Defending our Selections: The Sophomore Receivers plus one TE…

We were talking to a recruiter and trying to get him to take a look at a receiver we liked. He asked us, What do you like about him. Confidently, we talked about his size, speed, length, soft hands, separation ability, receptions, yards receiving, TDs receiving and just about everything else we could throw in there. He looked at us and said, You just described every receiver prospect on our board. So, your guy can run a route and catch a ball. This is D-I, of course he can. What else can he do? What makes your guy different than any of our other targets? 

Obviously, we had never looked at it like that. Receivers which stand out are the ones who run the routes hard, whether they are the target of the play or not, receivers who are voracious participants in the run game and block well, receivers who run disciplined routes and catch the ball at its high-point, hands extended, away from the body with the DB on the receiver’s back, attempting (in vain) to knock the ball away from him. We looked for all of those traits in the players we are about to detail. As for our TE? Well, he should be equally adept at catching the football and being the O-Line’s sixth member. We are proud to present the Sophomore, All-State receivers plus our TE. When we get done telling you about them, the reasons for each of their selections should be abundantly clear…

Photo: Josh Nichols, YourSportsEdge, Jesse (No. 21)

Reece Jesse, Jr., 6-3 and 173 pounds, Hopkinsville High School…If you love frames, this kid is the top prospect at his position in all of Kentucky’s Class of 2021. He’s got tremendous length with his 6-3 inch height but his 77 inch reach gives him an ability to put a defender on his back, extend, and catch a football in a different zip code than the DB attempting to break up the play. Reece has what we call sneaky speed. He’s so long-legged that with his long, eloping gate, he never looks like he’s running either hard or fast but seems to gain separation easily. He faced some of the best DBs Kentucky had to offer this past year and flourished. No telling what kind of a year he could have had if his QB had been healthy for all 12 of Hoptown’s games rather than just 3 and a half.

For a sophomore receiver, Reece’s power, strength, and explosion numbers are startling. He’s a 173 pound kid with extremely long legs and arms but still power-cleans 225 pounds (explosive), bench presses 230 pounds (try jamming that on the line), squats 350 pounds (vertically explosive), and incline-presses 215 pounds. Can he get open down field? Well, he averaged approximately 29.79 yards per reception in 2018 and caught 16 balls on the year with having to play 8 and one-half of his twelve games with a receiver playing a position (QB) he had never before played. Jesse, in addition to his 6-3 height and 77 inch reach, possesses a 35 inch vertical leap, and soft hands. Reece Jesse (35 inch vertical, worth mentioning twice) is also one of the top 2021 prospects on the Hopkinsville High School varsity basketball team. This is a guy who passes the eye-test so thoroughly he could get a college offer, at some level, just getting out of the car at a camp or combine. This kid would also make a dynamite safety in the mold of a Cory Trice. When he blows up, remember where you heard of him first.

Dekel Crowdus, 5-10, 161 Frederick Douglas High School…Of all the receivers on this team, this is the one who doesn’t need to develop in the eyes of many schools. He’s getting offered right now. Dekel is already sporting offers from the home town Kentucky Wildcats, as well as Western Michigan, and is being courted by Florida, Notre Dame, Louisville, and NC State so there will be many more added to the offer list before his career is finished. Dekel played for the same Team Kentucky Future Stars team as the late EJ Austin, from Hopkinsville, Kentucky, who tragically died his freshman year in an accidental gun incident. Owing to his friendship with EJ, and as a tribute to him, Dekel has elected to wear the number 11, which was also EJ Autin’s number, throughout his high school career. That is just the kind of kid Dekel Crowdus is too, which is an intangible which makes you really feel great about anything positive which comes this young man’s way in life.

If you are someone who wants to root for Dekel, he certainly gives you the type production on the field which will satisfy even the harshest critic. Playing for a Class 6A football team, which finished 11-1 in 2018 and lost by one point to State-finalist, Scott County, Crowdus caught 37 passes for 831 yards receiving over his sophomore campaign. Additionally, Crodus corralled 11 TD passes on the year. Crowdus, like Jesse, has really long arms which make him play with more length than his 5-10 inch frame would naturally warrant and, as for speed, we can’t cite you to any definitive times. What we can say is this kid isn’t being courted by the D-1, Power 5, destinations courting him without the word being out he runs, and runs very well. KPGFootball would be willing to wager Crowdus is among the fastest kids in his graduating class in Kentucky.

