The passing league featuring Tulsa area powers Broken Arrow, Jenks, Owasso and Union wrapped up on Tuesday night. Anytime you can get all four of these titans on the same field at the same time, you’re in for a show. Watching all the division 1 talent that will come out of these four schools this year is worth the time. The individual talent is fun to watch but it’s also a great time to see where these schools are at as units.
Here’s a disclaimer, we can’t take it too seriously considering 7 on 7 does not feature offensive or defensive lines. How many times do we hear about how games are won in the trenches? Unfortunately we didn’t get to see the linemen for these schools but we got a great look at the skill position players.
Former Oklahoma State head coach and NFL assistant coach Pat Jones took in the passing league one week and I’ll feature his thoughts later on in the blog. I’ll separate this post in two parts. I’ll start with the teams. I’ll give a synopsis of each team and what I saw over the last 4 weeks. I’ll spotlight some of the standouts and other hidden gems I found from the passing league and include thoughts from Coach Jones.
The Rams are going to need a lot to happen for them to reach the 6A semifinals for a fourth consecutive season in November. We know the Rams will have to replace Jaylen Lowe who has been the heart and soul of the football AND basketball team for the last three years. Don’t overlook the fact that they have to replace Scottie Prealow, who by the end of his career held the record as all time leading rusher in school history.
7 on 7 is not the best place to showcase talents of the running back position. So let’s focus on the quarterback. Gabe Neph will be the signal caller for the Rams this year. Decent size for a QB and has shown the ability to escape the pocket and keep his eyes down field. No, he didn’t have anyone chasing him, but I’ll go out on a limb and say he’ll have to throw on the run at some point this year.
One concern I had watching Owasso offensively was the lack of speed. They have two very good route runners and sure hand guys in TE Cameron Oliver and WR John Cole Neph. However, they don’t have an explosive guy that can really stretch a defense. Owasso needs Neph and Oliver to continue to excel at running good routes and catching anything close. The Rams will have to play smart to produce on offense, not a tall task for this group.
I believe that Owasso could have the most underrated defense in the state. Most will focus on what Jenks and Broken Arrow have with all the D1 talent on those units. Do not overlook what Owasso runs out defensively. They have speed and aggressive instincts all over the field. 6’1 Safety Josh Kinzer was a player that really stood out and looked the part.
The Redskins have what could be the two biggest mismatches in the state on offense. The question is who’s going to get the ball to them? With 6’7 Jeffery Mead and 6’6 Carson Meier, both Oklahoma commits, whoever the starting quarterback is in September is going to have two giant weapons. Pun intended. That question mark is a major concern going into the season, who will be Union’s signal caller?
This will be the first time in a long time that Union won’t have a starting quarterback named in August. The candidates are both juniors. Mason Farquar and Zach Fisher will continue to compete when Union starts two a days in less than a month. Farquar was Hunter Atiya’s backup a season ago. Farquar was inserted into the 6A semifinals last season when Atiya went out with an injury. While watching and comparing the two QB’s over the last month, I believe that Farquar is probably the better game manager. Fisher looks like more of a gamer. Not afraid to try to make a play but that will burn you sometimes.
Whoever is named the QB will not only have two targets in Mead and Meier, he’ll also have experience in the backfield. Justin Silmon and Terrell Buchannon return to the backfield to share time at running back. Buchannon returns after missing spring practice when he moved to Muskogee. He has since moved back and is cleared to participate next month. Like I mentioned with Owasso, you don’t learn much about running backs during 7 on 7. Although I will say that Silmon looks like he has spent the entire off season in the weight room. If he adds that strength to the speed he showed last season, I expect big things from the running back duo of Silmon and Buchannon.
Mead is starting to show the ability to get off the line quicker and work past cornerbacks who try to jam him. Meier’s full skill set is more impressive with the pads on. Kaylor Pearson was a guy that really impressed me. Undersized but lightning quick and not afraid of going over the middle. Good route runner and has good ball skills. Union will have weapons, they need somebody to get it to them.
