J.J. Sparkman is the definition of an athlete, as he played basketball and competed in multiple track and field events at Pine Tree HS in Longview in addition to being a star on the gridiron. He was a highly-sought prospect, sporting over a dozen offers including Arkansas, Iowa State, Missouri, Kansas State, Kansas, Southern Mississippi, North Texas, UTSA, Tulane, Stephen F. Austin, Louisiana Tech, Texas State, and Arkansas State. Sparkman came to Tech with good size and is currently listed at a game-ready 6’4″ 215. He redshirted as a true freshman due to an injury but Sparkman may burst onto the scene this year. With Erik Ezukanma potentially being eased back into action as he recovers from a broken arm, there could potentially be more playing time up for grabs early in the year at outside receiver. Sparkman has the ability to force his way onto the field either way.
His high school film should remind Red Raider fans of Jarrett Hicks, who was similarly a big-play threat capable of bringing in any pass near him. Sparkman uses his size to his advantage and consistently extends to catch passes with his hands, which helps him to win 50/50 balls. He will go up and get it in ways that will make him a favorite target of Tech’s gunslingers and potentially a touchdown machine for the Red Raiders. While Sparkman isn’t a straight-line burner, he is very fluid as a runner and has terrific body control. It’s not that common to see players of his size used in screens and jet sweeps, but his agility allowed that to be a viable play call at the HS level and possibly even at the collegiate level.
Sparkman will be a player to watch in what should be an explosive group of receivers. He could make an early impact if Ezukanma misses time, and is likely to see some situational use throughout the year at minimum when Sonny Cumbie feels like calling a deep shot or just needs a guy to win in the red zone or make a contested catch. Tech will have a deep receiving corps, but his size, talent, and trustworthy hands will likely put him in the rotation and keep him there. Don’t be surprised if Sparkman emerges as a go-to playmaker in the very near future.