Coast-to-Coast: Neb./Okla./Kan.

Originally Published: September 21, 2006
By Craig Haubert | Scouts Inc.

Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma boast five Division I football programs between them, and through the years these three states have spawned eleven Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees.

Top Prospects -- Neb./Okla./Kan.
Austin Box (OK) S 82
Harland Gunn (NE) OG 81
Matt Romine (OK) OT 80
Gerald Jones (OK) CB 80
Christian Ballard (KS) TE 79
Brian Smith (KS) ILB 79
Niles Paul (NE) WR 78
Drake Dunsmore (KS) TE 77
Demetrius Bell (KS) RB 77
Ryan Broyles (OK) WR 77

Six ESPN 150 prospects hail from these areas, with one from Nebraska, two from Kansas and three from Oklahoma. The deepest position might be tight end, with three top-30 prospects -- Christian Ballard (Lawrence, Kan./Free State), Drake Dunsmore (Overland Park, Kan./St. Thomas Aquinas) and Bryan Webb (Tecumseh, Okla.).

Top recruit

Austin Box, Safety
Enid, Okla.
Verbal: Oklahoma

When you talk about Austin Box, you don't talk about what he can do, rather what he can't. He is the star quarterback for his team as well as a physical safety, and if that is not enough, he is also a very good baseball player.

Box is a playmaker at the quarterback position for his high school and proved that in their game versus Midwest City earlier this year when he rushed for 174 yards and four touchdowns. While he is an exciting player on offense, his home in college will be on defense, where he likes to hit and plays the game with an old school flair.

He plays safety now and displays the range and ability to make the transition to that position in college. With his size though, he could very well end up at linebacker. Either way, this kid shows a ton of promise.

He might not be a great one-on-one cover guy, but he does a nice job in zone coverage and has a knack for getting himself in the right spot to make a play. While he is a good athlete, what makes him so exciting to watch on defense is his intimidating and hard-hitting style.

Box naturally had lots of interest, but from hearing him talk it does not seem the other schools had much of a shot.

Box told the Sooner Spectator, "I've been a huge Sooner fan my whole life, and it's been my dream to play there ever since I can remember."

Player under the radar

Demetrius Bell, Running back
Olathe, Kan.
Verbal: Kansas State

It is easy to stay a player is under the radar when he is only 5-foot-8 and around 160 pounds, but the diminutive Bell has the skills on the football field to stand out.

His size will hurt his chances to be an every-down back at the college level, but he can be an all-purpose player and may even be attractive as a corner in college.

While you can knock his size you can't knock his toughness. He is not afraid to run between the tackles. He is best though when he can get outside and turn the corner as he has blazing straight-line speed. His small stature and quickness also makes him tough to defend on screens and underneath routes as a receiver.

The running back position is always a deep one, and it can be easy to get lost in the shuffle, especially when you are vastly undersized. But if anyone should know the big play possibilities of an undersized back, it should be Kansas State -- they had a pretty good one come through in Darren Sproles.

On the trail

Kansas State has landed the most in-state prospects with seven thus far. They have also dipped into Nebraska for a top-ten kicker. Kansas has four in state prospects in their class, led by the state's No. 1-ranked prospect, ESPN 150 tight end Christian Ballard. Ballard is a big pick-up, but the Jayhawks will have their work cut out for them trying to keep him on board with many other schools still recruiting him hard.

Iowa and Miami have each recruited an ESPN 150 prospect from the area in linebacker Brian Smith (Overland Park, Kan./St. Thomas Aquinas) and guard Harland Gunn (Omaha/Central).

Craig Haubert is a recruiting coordinator for ESPN's Scouts Inc.