East Texas College Football Camp Series: Kliff Kingsbury + Texas Tech Swing By Longview
LONGVIEW -- Texas Tech's annual college football camp at Longview High School's Lobo Stadium has been one of its most productive since Kliff Kingsbury launched it three years ago in conjunction with five other camps around the state.
Former Chapel Hill safety Joseph Clark earned a scholarship from the Red Raiders following their inaugural East Texas event. Longview offensive tackle Broderick Washington impressed last year and ultimately signed with the school as a defensive lineman.
Did Kingsbury find another player in the 2015 installment of the camp Tuesday? While avoiding discussing recruiting specifics, per NCAA rules, he was optimistic.
Answers will follow after Kingsbury and company put up standouts in Longview against other top performers at camps in Euless, Lancaster, Spring, Sugar Land and New Braunfels.
"Even with all the sites, like Rivals.com and Scout.com and all those things, there's guys that slip through the cracks," the head coach said. "That's why these camps are very helpful. They get us out around the kids and we can see what is all out there. We've had great turnouts at all the camps, particularly this one. Every year, you find a diamond in the rough."
Despite Texas Tech's distance from East Texas, 474 miles away from Longview on continuous stretches of highway, local players will leave a big mark on the program's future.
Former Longview athlete Pete Robertson will anchor an overhauled defense as a senior linebacker. Ex-Whitehouse star Patrick Mahomes is in the running for the starting quarterback position. Whitehouse and Tenaha receivers Dylan Cantrell and Reginald Davis are critical pieces in the Red Raiders' offensive rotation.
Washington and Lufkin receiver KeKe Coutee, true freshmen, also need to pan out over the long-term to keep the program at pace with Big 12 foes.
"We think the kids are some of the most talented," Kingsbury said. "But more importantly, some of the most hard-working and appreciative that we deal will. Obviously, our team is starting to have more and more players from this area. A bunch of starters who are emerging from East Texas.
"We're trying to hit it harder and harder. This place has really grown on us and we're going to try to get as many players from this area as we can."
Texas Tech is coming off a poor 2014 season for its standards, having reached bowl games in 11 of the 12 prior seasons. It went 4-8 overall with two Big 12 Conference wins.
However, the team saved its best performances for last.
Already eliminated from bowl game consideration, it took down Iowa State on the road and closed the year a two-point conversion away from forcing overtime against Big 12 co-champion Baylor.
Kingsbury mentioned this offseason has been the school's best since he took the reigns in December, 2012.
"What I was proud of was the fact, when you're out of contention for a bowl, it's easy to lay it down," he said. "Our kids fought to the last minute of the last game. That showed me then that we can be really good really quickly. So I'm excited to see us build off that. I thought we did it in the spring and now we've just got to continue through the summer and into fall camp."
The late season turnaround resonated with several local prospects Tuesday.
Going For More
Liberty-Eylau's Andre Wiley Jr. and Marshall's Micahh Smith already have college football scholarship opportunities with FBS schools, but they have not quite cracked the power five conference level.
As a member of the Big 12, Texas Tech holds some promise for them. Both defensive backs got the opportunity to show the coaching staff what they could do, and had the benefit of already drumming up headlines with other scholarship offers.
"They told me they like me," Wiley said. "They told me I have a lot of athleticism. They like my feet and said I cover real good. They said said I can be a little bit more aggressive, but I think that's on my film in pads. Hopefully, I made an impression and they'll look at my film a little bit more."
Wiley (5-10, 170) holds offers from Arkansas State, Army, Louisiana Tech, Navy and Texas State in addition to a scholarship opportunity from Central Arkansas on the FCS level.
Smith (5-11, 185) owns an invitation from Texas State as well as FCS choices in Northwestern State and Sam Houston State. Texas Tech's East Texas recruiting coordinator, outside linebacker coach Trey Haverty, has had conversations with Marshall head coach Clint Harper.
"They were keeping an eye on me during spring practice," Smith said before heading back home for a set of 7-on-7 games. "Coach Haverty called Coach Harper. We've stayed in touch. He's a real good guy. I like their D.B. coaches and the D-coordinator.
"Tech really dressed it up. I like their whole coaching staff and the defense. When they played Baylor, they fought and almost won with Pat Mahomes. That's real good competition and they went out and fought. They show it in their coaching how they deal with their players."
The two defenders also will visit TCU's satellite football camp at Kilgore High School. It begins at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
"It's a crazy grind," Wiley said before returning home to Texarkana only to turn around for the TCU camp the next day. "But I feel like if you don't grind you don't get any exposure. I feel like it's a great experience to come to the camps. I've got TCU tomorrow and then Arkansas State and Tulsa this weekend.
