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September 6, 2004

Recruits rock Rockhurst-Blue Springs battle

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The top two teams in Missouri, the top player in the state, two other top 20 recruits, one of the most loaded junior classes around and an emerging quarterback were the story lines when Kansas City powers Blue Springs and Rockhurst faced each other in the season opener this past Friday night at Rockhurst.

But it was receiver D.J. Hord and rapidly emerging quarterback Luke Whitworth that stole the show.

Hord, the four-star receiver from Rockhurst and the top player in the Show-Me State, was the center of attention heading into the game, and he didn't disappoint. Even though Rockhurst was steamrolled by rival Blue Springs 29-9, Hord still managed to have a stellar game and show why he's one of the nation's top receiver recruits.

Hord was able to burn Blue Springs defenders several times, and he had four big catches, including an amazing catch on a post pattern that was slightly overthrown. On that play, Hord lined up in the slot and blasted past helpless defensive backs and laid out for the big catch across the middle.

He also struck it rich three other times on long pases, including a steak pattern which he just turned on his jets and outraced the Blue Springs defensive back to the football.

"I guess I just use my size and my speed to make big plays," Hord said. "I've worked hard to add some weight and keep my speed level where it's at. That way I can not only be a deep threat but also a possession type receiver."

Hord's transformation appears to be complete.

As a sophomore, he was just a skinny kid that could run faster than everybody else. Then as a junior he began to develop the ability to run routes better. And now that he's a senior, he's added on even more weight - he's at a very solid 195 pounds now - and should be able to measure up against anybody at the position in the nation.

"D.J. also brings to the table some amazing ability to separate himself from defensive backs with his speed," one Big 12 assistant coach said. "When he decides to take off, he's gone."

With offers from almost everybody in the Big 12 and heavy national attention from LSU, Notre Dame, Michigan State and several others, Hord doesn't appear to be in any rush with the recruiting process.

One player that is rushing to the forefront as a sleeper pick for the top quarterback in Missouri is Whitworth, a tall and relatively inexperienced quarterback from Blue Springs.

Before the game Blue Springs coach Kelly Donohoe, a former University of Kansas quarterback, said that Whitworth definitely looked the part but needed to step on the field and prove it.

Consider the point proved.

After Rockhurst took a 6-0 lead in the first quarter, Whitworth answered with a 55-yard scoring strike. Three-star defensive end Allan Smith nearly sacked Whitworth on the play, but the senior quarterback pulled away from Smith's grasp, took a few steps to his right and noticed a wide open receiver streaking down the field. He planted his feet and fired a laser that connected for the touchdown.

He then connected on a 22-yard scoring strike in the second quarter with a beautiful play-action pass that connected in the back corner of the end zone. Not bad for a kid that played H-back as a junior.

"I really have a lot of confidence at quarterback," Whitworth said. "I'm a really good team leader, and I never quit. I did not throw one interception in seven-on-seven tournaments this summer, and I'm confident that nobody can stop us when we're clicking."

Whitworth was Friday night and Rockhurst just happened to be in the way.

Last year Blue Springs quarterback Stinson Dean signed with Wyoming after leading his team to the state championship as a senior. If Whitworth continues his hot streak watch for his name to quickly become a hot commodity on the recruiting front. Six-foot-five quarterbacks coached by a former college QB with natural athletic ability don't grow on trees.

SMITH NEVER LEAVES FIELD
Allan Smith is a throwback.

In the days of players playing only one side of the field and specialization throughout the game of high school football, Smith, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound three-star weakside defensive end, still prefers to do things the old fashioned way.

For Smith, that means hardly leaving the field.

On offense Smith is used in passing situations or when they need an extra blocker at the tight end position. On defense, he plays the quarterback-sacking, offensive-line beating defensive end. He even participates on most of the special teams, and by the end of the game, even though Rockhurst was getting beat it's clear that Smith has the tools to play at a high level.

The one thing that Smith does lack at this point is the weight. He looks to be no heavier than 205 pounds, which is kind of light for a college defensive end. But he does have a good frame and it should be able to fill in. However, with his great motor and ability to pursue from sideline to sideline, don't be surprised if he ends up being recruited by many teams as an outside linebacker.

Smith, the No. 4 player in Missouri, has offers from Boston College, Iowa State, Kansas and Missouri.

STIGALL, BASTON ANCHOR LINES
The scholarship offers keep coming in for Blue Springs offensive linemen James Stigall, and he put forth a very workman like effort on Friday. Stigall, ranked as the nation's No. 39 offensive guard, played on both sides of the ball and didn't get off the field much and that left him winded at times - especially since it was the first game of the season.

However, he did play a key role on offense by opening up several big holes and also by going head-to-head several times with Smith, the standout rush end from Rockhurst. Smith got the best of Stigall several times, but he did return the favor a few times on running plays.

With offers beginning to pour in from all over the nation, including from places like Tennessee and Michigan State, Stigall remains high on Kansas State and Missouri with others like Kansas, Arkansas and Northwestern also involved.

On the defensive side of the ball Jaron Baston, a 6-foot-2, 250-pound strongside defensive end, had his moments. He wasn't especially dominant, but he did get double-teamed throughout most of the game and he did come up with a few key assists in the second quarter when the game was turning toward Blue Springs.

Baston is already committed to Missouri, as he picked the Tigers over an offer from Kansas. With his size and frame he almost already looks like a defensive tackle. He didn't look like the fastest kid around, and with a big-frame already could the Tigers eventually spin him down to a defensive tackle?

GENERATION NEXT
At Rockhurst, you don't rebuild, you reload. And that's the case as the Hawklets are still a very fine football team, despite the loss to Blue Springs, with a ton of young impact players ready to become household names with recruiting coordinators.

Maybe the best in the bunch didn't even play Friday night.

Defensive end/tight end Derek Hall is a baby-faced 6-foot-4, 230-pounder that coach Tony Severino is raving about already. Hall didn't play Friday night because he had a soft cast on his right hand, but look for him to be an impact player once he gets back on the field in the future.

Many fans will recognize the last name Strozier because Rockhurst sent defensive back Noah Strozier to Kansas State two years ago, but there is a younger Strozier, and he might just be a better prospect than his older brother.

Meet cornerback Phillip Strozier, a 6-foot, 185-pound cover corner with the wheels and ball-hawking ability to be a major recruit in 2006. He already looks like he's more physically developed than his brother was at this point, and if he continues to improve in his play-making ability then he's got a shot at being really special.

Also keep an eye on two linemen that could play on both sides of the ball in college, but likely project as offensive guards. Andrew Brooks is a 6-2, 270-pounder that looked good on defense, and Jacob Fogle is a 6-4, 294-pounder that did most of his damage on offense.


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