Thursday December 11th, 2014

It does not seem difficult to project how Christian Kirk will fit in at the next level. He is a skilled pass catcher with good hands and remarkable burst. He can outfox defenders by feinting his body from left to right, navigate secondaries focused on stopping him and scamper for yards after the catch.

He is also 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, which has some observers thinking he will operate as a slot receiver.

When Kirk was given a five-star rating by Rivals.com in August, for instance, National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell wrote that Kirk is “a slot at the next level who will be a nightmare for safeties and nickel backs.”

But is it possible that evaluation undersells what Kirk is capable of? Sure, he is not as big as many of the top receivers in college or the NFL, but he can do many of the same things. The most important is his ability to create separation from linebackers and defensive backs.

Kirk was clocked at 4.47 in the 40-yard dash this summer at The Opening and is renowned for his ability to explode off of the line of scrimmage and catch opponents off guard. And if the quarterback delivers him the ball, there is a strong likelihood he will catch it.

Against longer, bigger defenders, Kirk could be at a disadvantage in certain respects. Jump balls and fade routes wouldn’t be ideal, for example. But he can still be used to attack defenses in a variety of ways -- whether in the slot or at other positions.

Jason Mohns, Kirk’s coach at Saguaro (Ariz.) High School, said he points to one highly successful NFL receiver when people mention Kirk’s height.

Rivals.com

“Anytime anybody brings up the height thing I ask them if they know who Steve Smith is,” Mohns said, referring to the five-time Pro Bowler, is only 5-9, 195 pounds. “So I don’t think it’s fair to say, ‘Well, he’s this height, so he can only play this position.’

Because guys, if they have the skills, if they have the ability, I don’t think it matters if you’re 5-11 or if you’re 6-5. He’s got the speed and the skill set to be able to play outside and he also has the skill set to be able to play in the slot, and he can line up in the backfield. He can do it all. So, I don’t look at his height as pigeonholing him into any specific role at the college level.”

Kirk said coaches recruiting him envision him as an “all-around” receiver who can be deployed in different areas of the field. “They don’t want to just put me in one spot -- either outside or inside,” Kirk said “They want to move me all around, and obviously in different formations, they want me all over the place.”

Playing a range of different receiving roles shouldn’t be a problem for Kirk because he’s played several positions on both sides of the ball (and also contributed on returns) while helping Saguaro win consecutive state championships. In fact, the most impressive play of Kirk’s high school career may have come when he was playing defense.

In a playoff game against Sabino High last year, Kirk intercepted a long pass with one hand and evaded several defenders for a 78-yard touchdown. Unfortunately for Kirk, the score, which is shown in the video below, was negated because of a block in the back.

Rob Cassidy, a recruiting analyst for Rivals.com, says Kirk reminds him of former Florida star and NFL receiver Percy Harvin. “I think he definitely is a deep threat because the quickness and the speed is so elite,” Cassidy said.

Kirk released a list of top six schools -- Arizona State, Auburn, Ohio State, Texas A&M, UCLA and USC -- in August but is no longer considering USC. He is set to make his college announcement on Dec. 17.

What role Kirk fills in a college offense may be unsettled, but it’s clear he should be able to make a big impact wherever he goes. Simply put, Kirk is a playmaker who can make things happen with the ball in his hands.

Around the nation

  • It technically took South Panola High nearly two days to complete a 27-21 overtime win over Oak Grove High in the Mississippi Class 6A title game. The game began on Friday night but was postponed with 7:27 remaining in the first quarter after a power transformer exploded on Mississippi State’s campus, causing the lights to go out at Davis-Wade Stadium. Power was eventually restored, but severe weather in the area precluded a resumption of play. The game was rescheduled for Sunday at 4 p.m., with South Panola holding a 7-0 lead after a 50-yard touchdown pass.
  • Blake Coward recently quarterbacked Madison (Ala.) Academy to a third consecutive state championship. But more people know him for something that has nothing to do with football: his relationship with Duck Dynasty star Sadie Robertson. Robertson, who also participated on the most recent season of Dancing With the Stars, began dating Coward after they met at a softball game about a year ago, according to a report from John Talty of AL.com.

According to the report, Coward draws more attention at road games than his teammates with scholarship offers from SEC schools, including four-star athlete Malik Miller and Auburn commit Kerryon Johnson. Talty notes that after one game this season, dozens of teenage girls approached Coward asking him to pose for selfies.

"Blake is 'Superstar,'" Miller said. "Me and Kerryon (Johnson) joke with him every day that the media is coming here for you. They want to know about Sadie.

"Playing with Blake is an experience I'll never forget. After games, the other team's girls are trying to tackle him to get a picture."

