Launching Pad: Bower a top '13 DE

Class of 2013 defensive end Tashawn Bower made an impression at the Rutgers Nike Camp this past May Tom Hauck/ESPNHS

Each week ESPNHS will shine the light on a few non-seniors who are emerging as prospects to watch on the recruiting radar. Here is this week's Launching Pad.

RB Dontea Ayres, Wicomico (Salisbury, Md.)

It was two years ago the Dontea Ayres caught grabbed the attention of ESPNHS as just a freshman at the Baltimore Nike Combine where he posted the highest SPARQ Rating of his class at 74.25. This year the 5-9, 208 pound running back is off to a strong start leading Wicomico to a 4-0 record.

So far he has rushed for 511 yards and 12 touchdowns on just 36 carries. When breaking that down it amounts to 14.1 yards per rush and a touchdown on every third carry. What is most impressive is that he done this in playing in only eight quarters since he has yet to play in a game after halftime.

"My offensive line is amazing, they are the ones doing all the work and all I have to do is just hit the hole. Actually our entire team is pretty strong and this year could be very special,” Ayres told ESPNHS on Wednesday.

Barring any setbacks, the speedy back (ran a 4.66 at last year’s Nike Combine) will surely surpass his 1,156 yards rushing from last year and needs just one more touchdown. Just after his breakout performance in 2009, Wicomico coaches told ESPNHS they would not be surprised if he was the top back in the state as a senior.

What needs to be known is how strong this young man is, Ayres was proud to mention that he is benching 455 pounds and can rep 225 up to 30 times. Everything he does he excels at, including in the classroom where he is carrying a 4.1 GPA.

Just recently he picked up his first offer from Duke and has stirred up interest from Stanford, Maryland, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech and Virginia as well. - Michael White

DE Tashawn Bower, Immaculata (Somerville, N.J.)

Out in Jersey, Tashawn Bower made a name for himself as a sophomore and is doing it again this fall. The 6-5, 235 pounder had 52 tackles and eight sacks in 2010 to earn ESPNHS Sophomore All-American honors, and then earned all-combine honors at the Philadelphia Nike Combine, where he posted an 89.67 SPARQ Rating. In a big win against Union (Union, N.J.) this past Friday, the superstar DE was all over the place, accounting for over 10 tackles, including a sack for a safety.

“In the offseason, I really wanted to improve my speed off the ball and my ability to play better with my technique. I’m much quicker this season, and I am doing a better job at playing half a man, which is making pass rushing a lot easier.”

Bower has been no secret to college coaches and recruiting gurus alike, holding numerous scholarship offers for quite sometime. Bower talked recruiting with ESPNHS on Wednesday, stating, “Recruiting has finally been slowing down a bit because of the dead period. But I really feel that it is just the calm before the storm.”

“I don’t think I can name any favorites this early. But I can say that receiving scholarship offers from schools like Florida State, Tennessee, and Ohio State is an incredible experience. I am very grateful to be receiving the interest of schools of that caliber.” - Nick Ekbatani

RB Fred Coppet, St. Thomas Aquinas (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.)

Last Friday, Coppet scored two touchdowns in the POWERADE FAB 50 No. 2 Raiders’ 30-6 win over then-FAB 50 No. 3 De La Salle (Concord, Calif.) on ESPN2. The 5-9, 175-pound rusher is off to a great start in 2011, topping 100-yards rushing against previously nationally-ranked Prattville and accounting for three touchdowns in his last two games.

In 2010, he led St. Thomas in rushing with 783 yards and 14 touchdowns. During the Class 5A state championship game against Plant (Tampa, Fla.) he turned a toss sweep into a 93-yard touchdown run. He has a quick speed burst and catches the ball well out of the backfield in addition to returning kicks. The St. Thomas star doesn’t have to carry the load either as he shares the backfield with senior RB Dami Ayoola.

Coppet made an appearances last spring at both the Miami Nike Combine, where he clocked a 4.61 40 and posted an 83.70 SPARQ Rating, and the Miami Nike Football Training Camp, where he also impressed in drills. On the recruiting trail, the talented junior named Alabama, Florida, Florida State, and Oregon as his top schools and programs of interest. Florida State is standing out the most as former teammates WR Rashad Greene, OL Bobby Hart, and OL Austin Barron dot the Seminole roster. Boston College is in the mix as well.

Currently, he is focused on winning another state title and national championship. He is going to put recruiting aside until the season is over. Look for him to hit the camp and combine circuit during the off-season. The 2013 prospect has a bright future ahead and should be one of the top RB’s in Broward County come next fall. – Kynon Codrington

DE/LB Deon Hollins Jr., Thurgood Marshall (Missouri City, Texas)

Hollins, a 6-1, 215 pound edge rusher, is making a transition to a new high school this fall, moving to Fort Bend Marshall from Houston Yates, but has shown no ill effects so far, already totaling 35 tackles, 20 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks while helping Marshall to a 3-2 start.

The ESPNU 150 Watchlist recruit was also productive on the field as a sophomore in 2010 at Yates, earning all-district 21-4A and also a spot at the Houston Nike Camp, where he impressed with his speed off the edge.

Recruitable as both a 3-4 outside linebacker or a rush end on a 4-3 defense, Hollins has already landed his first offer from Texas Tech.

“Tech is the first to offer, and Deon definitely has great interest there,” Deon Hollins Sr. told ESPNHS Wednesday.

“But he’s also get a lot of interest from many top programs. Others that really stand out to him at this point are Oklahoma, Cal, Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A&M, Alabama and Arizona.” - Brian Stumpf

OL Jake Raulerson, Celina (Celina, Texas)

Raulerson is an up and comer that’s really beginning to open some eyes as a top prospect in the trenches for the Class of 2013. At the 2011 TCU Nike Camp, Raulerson resembled somewhat of an underdog role. He was the smallest OL in attendance by far, just tipping the scales at 235. He displayed outstanding athleticism, which was expected given his size. However, when it came to compete in the one-on-one drills Raulerson was lights out, holding his own against some of the Lone Star State’s top defensive linemen in the Class of 2012.

Raulerson is no longer an underdog. He has accumulated over 20 scholarship offers, including those by the likes of Alabama, Auburn,Oklahoma, Stanford, and UCLA. ESPHS asked Raulerson what was his secret? How did he turn the tables so fast?

“I’ve just been working really hard. I’ve really improved my strength and overall quickness, and I have been putting on weight slowly, staying lean and athletic. I’m up to 250 now. Everything I do is geared towards getting better.”

Celina is undefeated in 2011 and is rushing for over 300 yards a game. Raulerson is playing on both sides of the ball.

“I play OT and DE and I feel I am playing really well. We are undefeated, and my main goal is to keep it that way. I’ve taken some visits and went to some camps, but right now I’m trying to win some football games.” - Nick Ekbatani

Know of an underclassman prospect who should be featured in the Launching Pad? E-mail Kynon Codrington (Southeast), Nick Ekbatani (Linemen), Brian Stumpf (national) or Michael White (Midwest/Northeast) with your nominee.