2016 ETSN.fm Preseason East Texas Football Super Team
The East Texas football landscapes never disappoints. Each summer, the staff at ETSN.fm combs through the thousands of players in the area to pick its annual preseason East Texas Super Team.
It is simultaneously the most fun and hardest job we undertake all year. Whittling down the region’s best to 29 names is no easy feat; there are inevitably great players left off the list each and every single season.
ETSN.fm covers more than 100 schools in the area — from Texarkana all the way down to Newton and Jasper. The following are, in our judgment, the very best players at their respective positions.
John Tyler quarterback and Houston commit Bryson Smith is the preseason Offensive Player of the Year, while Liberty-Eylau defensive lineman and Texas pledge Lagaryonn Carson is the preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
Without further adieu, we bring you the 2016 ETSN.fm Preseason East Texas Football Super Team:
Preseason Offensive Player of the Year
Class: Senior (committed to Houston)
2015 stats: 157 of 260, 2,415 yards, 20 TDs, 6 INTs; 182 carries, 1,421 yards, 21 TDs
Outlook: One of the area's most gifted athletes will get his second year to lead a John Tyler offense that, after a slow start, averaged more than 38 points per game in 2015. While Smith has always been a gifted runner, he's fine-tuned the passing aspect of the position during an offseason that included his team's run to the state 7-on-7 semifinals in July.
Class: Senior (offers from Louisiana-Monroe, Wyoming)
2015 stats: 230 carries, 1,747 yards, 20 TDs
Outlook: There might not be a better pure running back in all of East Texas than Fuller, who hails from tiny Harleton. A strong showing at the ETSN.fm + APEC Football Recruiting Combine in May points to the potential of an even bigger senior season for Fuller, who will be put to the test in 2016 with Harleton's jump from Class 2A to 3A.
Class: Senior (committed to SMU)
2015 stats: 125 carries, 1,284 yards, 17 TDs
Outlook: Medlock could be East Texas' most dangerous man with the ball in his hands. His legitimate 4.4 speed, coupled with next-level lateral quickness, put the Arp standout among East Texas' very best offensive weapons. Expect Medlock's workload to increase mightily in 2016 after the Tigers graduated last season's leading rusher.
2015 stats: 202 carries, 2,001 yards, 27 TDs; 10 catches, 193 yards, 2 TDs
Outlook: Don't let the small size fool you; Perkins might be the area's strongest, pound-for-pound player. In addition to his verified 4.4-second time in the 40-yard dash, Mineola's 2,000-yard back doesn't shy away from contact. His impressive display of strength was hard to miss at May's ETSN.fm + APEC Football Recruiting Combine.
Class: Senior (offers from Indiana, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana Tech, Mississippi State, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Texas State)
2015 stats: 76 catches, 1,016 yards, 9 TDs
Outlook: Evans has been lighting up opposing defensive backs for three years, and is looking for his best season yet a senior. One of East Texas' most talented athletes, Evans has the ability to single-handedly carry his team on offense. Don't be surprised to see an all-state caliber campaign for the Division I recruit in 2016.
Class: Senior (committed to Texas)
2015 stats: 41 catches, 912 yards, 9 TDs
Outlook: There are some athletes who make the job look very easy, and Miller is certainly one of those. His natural gifts of playing the receiver position make everything the John Tyler standout does seem effortless. With Smith back for another season at QB, don't be surprised to see Miller's numbers take off this fall.
Class: Senior (committed to Oklahoma State)
2015 stats: 34 catches, 589 yards, 7 TDs
Outlook: The numbers just don't do Morton's game justice. Gilmer's offense has always been about spreading the production around, but one look at the Oklahoma State pledge, and it's clear to see that Morton is just special. His large frame make him difficult to cover at the 4A level, and his jumping ability gives Morton an edge in virtually every red-zone scenario.
