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IMG vs Chandler recruiting thoughts

Photo by John Swedlund/Husker Hype

Over the weekend I had a chance to watch the IMG Ascenders football team take on Chandler High in the Arizona heat. Luckily for those who attended there was plenty of water and the heat died down with the sunset — it didn’t interfere with what became a tense game for the Ascenders.

IMG’s players dwarfed the Wolves in the trenches, but their size advantage never truly showed during the game. The Ascenders went up early on a blocked kick return for a touchdown and never gave up their lead. However, the Wolves were a giant thorn in their sides the entire evening — they never relented.

Focusing on individual Husker target performances, here are a few notes on what I saw:

T.J. Pledger  He is deadly in space. If he turns on the jets and gets around the edge, watch out because not many will catch him. Adding to his terrific speed T.J. has very soft hands and can catch the ball just as well as he runs. While he’s committed to OU, I believe he would be a better fit in a Nebraska offense that will feature a lot of check down throws to running backs in the years to come.

Brian Hightower What a talent. There are several reasons why Keith Williams and coaches all across the country are so high on Hightower. He has the size, speed and hands to be a great college wide receiver. Hightower ran crisp routes all night and took advantage of his terrific hands when there was a catchable ball thrown his way.

I think what I liked the most about his game is that he was just as quick getting into his breaks as he was getting out of them. He sinks his hips well and drives through his cuts which is not something you see much of at the high school level.

Houston Griffith He played off the wide receivers as a safety but rolled down to cover them a few times. When rolled back as a safety, he never allowed a play to get behind him. He was terrific in run support, which IMG needed the entire night against a Chandler offense that continually ran the ball up the middle of the field.

#3 Houston Griffith

Brendan “Bookie” Radley-Hiles – Bookie is already a next-level recruit. He closes on receivers almost immediately and his backpedal was excellent all night. On almost every play I observed, Bookie was reading the quarterback’s eyes as he kept the receiver in front of him. The few times he had to turn and run with a receiver, he went step for step with him until the play finished.

When finally given the opportunity, Bookie was a missile when he locked onto a ball carrier late in the game. He flew to where he needed to be to level a big hit. In my opinion, Bookie has all the physical tools to be great at the next level, but what sets him apart is how his teammates looked to him and interacted with him. Bookie was always pumping up his teammates and showing respect to those around him. Everyone I interacted with spoke highly of him both as a football player and as an individual.

The hardest thing for IMG this weekend was deciding who plays and when they rotate in and out. Bookie played nearly every snap Friday (or Saturday — use the name of the day instead of “last”) night. As soon as he came off the field in the fourth quarter, Chandler finally targeted Gunner Romney for a big gain. Bookie proceeded to go right back into the game.

From talking to Bookie after the game, his thoughts mirrored mine in that he had a relatively boring night and will probably stay that way all year. He’s respected that much by coaches on a national level — it’s not worth the risk for teams to throw at him. Friday night Chandler avoided Bookie as much as it possibly could in all aspects of the game. That, to me, speaks the loudest about his game.

To comment, question, or keep up with the author, follow John on twitter at @johnswedlund or comment below.



  1. Gayle

    08/29/2017 at 9:13 pm

    Hey- just wondering who took that amazing photo of Griffith.

    • Brandon Cavanaugh

      08/29/2017 at 10:51 pm

      Her name is Stephanie Bowers. If you’d like to get in touch with her, I’m sure John can help you out.

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