Having covered each of the five NLA Elite 7on7's out West in Las Vegas since their inception in 2008, Scout has seen it grow from a small event, with players representing each state, to where it's at now, a two-day event, with teams and players from all over, and a load of talent.
The first year's event has several players who are now eligible for the draft, like Cliff Harris, Vontaze Burfict and Brock Osweiler to others who've made big impacts at the collegiate level and are major contributors to their teams, like T.J. McDonald, Cierre Wood, Michael Clay, Levine Toilolo and Zach Ertz.
This year's event brought numerous prospects that have offers spanning the country, such as Priest Willis, Chris Hawkins, Tahaan Goodman, Su'a Cravens, Hatari Byrd, Francis Owusu and Steven Mitchell among others.
But there were plenty of players who jumped on to the scene for the first team, and new teams that joined perennial participants B2G, 1925, Gridiron Football Academy, Utah 1 and Pro Sports.
While many of the future All-American's and Scout 300 players got a lot of attention during the week, and deservedly so, and others were covered by Scout.com/FoxSportsNext National Recruiting Analyst Greg Biggins in his Quick Hitters from Las Vegas, earlier this week, here are my final thoughts from Las Vegas.
I.E. Elite and 4th Quarter Sports were two of the more surprising teams in the tournament, both advanced to the semifinals in their first true run at the NLA Elite 7on7. 4th Quarter started playing together a year ago, when they shocked 1925 at the BMOC Tournament, and thanks to the arm of Jihad Vercher, have the perfect quarterback for the 7on7 circuit. Other talented players like Marquise Ware, Jermaine Kelly and Jamardre Cobb, all from Los Angeles (Calif.) Salesian, give 4th Quarter the talent they need to perform in a tournament like this, but more importantly, their work together gives Salesian a leg up come fall.
But I.E. Elite, coached by Kenny Lawler Sr., was one of the true gems of the tournament, with a pair of receivers that should see their recruitments take off. Chino Hills (Calif.) receiver Jack Austin is a big-bodied and quick receiver with great hands and great route-running skills, and Boise State is already ahead with an offer. Austin reminds of former Scout 300 receiver Devin Lucien. Josh Savage, another receiver from La Verne (Calif.) Damien, paired with Austin and was on our all-surprise team. Recruiting should pick up for him too, as he's a clone of Austin. Upland (Calif.) cornerback Delvin Batiste was one of the top defenders for I.E. Elite and with his return to the field, after missing much of his junior year with a hip fracture, he should see a nice bump recruiting-wise as well.
The two stars though, defensively, for I.E. Elite, were Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) twin linebackers Alani Latu and Viliami Latu. Normally in a 7on7 setting, big, physical linebackers are at a disadvantage, but both the Latu showed great ability to cover, good agility and lateral movement and both look the legit 6-2 they said they were. The two have a handful of offers, but have made it clear they are a package deal in college, and right now, San Diego State and Hawaii have offered both of them.
Next Level Academy from the San Bernardino area was another new team that had a nice run, making it to the quarterfinals. Coached by Anthony Brown Sr., who's son, Anthony, is a cornerback at USC, Next Level Academy got good production from Stephan Johnson at quarterback, Jesus Munoz at receiver and Tre Brown and Daniel Gonzales at defensive back.
Bishop Gorman's Future Is Fine
Not that there was much to worry about for the Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman juggernaut, but the three-time defending state champions, who finished in the Top 10 by FoxSportsNext/Scout.com this past season, has plenty of talent in the hopper, despite Shaquille Powell and Ronnie Stanley graduating.
Much of that is because of the arm of Anu Solomon, who returned to Vegas on Sunday and had his team in the quarterfinals. Solomon missed day one for the Elite 11 in Dallas, but came back on Day Two and made a big impact for the Las Vegas 7s.
Team 808, which featured a number of Gorman's youngsters, nearly pulled off the upset of the tournament, giving B2G's 5-Stars all they could handle before coming up short.
When Solomon graduates next year, quarterback Danny Hong, a 2015 prospect, will be right in the mix for the quarterback job and he had an excellent tournament. Another 2015 player that should give the Gaels reason for excitement is 6-5 receiver/tight end Alize Mack. The versatile Mack has good speed for his size and excellent body control and hands. In talking with Gorman head coach Tony Sanchez, he compared him to current USC tight end Xavier Grimble, a former tight end for the Gaels, and Scout's #1-tight end in the 2010 class.
