Every week through the football season, HornsNation’s William Wilkerson and Max Olson will break down five things they learned while on the road at Texas high school football games. From the latest on Longhorn commits and offers to game observations to players who caught their attention, they've got you covered. Here’s what they saw this weekend:
William’s game: Belton vs. Harker Heights
Max’s game: Dallas Skyline vs. Dallas Jesuit
1. Oliver solid in blowout loss
You can’t blame Jake Oliver for the fact Dallas Jesuit got trounced by Dallas Skyline 56-24 on Friday night. With four minutes left in the second quarter, the game was tied 14-14. With 2:39 left in that same quarter, Skyline led 35-14.
Jesuit had an interception and a fumbled kickoff return to blame for that swing, and the game was never close from there.
But Oliver hung in there, racking up eight catches for 99 yards. This was the first time I’d seen him play live, and he was as good as advertised.
There’s no questioning his polish as a route-runner. On one third-down play in the first quarter, he put a quick double move on Texas A&M corner commit Cedric Collins when a play broke down, then dove and hauled in the pass for a 22-yard pickup.
That’s what you get with Oliver: a big, trustworthy possession receiver whose sharp route-running puts him in position to make big plays. Not the burner you get with Ra’Shaad Samples, but the kind of big guy needed on the outside.
Texas doesn’t have many like him on the roster. Cayleb Jones is similar in skill set and got more playing time against Oklahoma State than he has all season, and John Harris rarely sees the field.
Oliver will not be able to enroll early at Texas -- that just wasn’t a possibility with his high school -- but I don’t think that’ll hurt him much. With four freshman receivers in the fold, he would’ve had a difficult time getting many reps next spring anyway. – Max Olson
2. Hughes shuts down future teammate
The task for Texas linebacker commitment Naashon Hughes (Harker Heights, Texas/Harker Heights) on Friday was simple to explain, but much more difficult to complete.
His job was to shift to whatever side of the line fellow Longhorns commitment Durham Smythe (Belton, Texas/Belton) lined up on, and make it as difficult as possible on him to factor into the passing game.
Given that Smythe was thrown to on only two occasions and failed to catch either throw, I think it’s safe to say Hughes completed the task.
He and Smythe were understandably cordial with each other when the play went away from their side, but they got after it when they needed to. Hughes’ biggest play came when he dropped back into coverage on Belton’s last offensive play -- a fourth-and-goal from the 18 with around a minute left -- and batted the ball away from Smythe in the back of the end zone.
Hughes also had a handful of tackles while showing the ability to play from sideline to sideline like a quality outside linebacker is supposed to be able to. He also lined up at tight end in the second half and did an admirable job of sealing off the edge. – William Wilkerson
3. Smythe underutilized
The Longhorns recruited four-star tight end Durham Smythe (Belton, Texas/Belton) largely because of his pass-catching abilities. At 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, Smythe has the size and above-average speed to be a consistent mismatch for linebackers.
But those abilities weren’t put to use on Friday against Harker Heights (Texas) in a game Belton lost 7-0. Smythe, the No. 7 tight end in the country, was targeted only two times and didn’t have much of a chance on either attempt.
His first attempt didn’t come until there was 5:20 left in the game. He beat his man to the corner of the end zone but the ball was underthrown and intercepted at the goal line.
The last time he was targeted came on Belton’s final offensive play, when it faced a fourth-and-goal from the 18 with about a minute left. Smythe positioned himself in the back of the end zone but had no chance of catching the ball as it was batted down by Texas linebacker commitment Naashon Hughes.
Smythe was visibly upset after the play and questioned a referee as to why there wasn’t a holding penalty called. It looked to me like a flag should have been thrown.
Regardless, Belton might not have been in that position if it would have targeted Smythe sooner and more regularly than it did. - William Wilkerson
4. Samples makes an impression
As Ra'Shaad Samples ran off the field Friday night, the limp in his dash was as unmistakable as the grin on his face.
No, Samples might not be 100 percent healthy right now. But you couldn’t tell when the Oklahoma State receiver commit took the field.
Especially not when, in the second half of a game that was teetering on the edge of a blowout, Samples hauled in a Devante Kincade pass on a post route over the middle. Would’ve been a good 20-yard gain, except Samples burst upfield and took it to the house for a 90-yard touchdown.
Samples finished with three catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns. That wasn’t as surprising as the fact Samples played some defense against Jesuit.
With Texas Tech corner commit Will Barrow out with a high ankle sprain and Texas A&M 2014 pledge Cedric Collins sidelined with the flu, Samples tried his hand at playing corner against his friend Jake Oliver late in the second quarter.
It was, as you can imagine, a bit of a mismatch. Samples was understandably underprepared to keep up with Oliver’s sharp route-running and gave up a few catches. For some reason, though, Jesuit never really took advantage and sent Oliver deep against Samples.
Samples kept playing corner in the second half and did have one impressive pass breakup. It’s not his ideal position by any means, but he is a fighter. He held his own and, most importantly, he didn’t play hurt. – Max Olson
5. Skyline-Jesuit loaded with talent
In this state, it’s far too easy to take for granted. No matter where you go, you’re going to find good Friday night football in the state of Texas.
From a recruiting standpoint, though, there was really no topping Dallas Skyline versus Dallas Jesuit on Friday night. The game featured a total of 11 commits and at least 15 Division I-caliber prospects, if not many more.
It didn’t surprise me to see Oklahoma send a coach to the game, but the fact the Sooners had two assistants on the sidelines tells you something about just how many prospects were on the field.
To give you a little perspective on just how loaded this game was, I did a little research.
Skyline-Jesuit featured 11 commits. Three states -- New York, Kentucky and Connecticut -- have each produced 11 committed prospects for the 2013 class.
There are 22 other states in this nation that don’t even have 11 committed recruits. Play Jesuit-Skyline in Kansas (seven commits) or West Virginia (four) and it might be the game of the year. In Texas, it’s just another game. By the way, the state of Texas has produced nearly 230 committed recruits this year. No state has more so far, and Florida trails by more than 50 recruits. By my count, Georgia, California and Ohio round out the top five. – Max Olson