The ink is barely dry on this year’s letters of intent, but it is never too early to look ahead.

While there is plenty of time between now and the 2014 National Signing Day for unheard of players to emerge and star athletes to fizzle, one thing is crystal clear – a trio of junior running backs are currently sitting atop the area’s list of prospects.

Killeen’s Daniel McCants, Copperas Cove’s Vondareaz King and Harker Heights’ Marcus Anderson II have entrenched themselves as District 8-5A’s elite stable of running backs after each made significant impacts for their respective teams last season.

McCants delivered the most notable junior campaign of the group, leading the district in rushing during the regular season with an 8.68 yard-per-carry average. En route to 1,796 yards and 18 touchdowns, McCants broke Killeen’s single-season record of 1,550 yards set by Ja’Quail Haskins in 2010. Ironically, McCants set the school record while simultaneously running for a school- and city-record tying 317 yards against Temple.

While McCants finished the season as the district’s top rusher, King held the distinction through the first six games, averaging 163.5 yards and a hair less than two touchdowns before missing two of the final four regular season games due to personal reasons.

Nevertheless, the elusive speedster topped the 1,000-yard plateau, producing 1,269 yards and 14 touchdowns to join McCants as the only other junior in the district to finish with 1,200 yards and double-digit touchdowns.

With the departures of Copperas Cove’s dual-threat quarterback Robbie Seybold, who committed to Mary Hardin-Baylor, second-leading rusher Daniel Ruff (113-866), and full back Chans Colbert, King’s workload will most likely increase in his senior season.

The same can be said for Anderson, who was sidelined for the first six games of the Knights’ season after breaking his leg during preseason practices.

Despite his late arrival, Anderson made an immediate impact, rushing for 116 yards and two touchdowns in a 25-22 double-overtime victory against Ellison in his first appearance of the season.

While his final numbers (79-468, 4 TDs) were far from overwhelming due to lingering leg injuries, his commitment to improving was impressive. Anderson spent his summer attending skills camps, including the Army All-American Combine and the Nike Combine, and garnered interest from Texas A&M, Purdue, Washington State and Utah, among others.

He also recently attended Baylor’s junior day and was invited to Southern Methodist’s upcoming junior day.

Copperas Cove head football coach Jack Welch attributes the wealth of rising talent to a longtime dedication to excellence by area programs.

“Tommie Harris (Ellison), Roy Miller (Shoemaker), Charles Tillman (Copperas Cove), Robert Griffin III (Copperas Cove), it just goes on and on and on,” Welch said. “That is a testament to Central Texas athletics.”

It is uncertain if any of next year’s class of running backs can achieve the level of collegiate or professional success previous Central Texas players have, but McCants, King and Anderson will each undoubtedly be under the microscope of scrutiny for the entire upcoming calendar year and, barring an unforeseen setback, will each be front and center when National Signing Day rolls around in 2014.

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