April 18, 2013

Focusing on one spot a boost for prospects

MORE: Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour

The two most recent stops in the Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour took the tour to Richmond and Charlotte, and the lasting images from the camps were not made by what several elite players did, but rather what they did not do.

Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

Elijah Hood, Demetrius Johnson, Kevin Crosby and De'Andre Thompkins each shined on the offensive side of the ball.

Hood and Crosby earned invitations to the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge at the Charlotte camp playing running back and tight end, respectively.

Johnson and Thompkins played exclusively wide receiver and excelled. Johnson was named the No. 3 offensive player in Richmond and Thompkins was listed as No. 5 among offensive players in Charlotte.

But none of them -- all currently listed as athletes in the Rivals.com database -- took snaps on defense, which stood out to the team of analysts in attendance.

Rivals.com Southeast regional analyst Woody Wommack said that the decision for each player to focus on one spot is something that could help in the long term.

"It will help them to be more consistent," he said. "Really it can help them in deciding what colleges to consider as well. If they are being offered at multiple spots but have settled on one spot, then it could play a factor in where they decided to sign next year."

Hood cemented his place among the five-star players in the Rivals100. His current ranking at No. 12 in the national rankings should be safe as he shifted his focus from playing linebacker to running back.

Wommack said he was surprised that Hood didn't rotate between the positions.

"Up until the camp he kept saying he wanted to play linebacker in college, so we had him listed as an athlete," Wommack said. "He didn't do one drill on defense and he absolutely dominated the event.

"It is really hard for running backs to shine at a camp setting but he did. He ran a rep against Jalen Williams (who won the defensive skill MVP at the event) and put a move on him and was gone."

The move exclusively to offense is still new to Hood, who said that he was still getting comfortable with it.

"I'm starting to," he said. "I think I have a higher ceiling at running back so that is what I'm leaning towards."

Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said that he loved what he saw from Hood in the backfield.

"He is an animal," Farrell said. "He reminds me a lot of (former five-star) Ernie Sims. He is a physical runner who is a load to bring down but is also fast enough to run by you.

"Ernie was the same way and chose to play linebacker, but I think Elijah will be an elite running back."

Hood said that his style of running was all his own, but with a few elements that are plainly obvious.

"Angry, mean, fast, strong," he said.

"It might not be flashy but it gets the job done. I have subtle moves in space and just hit the hole hard."

According to Wommack, Hood is believed to have narrowed his college decision to Notre Dame or North Carolina and the choice to play one position might make the difference.

"Notre Dame has had a lot of success recruiting running backs and can provide a lot of exposure," Wommack said. "Whereas at North Carolina, there is more of an immediate need and he may be able to get playing time right away.

"If he was still trying to play linebacker it might give pause to both schools, but now that he is developing and making more effort at one spot, the focus will be on securing his commitment."

Johnson came to the camp from Annapolis (Md.) Christian School with just four offers despite being ranked No. 125 in the Rivals250.

Farrell said the 6-foot-2, 190-pounder's stock figures to dramatically improve as he continues to work back from injury -- and shows that he can be a top-flight receiver.

"He missed most of his junior year so that held back the offers a bit but he looks like he is improving," Farrell said. "He was still hobbled and limping a little but that makes it more impressive that he ran more reps than anyone that I can remember and that he was able to get the separation that he was able to get.

"Once he gets healthy and combines his skills with his toughness it will be fun to watch."

Crosby is one of the players that could benefit the most from an official change of position.

While he will still likely play on both sides of the ball at Bamberg (S.C.) Bambert-Ehrhardt, he is being looked at as an H-back or tight end more than a linebacker.

Wommack said the No. 132 player in the Rivals250 could use the ability to get more reps at his future position.

"You could see that he has the tools to play the position but they are still raw," he said. "Now that he has an idea of where he will be in the future, he can start using the rest of the summer to better learn the position and what it takes to play it.

"Again, if he embraces it then it could help him with his commitment. Being between Alabama, Clemson and South Carolina brings different things to the table but it will be easier for him to make the choice if he knows that he is playing tight end and not linebacker."

Thompkins is the lone three-star of the group, but, according to Farrell, his display at the camp will elevate the ranking from his current spot as the No. 34 athlete nationally.

He only had four receptions as a junior but carried the ball 175 times for 1,359 yards and was timed at The Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas with a 4.39 in the 40-yard dash.

Thompkins was invited to play at the Under Armour All-American Game in January.

The 6-foot-1, 170-pound speedster from Swansboro (N.C.) High did more than just prove he belonged, he changed his national perception.

"We really thought of him as a kick-returner before this," Farrell said. "His tape has an entire section of really impressive returns and we thought he could play receiver. Now we see that he is an explosive playmaker that is a receiver."

With the next stops of the Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour to take place in Cincinnati and St. Louis, there will be an entirely new group of players looking to show that they belong -- and where they belong -- on the football field.


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