Camden Williams, 6-0, 170 pounds, Elizabethtown High…If you are waiting on this kid to drop a football, you may have to wait quite a while. We have both followed and reported on Camden Williams since his QB, Clay Games, and he led TK Stone to the Middle School State Football Championship in 2016. Of all the receivers featured here, this is a guy who runs the most disciplined routes probably in all the Commonwealth among 2021 prospects. This kid caught 42 balls this year with a sophomore at QB and was largely responsible for an E-Town resurgence this season notwithstanding the Panthers having suffered tremendous graduation losses from off its State Semi-final team from 2017. Elizabethtown will be on everyone’s preseason top-5 in 2019 and Camden Williams will be a big reason why. Williams nearly made this team as a DB registering 5 interceptions and a pick-six nestled in amongst his 70 interception return yards. The word on the recruiting trail is his speed is suspect. We don’t know about that but we do know that E-Town plays all comers and Williams caught 42 footballs in 2018, for 652 receiving yards and 9 TDs. He will get faster as he matures and continues to train offseason. This kid runs the best routes and has the best hands in Kentucky’s 2021 class. At KPGFootball, both our committee and we are big Williams’ fans.

Photo:Kevin Goldy/Daily Independent

TE-Zack Russell, 6-3, 210 pounds, Johnson Central High School…We have seen this prospect, in only his sophomore season, listed at 6-4 as many times as we have seen him listed at 6-3. Either way, he has a dynamite frame for where he is being presently deployed offensively and defensively and his frame is only going to get better. Russell played in all 15 of Johnson Central’s football games and led the TEs in receptions with 10 for right at 200 receiving yards (199 to be exact). While that may not knock your socks off, remember Johnson Central’s leading receiving on the year only caught 12 footballs and the entire team caught 55 in 15 games. Russell was the third leading receiver on the team and many of his catches came at really big moments, like the big conversion reception he caught in the State Football Championship Game at Kroger Field against Franklin-Simpson, above depicted in the Kevin Goldy photograph, which kept the drive alive and gave his team a chance to win it at the end. Russell also plays DE for Johnson Central and we expect that his two-way deployment will continue throughout his high school career. Russell is exactly what we would want at the TE position as he is just a horse who catches the ball and blocks in the run game, as the O-Line’s 6th member, equally well.

As for his selection to this team, we liken Russell to the tight-end we selected on the sophomore team a year ago, Michael Mayer from Covington Catholic. Mayer, who has been offered basically by everybody in the area which plays FBS football, and is listed as one of Kentucky’s top 2020 prospects by every recruiting service in existence, caught the same 10 passes as Russell caught over his sophomore year for fewer yards (Mayer, 177 yards receiving; Russell, 199 yards receiving). Sure, Mayer caught 3 TDs to Russell’s zero (Russell had at least 2-3 negated by penalty) but Mayer had the top QB prospect in Kentucky throwing the football to him in his brother, AJ and Covington Catholic threw the ball way more in 2017 than Johnson Central threw it in 2018. What we are trying to say is this. For the position played, and what is asked of it, Zach Russell had one Hell of a Year in the passing game and blocking up-front for one of Kentucky’s top, ground-based offenses.

Well, that is the defense of our selections for the sophomore receivers plus one TE representing Kentucky’s class of 2021. KPGFootball is quite sure that, while these may not be the very best at their respective positions in the 2021 class; they are, definitely, among them. All of these players have distinguished themselves both on the field of play and in the class room. It will be fun to follow these guys as they continue to develop and play football next Fall. You will continue to hear plenty from these players in 2019 and beyond. 

Reporting for KPGFootball, this is Fletcher Long reminding all of the ballers out there that #WeGotUCovered and to PLAY THROUGH THE WHISTLE.

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