MSL Berkeley recap - Defense

With back-to-back camps, I have a tendency to look back in retrospect and wonder 'what if'. Nothing could be more on point Sunday night, as I was waiting at the Oakland Airport for my flight home. I just watched a stellar group of defensive backs at the Berkeley MSL combine and pondered the possibilities.

Saturday's group of wide receivers played, as a whole, better than Sunday's, although I'm sure Pittsburg's dynamic duo of Deric Davis would take exception to that. But the thought of Clovis West's Michael Johnson, Stockton St. Mary's Anthony Crosby and Concord De La Salle's Brian Williams going up against Sunday's corps of 'lock down' DB's had me smiling all the way home. It just reinforced in my mind the level of talent on display at MSL's Berkeley combines.

Here's a group-by-group recap, with the top players mentioned first, followed by 'sleeper' types and up-and-coming underclassmen who impressed many this past weekend.

Defensive Linemen:
Most of the wide bodies were offensive linemen, but a few defensive ends stood out. Larry 'Dean' Allen, a 6-4, 212-pound DE from Fresno (Calif.) Clovis East showed up Sunday and passed the look test from the get-go. Allen possesses a quick first step and surprising strength from a frame that's begging to add bulk. Boise State, San Diego State and UC-Davis have all be in regular contact with Allen, who would also like to hear from Hawaii. It's no wonder the Huskies appear to be on Allen, as he looks to be similar in build and playing style to a signee from their last class - Sebastopol (Calif.) Analy DE Greyson Gunheim. Allen isn't quite as big or as fast as Gunheim, but he has the body to get there.

The best interior lineman was a sophomore, Derrick Hill, a 6-3, 255-pound DT from Oakland (Calif.) McClymonds. According to their head coach, Alonzo Carter, McClymonds has a trio of 10th-graders that recruitniks should keep in the back of their heads for 2006 - Hill, Naderris Ward (6-5, 245) and Antoine Howard (6-4, 255). Don't be surprised if the Oakland-based high school becomes the epicenter for some serious seismic shifts this fall with that much beef roaming the streets. Impressive, indeed.

Here are some other defensive linemen to watch:
Patrick Moore - Stockton (Calif.) St. Mary's
Mason Thomas - Eureka, California
Justin Townsel - San Jose (Calif.) Piedmont Hills
Kurtis Markin - Loomis (Calif.) Del Oro

This group was characterized by some serious athletic freaks who need to be coached up to reach their full potential. I say it as a compliment, because there could be 3-4 top Division-One players in this group, but it depends on the work they are willing to put in and who is willing to take the time to help unleash the inner future all-conference performer.

No one player represents this school of thought better than Nawaakoa 'Koa' Misi, a 6-2, 215-pounder from Santa Rosa (Calif.) Montgomery. Misi, who had 98 tackles last year, jumped 34.5 inches in the vertical jump and ran a very solid 4.73 in the 40. Everything about him screams out D1, and Stanford are definitely paying attention so far.

Mario Cox is going to be one of the best two-way players in the East Bay this fall. The 5-11, 220-pound fullback/linebacker from El Cerrito, California had 1000 yards and 15 touchdowns running the football as a junior, as well as 90 tackles from his linebacker position. His 5.03 40 was not indicative of his ability, as he battled and won nearly all of the one-on-one situations he took part in. In short, he's just a flat-out player. Cox's top-5 includes UCLA, California and Washington, and he expects to camp at UO, OSU and UW this summer.

A sleeper woke up Sunday. His name? Michael Boren. The 5-11.5, 210-pound linebacker from Fresno (Calif.) Clovis East showed good speed and even better control and technique during Sunday's combine. Fresno State has picked up the ball on this undiscovered Central Valley prospect and have invited him back to a specialty camp in a couple of weeks. Boren could play strong safety in college, and could florish in a program like Pat Hill's.

Here's a list of other linebackers who stood out this past weekend:
Alex Uju - Vallejo, California
Saka Faafiti - Pittsburg, California
Nick Thurston - Oakland (Calif.) McClymonds
Steven Grossenbacher - Elk Grove (Calif.) Laguna Creek
Jesse Warren - Sacramento (Calif.) Natomas

Defensive Backs: Of all the groups that took the field at Memorial Stadium this past weekend, this was the one that showed the most in terms of D1 potential. Led by the coaching of former Kansas State standout Marcus Miller, the DB's were bound-and-determined not to let the receivers have their way like they did the day before. Guys like Beau Miller and Brian Williams mostly had their way against top DB prospects. That was not the case Sunday.

Oakland Tech's Manny Colon set the tone early with some downright physical play. The 5-10, 190-pound Colon threw a couple of WR's down as they tried to jam him at the line of scrimmage. When he did get beat, it brought a huge cheer from the other offensive players that wanted a crack at the intense Colon. It was a sure sign of respect that everyone wanted to go against Manny Sunday afternoon.

Durrell Oliver came to Berkeley from Freso (Calif.) Clovis East and left with Miller's praise. "He's the first D1 kid today," Marcus exclaimed after Durrell's sensational lock-down play Sunday. The 5-10, 175-pound Oliver only has interest from Boise State right now, but that will change after this weekend. He went 5 or 6 straight plays with picks on every play. His instincts are right on cue and his 4.75 40 gives him catch-up speed. It was evident from the beginning of the one-on-ones that Durrell was going to be all business, and it showed.

The best DB Saturday was clearly Marcus Ezeff. The 5-11, 177-pounder from Santa Rosa (Calif.) Montgomery, is another two-way star like Mario Cox. On offense, Ezeff caught 37 passes for 687 yards and 10 scores. On defense? 54 tackles and four interceptions, leading to all-state underclass honors. He had 7 picks as a sophomore. Marcus is hearing from Michigan and all the Pac-10 schools. He's hoping to camp at Oklahoma this summer.

Here's a quick rundown of the other defensive backs that impressed this past weekend:
Jason Poltl - Concord (Calif.) Clayton Valley
Danny Ladouceur - Concord (Calif.) De La Salle
Joseph Blackman - Pittsburg, California
Seyi Ajirotutu - El Dorado Hills (Calif.) Oak Ridge

Here's a link to the Offensive Recap - Berkeley MSL sets the pace

And here's the link to learn more about MSL - MSL Combines

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