East Texas College Football Camp Series: TCU Provides One-Stop Shop In Kilgore For Area Prospects
KILGORE -- Another day, another camp in East Texas.
TCU joined Big 12 Conference rivals Baylor and Texas Tech with a tip of the hat to the region with its own satellite college football camp Wednesday at Kilgore High School. And it did its best to ensure no stone was left unturned regardless of next level potential.
"We've been doing these camps for 15 years," Horned Frogs head coach Gary Patterson said. "To me, the motivation has been these kids don't have the time, or their parents don't have the time to bring them to Fort Worth. We're able to come out, and for a minimal amount, we're able to evaluate them and do a great job of finding them.
"It's been a lot of fun for us these years of coming out here and doing it."
Baylor conducted a camp Saturday in Marshall. Texas Tech followed Tuesday in Longview.
North Texas will put on its own camp today at Tyler Lee's practice field. Registration begins at 9 a.m. with a standard fee of $40.
Patterson and company allowed select coaches from Louisiana-Monroe and Memphis to piggyback on the event. East Texas Baptist University and several junior colleges also were represented.
It was easy to sense the excitement in Kilgore. More than five separate chances to inch closer to a college football opportunity within a two-hour span.
Liberty-Eylau defensive back Andre Wiley Jr., already an established FBS scholarship offer holder, struck chords with pretty much every school.
While the NCAA rulebook forbids college coaches from publicly discussing specific prospects, high school players are not confined to the restrictions.
TCU coaches praised Wiley (5-10, 170) several times during drills while Louisiana-Monroe used the camp opportunity to continue its dialogue with the Liberty-Eylau standout.
"I got to talk to Coach (Adam) Waugh from ULM," Wiley said. "I was already talking to him. He said they want me to go to a camp and they plan on offering. It's going pretty good. It was all good to me. I like different options at different places."
But who could say no to the Horned Frogs these days?
They pushed for a College Football Playoff appearance last season with an 11-1 regular season and share of the Big 12 title with Baylor. After being left out of the four-team field, they hammered then-No. 9 Mississippi in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl by a score of 42-3.
With serious numbers of returning lettermen from last season's fifth-ranked offense and top 20 defense to boot, TCU is staring a weighty preseason ranking in the face.
"They had a great season," senior John Tyler defensive tackle Braylon Jones said. "They beat a great team in the Peach Bowl down in Atlanta. They have a lot of momentum going. I think they're going to be a powerhouse in the nation for many years to come."
Will any East Texans join TCU's march in future seasons? It's very competitive, but a handful seemed to impress the primary host.
Answers will start to come once Patterson's assistants finish entering data from two other camps in the Great Houston Area and a main event back on campus.
"These satellites are usually smaller," Patterson said. "We'll have a camp at TCU on Friday with about 500 between the big guys and the skill players. Kids like to compete and like to do it. It's fun for us because we're able to find guys in the rough sometimes or guys that we were already aware of that are just good players. That's what our job is, to go out there and evaluate."
Braylon Jones isn't afraid of a little competition. He thrives both on and off the field.
Ranked No. 1 in his class, the senior John Tyler defensive tackle will have plenty of options down the stretch.
Jones (6-3, 285) owns Air Force, Army and Navy football offers in addition to invitations from Colorado State and Houston. He also stands be a shoo-in at public in-state state universities from an academic standpoint.
But seeing how far he can go on-the-field occupies these summer vacation months.
"It's always been my dream to play in the Big 12 or SEC," Jones said. "It really doesn't matter where you go. It matters what you do when you get there, but I've always had a dream of playing in the Big 12, on TV and playing close to home so my mom and dad and my family can see me."
The defensive tackle recorded 88 tackles as a junior, including 17 tackles for loss and seven sacks while the team advanced all the way to the Class 5A Division I state semifinals.
Those are all extremely high numbers for the position considering interior defensive lineman are working directly against multiple offensive linemen at all times.
"I've gotten better with my pass rush," Jones said. "I think I'll have more sacks this year. I've been trying to show more technique and be more aggressive. I think Memphis and hopefully TCU will pull the trigger. I'll visit Texas on Sunday and I think they'll pull the trigger sooner or later as well.
"TCU, I've talked to (director of high school operations) Zarnell Fitch a couple of times. I went up to their spring game and when I walked up to the camp they already knew I was number one in my class. They already knew a lot about me."
Pearson Leaves Mark
Being a quarterback isn't as glamorous as it seems. Especially when scholarships are on the line.
Most programs take one per recruiting cycle and like to have the position issue resolved well ahead of National Signing Day.
Texas High junior signal caller Cade Pearson needed a strong performance to stay in contention for TCU's 2017 slot. He seemed to succeed, drawing verbal praise from a Horned Frogs offensive staff that will be working with a Heisman Trophy candidate this season in Trevone Boykin.
"I saw this as a huge opportunity to come down to Kilgore," Pearson said. "I think it went well. I threw the ball well and was effective. My receivers and I had good communication through the day. Overall, I think the camp went very, very well."
Pearson (6-2, 185) and the rest of his position field worked directly under co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie through the entire drills portion of the event.
Cumbie knows a thing or two about the position. He managed to initially walk on at Texas Tech, finally earned the reigns as a fifth-year senior and guided the team to an upset against a California team lead by Aaron Rodgers in his college career game.
The coach went on to start in the Arena Football League before joining the staff at Texas Tech, advancing from a graduate assistant to a receivers coach in just one year. He was the single survivor between the school's Tommy Tuberville and Kliff Kingsbury coaching transition.
Cumbie left Texas Tech for TCU when the quarterbacks coaching job opened prior to last season and earned coordinator responsibilities alongside Doug Meacham. In turn, the Horned Frogs averaged averaged 533 yards per game and passed for a total of 4,240 yards.
"Today was the first day I met him," Pearson said. "My head coach (Barry Norton) and him knew each other, so he introduced himself. Pretty effectively. He's a high-spirited guy and he's a great coach. I got a lot of positive feedback."