November 3, 2007

Banks filling bigger shoes at West Monroe

MONROE, La. -- D.J. Banks out of West Monroe High School in Louisiana may be in between growth spurts. He quickly outgrew class 1A football in Louisiana and after a change in scenery, he is starting to see just how well the class 5A shoe fits.

As a 14-year old freshman in high school, Banks was dominating 1A football in Louisiana. He had over 1,000 all-purpose yards on offense and a staggering nine interceptions on defense for Monroe (La.) St. Frederick High School.

As a sophomore, Banks was simply scary. He put up over 2,000 yards of total offense, rushing for 27 touchdowns along the way and leading his team to the second round of the state playoffs. However, instead of taking over the reins at quarterback for St. Frederick and continuing his small school dominance, Banks headed across town for his junior year to West Monroe High School.

Leaving a school with an enrollment of 400 and heading to school with an enrollment of just under 2,000 would be transition enough but the real test came on the football field. With West Monroe being one of the state powers in its biggest division, Banks became a cog in the machine for the Rebels, whereas in 1A Banks was the machine.

At West Monroe Banks plays primarily slot receiver, return man and backup quarterback. To say his role is different would be an understatement but Banks has embraced the change.

"I like playing slot, wideout, playing quarterback," he said. "I just like being on the field. The season's been going real good. The team's been winning and I've been learning a lot, and making a lot of new friends."

His teammates agree.

Don Brown a strong, physical senior fullback who will start his college ball at Hinds Junior College has enjoyed the new addition both on and off the field.

"He's been a big part of our offense," he said. "He helps to spread the field and to take pressure of everyone else. He's like family to me. Me and D.J., we used to play football together when we were little."

Through eight games, Banks estimates his statistics at around 250 yards receiving with a touchdown and just over 100 yards passing and two or three touchdowns through the air, a far cry from his 2,000 yard campaign as a sophomore. But Banks isn't hung up on the numbers.

"Not really," said Banks when asked if the reduced role bothered him. "I'm a team player and we're winning. I'm happy I don't have to do everything."

If college interest is any indication, it is clear that Banks is still a high priority.

"I'm getting interest from SEC schools and a lot of area schools," he said. "I like LSU, they're my favorite team. I also like Alabama. I like Nick Saban a lot. I went to the Alabama camp and really liked his personality. I started liking Alabama when Saban went there."

At the college level Banks is probably best suited as a defensive back, but with West Monroe losing its senior signal-caller, the quarterback chair for the 2008 season has been fitted for him. Therefore, while Banks does want to play defensive back, his best chance may be this season as his quarterbacking duties will likely override any itch to see the defensive side of the ball.

Early arrival
If Banks is yet to hit his second growth spurt, his shoes may have just gotten a little tighter in the toe. On Friday night, after West Monroe's starting quarterback Shelby Aulds left the game with an injury, Banks stepped in behind center against Captain Shreve in Shreveport, La. to ignite a comeback victory to keep the Rebels perfect.

After falling behind 20-0, Banks orchestrated 35 unanswered points including three touchdowns in the final six minutes to take the win. Banks rushed for 53 yards on the night and was a perfect 8 for 8 passing for 93 yards and two touchdowns.

Depending on the severity of Aulds' injury, Banks could be thrown into the fire at quarterback for a playoff run.

The workhorse
With such a potentially dangerous weapon as D.J. Banks is playing a supporting role in West Monroe's offense, there must be someone to take the credit for the huge offensive numbers that the Rebels have been throwing up. Much of that credit can be thrown in the direction of fellow junior Ladarius Abrams.

Abrams has powered a dominating West Monroe rushing attack this season behind the blocks of Brown, his fullback. He has rushed for close to 700 yards on only 72 carries through 8 games. Abrams' production in the run game this season has allowed West Monroe to keep the ball grounded and control the clock while still piling up huge points.

"I'm kind of a power runner," Abrams said. "But if I need to I can make a move on you too."

While no offers have come in yet for the 2009 standout, Abrams hopes to stay in the South when the time comes.

"I'm getting letters from Florida, Louisiana Tech, Alabama," he said. "I would love to go to an SEC school because it's the best conference."

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