Class: Senior (offers from Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Oregon, SMU, Texas, Texas Tech, UCLA)
2015 stats: 24 catches, 541 yards, 7 TDs
Outlook: Size can't be taught, and Tennison certainly has plenty of that. But the Bullard product isn't only defined by measurables. In addition to being an excellent pass-catching option, Tennison is a next-level run-blocker, which is why some of the top college football programs in the country are interested in obtaining his services.
Outlook: It takes more than just size to be an effective offensive lineman. They must be strong, agile, disciplined, and versatile -- especially in Carthage head coach Scott Surratt's offense. Elliott checks all of those boxes, and is a big reason why the Bulldogs' passing games soared to new heights during 2015's run to the state semifinals.
Class: Junior (offers from Baylor, TCU)
Outlook: Hines possesses all of the tools required to develop into a force at the next level. A player of his size is almost always counted on to provide protection on the edge in high school, but Hines is skilled enough to play on the inside as well, and is projected as a center in college.
Outlook: Liberty-Eylau's offense was among East Texas' most explosive in 2015, and while quarterback Ke'Mon Freeman (SMU) certainly had a lot to do with that, do not discount the Leopards' big men up front. Smith was instrumental in giving Freeman the time he needed to throw downfield, and one of the biggest reasons for the Leopards producing two 1,000-yard rushers.
Outlook: If you're looking for a prototypical offensive tackle, look no further than Spann, who has the size, footwork, and mechanical skills to develop into a dominant lineman at the next level. His prowess was on full display at the ETSN.fm + APEC Football Recruiting Combine in May, winning OL MVP honors.
Outlook: If you're a historian of football in East Texas, you know two things are almost always a guaranteed certainty: Longview will have will great running backs, and the Lobos will offer an offensive line to match. Starling is a three-year starter, and leader of an O-line that helped the Lobos reach the 5A Division I quarterfinals a season ago.
2015 stats: 5 of 6 on FGs (long, 40); 39 of 43 on PATs
Outlook: Do not underestimate the importance of special teams, especially at the high school level. Salazar, despite being small in stature, might have the strongest leg in all of East Texas. While the numbers from 2015 don't tell the whole story, the Lions' kicker routinely blasts field goals from 50 yards in practice and pre-game warmups. And his skill-set has caught the attention of colleges across the country.
2015 stats: 234 carries, 1,815 yards, 26 TDs; 48 of 86, 765 yards, 10 TDs, 2 INTs
Outlook: There might not be a more valuable player to an East Texas team than Haller, whose future might be in baseball, but who can carry a football team on his back as well. The physical specimen has all the tools necessary to become a major Division I recruit at RB, and Haller holds the key to what many Marshall fans hope is a championship-caliber season in 2016.
Preseason Defensive Player of the Year
Class: Senior (committed to Texas)
2015 stats: 125 tackles (25 for loss), 14 sacks, 2 PBUs, 2 blocked kicks
Outlook: If you are devising a plan to attack the Liberty-Eylau defense, it would be wise to steer clear of Carson's side of the field. And even then, the outcome remains in doubt. The Longhorns pledge is not only big and strong enough to handle most offensive linemen in one-on-one situations, his speed allows him to cover more ground than most men his size.
Class: Senior (offers from Arkansas State, Memphis, Texas State)
2015 stats: 74 tackles (12 for loss), 5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 PBUs
Outlook: Lindale sported one of the top defenses in all of East Texas a season ago, and it all began up front with a menacing defensive line anchored by Cooper. Playing almost exclusively inside at the DT position in 2015, Cooper might see more opportunities to rush from the edge this fall.
Class: Senior (offer from Wyoming)
2015 stats: 81 tackles (6 for loss), 2 sacks, 1 fumble recovery, 4 PBUs, 4 QB pressures
Outlook: The wars in the trenches almost always come down to which side plays with more leverage. Gatlin's 6-6 frame gives the Dawgs' defender an advantage over virtually every offensive linemen opposite him. The edge rusher is just one piece of a potentially scary Carthage defense in 2016.
