MIDLOTHIAN — If the way the Jaguars' offensive line steamrolled its way to the regional round of Texas' University Interscholastic League 4A playoffs is any indication, the Coogs' newest addition may be an underrated component of the 2018 recruiting class.
Jack Freeman, a Midlothian Heritage High School starting left tackle, verbally committed to the University of Houston via Twitter on Monday night after receiving early offers from UH and the University of Tulsa.
"It's always been a dream of mine to commit to a university," Freeman said via a Twitter post. "I promised my poppop I would one day make it happen. I've made a lot of decisions in my life, but I think this one will be the biggest one yet."
As of Monday night, the 6-foot-4 and 275-pound junior was unranked by 247 Sports and ESPN 300. Yahoo Rivals rated him as a 2-star prospect.
Behind Freeman and the Jaguar offensive front, though, a thunder-and-lightning running back committee spearheaded by Nathan Gaskamp, Raja Banks and Kerrion Fields rushed 493 times for 3,082 yards (6.3 yards per carry) in 13 games during the school's first year of varsity competition.
Midlothian Heritage owned the best total offense statistically (3,256 pass, 3,082 rush) and the sixth best rushing attack. Only Kennedale (5,358), Celina (3,475), Sunnyvale (3,456), Melissa (3,230) and Farmersville (3,145) High Schools rushed for more yards out of the top 25 teams in the 4A classification.
The Jaguars were also second in scoring (606 pts, 46.6 ppg) behind Celina (639 pts, 45.6 ppg).
Freeman garnered honors from the Texas Sports Writers Association as an All-State Honorable Mention and an Associated Press Sports Editors All-State First Team member.
Though the 2018 National Letter of Intent signing period is between Feb. 7 and April 1, 2018, Freeman took advantage of the early opportunity to submit a verbal commitment to the Cougars and newly-installed coach Major Applewhite.
Applewhite, best known for his time as a University of Texas Longhorn starting quarterback between from 1998 to 2001, took the reigns of the program on Dec. 9 after former Head Coach Tom Herman's acceptance of the head coaching position at UT following Charlie Strong's dismissal.
The former Big 12 Conference Offensive Freshman of the Year set eight school records — including the longest pass play (97 yards), consecutive passes without an interception (156) and most yards passing in a game (473).
If Freeman does don the red and white of Houston during the end of his senior year and inks an NLI with UH, he will join a burgeoning class of athletes possibly ready to take sole control of the American Athletic Conference.
The Cougars locked down UIL District 10-5A 3-star stalwarts David Aneihih, a Mansfield Timberview High School defensive end, and Noah Jones, a Lancaster High School strong-side defensive end, in February. The North Dallas duo could create a tantalizing defensive front with 6-foot-2 and 290-pound defensive tackle Ed Oliver.
Assuming he sees playing time as a freshman or a sophomore in Applewhite's system, he could become the primary blind side blocker for either former Texas A&M Aggie Kyle Allen, D'Eriq King or 2017 recruit Bryson Smith — who came from the same school that produced former starting QB Greg Ward, Jr.
He'd also clear space for versatile three-down running back Duke Catalon.
Freeman, though, is focused only on the grind, keeping his quarterback upright and clean, the upcoming football season and bringing Midlothian a state title.
He did note that the hard work may end up in a permanent trip to TDECU Stadium.
"You only get out what you put in. You don't always get what you wish for, but you always get what you work for," Freeman said. "For the last couple of months, through visits, I have created a great relationship with the city of Houston. I believe that working under the guidance of Coach Applewhite and his staff will allow me to pursue a great career in football and further my education."
Marcus S. Marion can be reached for story idea submissions or concerns at (469) 517-1456. Follow him on Twitter at @MarcusMarionWNI.