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The Next Generation: WPIAL High School Players to Watch

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Pennsylvania—particularly western PA—has always been a hotbed for football talent, and the class of 2012 looks to continue that trend. Any discussion of this year’s class begins with Hopewell’s Rushel Shell, a running back who has put up remarkable numbers since his freshman year.

The 5’11”, 215-pounder has rushed for nearly 6,800 yards and 76 touchdowns during his career at Hopewell, and could become Pennsylvania’s all-time leading rusher this year.

Joe Butler of Metro Index Recruiting says that Shell’s physical assets are what make him special.

“He’s got a wide, thick body and thick thighs. He can absorb punishment, has great speed and can see the entire field. It’s hard for running backs to play at the college and pro levels without that body. He has that body,” Butler said.

While Shell may be the biggest prize for prospective colleges this fall, a number of other players from the area are on plenty of college's radars as well.

Two other local running backs may even challenge Shell’s status as the area's top high school rusher.

Pittsburgh Central Catholic's Damien Jones-Moore,  at 5’7” and 165 pounds, is a little undersized, but has still shown explosiveness from his position.

“He’s a very talented, quick athletic guy that could outrush Shell if he stays healthy,” Butler said. “He’s built solid, he’s just not tall, but a Division-I school will take him.”

Butler had even more praise for Julian Durden out of Montour High School.

“He’s a darting-quick running back and he’s great in space. He is similar to Damien. He’ll rush for a ton of yards, and may outrush Shell and Damien.”

During his junior year, Durden rushed for 2,033 yards and scored 27 touchdowns. He averaged a tremendous 7.7 yards per carry.

Dakota Conwell, Ian Park and Jack Schwaba, teammates at Upper St. Clair, have shown they have the ability to be effective at the next level. Park and Schwaba are headed to Northwestern, while Conwell has committed to Pitt.

A 6'1", 210-pound linebacker, Conwell finished with 61 tackles, 4 sacks and one interception during his junior year. He also played quarterback, but will be transitioning to linebacker fulltime as he prepares for college.

“He has good speed, is very strong and has a lot of upside,” Butler said.

Park, a three-star guard coming in at 6’4”, 295 pounds, can also play center, while Schwaba plays on both sides of the ball as a tight end and defensive line.

Demetrious Cox from Jeannette figures to be one of the most sought-after defensive players this year. The 6’1”, 192-pound safety recorded 55 tackles and 3 interceptions.

“He’s very athletic; he can play zone, man, or cover 2. He’s a good tackler and will be a good player,” Butler said of the 4-star prospect.

A couple of receivers in the area have also caught the attention of several big schools. Jesse James, a 6’7”, 248-pound tight end out of South Allegheny, had 34 receptions for 434 yards during his junior season and has already committed to playing at Penn State next year.

Butler notes that although James is a big target, he needs to put on some more muscle to meet the demands of Penn State’s system.

“He’s got to develop his inline blocking skills. Penn State demands tight ends that block. He can catch the ball clean and get down the field, though, and he’s a gigantic target. He just needs to get up to 270 pounds.”

J.P. Holtz, another tight end out of Shaler, and Wayne Capers, a receiver out of Chartiers-Valley, are looking to have significant senior seasons.

Capers, an all-around athlete who has played quarterback and safety in addition to receiver, has been plagued by injuries during his past two seasons, but has enough promise to keep schools interested.

“I call him a slash—he can play out of the slot, at quarterback, as a safety,” Butler said. “He’s a very talented kid, but he just has to stay healthy.”

Holtz, meanwhile, has been severely underrated according to Butler.

“He is one of the best players around that doesn’t get a lot of publicity... He might develop into one of the best prospects across the state.”

Holtz will play for Penn State in 2012.

Other western PA prospects who have committed to play Division I ball include: Anthony Nixon and Perry Hills, Pittsburgh Central Catholic (Maryland), Trenton Coles, Clairton (Pitt), Marzett Geter, Sto-Rox (Pitt), Reggie Mitchell, Shadyside (Wisconsin), Jake Witucki, Highlands (Kent State), and Arthur Goldberg, Mt. Lebanon (Wisconsin).

Joe Butler has been covering high school football for over 34 years. You can read more from Joe and Metro Index Recruiting at joebutlermetroindex.blogspot.com, or become a fan on Facebook at Joe Butler Metro Index.
 


PSR's 2011 High School Game of the Week
Featuring Game Previews, Video Highlights, Interviews and Recaps
Starting This Friday, Sept. 3


2011 PSR Game of the Week Schedule
Sept. 2: State College at North Allegheny, 7 PM
Sept. 9: Montour at Hopewell, 7 PM
Sept. 16: Penn Hills at Mount Lebanon, 7:30
Sept. 23: Pittsburgh Central Catholic at Woodland Hills, 7 PM
Sept. 30: North Hills at Hempfield, 7:30
Oct. 7: Chartiers Valley at Thomas Jefferson, 7:30
Oct. 14: Pittsburgh Central Catholic at Gateway, 7:30
Oct. 21: Erie McDowell at Butler, 7:30
Oct. 30: Mount Lebanon at Upper Saint Clair, 7:30

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