"It's really a blessing how God has given me all these options and offers. I feel like I need to work hard every day, like I have no offers."
Texas Tech's coaching staff might have seen a first in its satellite camp tour.
Chapel Hill kicker and punter Austyn Fendrick attended the Longview event to show what he can do. Like Andre Wiley Jr. and Micahh Smith, he also has scholarship security. An incredible rarity for high school kicking specialists.
Even rarer is for a kicker to attend a camp the nature of Texas Tech's. It was designed for every down offensive and defensive players.
Northwestern State gave Fendrick a full-ride scholarship last week. Most schools are only interested in walk-on kickers and then award them scholarships later in their careers if they work out.
"I want to show the bigger schools that I'm good enough to go there," Chapel Hill's specialist said. "Getting that first offer is just a lot off my back. I just came out here to have fun.
"It was really hard to get that offer. You have to practice a lot and then go to a bunch of camps. Hopefully one school will have a lot of interest just in you. Then you go to a bunch of straight kicker camps and get ranked. Those coaches will help you out, too."
Fendrick put on a show in Longview. He stretched himself to about 40 yards at times and did not miss a single attempt.
Alas, Texas Tech can't commit to a kicker right now with other pressing needs.
"They want me to follow them on Twitter and just talk," Fendrick said. "They want me to walk on. To walk on and compete to get a scholarship. I will think about it, but it's not the first thing I'd want to do right now."
Something, Anything For Williams
Senior Trent Williams is one of those guys that can make all opposing Class 5A coaches' hair raise.
He's fearless in the middle of the field, he's aggressive in the air and he's part of a Whitehouse offensive machine that produced Texas Tech's Dylan Cantrell and Patrick Mahomes. He ranked eighth on the 2014 ETSN.fm statistics leader board with 871 yards and eight touchdowns in a 10-game junior season.
He's also without a single offer at 6-foot-1 and 177 pounds.
"When I first walked in here, me and (running back) Shemar Smith, they asked us where we were from," Williams said. "Whitehouse. When you say you're from Whitehouse, especially at Tech, it opens their eyes. You get a little boost over everybody, I feel like."
Williams went toe-to-toe with Henderson junior receiver Trestan Ebner for -- in the covering media's eyes -- the best player within the position group.
"I feel that with my size that one thing I need to work on is my speed," Williams said. "I need to be sharp with my route running, just stick it. I've gotten a lot better being able to get off the ball."
It's been a long, fairly inactive road for the key Whitehouse player. But there have been some nibbles here and there.
"Tulsa called the house not too long ago," Williams said. "I'm taking the ACT on Saturday, so they really want to know the feedback on that. And then some talk with Arkansas State and Purdue."
The chance to rejoin Cantrell and Mahomes is something Williams would like to entertain as well.
"I loved the staff here," he said. "They're very outgoing. I talked to a few and they love you. Definitely was fun."
Other Kingsbury Soundbites
How are Longview's Broderick Washington and Lufkin's KeKe Coutee adjusting to Lubbock?
"They're doing well. Once again, like I said, kids out in this area tend to be very well-coached and very appreciative. They've been great. They're excited to be there. They've really been examples for other kids to follow."
What have you seen from Whitehouse quarterback Patrick Mahomes?
"The last game of the year, to do what he did against Baylor, a top five team in the country, spoke for itself. But I've been more impressed off-the-field. I think he has a 3.9 GPA, played baseball, handled football this spring. He's just done a phenomenal job. He's been a great addition to our program and I'm excited to see him this fall.
"Just watching his evolution from the beginning of the season to the end, once he knew he was going to play you could see his sense of urgency pick up. He started working hard off the field and by the end he was a force to be reckoned with. I'm hoping he can pick that back up through fall camp and see where he takes it."
What do you expect from Longview's Pete Robertson in his senior year?
"We want Pete to take that next step. Last year, he led the Big 12 in sacks, which was awesome. I think he can take that even a step farther this year. What's good for Broderick is to have a guy like that who has been through it. From Longview and really looking out for him. Broderick is a tough kid and we expect him to come and play right away as well.
"But Pete, can't say enough good things about how much he's matured since we got him both on and off the field.
Where does Lufkin receiver KeKe Coutee fit in?
"We see him at kind of that inside receiver position where Tech's had a pretty illustrious history with those guys. He's a guy that you get the ball in his hands and good things happen. Tough kid. Very competitive. I expect him to flourish in our offense."