Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: Texas' 2014 group of DBs could be nation's most talented bunch
Skyline senior Derrick Dixon once dreamed of making highlight-reel plays as a running back and receiver. But when he tried defensive back, he was sold on the position.
“I like making interceptions,” he said, “and bringing the boom.”
A lot of the area’s top defensive backs enjoy making the big hit, and over the last couple of years, they’ve been booming with recruiters. Defensive back is the position that stands out most in the recruiting Class of 2014, in Dallas and statewide.
“It’s the best DB group I’ve seen in many years,” said Randy Rodgers, a former recruiting coordinator for Texas and Illinois who is now a consultant to dozens of schools. When Rodgers was picking the state’s top 300 players last summer for Dave Campbell’s Texas Football, whittling down to 30 defensive backs was tough.
“There were just so many guys you could pick,” he said. “They were all so deserving.”
In SportsDay’s Class of 2014 area recruiting rankings, 26 of the top 100 players are defensive backs. Thirteen of those players are in the Rivals.com statewide top 100, and a trio of safeties are in Rivals’ national top 100: Hebron’s Jamal Adams (orally committed to LSU), West Mesquite’s Dylan Sumner-Gardner (Boise State) and Mansfield Timberview’s Ed Paris (enrolled at LSU).
This might be the Dallas area’s deepest pool of defensive backs ever. There are big hitters such as Dixon, who committed to Texas Tech, sticky cover guys such as Mesquite Poteet’s Verkedric Vaughns (Baylor) and players from schools big and small. Allen’s Chad Adams (Arizona State) played for the state’s largest school, while Nick Watkins (Notre Dame) and Payton Hendrix (Texas Tech) played for Bishop Dunne, which has 48 boys in its senior class.
It’s possible that this year’s plethora of elite defensive backs will be a one-year spike. But the quality of defensive backs, as well as their value, continues to rise as spread offenses attack secondaries.
The offenses have become more potent with the practice time offered through 7-on-7 competition, and the growth of 7-on-7 over the last 15 years is cited as a reason Texas high school quarterbacks have gained national prominence. But linebackers and defensive backs play 7-on-7, too.
Claude Mathis, coach of DeSoto, which has three defensive backs in this year’s area top 100, said the growth of 7-on-7 helps push, and polish, DBs.
“Those defensive backs are on the field going one-on-one with receivers,” said Mathis, whose team won the state 7-on-7 title in 2011. “That’s what it comes down to — a game of one-on-ones. It’s like that throughout the summer. It’s steady work.”
It’s steady work against excellent receivers and quarterbacks. The Dallas-area signing class of 2006 featured quarterbacks Matthew Stafford of Highland Park, Greg McElroy of Southlake Carroll and Christian Ponder of Colleyville Heritage. And since the “Year of the Quarterback,” Texas has continued to produce star QBs. Last season, about 25 percent of the NFL’s starting quarterbacks were from Texas.
“People have talked about the Texas quarterbacks and how many of them are in the NFL. The byproduct of that is the defensive backs,” Rodgers said. “It all goes back to 7-on-7. Those teams are playing all summer with five receivers and a quarterback. You’ve got to develop some people who can cover them.”
Finding them early helps. Skyline coach Reginald Samples said that more and more kids are specializing in offensive positions such as quarterback, receiver and running back before getting to high school. When Samples finds an athlete who can play all those positions, he’s found a prospect for defensive back.
Dixon is fast enough to be a receiver, tough enough to take a pounding as a running back and sharp enough to make reads as a quarterback. He could’ve played any of those positions, which is true of many of the area’s top defensive backs.
“If you look at a DB, that’s what he is,” Samples said. “He has to be a combination of all those things.”
So when you find a good defensive back, he’s more valuable than ever. And it shows in this year’s recruiting class.
Year of the DB
SportsDay’s rankings of the top-100 area recruits in the Class of 2014 includes a whopping 26 defensive backs, nine more than the average amount over the last 10 years. The number of defensive backs in the area top-100 recruiting rankings dating back to 2004, along with the overall area ranking of the top DB in each class:
Top-rated player, high school
Jamal Adams, Hebron
Kameron Miles, West Mesquite
LaDarrell McNeil, Wilmer-Hutchins
Tevin Mitchell, Mansfield Legacy
Eddrick Loften, Irving Nimitz
Kevin Brent, South Oak Cliff
Joseph Ibiloye, South Garland
Christian Scott, Skyline
Jonathan Nelson, Mansfield Summit
Ishie Oduegwu, Denton Ryan
Bobby Tatum, Fort Worth Dunbar
*Orally committed. The first day a player can sign a letter of intent is Wednesday.
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