Oakland NFTC Defensive Preview

The NIKE Camp tour hits Oakland (Calif.) this weekend in what is traditionally one of the stronger events nationally. With the defensive back position being, by far, the strongest position out West, it's not surprising the DB group will be the one to watch this weekend as well.

The Defensive Backs

Fresno (Calif.) Central has the top secondary in the region and three Tigers players will be on display Sunday. Cornerbacks Johnny Johnson and L.J. Moore and safety Hatari Byrd are three of the nation's most heavily recruited defensive backs with offers from all over the country.

Johnson has been dealing with a bum labrum in his shoulder since last season. When healthy, he's the most physical corner in the state who plays with an edge to him and a lot of swagger.

He was arguably the top corner at the NorCal NIKE Camp at Stanford last year and although he's hopeful of doing most of the drills, may have to sit out one on ones to protect his shoulder.

Moore is a long, lean corner and could be the most technically sound player at his position. He plays with a high football IQ and although not blessed with incredible speed, is able to hang with just about anyone because of his superior technique and high football IQ.

Byrd has the body of a linebacker and looks like a college player right now. He's a tough, physical safety who brings an enforcer mentality to the position. Some have questioned whether he'll stay at safety in college because of his huge upper body but he has safety legs and has shown at various 7 on 7 tournaments this spring that he's actually a better than average cover man and looks like an ideal, in the box strong safety in college.

Few players have been more impressive on the 7 on 7 circuit than Mission Hills (Calif.) corner Devin Holiday. Holiday has the physical tools to play press, the athleticism to play off in coverage and has excellent ball skills. He has worked hard on his technique and his confidence is at an all time high right now.

Another SoCal player making the road trip up north is Menifee (Calif.) Heritage corner Darius Allensworth. Allensworth has a nice frame and is a physical corner. He can close well on the ball and has shown the ability to lock up one side of the field at a few recent passing tournaments.

Sacramento (Calif.) Grant athlete Trayvon Henderson will be a three year starter for the Pacers. Henderson was overshadowed much of the last two seasons playing alongside all-world safety Shaq Thompson but he's a big time play-maker in his own right and a legitimate BCS corner prospect.

A few other players to watch closely include El Cerrito's (Calif.) Marcellus Pippins, Corona (Calif.) Roosevelt's Elijah Mitchell, Berkeley's (Calif.) Jakari Simpson and Anaheim (Calif.) Servite sophomore Demetric Woodard.

The Linebackers

What Central H.S is to the defensive back position, Concord (Calif.) De La Salle is to linebackers. The Spartans have three legitimate BCS prospects at linebacker including one of the nation's most heavily recruited athletes.

Michael Hutchings attended the SoCal NIKE Camp in Cerritos back in April and by his lofty standards, had just an OK day. At his best, Hutchings is a plus athlete who can run around and make plays all over the field. He's a physical player who needs to continue to work on his cover skills as he projects as a weak side ‘backer in college.

Victor Egu has seen his stock skyrocket since colleges have been able to visit high school campuses and his offer list is now in the double digits. Egu is a tremendous athlete who is versatile enough to play tight end in college and is being recruited on both sides of the ball right now.

D.J. Moffit is the third Spartan linebacker who will play at the next level. The DLS coaches swear by him and feel he's probably the most active of the three and the hardest hitter on the team. He doesn't have the same size as the other two and won't be recruited as heavily because of that, but there is no doubt he can play.

Tulare (Calif.) Mission Oak linebacker Kevin Palma had his coming out party at the Socal NIKE Camp and many felt he should have earned LB MVP honors. He's big, fast, athletic, dominated the pass rush drills and looked great in coverage as well. He doesn't have a ton of linebacker film and his recruitment isn't where it should be but based on pure size and ability, he's one of the top linebacker prospects in the region bar none.

A player who will be really intriguing to watch is Salt Lake City (Utah) Brighton's Uaea Masina. Masina opened a lot of eyes when he was the top linebacker in Team Utah's surprising win at the New Level 7 on 7 in Las Vegas. He's a tall, rangy and very athletic ‘backer who can really close on a ball carrier. Like Palma, Masina doesn't have a lot of linebacker film right now but you can see his incredible upside as a prospect after just a few plays.

Tanner Vallejo out of Grass Valley (Calif.) Nevada Union has been on a recruiting tear in recent weeks and is becoming one of the state's most coveted linebacker prospects. When you watch his film, it's easy to understand why. He's a prototype inside linebacker who plays with a high motor, is very physical but also looks comfortable dropping back in to coverage.

The Defensive Line

If there is one position a little down and lacking depth, it's probably the defensive line. Saying that, there will still be some strong talent on hand and Petaluma (Calif.) Casa Grande athlete Elijah Qualls should have a strong performance.

Qualls is among the top athletes in the region and among the most versatile as well. He played a lot of linebacker and fullback last season but projects best at defensive tackle and that's where he'll work out on Sunday. The athlete combines size, strength and athleticism and it's tough to imagine anyone coming close to blocking him.

Elk Grove (Calif.) Cosumnes Oaks defensive lineman Sam Smith has the size to play defensive tackle and the athleticism to play end. He's an elite talent who looks like a 3-tech in college. Smith even played some tight end on the offensive side of the ball but will definitely play on the defensive side of the ball. Smith should push Qualls for DL MVP honors.

After a solid showing at the SoCal NIKE Camp, Fresno (Calif.) San Joaquin Memorial lineman Jalen Ruiz will return to Oakland in hopes of improving his performance. Ruiz did well in the one on one drills and has a nice skill set. He's a physical player, very strong, uses his hands well and knows how to get up the field.

Kingsburg (Calif.) defensive tackle Ryan Steele is another big lineman with a nice upside to him. He's a load to handle in the middle and isn't just big, he shows good lateral mobility and can really close on the ball carrier as well. He plays with a high motor and just the right amount of nastiness. Schools are starting to pay closer attention and a big performance on Sunday could elevate his stock even more.

Greg Biggins has been covering recruiting for over 15 years, covering the West since the mid-1990's and currently serves as a national analyst for Scout.com/FOXSportsNext.
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