Flash Staff Report
(July 27, 2017) — EJ Speed and Del’Michael High are not just two of the top returning players at Tarleton State, but two of the most feared stars throughout the Lone Star Conference.
Speed, a junior linebacker and defensive end, and High, a senior wide receiver, Odessa Thursday representing Tarleton at 2017 Lone Star Conference Football Media Day. They were joined, of course, by head coach Todd Whitten and others from the Tarleton Athletics Department.
Here’s a closer look at Speed and High:
EJ SPEED | 6-4, 225 | LB/DE | JR | North Crowley
After a standout 2016 campaign including 6.0 sacks, 13 tackles for loss, five forced fumbles and two blocked kicks, Speed is expected to be mixing it up some his junior season, primarily playing outside linebacker instead of defensive end, where he’s been throughout is college career.
It’s no secret Speed, 6-4, 225, has long had the versatility to play multiple positions and even both sides of the ball. He was a human highlight reel as a – get this – dual-threat quarterback in the Class of 2013. A 3,000-yard passer and 350-yard rusher as a senior at North Crowley, he earned a two-star rating from Rivals and was listed by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Magazine as a top 30 prospect statewide.
Speed was recruited as an athlete, and coaches had varying opinions were he would fit best in college. Wide receiver was one possibility, but a move to defense seemed likely with everything from defensive end to any of the linebacker spots and either safety position cited as possibilities.
Cary Fowler was head coach at Tarleton in the fall of 2013, and his coaching staff redshirted Speed while trying to convert him to wide receiver. An injury cost the north Texas native the 2014 season, and he was granted a medical redshirt while changing positions again, this time to defensive end.
Speed had two years in the program before taking the field, still as a freshman by eligibility standards., in the fall of 2015. He was still recovering from injury early in the season, finally making his Tarleton debut against Midwestern State on Sept. 26, 2015. He wasn’t a star right away, totaling 16 tackles in seven games.
But then he got healthy. Not just healthy enough to get on the field, but truly healthy. And a healthy Speed is a scary sight for opposing offenses.
Speed made 68 total tackles, 35 of them solo in 2016. And besides all the other stats already cited, he hit the quarterback 10 times, broke up two passes, intercepted one and recovered two fumbles.
It’s hard to make the first-team all-conference lineup, and Speed is proof of that, as the league’s head coaches – they aren’t allowed to vote for their own players – named him second-team.
At linebacker, and with two years remaining, first-team LSC honors, and perhaps more, seem well within this versatile star’s reach.
DEL’MICHAEL HIGH | 6-2, 205 | WR | Sr. | Mesquite Horn | Navarro College
With the way Del’Michael High has built on each year of experience as he’s progressed through his college football career, there is no telling what the Tarleton State wide receiver will do as a senior this fall.
A first-team all-LSC pick last year, High led the league with 10 TD catches, was second with 55 receptions and finished third with 790 receiving yards. And he had to finish the year without Sam Houston State transfer Jeff Thomas on the other side forcing secondaries to play honest because the latter suffered a season-ending knee injury with three games remaining.
Now, High is back, as is quarterback and 2016 LSC Academic Player of the Year Zed Woerner, who is on pace to set a slew of significant Tarleton career records. They also have Thomas healthy again on the other side, and a number of other dangerous weapons.
The only thing slowing High this season may be the scatter ing of the ball because of so many weapons, including what Whitten believes will be a much improved rushing attack.
High had just 21 catches and 1 TD as a freshman before going off in 2015 for Navarro – 67 receptions, 1,135 yards and nine touchdowns. Overall in three college seasons – across two levels – he’s caught 143 passes for 1,925 yards and 20 scores.
Tarleton expects High to be one of the toughest match-ups in the conference if not the nation this season, and with numbers like that, it’s easy to see why.