Crockett’s Cade Larkins, left, and Donta Hackler, right, are continuing to catch the eye of college recruiters.

By TREY WILLIAMS

H&T Correspondent

Recruiting interest in David Crockett quarterback Cade Larkins and receiver Donta Hackler is heating up with summer’s arrival.

The Pioneers made an unprecedented run to the quarterfinals last season, and Hackler and Larkins were arguably the two biggest factors.

The 6-foot-3 Hackler has offers from Tulane, Liberty, Eastern Kentucky, UT-San Antonio. Larkins has been offered by East Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech, Campbell and, most recently, Chattanooga on Saturday.

Hackler has been to camps at Kentucky and Virginia Tech. Larkins has also been to Blacksburg, as well as Middle Tennessee and Arkansas State.

“Cade and Donta are staying busy with visits and going to various camps,” Crockett second-year coach Hayden Chandley said Monday night. “Things are really starting to pick up for those guys, and there’ll be more to come, I’m sure, on into summer and once the season starts. We’re excited for those guys and making sure they stay patient through the process and don’t rush any kind of decision, because it’s still early in the process.”

The 6-foot-2 Larkins has gotten faster in the past year. Chandley said the strong-armed senior with the quick release is running the 40 in the 4.8-4.9 range.

“Cade is probably 5-10 pounds lighter than he was this time last year,” Chandley said. “He’s really taking his diet seriously. Ever since the season ended, really, he’s worked hard to stay in shape and shave maybe a little bit of that baby fat off. He looks good, runs extremely well to be as big as he is and playing the quarterback position.

“People don’t realize how strong he is. He’s definitely gotten faster. I think he’s gonna be improved in that area, and it’s gonna do nothing but improve his stock.”

Hackler is fast and long, and he leaps well. He was often double-teamed last season, a task he figures to face almost constantly this coming season.

The addition of 6-foot-3 Mason Britton to the program could eventually help keep defenses more honest.

“It helps when you add one that’s 6-foot-3 on the outside,” Chandley said. “If everything works out the way we’ve planned for it to, we’ll start 6-3 on the outside on both sides at either receiver and Prince (Kollie) will play some slot (receiver) and some running back. So we’ll have a chance to have two 6-3 receivers and a 6-2 receiver in the starting lineup. There’s some colleges that don’t even have that. So we feel extremely fortunate to have those three on our side and a pretty good one back there throwing them the ball, too.”

Kollie, a rising junior that also plays defensive back, will spearhead a defense that graduated eight starters, including his brother, John, and fellow linebacker Mark Seidler.

“There won’t be many opportunities for him to rest,” Chandley said. “Prince really came on toward the end of the year on the defensive side of the ball. I coach the secondary and it was pretty neat to just watch him evolve and really come into his own there late in the year. In one of our last regular season games, he had two picks against Cherokee, and he had a pick against Knox Central in the playoff (quarterfinal) game. He played really, really well – maybe his best game was against Tennessee High there in the second round of the playoffs. It really started to click for him.”

Chandley has been encouraged by his players’ collective offseason work. The TSSAA’s mandatory two-week “dead” period begins next week.

“We feel good with where we’re at,” Chandley said. “We’ve made good strides in the weight room. We’ve gotta hit it hard this last week before dead period.

“I don’t like it (dead period). It’s a situation where the kids get two weeks off, but you build up all this strength and then it’s basically in the kids’ hands whether they work hard for those two weeks or sit on the couch and eat potato chips for two weeks. We’ve challenged our kids to continue to work hard during that time off. We’ll max again here in two or three weeks when we get back from dead period.

“I think we have a chance to be deeper than we were last year. We’ve got some young guys that haven’t gotten a lot of playing time that we’re gonna have to count on. But they’ve made good strides in the weight room, and hopefully that translates to the field as well.”