But the real underclass star for Gorman is 2014 safety Nathan Starks. Only playing Sunday, Starks excelled on both sides of the ball, with a couple of big catches for scores in the early rounds and some excellent defense, with a pick and a breakup in the playoffs. He'll be one of the premier safeties in the country in the 2014 class.
While he's not really a sleeper when it comes to his high school production, Canyon Country (Calif.) Canyons receiver Drew Wolitarksy is still waiting for his first offer. But Wolitarsky, who's on pace to own several of California's career receiving records, should see those materialize during the spring. Wolitarsky is big and physical and has very good speed, but more importantly, he catches anything thrown in his direction. Whether he grows into a tight end or stays at receiver, there is a place for him at the next level, no question.
Harbor City (Calif.) Narbonne receiver A.J. Richardson isn't really much of a sleeper either, with three offers, but he's often overshadowed by his teammate, four-star quarterback Troy Williams, and the host of other standouts on B2G, but he was one of the more consistent receivers during the weekend for B2G. Richardson has great versatility, and can play in the secondary as well.
Stockton (Calif.) Lincoln quarterback Zack Greenlee may have been the most consistent quarterback on Day One, and while his team came up short in the first round of the playoffs, Greenlee played well all weekend. While he doesn't have an offer yet, we think it's just a matter of time. Greenlee plays with the West's top running back, five-star Justin Davis, and with a host of colleges expected to come by Lincoln in the spring, Greenlee will have a chance to throw for a number of coaches.
Another quarterback who benefitted from playing with a lot of talent is Upland (Calif.) passer Nate Romine. While Kenny Lawler had a big year for the Highlanders last year, Romine was the one dishing the ball, and while he's a bit undersized, there is no question he's got the arm strength and ability to play. If Greenlee was the most consistent on Saturday, Romine was 1A in that category.
San Marcos (Calif.) Mission Hills cornerback Devin Holiday is becoming one of the quicker-rising corners in the West, with an offer from Hawaii, and he had a strong tournament, with a couple of interceptions and pass break ups in pool-play.
Last year, it was Encino (Calif.) Crespi running back Mike Davidson, "Mike-Mike", who was the diminutive playmaker for 1925. This year, it was a Jabrian Blackwell, who while not as small as Davidson, still had a tendency to make a number of players, despite his size.
Fresno (Calif.) Sunnyside running back Errian Wingfield isn't the biggest back, but he put up over 2,000 yards last season, and looked strong in pool play catching passes out of the backfield and showing good shiftiness and speed.
The Goon Squad is a traveling team that will be at each NLA Elite 7on7, and they have a good number of underclassmen to watch. Their big two underclassmen are Arlington (Texas) Mansfield Timberview defensive backs Brandon Simmons and Edward Paris. Both have a handful of offers and still have two more years to be recruited. But the most intriguing underclassmen is Justin Berry, who will be a freshman this fall. He was the second-team quarterback for the Goon Squad, but the Chicago native got plenty of snaps and looked very good in action.
Fresno (Calif.) Central always seems to have good young talent, and even though they have good seniors yearly, the future is bright there, with safety Devon Brewer and receiver Michiah Quick holding it down for the Tigers. Both were on the all-underclass team.
Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian's Brandon Dawkins was the state sophomore of the year in 2011, helping lead the Lions to the CIF-SS Northern Division Finals, and he played quite a bit this weekend for 1925. While he took a backseat to Troy Williams on Sunday, Dawkins showed in his time at quarterback that he's one of the top passing prospects nationally for 2014, and he'll be the guy running the 1925 offense down the line.
Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco quarterback Josh Rosene was on the all-underclass team a year ago and he was very good again this year. A 2015 prospect, Rosene is set to start this fall as a sophomore for the Braves.
Tyler Hilinski from Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame, will have to wait his turn, with his older brother Kelly set to start again for the Knights, but the younger Hilinski, a 2015 prospect, showed off his arm and should keep the success his brother is carrying, when he takes over.
Long Beach (Calif.) Poly hasn't had a big-time quarterback for a number of years, despite having talent everywhere else, but that could be changing with Eban Jackson set to take over for the Jackrabbits offense this fall. The 2014 quarterback had a nice weekend playing for Pride N Skillz.
Inglewood always has some standout players, but one of the most physically impressive players the entire weekend was just a freshman, Mike Williams. A 6-4 receiver, Williams looks like a grown man, and while he just needs to play more football and get more comfortable as a player, he's got all the physical tools needed.