This was supposed to be the fall when North Little Rock (Ark.) High School junior RB Altee Tenpenny lit it up on Friday nights. He was coming off a sophomore season with over 1,400 yards rushing and 15 scores. Everything seemed in place for big year for the ESPNU Watch List back, but then a freak injury during fall camp put an end to that.
"Altee fractured his fibula," said North Little Rock's coach Brad Bolding. "He got horse collared in a scrimmage. It was just one of those things. Altee had surgery and a plate put in. It shouldn't faze him a bit and he will be stronger than before. Altee is actually doing great and is still in a boot but ahead of schedule."
In fact, the swelling in his leg is just about gone and he is hoping to begin to rehab next next week.
"Altee really wants to be proactive," Bolding said. "I am telling you, he will be a beast. That is what we have started to call him. I feel for him because he's really, really anxious. It's tough on him because of all the preseason publicity. He wanted to show everyone. Altee is really antsy for next season now."
Tenpenny, 5-foot-11 and 205 pounds, has used the injury to work on his upper body strength. Always strong on the lower half, the injury has forced him to get stronger in his upper body.
"When he was 15 for us he was power cleaning 315 pounds," Bolding said. "That's how strong he was then. You see that explosiveness when he's out on the field. He can run over you or around you. Altee plays the game with passion. From a coaching standpoint he has all the tools. He can fly and cut on a dime. Altee plays the game with a different mentality and a controlled emotion and his teammates feed off that. Altee Tenpenny is an elite running back and has those things you just can't coach."
Little Rock has produced some elite backs recently, including former Arkansas and current Oakland Raiders RB Darren McFadden and current Auburn Tigers RB Michael Dyer.
"No question that he's in the McFadden category," Bolding said. "He's very explosive and very dangerous space. He has unbelievable power in his legs."
He also has game changing speed.
"We had two watches on him and he ran 4.29 (40-yard dash) for us," Bolding said. "I know up at Oregon at The Opening he ran 4.43. He has speed. If there's one thing he could work on it would be his hands but that's something we worked hard on in the offseason and you could already see the improvement."
Even without the improved upper body strength or hands, opposing coaches couldn't help be impressed with Tenpenny.
"Altee Tenpenny is a great looking kid and a phenomenal athlete," said Fayetteville coach Daryl Porter, whose team beat North Little Rock in the playoffs last year. "We devoted all of our attention to him and somehow held him to 50 yards rushing and won the football game. There is no doubt about it he will be one of the top seniors in the country if not the best."
Tenpenny already has eight scholarship offers, including Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Ole Miss. He camped at Arkansas and Alabama over the summer and has unofficially visited Auburn and Oklahoma State.
"Then you have schools like Florida, Florida State, Texas and Oregon that are really recruiting him hard," Bolding said. "Right now he's open with the process. Being here in Arkansas, the University of Arkansas is really the only game in town. Everyone rallies around Arkansas. I told him to enjoy the recruiting process. But I would like him to make his decision before [next] season. I don't want to get into laying out all those hats and picking a team. It's about our football team."
Things heating up for Dye
Things are about to get real interesting real soon for Watch List RB Tyshon Dye (Elberton, Ga./Elbert County). Georgia and Clemson have each offered the 6-foot, 210-pounder a scholarship and it sounds like Alabama and Tennessee are very close.
"Tyshon worked out at Georgia this summer and did really well at their camp," Elbert County coach Sid Fritts said. "He was one of like five juniors that got offers. Clemson offered after watching film and then we took a visit to see them. Alabama has really got on him hot and heavy recently and they are really trying to get him over there for a game. I think they could be his next offer. Then you have Tennessee who has recruited him hard since his sophomore season and I am surprised they have not yet offered."
Fritts has seen his share of good backs, but says this one has a chance to be something special.
"Tyshon has gained 25 pounds is the last 18 months," Fritts said. "He went to 185 pounds to 210 pounds. He's a sub-11 in the 100 and that's moving for his size. Tyshon is good enough to run through defenders or around them. But if he had a choice he would drop his pads and run through you. He's the most complete back that I have ever had the opportunity to coach."
This season, Dye has rushed for 582 yards in four games.
"He had a great start and they kind of stopped him last week against East Hall," Fritts said. "He gotten more physical this season and is so hard to tackle late in the game. He's just learning how to play with that weight at that size."
He'll also have to learn how to handle the recruiting process as it looks like he'll have plenty more offers coming.
"He did grow up a Georgia guy but he seems real interested in Alabama," Fritts said. "But we will let this thing run its course. I just tell him to see all the programs you can and make an informed decision. I have nothing against Georgia. Just look around and see where you fit the best academically, socially, and athletically. I have been surprised how he's handled recruiting so far. It's grown him up some more and really not gotten to his head. Tyshon seems more mature."
This weekend Dye will attend the Clemson-Florida State game at Death Valley.
Offense or defense? Doesn't matter for Shumpert
Watch List RB Ashton Shumpert (Tupelo, Miss./Tupelo) has all the ingredients to star on offense or defense. According to his coach, where he plays in college might depend on what college he chooses.
"Ashton is a fierce competitor," Tupelo coach David Bradberry said. "He's so tough. He has so many attributes. He has size, a great burst and he can catch the football. And at the size he could play strong safety or even outside linebacker."
Shumpert, 6-2 and 195 pounds, has missed most of this young season but has been cleared to play this week against Columbus.
So far Ole Miss and Mississippi State have offered him, while Alabama, LSU, Arkansas, Auburn and others are all showing great interest.
One more in Arkansas
Junior running back Brice Gahagans (Fayetteville, Ark./Fayetteville) is off to a great start, rushing for 331 yards and four touchdowns.
"The No. 1 thing about Brice is that he's a super athlete," Fayetteville coach Daryl Porter said. "He has speed and quick. He has vision and balance. And he catches the ball very well. He's not a power back and not a big kid. But he's a complete back and a danger out of the backfield."
Last season as a junior Gahagans, 5-10 and 175 pounds, rushed for 981 yards and caught 29 passes for 493 yards and 21 total touchdowns.
"Arkansas State, Ole Miss and Arkansas are showing a lot of interest," Porter said.
Jamie Newberg has been covering recruiting both in the Southeast and nationally for 19 years. He can be reached at email@example.com.