The defense will be extremely young and with that comes mistakes. 3 year starting linebacker Coleby Evans will have to be a vocal leader to keep his unit on the same page. The Redskins have talent, it’s just young and raw. They’ll need to grow up fast otherwise they’ll be looking at a 0-3 start after the murderer’s row of DeSoto (TX), Jenks and Broken Arrow to start the season.
Broken Arrow Tigers-
Wow, talk about talent. Broken Arrow has a team that could end up having the most division 1 signees in the state this year. Not just on offense, defensively the Tigers are loaded with talent and speed all over the turf. However the question still remains. We’ve seen good Tiger teams in the past. We’ve seen multiple division 1 prospects for the Tigers in the past. It’s a fair question, until it’s answered it’s absolutely a fair question. When will Broken Arrow win the state championship? They’ve been on the doorstep. They’ve knocked on the door. Now they need to kick the door in on the stranglehold that Union and Jenks have had on Class 6A football for almost two decades.
Let’s start with the quarterback. Colorado State commit Coleman Key solidified with me that he’s the top quarterback in the Tulsa area. After being in the same conversation with Norman North’s David Cornwell and Edmond Santa Fe’s Justice Hansen before last season, Key fell off after his junior season. Key, who moved in from Owasso, was getting used to the system and did not perform up to expectations like the other two QB prospects in this state. If the past month is any indication, Key is due for some redemption this fall. Key has been surgical in his throws. He has the size you look for in a QB, 6’5 225. I wouldn’t be shocked if Key gets offered from higher level schools once his senior season starts. He has the potential to get back into the conversation with the Alabama commit Cornwell and the Oklahoma commit Hansen. He stands tall in the pocket, he gets thru his reads at a rapid pace and has a very quick delivery. Key showed the ability over the last month that he can make all the throws. I came away very impressed on the touch that he puts on the deep ball. It wouldn’t be surprising if Key ends up signing with somebody else in February.
Once again, no need to get into it with the running back position. However Broken Arrow has arguably the best back in the state. Devon Thomas, who committed to OSU in December, will finally be the full time guy after splitting time with Cameron Wrenn over the last two seasons. Thomas will need a way to stay on the field after being suspended for the first five games of last season. If he does that Broken Arrow fans can expect fireworks from the Cowboy commit.
Broken Arrow has the opposite of Union when it comes to the receiver position. They have good options except they’re extremely undersized. Don’t feel too bad for the Tigers, they have the fastest kid in the state in Warren Leak. That’s not just a nickname, he’s the fastest in the state after winning a track title last spring. Another speedster that got my attention was Austin Reed. For three weeks it seemed every time he ran a go route to the end zone he got behind the defense. It didn’t matter if it was Union, Owasso or Jenks. Reed was able to beat them and Key found him wide open in the end zone. Watch out for Myles Smith, he’s not as fast as Leak and Reed but he has deceptive speed and good hands. If you’re not careful he’ll get behind your secondary and you won’t be able to play catch up.
With the defense it all starts with linebacker Gyasi Akem. The Oklahoma State commit has shown his ability to lead this team vocally. I came away very impressed with how aggressive and fast Broken Arrow played. A lot of that has to do with the coaching. It’s just passing league in the summer, yet these assistants were fired up like they were playing for the gold ball. Sometimes that can back fire, this was not one of those cases. Broken Arrow played with that type of energy and it showed.
Last, but not least, the defending state champion Jenks Trojans. The champs have several question marks on offense. It won’t seem to matter because Jenks might be pitching shutouts every night. The strength of this team is without a doubt their defense. They have arguably the best player in the 2014 class in Steven Parker. Parker might also see time at receiver which is a scary thought for teams in Oklahoma.
Like rival Union, Jenks has yet to name a starting quarterback. Which by the way, when was the last time that Union and Jenks BOTH went into two a days without knowing who the starting QB would be? Unlike Union, the Trojan candidates are two different type quarterbacks. DeQuan Coronado is a dual threat quarterback while Cooper Nunley is a pocket passer. Both QB’s don’t have ideal size and decent arm strength. Both QB’s seem pretty even at this point although the threat of running might make Coronado the guy.
