Some of the Alabama Crimson Tide won’t just be playing the Michigan State Spartans in the Cotton Bowl Thursday at Cowboys Stadium.
Seven of its players will be returning to their Texas high school football roots, when they step on the field for the playoff semifinal. Most of the players are fresh faces that have yet to step on the field, but a couple are already making big impacts in Tuscaloosa.
Defensive backs Tony Brown, Maurice Smith, Kendell Sheffield Deionte Thompson and defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinson represent the lone star on defense. While wide receiver Torin Marks and, his brother, running back Xavian Marks represent Texas on offense.
The seven Texas stars were all three-star prospects or better and shined in their high school careers.
Tony Brown, a five-star recruit from Ozen High School, recorded 16 total tackles for the Tide on defense and special teams. Brown will not appear in the game as he was sent home for starting a fight with one of the Tide’s defensive lineman during one of Alabama’s pre-Cotton Bowl practices, according to sources.
Maurice Smith, a junior DB for Bama from Sugar Land, Texas has seen a little action recording 12 tackles this season. Expect to see him more with Brown out for the game.
Freshman corner Kendell Sheffield came to Bama as a five-star recruit from Fort Bend Marshall. As a freshman, Sheffield has not seen the field this season.
Freshman DB Deionte Thompson came to the tide from this year’s 4A Div. II state champions, West Orange-Stark. Thompson became a star wide receiver and safety for the Orange-Stark Mustangs recording seven career interceptions and 70 receptions for 1,252 yards in his high school career. He has yet to play a game in his freshman season for the Tide.
The Marks’ brothers came from this year’s 5A Div. I state champions, George Ranch. Xavian has two catches for 19 yards on the year while Torin has yet to record a statistic on the season.
The biggest player on this Alabama team from Texas is defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson. Robinson, a junior from Fort Worth (Arlington Heights High School) has become one of the most dominant defensive lineman in the country. He has compiled nine sacks in his Alabama career.
Ged Kates, Robinsons’ high school coach for three years, said A’Shawn was the most talented guy he ever coached.
“As a 14-year old he was about 6’4” already,” Kates said. “A lot of times when a kid comes in like that you can’t coach size and can’t coach speed. The instant he put on pads we knew we had something pretty special. And he’s actually the most talented kid I ever coached.”
Kates said he knew Robinson was a great talent from day one.
“He’s a great athlete. He’s not just big, he’s not just fast, he’s not just athletic, but he’s big, fast and athletic,” Kates said. “He was that (talented) from the start and he could play about ten different positions.”
Robinson is expected to be a first round draft pick in this year’s draft.