Much like the freshman class, the selection committee believed the Sophomore LBs to be a difficult position group in the Class of 2020 to select as there were so many choices for inclusion. It was really hard to narrow down the nominees and there were worthy LBs who didn’t make the final cut but who would have been All-Staters in any other year. We have already shared our committee’s impression of both the 2020 & 2021 classes as football players go, and, frankly, undertaking selection of the All-State football players for these two years was an humbling and difficult task. As we discussed in yesterday’s article detailing our Freshman All-State LB selections, we were looking for players who exhibited good speed, flexibility, and agility, as best as that could be determined from the film we watched and what other pertinent information we could obtain. Some of these nominees, particularly who played outside versus in the middle, were asked to be pass rushers first and foremost in the schemes in which they were deployed which required them to be strong, fast, and smart enough to read and react to play-action. Some of these nominees, in fact most to be accurate, were deployed in 4-3 schemes where strong-side and week-side linebackers were asked to do different things within the defense. Our committee searched for All-State linebackers who possessed the quickness to play in coverage but, more importantly, possessed and exhibited the strength and frame to get down hill in run defense and attack the RB and the agility to get to the quarterback, when he blitzed. There are a ton of great linebacker players across Kentucky in both classes. As we have done with position groups healthy in members, we broke down the linebackers and featured each respective class separately beginning with the Class of 2021. Now, you get the Class of 2020. So, here are the AFI-KPG Sophomore All-State Linebackers…
Grayson Cook, 6’4″ 210, Belfry High School
I suppose the first thing noticed about Grayson Cook is his extraordinary length and height for the position. I mean, in the intermediary passing game, how in the world are you suppose to throw it over this kid? Grayson registered 51 tackles for the 11-2 Belfry Buccaneers, caught a pass covering 45 yards, and converted 19 PATs as a kicker, and blocked a punt. He is just a fantastic athlete who has an incredible frame. Grayson is still growing too as he entered the year around 6’2″ 185 pounds and has filled out to his present 6’4″ 210 pounds. Belfry plays a lot of 3-4 defense and walks up the outside LBs quite a lot to give the defense a 5-2 look with the OLB posing as a stand-up rush end against the run with the ability needed to cover, from the line, TEs or Slots slipping into routes. Any defense aligned in a 3-4 as a base defense relies heavily on versitility in the linebacker corp. While the inside LBs are allowed to run to the football in the 3-4, the OLBs, where Grayson plays, have to make plays as edge defenders out of the stand-up, two-point stance. Grayson’s film showed the committee he had the ability to rush off the edge, close the formation, or hold the point versus the strong-side run, while exhibiting the ability to make plays as a cutback defender, and also display the athleticism to drop in coverage. Grayson, from his OLB slot, provided the Buccaneer defense, this season, with power and speed on the edge of the defense. Grayson exhibited, to us, the speed and agility to drop into coverage and take away the 10-15 yard out with his speed and length, while still possessing the closing speed to get to the swing and screen pass, or the sweep or stretch in the outside ground game. Grayson is a kid who we could see with his hand in the dirt, bending off the edge from DE, some day in the not too distant future. Grayson also played enough last year at Belfry to make the freshman All-American team. The committee felt there wasn’t a LB in Kentucky, this past year, that played his responsibility in the scheme being employed any more completely or unselfishly than Grayson Cook and it didn’t go unnoticed, which is why Grayson is on our Sophomore All-State team as an OLB.
Devin Johnson, 5’11” 200, Johnson Central High School
We took the height and weight of the All-Staters, freshmen and sophomores, from off of the team’s rosters posted with the KHSAA. Johnson Central listed Devin at 5’11” 200, but we have seen him listed at 6’1″ 205 in some publications. We aren’t sure what his exact dimensions are but don’t really care. Devin Johnson, though an OLB for Johnson Central High School, has more the build and skill set to play inside, the committee thought, if not in high school, than certainly in college. Morehead State has already offered Devin and we are sure there will be more jumping on the band wagon. Devin, a 3.5 student academically, carried the ball, so far this year (Johnson County plays Franklin-Simpson today for the Class 4A State Title), 98 times for 726 yards rushing and 12 rushing TDs for the defending Class 4A State Champions. That’s a smidgen over 7.4 yards per rushing attempt. Now you may be wondering why we would cite that stat in an article about LBs? Well, first of all LBs in High School, provided they can run, often double as either RBs or FBs on offense. His offensive numbers, in the absence of a registered 40 time, a pro-agility time, or a vertical leap and/or broad-jump, gives the committee some idea about his speed and burst. As for his defensive numbers, Devin registered 82 tackles, going into tonight’s State Title game, and recovered a fumble. How’s that for Defensive stats? The committee also thought Devin was tied with All-Stater, Denarius Red Barnes, for the two players you probably didn’t want to meet in a dark alley. Devin won the 190 pound Middle School, State Wrestling Championship in 2016, made the Max Preps Freshman All-American team in football last year, and bench pressed 225 pounds in Middle School. We didn’t have current strength or speed numbers on Johnson, which means Devin hasn’t been attending a lot of camps or combines, making the Morehead offer even more impressive (Good job Moorehead for jumping on this one early). We believe, once his strength and speed numbers get circulated, more colleges will be wondering how to get to Paintsville, Kentucky. Devin Johnson was an easy selection to this squad at either OLB or ILB and could have made it as a running back in some years.
