Highland Springs (Va) - Prospects hoping to get an invite to the Rivals Camp Series, presented by Under Armour, had to deal with high winds and a steady downpour of rain at the VTO Elite Combine in Highland Springs (Va). The slippery field conditions required more focus, but a few select players stood out among the 200 athletes.
The wide receiver group was among the most competitive of all the position battles. Wideout Jack Freudenthal was favorite target for all the quarterbacks because he provided a tall target (6-foot-3) and a pair of hands that turned incompletions in two touchdowns. Freudenthal earned an invitation to a future Rivals Camp Series after being selected the top Offensive Performer. He played tight end in high school, but feels the VTO camp proved wide receiver is his more natural position.
"I can go up and get the ball and I showed my route running is precise," Freudenthal said. "I'm a ball-hawk so I feel I'm most vital on the outside. I can beat my defender one-on-one and I solidified my ability as a receiver."
Freudenthal was disappointed earlier in the year when his request for an invite to the Rivals Top 100 was turned down. He says winning the Top Offensive Performer award proves he deserved an invite. "This proves I'm a threat," Freudenthal said. "I may not be the biggest receiver or the fastest receiver but I can catch the ball and I proved that today and I proved that at the Rivals camp."
The quarterbacks faced a difficult task of completing passes with a wet ball in the wind. However, 2016 signal-caller Reid Chenault was able to direct the ball downfield accurately and with some added zip. The position coached praised him for his mechanics and arm strength on the deep throws. Chenault was clearly the top ranked quarterback at the combine.
Highland Springs running back Keir Hinton felt at home performing on his high school field. The athletic junior was smooth during the drills and appeared comfortable coming out of the backfield for passes. Freshman Shedrick McCall registered as a running back but worked primarily on defense. He did so well at middle linebacker that he earned one of only four invites to the Rivals Camp Series, presented by Under Armour. McCall says he undecided on a position.
"Right now I just want to play both in high school," McCall said. "I'll make my decision once I go to college. I just want to be the best. I really wanted the MVP trophy. That's what I was striving for but getting the Rivals Camp (invite) is even better. I'm happy to be going there."
There were not a lot of tight ends at the VTO combine, but Jack Pilkerton made enough plays to be chosen as the top tight end. Whether it was the deep ball, a sideline pass, or fighting for a ball with contact, Pilkerton made all the catches. He traveled down from La Plata, Maryland to win his trophy.
There was only a handful of offensive lineman, but it was a quality group overall. Derek Dressler comes from a small school in Covington, Va., but he made a big impression as a physical mauler and his strength in the trenches. Dressler not only took home the top offensive lineman award, but he also received an invitation to a future Rivals Camp Series. Dressler often faced off against junior Dexter Brown (6-foot-2, 311 pounds) and earned the nickname "Fat-nasty" because of his aggressiveness after the whistle. Brown was impressive with his bull rush while showing good mobility on a 300-pound frame.
I jotted down Taj Conway's number while watching the linebacker drills, so I wasn't surprised when the VTO coaches announced him as the top linebacker. The 2016 prospect displayed fluid moves during the position drills and good instincts during the one-on-one drills. Conway has started on varsity his first two years at J.R Tucker High school in Richmond. Freshman Deon Jones has the potential to join the ranks of talented defensive backs from the DMV area. He has excellent technique especially for a freshman, and he is a future star. Jones flashed the skills to lineup as a press coverage corner and he gave the receivers fits during the 7-on-7 drills. He dominated at the line of scrimmage and unofficially allowed the least amount of pass receptions.
In addition to the position MVP's, the VTO staff also awarded several other All-Camp awards. The Sleeper award went to Phoebus (Va) sophomore Marlon Carter, who was one of the finalist for the wide receiver award. The Underclassman trophy was given to 2017 wide receiver prospect Chris Thaxton of Highland Springs.