By JUSTIN RAINS
Palestine junior Jarrell Owens hasn’t ever played a significant down in a game for the Wildcats at linebacker in his football career.
Yet, the position is obviously where his future lies.
Owens is one of a handful of area juniors drawing significant college interest, and the Palestine running back/linebacker already holds an official offer from Texas Tech University.
“I know everything is going to open up after (the Tech offer),” Owens said. “I hope some more schools will offer me.”
It’s possible that Owens is Palestine’s biggest recruit since local hero Adrian Peterson, with as many as seven FBS coaches attending Palestine workouts recently.
The move to linebacker — or a defensive end/outside linebacker hybrid — shouldn’t be difficult for Owens, if current events are any indication.
Invited to attend a recent Under Armor/Rivals camp in Houston earlier this spring, Owens couldn’t compete as a running back because of a lingering hamstring injury.
So, he tried his hand at linebacker, and came away as the second-ranked linebacker prospect at the camp.
“It boosted everything up,” Owens said of the camp results. “That made me happy thinking about how I got ranked second at a position I’ve never played.”
It’s a position he’ll get significant time at during Palestine’s 2014 season, as the Wildcats look to take the next step in the program’s continued rise to be one of the best in East Texas.
Owens played primarily running back in 2012, when he was able to play at all. He battled injury all season long, finishing with 283 yards rushing and eight touchdowns on 60 carries for the Wildcats.
While Texas Tech is only official offer Owens holds, the Red Raiders are far from the only interested party.
Angel said Owens has met with coaches from Baylor, TCU, Iowa, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma, just to name a few, and expects interest to pick up even more once teams see Owens in action during live football drills this summer.
“The doors are wide open for him,” PHS athletic director Lance Angel said. “There are some guys that want to see what kind of season he has with pads on, because last year he was so limited.”
After sending four players to play at the junior college level in 2013, the 2014 should be even bigger for Angel’s program. Along with Owens, both Ben Luckett and Brian Thlang are drawing strong interest.
That pair are both on the radar of smaller Division I schools like Texas State, Tulsa and North Texas, and Louisiana-Monroe also visited the school recently.
With all the college attention, Angel said its been a great way to show the younger athletes in his program a goal they can shoot for.
“When you go out into a practice...and there’s seven universities here watching, it makes kids aware that the possibilities are out there,” Angel said. “It’s easy to stress when there are seven universities out there to stress the importance of grades and SAT/ACT prep.”
Thlang was a first-team all-state selection by the Associated Press after anchoring the Palestine offensive line that paved the way for more than 2,400 yards rushing.
Luckett helped establish those numbers, rushing for 395 yards and seven touchdowns on 60 carries in the regular season.
While the trio of Owens, Luckett and Thlang might be garnering most of the attention right now, Angel also said he thinks his program has a handful of other players that could take their careers to the next level.
ELKS’ WILSON GETS ULM OFFER
A little farther south, the recruitment of Elkhart star running back Jeffrey Wilson is also picking up.
The senior-to-be, who ran for more than 2,000 yards in 2012 and will be the top returning rusher in any 11-man classification in 2013, picked up an official offer from Louisiana-Monroe earlier this month.
It’s the first official offer for Wilson, but likely won’t be the last.
EHS coach Sam Wells said that numerous programs have either called or stopped in to talk to Wilson, with Baylor, Houston, Tulsa and SMU among the schools that are currently interested in his star player.