Reece Fletcher, 6’1″ 205, Hazard Independant High School
Reece Fletcher played for Coach Mark Dixon’s Class 1A, District 8, Bulldogs at Hazard Independent who went 9-3 this year before bowing out of the KHSAA playoffs by losing on November 10, 2017 to Pikeville 14-9 in the State Quarters. Now players playing Class 1A football tend to get overlooked which is both unfortunate and wrong because that is penalizing a kid for where his parents chose to live and rear him. Herschel Walker and Albert Haynesworth, both former NFL superstars, played HS football in their state’s smallest classifications. Reece Fletcher had two interceptions, recovered a fumble, and registered 110 tackles in 11 games for the Bulldogs. On offense, Reece carried the football 83 times for 563 yards with 4 rushing TDs. That is a per carry average of 6.78 yards and some change. Fletcher played on both the Team Kentucky Future Stars and Team Kentucky FBU. One thing you have to love, if you are Coach Mark Dixon, is that Reece turned 17 August 8th this year, so he will be 19 his entire senior season and eligible because his turning 19 is after the deadline imposed by the KHSAA. That is going to serve him well as a high school senior. This is not an age anomaly which is uncommon for Eastern Kentucky (or really for HS football anywhere in Kentucky) as teams, all over the Commonwealth, benefit from hold-back players presently. Now that the KHSAA requires hold-backs to reclassify prior to Middle School, parents need to be aware of this rule or it could impact your son’s eligibility. Reece was, in this committee’s opinion, definitely one of the top LBs in Kentucky in his Class.
Aiden Moore, 6’2″ 225, Louisville Central High School
Aiden Moore has the frame and size one craves in a LB at the college level and he played for Coach Marvin Dantzler’s Yellow Jackets from Central High School this year. Now Louisville Central, or just Central for those in the know, is a Class 3A, District 3 team that everyone thought was going to beat Corbin in the State Semis (everyone except the Corbin faithful and me). Coach Dantzler just completed his inaugural season at Central and came to Central with a reputation for being an offensively minded football coach. Good thing the Yellow Jackets were outstanding on defense this year until Coach Dantzler could get the offense on track. Many football pundits around the Commonwealth pointed to Central’s August 31st shellacking of Fern Creek, 29-0 as the turning point, at least offensively, for Dantzler’s Yellow Jackets. Fern Creek was pretty good on Defense this season and putting up 29 on them wasn’t easy. Fast forward to the State Semis and Central’s season ended 21-20 at the hands of a Corbin team who lost last night to the Boyle Machine. The little team from Danville, Kentucky now has 8 State Championships. All of that aside, Central finished 11-3 with its only three losses coming to Class 6A, Ballard; Class 6A, State Finalist, St. Xavier; and Class 3A, runner-up, Corbin. One reason the Yellow Jackets had such a good year maybe the nearly 50 solo tackles and two fumble recoveries the Jackets got out of LB, Aiden Moore (Senior Luke Bowman’s 106 solo tackles probably helped some too). Aiden has incredible length and frame for his position and could easily add some bulk and wind up a DE either at Central or some lucky college which gains Moore’s signature. Moore covers into the boundary well, can cover in pass defense while still coming up and greeting running backs in a foul humor. The committee was proud to release that Aiden Moore had been selected to our All-State, sophomore, group of linebackers.
Well, these are the Class of 2020 linebackers for the AFI/KPG Sophomore All-State Football Team and why they were selected. Next up, we will break down the selections for the respective defensive backfields, so keep checking the site. Until then, this is Fletcher Long, for Kentucky Prep Gridiron, reminding football players both on and off the field to PLAY THROUGH THE WHISTLE!