November 17, 2008

Elite vs. elite makes for fun showdown

Size, strength, leverage and footwork are just some of the terms used to describe the attributes of an offensive lineman. Scouts and recruiters narrow down the list in each class to determine who should be considered to be in that top 1% each year. Those who make the cut, usually have their choice of what college they would like to attend.

Cedar Hill, Texas offensive tackle Thomas Ashcraft is one of those prospects. Scheduled to graduate high school in December, recruiting services have described Ashcraft as a can't-miss prospect at the collegiate level.

With that type of praise, most would think that Ashcraft has nothing else to accomplish at the high school level.

The truth of the matter is that most big time offensive lineman recruits can go an entire season without seeing anyone of their own skill level lined up on the opposite side. The opening round of the Class 5A Division II playoffs would provide Ashcraft with an opportunity to see exactly that.

Plano West defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat is the No.1-rated player in the Lone Star Recruiting Top 100 for 2010. The son of former Dallas Cowboy Jim Jeffcoat has the same label as Ashcraft - can't miss.

"I've been waiting on this match-up all year," Ashcraft said. "Jeffcoat is a great player. This gives me an opportunity to prove myself."

The match-up lived up to the advanced billing.

Ashcraft showed a devastating ability to fire out and get his hands on Jeffcoat, opening up running lanes for a Cedar Hill team that rushed for 348 yards on the night. Jeffcoat ended the night with nine solo tackles, one for a loss, and a sack. However, only three of the tackles came when he was lined up directly across from Ashcraft.

"My plan coming into the game was to try to knock his hands down so that I could get control of him," explained Ashcraft. "(Jeffcoat) is very strong for a junior and uses his hands real well. This match-up with Jeffcoat was something that I needed to get myself ready for the next level."

As far as the next level is concerned, where does Thomas believe he is at in his development as an offensive lineman?

"I think my run blocking is real good," Ashcraft said. "My pass blocking needs to improve. I think I'm too aggressive at times. I need to let the defender come to me, then I can get my hands on them and control them."

Cedar Hill defeated Plano West 52-49 in a triple overtime thriller, advancing the Longhorns to the second round to face traditional state power Southlake Carroll. The match-up will provide Ashcraft with another opportunity to square off with one of the state's best. Southlake Carroll defensive end Jackson Richards is the No.57 in the LSR Top 100 for 2010.

Judging by the performance of Ashcraft against Jeffcoat, the future Longhorn will look forward to proving his worth yet again and validating his status as one of the best offensive lineman in the nation.


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