The Trojans lack natural wide receivers so they might turn to their two standouts on the defensive side of the ball. Steven Parker and Dylan Harding might see time at receiver to provide depth and skill to the position. Parker impressed me at the receiver position as a possible go to target. Brett Tye, who is ranked in the top 5 in the Tulsa World’s All World rankings of running backs, might see time at slot receiver. Tye made a catch over the middle in Broken Arrow and ran away from defenders for a score. Jenks seems to just try to put the best players in to make plays. Whatever works, you can’t knock them, they’re the champs and they always seem to find a way to compete and be there in December.
The defense. Man. No seriously, this defense could be great. Led by Parker and Harding, the Trojans’ will be devastating to offenses all over the state. Once again we didn’t see the linemen and the Trojans have one of the better defensive linemen in the state in junior Marquise Overton. They play for each other and hold each other accountable when one makes a mistake and work hard to correct it. This is a unit that could compete to be as good as the “legion of doom” was in 1997. I make this statement half joking and half being dead serious. It won’t really matter what Jenks does on offense because they’ll only need a touchdown or two to win. This defense is scary.
Cameron Oliver, Owasso, Tight End-
Coach Jones: “I wouldn’t put him in the same category as some of the other tight ends we’ve seen. He’ll have a chance. Being offered by Rutgers, I want to see if he gets anymore momentum.”
Oliver has the size and the route running ability to make some plays this fall. What he lacks in speed he makes up for in physicality and good hands. I agree with Coach Jones on the comment that he’s not up there with some of the other tight ends in this class. However he’s a very solid player and will have a future at the division 1 level.
John Cole Neph, Owasso, Wide Receiver-
Coach Jones: “Neph is a guy that doesn’t have real good speed number wise. Bill Patterson says he’s the hardest worker they’ve ever had. Excellent hand-eye guy. Looks like his flexibility and body control is above average. Should gain some steam in recruiting.”
When you think possession receiver, think John Cole Neph. Neph has the potential to be one of those guys that coaches regret not recruiting harder once he hits the college level. Neph doesn’t have the speed like team mate Oliver, however he seems to just make plays. If coaches overlook Neph strictly because of the lack of speed, they’re making a mistake. Neph is a big physical receiver that can run every route and he’ll go the extra mile to make a play for the Rams. I’m a firm believer that many colleges will regret not recruiting Neph.
Carson Meier, Union, Tight End-
Coach Jones: “Meier is a big youngster tight end. Does he end up being the big slugger, the end of the line blocker that you can split out? It’s hard to tell at this time without pads on. Very good hand-eye guy. Going to be a big kid. Should be a good player.”
Meier had a good performance over the last month during the Tuesday night passing league. What’s scary is Meier is even better in pads. One of the better parts of his game is his physicality. Meier is a solid run blocker and will lower the shoulder after making the catch. Very surprising speed for the big man. Just like team mate Mead, as soon as he steps on the field, he becomes an instant mismatch.
Jeffery Mead, Union, Wide Receiver-
Coach Jones: “Not a real mature body. Excellent hand-eye guy. I want to see what part basketball plays in his decision when it’s all said and done. Not a real physical guy, not real cut up. If he plays football full time, he needs to hit the weight room. I could see where he could get knocked around by big physical corners.”
One of my biggest concerns for Mead going forward is his ability to get off the line. No one is ever going to question his length, being 6’7 is without a doubt a great thing. The negative is Mead only being 185 pounds. He’s very thin in the upper body and if he goes against a big corner that jams him at the line, Mead will struggle to make plays. Mead made a living in the past month going up for jump balls and more times than not he easily beat his man and came down with the ball. Unless you massively under throw or overthrow him, Mead is going to try to find a way to make the catch.