Below is a picture of Coward and Robertson from Coward’s Instagram account, which has 117,000 followers:

Wish I was Adam last night but you still killed it

A photo posted by Blake Coward (@shake_n_blake47) on

[AL.com]

  • Monacan High lost its Virginia 4A state semifinal game to Lake Taylor High in heartbreaking fashion. Down two points with 14 seconds remaining, Lake Taylor attempted a 23-yard field goal. Monacan blocked the kick and players began celebrating on the field, but they forgot the ball remained in play. Lake Taylor’s kicker, Marquise Poole, picked it up and ran into the end zone for the winning score.

“I was shocked no one was around to pick it up or tackle me,” Poole said, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “I basically walked in.”

Here is video of the final play:

  • In June 2013, Evangel Christian (La.) School senior Jerry Tillery became the first player in the class of 2015 to verbally commit to Notre Dame. But speculation mounted over whether Tillery would stick with his pledge as he took multiple visits to other schools and reportedly received strong interest from LSU. On Thursday, Tillery confirmed his commitment to Notre Dame and then reportedly signed his grant-in-aid agreement with the Irish. The 6-foot-6, 314-pound Tillery is the No. 11 offensive tackle and No. 126 player in the class of 2015.

Based on this picture from Tillery’s visit to South Bend in September, it seems like he will enjoy his time there.

Going up in Notre Dame stadium. There is magic in the night. #fuzahm

A photo posted by Jerry Tillery (@jerrytillery) on

  • Uncommitted Trinity Christian (Fla.) Academy senior Jeffery Holland said if Auburn hires former Florida coach Will Muschamp as its defensive coordinator, that would probably give the Tigers the upper hand in his recruitment. The Tigers reportedly dismissed Ellis Johnson late last month. Holland had placed Florida on his list of top three schools, along with Auburn and UCLA, and visited Gainesville multiple times before the Gators fired Muschamp.

"I was hoping he was going to end up at Auburn," Holland said, according to the Orlando Sentinel. "That would probably put them to the top, but I don't know, I'd have to talk to my family and coaches."

Holland, the No. 23 outside linebacker in the class of 2015, also commented on new Florida coach Jim McElwain and the urgency with which he needs to approach Holland’s recruitment.

"I haven't talked to him at all," Holland said. "I really don't know him so I really don't got no thoughts. I just gotta get to meet him and he's gotta start recruiting me fast because this thing is getting pretty tight."

  • The longest winning streak in the country ended Friday night when Bellevue High was upset, 35-13, by Eastside Catholic School in the Washington Class 3A state championship game. Bellevue had won 67 consecutive games  (it hadn’t lost since a seven-point defeat to Skyline High in September 2010) and 11 of the last 13 state championships, including six in a row, while producing elite college prospects such as UCLA linebacker Myles Jack and Washington defensive back Budda Baker.

Eastside, which had not won a state championship prior to this year, posted a 256-total-yard advantage and converted 20 more first downs than Bellevue.

“The best team won,” said Bellevue coach Butch Goncharoff, according to the Seattle Times. “I’ve been on the other end of it many times, and they were better in all three phases of the game. They beat us. And you know what? I told the kids I’d rather lose like that than give it away.”

Five notable commitments

  • Oscar Smith (Va.) senior Josh Sweat committed to Florida State. Sweat is the No. 1 weakside defensive end in the class of 2015.
  • Quince Orchard (Md.) High senior Adam McLean committed to Maryland. McLean, who decommitted from Penn State last month, is the No. 13 strongside defensive end in the class of 2015.
  • Greater Atlanta Christian (Ga.) High senior Darius Slayton committed to Georgia. Slayton is the No. 19 athlete in the class of 2015.
  • Central Gwinnett (Ga.) High senior Adonis Thomas committed to Alabama. Thomas, who decommitted from Florida in October, is the No. 19 outside linebacker in the class of 2015.
  • Winton Woods (Ohio) High senior George Brown flipped his commitment from Florida to LSU. Brown is the No. 20 offensive tackle in the class of 2015.

Five notable performances

  • Auburn commit Kerryon Johnson accounted for six touchdowns (four rushing, one receiving and a pick six), recorded six tackles and a sack and forced a fumble to lead Madison Academy (Ala.) to a 70-34 win over Dale County.
  • Cashion (Okla.) High’s Matt Harman completed 17 of his 25 pass attempts for 281 yards with four touchdowns and added one rushing score in a 48-32 win over Talihina High.
  • Matawan Regional (N.J.) High freshman George Pearson passed for 198 yards and four touchdowns in a 27-7 win over Carteret High.
  • Clay-Chalkville (Ala.) High’s Tyrell Pigrome connected on 15-of-20 pass attempts for 255 yards with two touchdowns and added 101 yards and three scores on the ground in a 36-31 win over Saraland High.
  • Lake Norman (N.C.) High’s Josh Ladowski threw for 254 yards with four touchdowns and rushed for 143 yards and two scores in a 48-41 loss to Mallard Creek High.

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