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Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Big signees gone, it's Lodge's turn at WR

By Damon Sayles

LEANDER, Texas -- Around this time last year, when the Cedar Hill (Texas) High School talented tandem of LaQuvionte Gonzalez, Quincy Adeboyejo and Brandon Harris were putting on a show, 2015 propsect DaMarkus Lodge was taking a back seat, patiently waiting his turn.

No matter how good you are -- or how good you’re expected to be -- it’s tough as a sophomore to get top billing over two SEC signees and a Big 12 signee. Add in Nevada signee Travis Wilson, and Lodge knew he’d be lucky to get touches early. Collectively, the four signees caught 191 of Cedar Hill's 210 completed passes and helped it advance to the Texas Class 5A Division II championship game in 2012.

DaMarkus Lodge
DaMarkus Lodge has patiently waited his turn at Cedar Hill (Texas) High and is now ready to explode on the scene.
As a sophomore, Lodge knew he was one unfortunate incident away from playing and kept himself ready just in case. He finished the 2012 season with six catches for 59 yards and zero touchdowns.

But even with the paltry numbers, Lodge had something that caught the attention of Cedar Hill head coach Joey McGuire. It was something that made McGuire speak almost out of normal context.

“If he stays on track,” McGuire said of Lodge, “he will be the best wide receiver we have had and will be the best in the state, if not the nation. He is that good.”

That's a huge compliment for Lodge, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound receiver who checks in the initial ESPN 300 for 2015 athletes at No. 41 nationally and No. 4 at his position. McGuire will tell you: Lodge simply has that “it” factor.

And once his super-talented teammates graduated, Lodge had a chance to show what he had. He’s yet to disappoint, and is far from being finished.

“When I hear that, I just feel honored. I know I’m blessed,” Lodge said of McGuire’s words. “It’s a great responsibility I have to take by hearing that, and I know I have a big role to fill on this team.

“I feel like a leader. I feel like I lead the offense now. It’s a lot of responsibility, but it feels good to know that my teammates trust me and depend on me.”

For those eyeing his six catches in 2012, remember this: Adeboyejo, who signed with Ole Miss, had five catches his junior year. He finished his senior year with a team-high 91 for 1,265 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Can Lodge have similar success? Perhaps. He’s expecting to, as is McGuire. Lodge first received recruiting recognition last summer at the inaugural Mike Adams Camp of Conquerors 7-on-7 Tournament, which Cedar Hill hosted. It was a coming-out party of sorts, and he has been in the spotlight ever since.

Lodge has offers from Texas A&M, Ohio State, Auburn and a host of Big 12 schools -- Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Baylor -- among others. Lodge also has interest from Alabama, LSU and TCU.

A self-described possession receiver, Lodge runs solid routes and has great hands, particularly in corner routes. His size makes him very dangerous in the red zone, and his improved footwork is turning him into more of a do-it-all receiver rather than just a possession guy.

Credit the footwork to his training sessions with Quick Twitch Training. Since the end of his eighth-grade year, Lodge has been trained by former Oklahoma receiver David Robinson, a Derrick Shepard Award recipient (awarded to the top walk-on) who played in two national championships and three Big 12 championship games.

“I remember when I first got him,” Robinson said. “I look at him now, and he’s not doing as much thinking as he used to. He’s more confident in catching the ball away from his body. He transitions in and out of his breaks a lot more smoothly.

“You could see the potential back then, but he’s now playing a lot more smaller for his size. It makes him a lot more effective.”

Robinson compares Lodge to his former Oklahoma teammate Malcolm Kelly, a receiver with good size, great hands and a will to use his body well against smaller defenders. Lodge, like Kelly, also has the ability to use his route running to create separation.

Lodge most recently participated in the Texas State 7-on-7 Tournament, and while Cedar Hill didn’t win the Division I title, he made an impact on the field. Unfortunately for his opponents, every loss is taken hard, and losses are used as motivation to spend an extra few minutes, either in the weight room, on the track, or in training sessions.

When you look at Cedar Hill’s upcoming football schedule, every little bit of motivation will help. Cedar Hill opens the season against defending Texas Class 4A Division I champion Denton Guyer. Cedar Hill follows with Texas Class 5A Division I champion Allen, a team with Baylor cornerback commit Chad Adams and Oklahoma linebacker commit Tay Evans, among others.

After that, Lodge gets the personal test he’s wanted since the schedule was released. Cedar Hill will play Beaumont (Texas) Ozen, a team that featured ESPN 300 cornerback Tony Brown, one of the best defenders in the country.

“I just want everybody to know I have something to prove this year,” Lodge said. “I have a lot of respect to earn. They will hear and know the name DaMarkus Lodge this season.”

Robinson agrees. In fact, he’s not ashamed to make a bold prediction.

“If he keeps working, he’ll be a Sunday player,” Robinson said. “He’s a first-round talent if he stays healthy and if he stays out of trouble.”