August 31, 2010

Stewart, Brown put on show in season opener

The Denton Guyer-Waxahachie matchup at Standridge Stadium in Carrollton was supposed to be a preview of two of the area's top teams. Both were facing challenges coming into the 2010 season, Guyer with a move into Class 5A while Waxahachie was looking at replacing most of its starting lineup from 2009.

On the surface, Guyer's 42-7 victory indicates that it will probably be much more successful in their transition than the Indians will be at theirs. Although Waxahachie features receiver/safety LaDarius Brown, who can do a lot of different things, Brown can't throw the ball to himself, nor can he block or play defensive line. In contrast, Guyer has some of the best talent at the skill positions in the state of Texas on both side of the ball.

However, the story of the individual matchups from a scouting standpoint was receiver version of Brown against Guyer corner and Texas A&M commitJosh Stewart. Brown was shadowed by Stewart all over the field Saturday. Brown probably will not put up the numbers he did last year (34 catches, 889 yards, nine touchdowns) since the Indians are rotating two quarterbacks.

Brown had four catches for 56 yards Saturday. Brown caught a hitch and a slant against Stewart in cover 4 when Stewart was playing off of him as dictated by the coverage. He also had a catch and run on a rollout against Stewart when Guyer was in cover 2 and Stewart had safety help over the top. He also had a similar catch and run when Stewart was out of the game.

Brown looks to be much bigger than last year and may be close to 200 pounds right now. Physically, He looks like that he would be an ideal safety prospect although he didn't show much from that part of his game since Guyer was able to run the ball well and hit a number of big plays away from him. Brown will need to work on running routes at the next level but he's still able to run downfield and find holes in coverage. He's also very elusive for a guy his size and has knack for avoiding people after the ball is in his hands.

Stewart had more than his share of moments too. Generally, he played off of Brown but he was better when he playing up on him. Despite his 5 foot 10, 163 pound frame, Stewart is strong for his size and has great technique. He keeps his feet aligned with his shoulder and gets his hands up quickly to drive the receiver off course. One time, Stewart got up on Brown with safety help over the top and drove Brown outside so that the Waxahachie quarterback had no chance but to throw a fade which was incomplete. One time, Stewart was in cover 4 with no safety help and ran stride for stride with Brown on a deep route and knocked the ball away. In addition, Stewart likes to come up and hit people. He also returns punts and had a 38 yard touchdown catch and run on an inside screen breaking multiple tackles in the process. Between plays, he even recruited Brown to join him at A&M.

However, the star of Saturday's show was Guyer receiver Quentin Gardener. The 6 foot, 190 pound Gardener is built more like a running back than a receiver. It's difficult to press him at the line of scrimmage because he is strong and uses his hands well to get separation. He catches the ball away from his body and has great leaping ability. Guyer quarterback J.W. Walsh threw a fade to Gardener in the right corner for a 10 yard touchdown in which Gardener got behind the shorter defender and elevated over him to take the ball at the top of his jump. Gardener also had a 59 yard catch and run on an inside screen in which he broke tackles and ran through tacklers. Overall, Gardener had five catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns. Gardener has offers Colorado State, Iowa, Iowa State, Minnesota, and New Mexico but this should change if he keeps putting up numbers like he did Saturday.

Guyer quarterback J. W. Walsh has improved his footwork and throws well both on the move and in the pocket. The Oklahoma State commit was 14 of 20 for 345 yards and four touchdowns and certainly showed why he's a four star prospect per Rivals. Guyer defensive end Jimmy Bean had a quiet day as Waxahachie typically ran away from him. Guyer junior receiver Connor Crane had one forty yard TD reception on a corner route.

Overall, no one's stock shot up higher than that of Gardener's after Saturday. He has been practicing at defensive back as well as receiver and it would be interesting to see what he can do on that side of the ball. Even so, teams looking for uncommitted receiver this late in the recruiting game would be well advised to stop by Guyer and request some film on him.

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