Kalor Pearson, Union, Wide Receiver-
Younger brother of former Union standout Kale Pearson, Kalor has similar if not superior speed to older brother Kale. Pearson is undersized but will have a shot to play for a lower level division 1 program. His speed as a receiver and a kick returner will separate him from other guys. He’ll be the perfect fit for a slot receiver to compliment Meier and Mead. Pearson would constantly go over the middle to make the catch, separate the defense and once he’s in the clearing he’s gone.
Coleman Key, Broken Arrow, Quarterback-
Coach Jones: “Key is a big good looking kid. Looks like he’s got a pretty quick release. As far as the ball getting out of his hand quickly, it looks like he’s got a good feel for the deep ball. Nice looking youngster.”
I believe Key is going to have a monster 2013 campaign. 2012 did not go as planned and Key is starting to inch closer and closer to the other big name QB’s in this 2014 class. Key has a great feel for the offense and it shows in the way he quickly goes thru his reads. He gets rid of the ball very quickly and it gets to its target on a rope. Not many of Key’s passes ever floated on him. Key’s ability to throw the deep ball with touch and accuracy will torch secondaries in 6A this year.
Devon Thomas, Broken Arrow, Running Back-
Coach Jones: “Thomas has got some ability. Hard to tell without pads on to see how much juice he’s got. Appears to be a guy that’s got some talent. Is a little shaky in a few areas. He’s had some issues. Looks like he needs to grow up a bit but he’s got some ability.”
Similar to Key, Thomas’ 2013 campaign will have a feel of redemption. After missing the first five games, Thomas will be back. Not only will he be back, he’ll be THE guy at running back. No longer splitting time with Cameron Wrenn, I expect Thomas to impress fans even more as the fulltime running back in this Tiger offense. He just needs to stay on the field and out of trouble. As long as that happens, and it appears that it can, Thomas is one of the best in the state.
Gyasi Akem, Broken Arrow, Linebacker-
Coach Jones: “Looked like he knew what he’s doing. Directed traffic and his body language I thought was superb. He got along with and tried to talk to other players and do constructive things. Might be a little stiff, could be a defensive end at some point. Should be a good football player.”
I was very impressed with what I saw from the Oklahoma State commit. He was an extension of the coaching staff on the field. Akem was constantly communicating with team mates and trying to get everybody on the same page. He looked to me like he has decent speed and very good instincts. I can see where Coach Jones is coming from, if he put on some weight he could be a deadly pass rusher on the end.
Austin Reed, Broken Arrow, Wide Receiver-
SPEED!!! It was unreal to see how many times Reed was able to burn the Union, Jenks and Owasso defenders with ease. Coleman Key’s ability to throw the deep ball and Reed’s speed on go routes make for a deadly combination. Reed is probably undersized to play at the division 1 level but he will without a doubt be a key part on this Tiger team. BA will need Reed to continue what he did in June to make a run at a state title.
Dylan Harding, Jenks, Safety-
Coach Jones: “Harding is an interesting guy. He’s not real thick in the upper body. Moves around good and has a good grasp on the game. Without pads and hitting it’s hard to tell that aspect of his game. He’s a kid that should continue to get bigger.”
No, Harding isn’t at the level of team mate Steven Parker. Do not overlook Harding, he’ll make you play. The combination of Harding and Parker is going wreck havoc on offenses in 6A this fall. If Harding gets bigger in the upper body but keeps his speed, he’ll be a possible all conference type player at the next level. Harding really showed good instincts and has good ball skills.
Steven Parker, Jenks, Safety-
Coach Jones: “Out of all the guys we saw, he’s the one that looks the part. You don’t need anybody to point him out to you when watching the action. Looks like he’s got a very high skill level. He looks like he has all the ingredients to be an outstanding player.”
If I had to pick ONE player in this 2014 class to be a first round pick in the NFL, it would be Steven Parker. Do you need anything else? Okay I have more for you. Parker an unbelievable combination of speed and size. The 6’2 safety is also extremely built. He looks like he could suit up for a D1 program this fall. Parker also has good instincts and excellent closing speed. The fact that he’ll also line up as a receiver will keep coaches up at night. Not only do they need to watch out for Parker in the defensive backfield. Now they need to find a way to stop him on offense.