LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour rolled into the Sunshine State on Saturday, and as expected there were plenty of standout performances. Rivals.com Southeast recruiting analyst Woody Wommack breaks down the top 10 defensive performers.
RIVALS CAMP SERIES ORLANDO TOP DEFENSIVE PERFORMERS
A hard-hitting run-stuffer, Daub really isn't built for the one-on-one scenarios he usually sees at camps. While his coverage skills can still use some work, he continues to improve on a week-to-week basis. With his size and athleticism, Daub could probably move to defensive end at the next level if asked, but either way his future is bright.
Another linebacker with great size, Bates showed off his skills in the coverage game on a couple of different occasions Saturday. On one play he did an excellent job defending a smaller, shiftier wide receiver on a seam route. Bates ran with him stride for stride and turned his head just in time to make a play on the ball, deflecting the pass and forcing an incompletion. As he continues to develop his football instincts, Bates will turn similar plays into interceptions.
Dawson's day got off to a rough start because an overnight rainstorm left the field a little soggy. That led to Dawson losing his footing on a few occasions. But as the temperature rose, so did Dawson. He made one of the best plays of the camp, stepping in front of a pass in one-on-ones to make a highlight reel-worthy interception.
From the moment he walked through the gates on Saturday, Cowart looked the part of a big-time prospect, but we wanted to see how he would look once the action got started. After he won pretty much every rep he took in one-on-ones, it's clear that Cowart has the game to go with his impressive physical attributes. He's very quick off the ball and has a nice array of moves that he mixed up well. For his efforts, Cowart was awarded the camp's defensive line MVP award.
Harris is starting to pick up some big-time offers, and on Saturday he showed why. During one-on-ones he stole the show, using his quickness and excellent footwork to outpace bigger, slower offensive linemen. Harris easily looks athletic enough to play on the weak side in a 4-3 and might even have a future at outside linebacker.
Playing on his home field, Jones was one of the surprise performers of the day. With terrific speed and a slender but surprisingly strong frame, the 6-foot-3 Jones was nearly unstoppable in one-on-ones. Not only did he win his first three reps, but he continued to step up and challenge all comers from the offensive line position.
7. DB Kevin Toliver, Jacksonville (Fla.), Trinity Christian (2015)
Toliver has the size of a safety but the speed and cover skills of a top-level corner. On Saturday, the LSU commit had it all on display. Toliver was a favorite of the defensive backs coaches at the event, drawing praise all day. His standout performance was punctuated by an interception late in the day, a play on which he looked more like the wide receiver running the route than the defensive back covering it. For his efforts, Toliver earned defensive skill position MVP honors.
8. DE Lonnie Marts III, Jacksonville (Fla.) Harvest Community
Marts' namesake and father is ex-NFL veteran Lonnie Marts II, and on Saturday Marts showed that defensive skills run in the family. Working as a defensive end, Marts looked good coming off the edge, displaying strong hands and an excellent swim move, allowing him to get past bigger, stronger offensive linemen.
Blackwood had one of the best first steps of any of the defensive linemen on Saturday, allowing him to blow by tackles in one-on-one situations. At 6-foot-5, he has the size and will surely add bulk as his career moves along. When he has more size and strength to go with his already strong hands, he'll be a terror for opposing linemen.
James can play any number of positions, but on Saturday he did most of his damage at defensive back. He lined up at cornerback for one-on-ones and did an excellent job of riding the hip of the wide receivers he was facing, as well as adjusting to the ball in the air and making plays. There's no doubt the Florida State commit will have an impact regardless of where he plays on the field.