DALLAS -- College coaches from coast to coast flocked to Dallas Skyline last year in hopes of signing one of the program's many talented seniors. Having 11 Division I prospects, including two Under Armour All-Americans, tends to have that effect on college coaches, and if a Jan. 28 visit to Skyline is any indication, don't expect the recruiters to stop scheduling visits to the East Dallas school.
For most programs, losing 11 Division I players would mean a rebuilding period, but Skyline needs only to reload, thanks to a solid junior class plus stellar sophomore and freshman classes behind it.
"Our junior class is a solid group," said Skyline assistant coach and recruiting coordinator R.J. Bond. "We have some very good players in that group. The sophomore group doesn't have as much depth as the senior group we just graduated, but the top half of the sophomore class has some great linebackers, a big receiver, a big guard and a very good running back."
ESPNU 150 Watch List linebacker Anthony Wallace leads a 2011 class that has five or six Division I prospects. Despite all the talent that has come through the Skyline program under head coach Reginald Samples, some think the 6-foot-2, 223-pounder could be the best.
"Anthony is so humble and quiet. He has great character. We feel like he should be the first five-star Skyline has had in a while," Bond said.
The early college offers back up the thought. Since September 2009, offers have poured in from the likes of Florida, Kentucky, LSU, Miami, UCLA, Tennessee, Arkansas, Notre Dame, Kansas, Texas A&M, Minnesota, Baylor, Texas Tech and Houston, with Texas to follow this weekend.
On offense, youth will be plentiful at the skill positions and along the offensive line, although the Raiders do return a pair of playmakers out of the backfield in the versatile Sammy Hill and running back Josh Wilkins.
Another great group of linebackers
This year's trio of linebackers at Skyline may have been the best in the country. Wallace, Corey Nelson (Oklahoma) and Dominique Patterson (Texas A&M) were big, fast defenders who will all be playing for major college programs in the future.
As crazy as it may seem, next year's squad may be better because of its depth and versatility. Wallace will be joined next season by junior Nigel Robertson, who is regarded as one of the hardest-hitting players the Skyline staff has ever coached; junior Peter Jinkens; junior Dominique Spencer; and possibly Shannon, who played safety this year.
The 6-2, 205-pound Jinkens is well-proportioned with long arms and track speed. The talented sophomore could also line up in the backfield as a junior.
"Jinkens is the type of athlete that could be a running back, linebacker or defensive end. He was a gunner on [the] punt team and wedge-buster on [the] kickoff team as a sophomore," Bond said.
Wallace and Shannon were both 9-5A first-team all-district picks in 2009. Shannon has received offers from the likes of Oklahoma, Nebraska, Texas A&M, Kansas and Kansas State.
The secondary was completely gutted by graduation and position changes, assuming Shannon makes the move to linebacker. Transfer Shelton Session (6-0, 180 pounds) has a powerful defensive back frame and will bring speed and quickness. One corner will be 2012 prospect Pat Robinson, while fellow 2012 prospect Dallas Lewis figures to play in the defensive backfield as well.
All three of the newcomers bring 4.5-speed or better to the field.
Defensive end experience
The defensive end position returns the most experience for the Raiders. Juniors Marquel Bryant and Michael Moore are returning, and it's not out of the question that Wallace could see some snaps at end as a senior.
Bryant, 6-3, 219 pounds, is a long-armed, quickly developing pass-rusher off the edge and features a very quick first step. He is receiving interest from the entire Big 12 plus Oregon and Tennessee, among others.
Moore, 6-1, 215 pounds, is receiving interest from Texas A&M and the majority of the Big 12. He has continually impressed with his motor and his ability to pursue the football. He was a 9-5A first team all-district selection as a junior.
Skyline will also likely play a number of freshmen in reserve roles along the defensive front. Isaiah Williams, Malvon Brown, Brandon Lee and Jeremy Nixon are all talented young linemen likely to make an impact as sophomores. Williams could also play anywhere from end to tackle on the offensive line.
