) had 88 tackles, five interceptions, two forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries.

Tatum’s Kyshaun Smith, the son of former Oklahoma Sooner and NFL linebacker Travian Smith, could also end up playing safety in college. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Smith played linebacker for Tatum in 2012.

2015 East Texas Safeties to Watch

  • Bryian Bolton, Carthage, 5-10, 175 — 74 tackles, 8 INTs, 7 PBUs (could wind up at running back)
  • Justin Dunning, Whitehouse, 6-4, 200 — 61 tackles, 5 INTs, 3 fumble recoveries, 5 PBUs (could wind up at receiver/tight end)
  • Larry Pryor, Sulphur Springs, 6-1, 185 — 118 tackles, 1 INT, 2 forced fumbles, 10 PBUs
  • Kyshaun Smith, Tatum, 6-1, 185 — could wind up at linebacker
  • Johnny Shaw, Center, 6-1, 187 — 88 tackles, 5 INTs, 2 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries
  • Zach Spigner, Sulphur Springs, 6-0, 180 — 89 tackles, 6 PBUs
Bryian Bolton returns one of his two interceptions in Carthage’s 45-29 win at Center in October. (Bud Worley, ETSN.fm)

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