2015 stats: 92 tackles, 1 sack, 3 forced fumbles, 2 recoveries, 2 PBUs
Outlook: After spending the majority of his high school career at linebacker, Miller is looking forward to spending most of his time on the defensive front under new head coach Clayton George. Miller's transition could be a smooth one, considering his DL MVP performance at May's ETSN.fm + APEC Football Recruiting Combine.
Class: Senior (offers from Louisiana Tech, UTEP)
Outlook: Allen might be undersized for his position, but make no mistake: there might not be a more intimidating-looking athlete at linebacker than the Rabbits' ferocious defender. A three-year starter, look for Allen to lead an Atlanta defense eager to keep improving.
Class: Senior (offers Air Force, Army)
2015 stats: 151 tackles (5 for loss), 9 QB pressures, 1 INT
Outlook: Bush looks the part, and his play on the field says all that needs to be said. The Athens linebacker has been perfecting his craft for three years now, and the 2016 season represents the finish line for one of East Texas' most productive defensive players.
2015 stats: 77 tackles (6 for loss), 1 sack, 6 QB pressures, 1 INT, 3 PBUs
Outlook: If you're looking for athleticism on the outside, Ridge has it. Lindale head coach Mike Meador plans to experiment with Ridge more in 2016, which could open up all kinds of doors for the Eagles' three-year starter. Early expectations are for Ridge to line up all over the field, and make plays from sideline to sideline.
Class: Senior (committed to Air Force)
Outlook: Smith can do it all defensively for Tatum, whether it's rushing quarterbacks from a three-point stance, or dropping into pass coverage. He'll have a big say in how head coach Craig Barker's first season in charge at Tatum goes.
Class: Senior (committed to Texas)
2015 stats: 33 tackles, 1 INT, 9 PBUs
Outlook: Nacogdoches has been on quite a run with defensive backs in the last three years. Jaylon Lane was East Texas' most recruited player in the 2015 class, and Brandon Jones was part of Texas' 2016 signing class. Now it's Thompson's turn to stand in the spotlight. The Dragons' standout has just about every athletic attribute a college coach desires.
Class: Senior (offer from Louisiana-Monroe)
2015 stats: 69 tackles (1 for loss), 4 forced fumbles, 1 recovery, 1 INT, 7 PBUs, 1 blocked kick
Outlook: Hawley, who's played cornerback for most of his high school career, has just about outgrown the position. While probably a safety in college, Hawley's coverage skills are still the same as they always were, and that should spell trouble for opposing quarterbacks and receivers in 2016.
Class: Senior (committed to Louisiana Tech)
2015 stats: 114 tackles, 11 INTs, 7 PBUs
Outlook: Some defenders thrive on instincts: being in the right place at the most opportune time. And Hurt fits that description. The Gilmer playmaker led all of East Texas with 11 interceptions a season ago, and racked up more than 100 tackles in the process. Hurt will assume the position as Gilmer's defensive leader following the graduation of 2016 Texas signee Demarco Boyd.
Class: Senior (committed to UTSA)
2015 stats: 60 tackles (1 for loss), 2 INTs, 12 PBUs, 1 fumble recovery)
Outlook: Mosley is tall enough to win most of the one-on-one battles with some of the state's tallest pass catchers, and agile enough to keep pace with the fastest. There might not be a more feared cornerback in East Texas than Mosley, who put on a show at the state 7-on-7 tournament in July.
2015 stats: 22 punts, 38.3 avg., 5 inside 20-yard line, long of 65
Outlook: While known more for his exploits at quarterback, Crawford is also capable of helping Mineola in other ways. It may not happen often, but when the Yellowjackets are forced to punt, Crawford often makes it difficult on opposing offenses with punts creating positive field position for his defense.
Class: Senior (committed to TCU)
Outlook: The Henderson three-year starter is capable of winning games on both sides of the ball. Ebner's explosiveness on offense makes the Lions a scoring threat on almost every snap, and his lockdown defense from the secondary frustrates opposing offenses in much the same way.