"The freshman class is very deep with a lot of talented kids. There are a lot of good character kids as well in the class. We might not have the All-American type of prospect, but this class has a little of everything. This class could have more [Division I prospects] than the senior class that just signed, if they develop."
Young but talented on the offensive line
The offensive line will be a position of extreme youth, but some very talented and big players led by the 9-5A Newcomer of the Year Marlon Brown. He played at nearly 340 pounds as a sophomore, but is making great strides in the offseason and has already dropped close to 20 pounds. The 6-2, 320-pounder will be joined by a host of underclassmen, including Benito Vidales, who is an athletic 6-2, 250-pounder. Junior two-way lineman Mike Jones will also be a key player on the line.
Top transfer highlights receivers
Skyline lost some big-time receiver threats with the graduation of Mike Davis (Texas) and Joseph Powell (Oklahoma), among others, and the returning corps looked like a question mark before the recent transfer of one of the top sophomores in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Thomas Johnson is not familiar to a large number of high school fans, but expect the explosive 6-0, 175-pound playmaker to be one of the top prospects in the area a year from now. He played quarterback during his sophomore year at Arlington Oakridge, throwing passes to top receiver prospect Ross Apo (Bedford, Texas/Arlington Oakridge), who signed with BYU last week. While Johnson was productive as a passer, completing 60 of 109 passes for 1,095 and 14 touchdowns, it was on the ground that his electric playmaking skills were on full display. He rushed for an attention-grabbing 1,626 yards and 25 touchdowns on just 125 carries.
Johnson, who will move to receiver for Skyline, is already receiving lofty praise from his coaches thanks to his combination of elite quickness, acceleration, change of direction and pure speed. His special ability showed up in junior high: He was the top long jumper in the country for his age group and recorded a leap of more than 20 feet as an eighth grader.
"Thomas is explosive. We had one of our former players, Josh Bell [a Green Bay Packers defensive back], in the other day, and he was asking about him. That says a lot when the NFL guys are singling him out," Bond said.
Sophomore Tre Raybon, junior P.J. Dawson, and freshmen Ra'Shaad Samples and Derell Bullocks will team with Johnson to give the Raiders another talented, playmaking receiver corps. Raybon is the biggest target at a shade over 6-2, while Dawson (6-2, 195 pounds) is a physical player who played tight end as a junior. Samples, the son of coach Samples, also plays on the varsity basketball team as a freshman.
Stacked rushing attack
Juniors Wilkins and Hill are coming off productive seasons. Wilkins (5-9, 175 pounds) rushed for 612 yards and 12 touchdowns on 83 carries. Hill (5-8, 173 pounds) will line up in the backfield and in the slot as well as return kicks. He rushed for 239 yards on 30 carries and caught 25 passes for 256 yards and three touchdowns, earning 9-5A first-team all-district honors.
Joining the experienced playmakers will be 2012 prospect David Greene. The 6-0, 180-pounder will bring to the team a blend of speed and power between the tackles. He could also see time at safety.
Handing the ball off, passing, and making plays with his feet could be 2013 prospect DeVante Kincade. The 6-0, 171-pounder has a bright future thanks to his combination of quick feet, ability to make defenders miss and strong arm, but he will face some competition from upperclassmen.
"It's going to be an open competition this spring and summer. Edward Baker, a junior; Josh Brown, a sophomore; and Kincade will compete for the job," Bond said.
Whoever wins the job will have a tall task because UTEP signee Javia Hall put together a terrific senior season for the Raiders, throwing 33 touchdowns against just two interceptions.
The Raiders will have a chance to live up to their expectations right away -- Skyline recently finalized a Week 1 showdown at Cowboys Stadium against Florida powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas. The game will be part of the Herbstreit Classic on Labor Day.
Gerry Hamilton has covered recruiting in Texas and the Southwest for more than a decade. He can be reached at email@example.com.