AUSTIN (KXAN) — The football coaches at DeSoto High School need to keep doing what they are doing, as far as Texas Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian is concerned.
In Monday’s press conference, Sarkisian talked at length about how freshman receiver Johntay Cook II has performed well in training camp. One of the main points Sarkisian mentioned was that DeSoto’s coaching staff is “really good.”
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“He’s been coached in a way that he believes in,” Sarkisian said. “What I love about Johntay is how coachable he is. I think he’s really trying to do whatever we’re asking him to do. When he doesn’t do it the right way, he acknowledges it and tries to do it right the next time.”
The DeSoto Eagles, from the south side of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, are perennial powers in Texas high school football and pump out blue-chip recruits regularly, so it’s not a shock that college coaches like Sarkisian sing their praises. The Longhorns have two freshmen on the roster that played at DeSoto last year, Cook and Tre Wisner. Both helped the Eagles win the Class 6A-Division II state title last season over Vandegrift 42-17. Wisner caught six passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns (plus 75 rushing yards) while Cook hauled in three passes for 103 yards and a score.
Defensive lineman Byron Murphy II also attended DeSoto, so perhaps Sarkisian is trying to get a pipeline started. It certainly wouldn’t be a bad idea.
When asked about the difficulty for freshman receivers to step in and contribute immediately, much like Xavier Worthy did two seasons ago, Sarkisian said it really depends on the player. There’s no true blueprint to predict how quickly a young player will acclimate to the difference in speed from high school to college.
“I’ve been around it where freshman receivers show up and they’re playmakers,” Sarkisian said. “I had Juju Smith-Schuster as a true freshman and he walked right in and was very comfortable. Xavier was also very comfortable doing it. I’ve seen guys that it may take a year or two or maybe later into their freshman year to when they really start to get it. Everybody’s path is different.”
Sticking with pass catchers, Sarkisian feels like tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders can take a big leap this season at making plays down the field. Sarkisian said Sanders is one of the smartest players on the team, and coupled with his size and strength, he continues to develop and could be in for an even better year than last.
“He’s got an extremely high football IQ,” Sarkisian said of Sanders. “We ask a lot of him and he understands what we’re trying to do. He’s such a dynamic player and he has great hands. We feel like there’s so much more room for growth that he can get it to another level.”
Sanders was named to the watch list for the Mackey Award that’s given out to the top tight end in college football every year. He’s coming off one of the most productive seasons ever for a Longhorns tight end last year with 54 catches (a program record for the position) for 613 yards (tied for second-most).
Overall, Sarkisian said he’s pleased with the “individual progress” the players are making in what he called the first block of practice, the first two with helmets only and the next two with pads. He said after Sunday’s off day, the team responded well in the Monday morning session.
“Across the board, a lot of guys have made substantial improvement, and continue to make improvement, from one practice to the next,” Sarkisian said. “We’re starting to incorporate more facets of the games, so as situations come up and performing in those situations, it’s at a high level.”