With a fourth quarter touchdown from its defense, Gadsden City (Ala.) was able to pull off the upset over Oxford (Ala.) on Friday, but the prospects in the game each held their own while a 2014 athlete stole the show.
Usually we would start in order of seniority, but with the way junior prospect Racean Thomas ran the football – accounting for 255 rushing yards and two scores – fans on the Gadsden City side of the stands were simply happy if he was limited to anything less than 10 yards per carry. Thomas showcased all his skills in the tight loss, from his elite separation ability and top-end speed, to his instant acceleration that pairs with it just as well. The way the 6-foot, 200-pounder powers through tackles, however, is most impressive. Using his excellent patience and vision, he uses defenders' angles against them if he does not run through them first using a stiff-arm, spin move or simple lowering of his shoulder. Thomas is relentless with the ball in his hands and will be an elite prospect once the 2014 class is ranked.
Mississippi State-bound defensive line duo Ulric Jones and Trent Simpson held their own as two-way starters. While neither really looks the part of an offensive lineman, their defensive prowess helped neutralize Gadsden City's run game. Jones has solid hand technique up front, including a dip-and-rip move he used to penetrate early and often. He has above-average power and shows a good motor off the edge as does Simpson. The fellow senior commands a double-team when rushing from inside, and he has good quickness and athleticism off the edge. Simpson can use his length to separate from blockers and diagnose a play before pursuing as good as anyone in the state.
Flanking the Bulldog pledges on Oxofrd's line is 2014 defensive end Darrius Rogers. The 6-foot-2, 257-pounder gives maximum effort every time he's in the rotation. He has a great first step and can beat most blockers with speed, though a well-rounded game is something that still needs development.
The Titans have several talented players on the roster, beginning with another future Bulldog in receiver B.J. Hammond. The long and strong Hammond (6-foot-4, 207 pounds) has all the tools to excel in the SEC. On his one big reception in the game, he took it the distance for a 70-plus yard score. He got off the jam with strength, ran his route with precision and hauled in the pass over a defender before outrunning the rest. Jordan Veasy is the lesser known WR prospect, but he certainly looks the part at 6-foot-2, 190 pounds. He showed great body control and field awareness on his 21-yard touchdown grab in the win, though he doesn't sport major offers yet.
The offensive line is also senior-laden, beginning with Khalid Cannon. The left tackle is versatile in what he can do to go along with a solid 6-foot-4, 255-pound frame. He is a good zone blocker, with ability to move as well. Cannon, who sports Sun Belt offers, can square off the edge and be very effective at getting to the second level. Alongside him on the line, though he may project better on the other side of the ball, is Rodney Edwards. Sporting similar offers as Cannon, this 6-foot-2, 300-pounder had an effective day at trying to slow Oxford's Thomas on defense. He is a space-eater that shows a good first-step for his size along with good moves and football IQ. Edwards gets up the field, he's not just a "hold the line" type of lineman. He can also get down the line and will hustle until the whistle every time out.
Joining Edwards on the Gadsden's defensive line is Ole Miss commit Finesse Middleton. The 6-foot-1, 245-pounder played both outside linebacker and rush defensive end on Friday, where he projects best at. Middleton is a good tackler and has a knack for being around the ball. While he's not very explosive off the ball, he has an oft-used spin move to defeat smaller blockers. With good bend off the edge as pass rusher, complete with some nifty moves, Middleton is someone the offensive line needs to account for. Fellow senior linebacker Blake Worthy also made a mark on the night. He made plays all over the field, even against Thomas. The solid open-field tackler belongs in the box although he shows good range, which is why he may project as more of a strong safety at the next level. Worthy has a Purdue offer to go along with a handful of FBS extensions.