Notes, thoughts and assorted observations from the Ozarks prep sports world…
* It’s official now. Having been named the nation’s top football recruit for the class of 2012 by MaxPreps noted recruiting guru Tom Lemming and a five-star recruit by Rivals, Dorial Green-Beckham has become the most celebrated high school athlete ever to come out of the Ozarks.
With that in mind, we had several pressing questions for his adoptive father and Hillcrest coach, John Beckham, as we head down the stretch toward some big-time college football program being very happy…and a whole bunch of them wondering what more they could have done to land the 6-foot-5, 215-pound speedy Hillcrest star wide receiver.
* Does Dorial feel any pressure to deliver great times every time he steps on to the track this spring for the Hornets and runs the 100 meters, the event in which he’s the defending Class 4 state champion?
Think about it…with all the hub-bub made over the NFL Scouting Combine and all the “measurables” there each February before pro teams make a draft pick, wouldn’t it stand to reason that if, say, Dorial had a large pizza buffet meal on a track meet afternoon and was running into a 40 miles per hour headwind and posted maybe an 11.5 in the 100, would the college scouts freak out and back off out of fear that the 6-foot-5 phenom had maybe lost a step?
“I don’t think so,” John said with a laugh. “Maybe last year or the year before, but not really anymore. I think everybody knows he runs pretty good at this point.”
FYI, DGB ran a 10.59 for his personal best in the 100 last year. Did we mention that he also was the state champ in the triple jump and state runner-up in the long jump?
* Is Dorial—who now holds state receiving records with 170 catches for 4,154 yards and 51 touchdowns over his first three seasons—any closer to narrowing his list of possible choices?
“We’d like to have it narrowed down to five or six schools by the first part of the summer, maybe mid-June,” John says. “We’ve got a few more visits to try to get in before that time.”
It’s important to note that the Beckhams are limited to taking unofficial, unpaid visits at this time until September. They did take a pair during spring break, visiting Ole Miss and Alabama in one-day trips. Dorial spent time playing pool with Crimson Tide star receiver, and soon to be very rich NFL receiver, Julio Jones, on the trip to ‘Bama. “Alabama was a good trip…Julio was a really cool guy,” John said.
* Are the Beckhams wearing down under all of the recruiting attention?
“I’m a lot more tired of it than Dorial is,” John said with a laugh. “Right now, they’re not allowed to talk to him, so I’m the one getting the phone calls. I get a lot of calls every day…so I’ll be kind of glad when it’s over. I get a lot of calls mainly from assistant coaches, but also a lot from head coaches.
“Usually, when Darnell is getting treatment I don’t answer the phone, and I’ll leave my cell in the car,” he added. “Kind of different when I go to check my messages and it’s from Bob Stoops and Les Miles. I don’t think Dorial is a big fan of the recruiting process, and I don’t think he enjoys it. I wouldn’t be surprised if he shuts it down early.”
* And lastly, there’s the aforementioned treatment for Darnell, Dorial’s freshman brother who was diagnosed with leukemia this past winter and has been undergoing treatments in Memphis for the past two months.
The best news of all…Darnell is responding favorably to those treatments, to the point where doctors aren’t ruling out his return to athletics—potentially as early as this fall—and especially by his junior and senior seasons with the Hornets if all signs continue to flow positive.
And I’m sure the college recruiters are wondering, like many fans of their programs are…does Darnell’s health situation change Dorial’s thinking in terms of staying closer to home for a college destination?
“We’ve talked about that. I told Dorial I want this to be a very selfish decision on his part, that I want him to pick the school that’s best for him,” John says. “I also told him, ‘we’re going to take care of Darnell and find a way to watch you play, so don’t let that be a factor.’ After all this, most of his treatments will be in Springfield, except for a few checkups (in Memphis).”
* Speaking of DGB, Ozarks fans will get maybe one last chance to see him on a big stage next January, when Hillcrest is one of eight teams in the 28th annual Bass Pro Tournament of Champions Jan. 12-14, 2012, at the JQH Arena.
