Recruiting Report: Abilene Athletes Shine in Rivalry Matchup

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By Eric Nahlin, Inside Texas Recruiting Editor
Posted Oct 10, 2012
Copyright © 2014 InsideTexas.com


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Shotwell Stadium, Abilene

When it first became public that Lorenzo Joe committed to the University of Texas, I got in touch with his father, Monte Joe. What started off as a discussion to familiarize myself with his son, ended with a promise of catching the huge rivalry game between Joe's Abilene Cooper and rival Abilene High School.

I knew it was a huge game with year-long bragging rights on the line, but as it was told to me, it was even bigger than that. People would tailgate beforehand and exchange friendly promises of victory and eat barbecue before entering Shotwell Stadium. Many of the parents of Cooper High School students actually attended Abilene High in their youth. Kids that played pee-wee football on the same team wouldn't meet on the field again until they were on opposite teams.

Abilene is big enough to have three 5A schools, but small enough that everyone knows each other.

Before I got to the tailgate last Friday, I stopped and got some beer just in case that type of behavior was permitted. As it turns out, some beer wasn't nearly enough. As my girlfriend and I approached the tailgate I could tell these were my type of people. Two smokers were going and both were filled with a various meats. People from all walks of life were there and were as friendly as people can be. I got lost in conversation, brats, and beer, only to realize I was in Abilene when an SUV parked nearby, it's hood covered in hailstone dents.

"You see that a lot, people get their insurance checks and just pocket the money," Monte Joe told me. I told him that's about all I know about Abilene, it hails there.

Well that, and the people that live there love football.

Abilene fans were still proudly wearing their state championship shirts from when Herschel Sims lead them to victory over Katy in the 2009 Division II state championship. Though it remains to be seen how far this Eagle team will go, they do have some talent on hand. At the tailgate I met Tulsa commit Keaven Lucas' uncle. A pleasant man battling cancer, Mr. Ray is a fixture in the community, having coached many of the big game's players from both teams. He was effusive in praise of his nephew, a player I'd only heard of recently as his stock has started to align with his ability and production.

When I asked what made Lucas so good, the word that kept coming back to me was "natural." Natural hands, movements and understanding of the position. In talking to Monte about him, he told me he thought Lucas is too big a prospect for Tulsa and to back that up, he told me that Texas Tech is giving him a very hard look. With sure hands and shiftiness, Joe thinks Lucas will be a good player on the next level as a slot receiver. The 5-11, 175-pound prospect has 54 receptions for 860 yards on the season after adding a whopping 16 catches for 144 yards Friday night.

I was also excited to see Abilene's 2014 defensive end, Jake McMillon. Abilene beat Hebron, the high school of 2014 Texas offer Jamal Adams, earlier in the year in a hard fought game. After that game, Adams' father and I were talking and all he could do was brag about "that d-end from Abilene." I looked into it some and found that in McMillon, Abilene had a hard-nosed lineman with a big frame and good athleticism. I found Jake's sophomore highlights to be impressive, and when he sent me junior highlights from his first four games I saw what I wanted to: a player still progressing and continuing to get bigger and faster while continuing to possess a motor that will set him apart from equally talented players.

The 6-3, 240-pound end didn't disappoint on the night, either. He had a productive game with four solo tackles, one tackle for loss and two sacks. Those two sacks are really impressive when you consider he was chasing 2014 Texas pledge Lorenzo Joe. "He's quick, really quick," McMillon said with emphasis about the future Longhorn.

McMillon has the look of a BCS level defensive end, and I wouldn't be surprised if a school like Texas Tech was his first offer, though I can definitely see him somewhere like OU. Not to compare him to Dusty Dvoracek off the field, but with his large build that will only continue to add muscle, I can see McMillon playing gaps up and down the line. Consider me a fan of his, and I'll continue to monitor his growth. Texas seems to have a plan at defensive end already, so I don't know if they'll pursue him, but he has the look of a player that can help a big team win big games.

A final thing on McMillon, he did attend the Texas spring game and he tells me he'd prefer to play his college ball in Texas.

The first thing McMillon told me about Lorenzo Joe was also the number one thing that stood out to me: he's quick. This was great to see because it was the number one thing I wanted to see. As a wide receiver prospect, straight line speed is very overrated while short burst quickness is the opposite. At a long 6-2 and 175 pounds, Joe is a long strider that's plenty fast once he gets going, but I didn't know how good his close quarter quickness is.

It's funny, I saw exactly what I wanted to see on a play where he actually lost a yard or two, but his ability to escape the grasp of defensive lineman while being seven yards deep was testament to his suddenness and slipperiness as an athlete.

As a wide receiver playing quarterback, I saw everything I wanted to out of Joe, other than his hands, but I'm told he has great hands and since Texas offered him at a camp where all he did was run routes and catch the ball, I'm inclined to believe he's natural in that regard. As a high school quarterback Joe showed great leadership and poise. Though he's a wide receiver in college all the way - his preference by the way - he showed good zip and timing on some of his throws. He's definitely a candidate to throw in trick play scenarios. He was a respectable 16 of 27 for 185 yards passing and added 57 yards on the ground. He also had two touchdown's through the air, and one on the ground. Not bad for a junior playing out of position in the biggest non-playoff game of the season.

Joe's lean frame is the perfect starter kit for achieving grown-ass man status. By the time he's 195 pounds he'll be ideally suited for bullying press coverage, going over the middle to make the tough catch, and using his size to fight for the ball in traffic. I can see him as an all around wide receiver, capable of playing inside and out.

Because he plays quarterback rather than wide receiver, Joe's highlights won't serve as a tool to fire up the Texas recruiting fan base, but he's a player to be excited about for sure.

While Lucas, McMillon and Joe received most of my attention throughout the game, I found myself intrigued by the supporting cast of players that provided the crowd of 10,000 with a wonderfully entertaining production. It was a get your popcorn type game that lived up to its billing.

In a game that looked like Abilene might win easily, Cooper battled back and took the lead with a very efficient drive late in the fourth quarter but couldn't hold on. Abilene quarterback Evin Abbe returned the favor by throwing a game winning touchdown that was actually tipped with three seconds left. 

The final score: Abilene 31, Abilene Cooper 27.

One final highlight on the night was having beers with subscriber dj777, not only before the game, but at halftime as well. Thanks for reaching out to me, buddy.

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