PISCATAWAY, N.J. - There was a different spin to the annual Rivals.com New Jersey Junior Day this year, and it's not just the new name. Nearly 200 players showed up to the bubble at Rutgers University for the Five Star Academy as well as the Premier Showcase. And led by offensive MVP Je'Ron Stokes, the event was a massive success.
The day begin with talks from Rivals.com National Recruiting Analyst Mike Farrell, Washington (D.C.) Dunbar head coach Craig Jeffries, academic advisor Lee McDonald and former NFL offensive lineman Bill Ard. Then the fun for the players began.
Brian Martin of Test Sports Clubs led the Premier Showcase where players were grouped into positions, run through drills and allowed more than an hour of one-on-ones.
Stokes, from Philadelphia (Pa.) Northeast, was dominant in the one-on-one drills, showing off his excellent route-running, quickness in and out of his cuts and great hands en route to his award. It didn't matter what route he ran, he was smooth, got separation and caught any ball within reach. Stokes has offers from 14 programs at this point, including Penn State, Pitt, Rutgers, Illinois and Iowa, among others.
On the defensive side, Forestville, Md., defensive end DeOnte Arnett took home defensive MVP honors by showing the quickest first step and an array of moves during the long and physical one-on-ones for the linemen. Arnett needs to improve his lower-body strength but his quickness and ability to shake linemen using his hands was impressive. Arnett boasts offers from Maryland, Syracuse and Virginia.
There was also plenty of talent all over the field aside from the two award winners. The wide receiver position was arguably the deepest group at the event. In addition to Stokes, many other wideouts stood out. Fort Washington (Md.) Friendly standout Alex Blake is tall and rangy with excellent hands while Carneys Point (N.J.) Penns Grove wide receiver Aaron Hayward (Rutgers offer) is big and physical. Others who impressed include Clarksville (Md.) River Hills' Michael Campanaro (North Carolina, Northwestern offers), Piscataway, N.J. receiver Jeremy Crayton, Lawrenceville (N.J.) Notre Dame's Keith Crawford and Waldorf (Md.) Westlake speedster Devon Smith. Gaithersburg (Md.) Quince Orchard stud Travis Hawkins worked out at wide receiver for the challenge but is also being looked at as a running back. Hawkins has offers from many schools led by Maryland, Penn State, Virginia and Virginia Tech.
The best defensive backs at the event included Frederick (Md.) Tuscarora cornerback Dominic Clarke, Indian Head (Md.) Lackey corner Darrell Givens, Staten Island (N.Y.) Port Richmond defensive back Torian Phillips, Virginia Beach (Va.) Bayside's William Marable and Pennsburg (Pa.) Perkiomen School's Abdul Smith. Clarke and Givens were the most physical of the defensive backs. Greenbelt (Md.) Eleanor Roosevelt cornerback Stephon Morris also looked solid. Givens has 11 offers led by Ohio State, Tennessee and Miami.
In addition to the wideouts and defensive backs, the big men put on quite a show in the one-on-ones. Beyond Arnett, there were many speedy defensive linemen on display. Langhorne (Pa.) Neshaminy defensive end Jay Colbert and Jersey City (N.J.) St. Peters Prep rush end Anthony Blake were both too fast for most offensive linemen while Pawling (N.Y.) Trinity Pawling big man Dillon Quinn showed off a dominant bull rush.
Along the offensive line, Somerville (N.J.) Immaculata center Mark Brazinski was very hard to beat in the one-on-ones and offensive guard Khalil Wilkes from Jersey City (N.J.) St. Peters showed off great technique. Delran, N.J. offensive guard Nicholas Cattolico was one of the most aggressive and physical offensive linemen while Camphill (Pa.) East Pennsboro center Matt Couch was a big surprise. Brazinski has offers from Boston College and Rutgers.
There was plenty of speed on display at running back led by Jersey City (N.J.) St. Peters speedster Nyshier Oliver and Baltimore (Md.) Dunbar scat back Tavon Austin. Elizabeth, N.J. running back Raymond Graham was arguably the best all-around back, basically toying with the linebackers that were trying to stay with him. Oliver has an early offer from Rutgers, Austin boasts offers from Maryland, Boston College, Penn State and Virginia and Graham has also been offered by Maryland.
The linebacker position was a bit thin but Stanford commitment Shayne Skov from Pawling (N.Y.) Trinity Pawling was a standout in coverage. Lancaster (Pa.) Manheim Township backer Nick Sizemore and Verona, N.J., star Carlo Calabrese were also standouts. Calabrese has an early Rutgers offer.
And finally, the quarterback position was also lacking depth, although Montvale (N.J.) St. Josephs signal-caller Gabe Hernandez, a late addition, showed good accuracy and zip on his ball. Washington (D.C.) Dunbar quarterback Tyree White is another quarterback to keep an eye on.
Stay with Rivals.com for more coverage of the Premier Showcase including The Hot 11, a few super sleepers and a look at the underclassmen who impressed.