Glendale will be the other local entry as the field was announced recently by tournament director Mark Fisher. Other teams making the trek to Springfield will be Christ the King of Middle Village, N.Y., Miller Grove High of Lithonia, Ga., St. Rita of Chicago, Westbury Christian of Houston, Lincoln out of San Diego, and Sylvan Hills from Sherwood, Ark.
Christ the King will be making its 14th T of C appearance, while St. Rita from Chicago is coached by Gary DeCesare, long-time guide of the St. Raymond’s Prep teams that used to alternate with Christ the King in coming to the event.
And fans, get those autograph pens handy. As usual, it appears the most highly touted players in the field (outside of football star DGB, of course), are Westbury Christian’s 6-3 senior point guard L.J. Rose, rated the No. 1 PG in the country in the class of 2012 by ESPN; Sylvan Hills’ 6-4 shooting guard Archie Goodwin, ranked the third best nationally at his position by Scout.com; Tyree Johnson, a 6-4 junior from Lincoln of San Diego rated No. 4 by ESPN at his shooting guard position; and Tony Parker, a 6-8 senior-to-be standout from Miller Grove (Ga.) rated No. 5 at his power forward position by ESPN.
* We want to take this opportunity to welcome back to the Ozarks one of the good guys in the coaching world, as Joel Wells is coming back home as the new head football coach at Kickapoo High.
Wells, an Aurora native, has spent the past three seasons at Liberty (Mo.) High School, butting heads in the KC area with the likes of Rockhurst, Blue Springs and other big boys of the state’s Class 6 football powerhouse world. It’s his third tour of duty at an area school, having guided Cassville back in the late 1990s and then Nixa for seven years before heading north to Liberty, where he was 18-13 in three years. That record should come with an asterisk, as Wells saw the Liberty school district break off into two schools (Liberty and Liberty North) this past season, after going 15-6 under Wells the first two seasons.
His challenge at Kickapoo: getting Chiefs football back to the level of excellence it routinely achieved in the days of the late Jim Pearson, Kevin Byrne and early on with Kurt Thompson. Back to a time when Kickapoo Football was a feared opponent and a program that was churning out college recruits on an annual basis.
And that’s exactly one of the first tasks for Wells when he arrives at KHS full-time at the conclusion of this school year—to point out to the current batch of Chiefs that being merely good to above average for KHS football, which has become the norm in recent years (including a 4-6 mark last fall), is no longer acceptable.
“I think we’ve got to set the expectations high,” Wells says. “The research I did in looking into the job, they haven’t made the playoffs since 2001, and I know a couple of those years they were Class 6 and had good teams that simply didn’t get in. But Kickapoo shouldn’t go a 10-year period without getting into the playoffs. We’re going to have to set that expectation from seventh grade on up. I think it can happen…I know they have the spring league and those things now, but you’re going to have to make football have an appeal to them.
“The big thing I want to do is have the best athletes out for football, even if it’s their second and third sport,” he added. “We want the baseball players, the basketball players, the wrestlers to come out…and from the coaches there that I’ve met, and from what I’ve been told, everybody is willing to work with each other to get them out there. Everybody wants to talk about specialization, but I want them to play basketball, baseball, run track…but I want them out there playing football, too, to create the best thing we possibly can.”
Wells, who’ll run a spread attack offense at KHS, says his brief time at Liberty also has made him better equipped as a coach to get the Chiefs to a higher level. For one thing, Wells says, he learned better communication skills in a program where he essentially had 27 assistant coaches from the eighth grade on up.
“I’ve had the ability the last three years to compete against the best of the best up here in Class 5 and 6, so I know and I’ve seen exactly what it takes to be able to compete at this level,” Wells says. “It’s made me a better football coach, without a doubt. I feel like you really get a Master’s degree in the passing game on both sides of the ball, really. A big difference up here is when someone goes five wide, you’ve got to cover all of them. There are no imposters out there. It really expanded my knowledge of the game and things like that, and I think that has made me a better coach.”
Originally published in the April 2011 issue of Ozark Preps Illustrated.