April 10, 2013

Rivals Camp Series Birmingham: What We Learned

MORE: Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour

HOOVER, Ala. -- The fourth weekend of the Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour kicked off last Saturday and many top story lines emerged from the events on Saturday and Sunday. Here are Five Things We Learned from the camp at Hoover High School outside of Birmingham.

1. Offensive line dominates with versatility across the board

If Joshua Casher were 6-foot-4, he might be the top offensive lineman in the Southeast. But he measured in at 6-foot-1 after getting his official height and weight at registration.

But size didn't matter on Saturday as Casher stoned massive defensive tackle Charles Mosley in consecutive reps in one-on-ones despite giving up nearly three inches and 35-plus pounds. The offensive line MVP was flat-out dominant and earned the praise of everyone in attendance.

Rivals250 offensive tackle Rod Taylor was excellent in drills and in one-on-ones. Taylor proved he can anchor the tackle spot or slide down to guard without missing a beat. We liked his versatility, competiveness and coachability.

A few other standouts included Cole Hardin, Drew Richmond and Ethan Frith.

Hardin is as nasty as they come and doesn't back down from a challenge.

Richmond looked like a seasoned veteran setting up in pass protection and holding defenders at bay in one-on-ones.

Frith had a nice afternoon with a good knockdown block after flashing solid footwork in the position period.

2. Defensive interior flexes its muscles

Jackson (Miss.) Callaway defensive end Breeland Speaks earned MVP honors after an outstanding day. Speaks even took a few reps at nose guard and used a nice swim move to get by his opponent. Although he plays linebacker at his school, expect colleges to recruit him at any spot along the line.

Rivals 250 members Denzel Ware and Justin Thornton impressed, too. Ware has bulked up and his size was a problem for several linemen. Thornton could benefit from adding more weight to his upper body to handle the rigors of the trenches. The 6-foot-5 blur off the edge is very good when getting his man on his heels and using his speed to get up field.

Jalen Harvey, Taylor Stallworth, Christian Bell, Marlon Davidson and Darius Whitfield proved to be tough matchups for the offense. Whitfield and Davidson are 2016 prospects with tremendous upside.

3. Deep crop at linebacker

Notable linebackers Shaun Dion Hamilton and Tre' Williams were stellar in drills and displayed good closing speed on swing passes and flat routes. Hamilton picked up the defensive skill MVP award and both players earned invites to the Rivals Five-Star Challenge.

Nick Holman shined in drills, showing good suddenness and instincts. He picked up the defensive concepts and made the most of his one-on-one reps.

One athlete who won a ton of reps was Keith Holcombe. Holcombe has long arms to go with a muscular frame. He can cover in space and fill in a hurry when closing on the ball-carrier.

Hoover (Ala.) outside linebacker Darrell Williams and Florence (Ala.) 'backer Darius Smith covered like lock-down corners in the one-on-one portion of camp.

Williams collected three interceptions and made life tough for tight ends and running backs. Smith recorded four picks and looked more like a strong safety than a second level defender.

4. Sleeper receivers emerge

Wide receiver Johnathon Johnson came out of nowhere to win the offensive skill MVP. Johnson has ideal slot receiver size, but when he was split out wide, he consistently created separation and got over the top of defenders.

Memphis (Tenn.) Melrose flanker Cornelius Sturghill was a pest for cornerbacks as he made several grabs and let the opposition hear about it. A couple of times, the coaches had to tell him to tone down the commentary. Regardless, Sturghill was good vertically and caught everything in his catch radius.

Fellow Volunteer State player Deddrick Thomas impressed as well. Thomas stands around 5-foot-8, but he makes tough catches against bigger defenders.

Draequon Murphy was once committed to Arkansas State, but after seeing him get the best of a few defensive backs, we feel he can play at the BCS level. Murphy is a thick, sure-handed receiver who can help move the chains. His teammate Charles Standberry is a bigger receiver who can play tight end or H-back in college. Standberry was very good on his intermediate routes.

Opelika (Ala.) Marquise Fulton had a bunch of sensational catches. One play that stood out was his fingertip grab on a pass just out of his reach. In drills, he was one of the most consistent split ends.

Ole Miss pledge Dayall Harris showed great vertical ability and made several acrobatic catches. Harris has deceptive speed and can sneak behind a defense with his long stride.

5. Rivals100 rusher, back-end defenders fight through injury bug

Four-star running back Racean Thomas tried to battle through a tough lower leg injury to compete, but unfortunately he wasn't himself in one-on-ones.

And 2015 standouts Kerryon Johnson and Rico McGraw couldn't participate because of offseason injuries.

Even with the three aforementioned players not being a big factor on Saturday, other prospects did their best to step up.

Stephen Roberts, C.J. Hampton, Terrence Alexander, Brandon Thomas, Ronald Walker, and Kamryn Pettway turned in solid outings.

Thomas is the only one of the five listed who doesn't have any offers. He is a scrappy cover guy who does well jumping slant routes and taking away the short area.

Roberts, Hampton, and Alexander all had their moments in one-on-ones. Hampton is a bigger safety, but he flashed the hip fluidity to cover on an island.

Walker could move to outside linebacker at the next level. He has great size from the safety spot and is very aggressive when locating the ball.

At first it looked like Pettway was a one-cut back, but he surprised us with his agility during step over drills.

The camp atmosphere may not be the best place to showcase his physical style of play, but he caught the ball well and ran good routes. The Auburn commit reminds us of former Tigers running back and NFL veteran Ronnie Brown with his similar build and stature.




 

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