Southeast Road Notes: Week 1

The first true set of games started around of the Southeast and the primary focus was around the southeastern part of South Carolina with two nationally televised games and a defensive end playing running back.

Friday evening was a very warm night in Bamberg, S.C. which saw perennial powerhouse Bamberg-Ehrhardt High School up against a new high school in Nation's Ford.

Bamberg certainly looked like the polished team on the evening and the three division one prospects certainly helped to carry the team, led by defensive end and running back Daquan Bowers and quarterback Chris Presley both with two touchdowns.

Evaluating Bowers is easy -- to me he is the top pure defensive end in the country. Physically, he is the best looking defensive end I have seen since Ohio State's Robert Rose two years ago at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Bowers is easily 6-4 and right in the neighborhood of 265 pounds with plenty of room to add muscle in his chest area but he is college ready right now with his strength and size in the lower body to take on blocks and get off the ball. He is not an Everson Griffin, but he is still an elite prospect.

Having to play both ways in ninety degree heat, Bowers did take some plays off when things are going away from him, but he still showed that he is in very good shape and did not cramp up during his 3+ quarters on the field.

Make sure to watch his second touchdown run on this film:

Quarterback Chris Presley had a good game as well on the ground. Presley is every bit of 6-4 and could be pushing 6-5 with a long, lean frame that screams of a D1-A wideout with great lateral speed and good straight-line speed as well. He reads the field well finding seams and angles when running out in space. Though he is without an offer now, as his senior video goes out he could easily find his way onto commitment lists in February.

Air Force commitment Brandon Bamberg battled cramping over the last two quarters of the game, but it was obvious he is a high motor athlete who is actually playing quite a bit undersized for a defensive end and even tight end right now, but he is a solid athlete with good hands and great technique blocking.

Saturday provided two nationally televised games. The first game, Summerville against visiting Booker T. Washington, brought the talent and speed I expected from the state of Florida. Booker T. Washington also brought something I normally do not expect from many top Florida teams which is great coaches demanding respect.

BTW did two things I had not seen in quite some time during the middle of a game. The first happened late in the second quarter when a defensive lineman jumped offsides and the entire defense had to do push-ups right then while the official called the infraction. There was not another offsides called on that defense during the game.

The second thing they did which impressed me was the team stalled walking to the locker room for the second half until the entire team was ready and walking in two straight lines with each player holding the hand of a teammate. This was also repeated walking on the field before the game and the second half as well as walking off the field at the end of a big blowout.

Major kudos to Tim "Ice" Harris.

Looking at the prospects list, here are a few evaluations from the game:

The best player on the field was Davon Johnson who hauled in five catches for 155 yards. Johnson has great speed on the edge and excellent making cuts on short hitters against soft coverage. He took advantage of blown coverage on his two touchdown catches with a clear line to the endzone on both grabs. He has some work to do with creating space and finishing his routes when coming up against man coverage. Still, there is plenty to work with given that speed.

Brandon Harris had a huge game for BTW and was very effective defensively in the bracketing scheme they used against All-American A.J. Green. Harris is a very smart player who quickly adjusted to several passes thrown to players he was not covering and finished with three tipped passes and should have come down with two of them for interceptions. He looked a little confused at times playing cover three as a safety because of his history at cornerback, but he adjusted over the course of the game. He is a physical player on both sides of the ball with several nearly-form tackles on defense and a nasty block on Green when his quarterback changed his course of direction on a run near the goal line. Green was not the same after that block.

Offensively, Harris is not quite as shifty as his teammates committed to Miami, but he is just as fast and more explosive than both. He comes up to speed very well and was even able to create some space for his quarterback to throw the ball with a little error.

Thearon Collier looked like the more explosive receiver of the two Miami commitments, though he is the shorter of the two. His top-end zpeed is going to hold him back from moving up much in the rankings. He has great hands, understands defenses well and looked to adjust a few patterns on the fly due to the coverage. He was a lot of fun to watch, especially as a return man.

A.J. Green did not get much of a chance to show his talents on this stage, but that was not due to a lack of effort. Some will talk about his not going on every play, but Green cramped up three times on the sidelines and once on the field as he was asked to play on nearly every play both offensively and defensively. With the bracket coverage, and exceptional play by the BTW defensive line which was in the backfield on nearly every play due to stunts up front, Green had to make most of his catches behind the line of scrimmage and finished with five catches for 52 yards.

Green is not a blazer and that has never been one of his assets, but he did show some great routes when he was a primary read on the play and even got by Harris a couple of times on double moves. He showed good hands on some patterns. His play did change some after taking a big hit playing defense and lost a step after that.

Summerville quarterback Reid McCollum took the brunt of the Booker T. Washington blow and threw just eight balls from within the pocket, and most of those were with pressure in his face. He finished the game completing only 12 of 26 for 113 yards and was sacked five times for 46 yards. There were times where he bailed out of the pocket and put himself in more trouble than had he just stepped up, but there was no question he did not get much of a chance to do anything. In a vertical passing game, it was tough to adjust to a three-step passing game for three quarters.

His quarterbacking counterpart in Sancho McDonald is also a potential D1-A quarterback in the right system. He is one of those guys that made several good reads on the day finding several blown coverages during the course of the game and felt several players coming open very well. He also can take the ball down and get five to ten yards on the ground with several read draws and sweeps.

Looking down the road, Booker T. Washington also has one of the top prospects from the class of 2010 in running back Eduardo Clements. Listed at 5-10/175, Clements has a ton of room to grow and be around 190 as a senior with a great first step into the line and he does not have much fear going in-between the tackles. Solid speed to get to and turn the corner and he runs with great pad level for a sophomore. He rushed 22 times for 111 yards and a touchdown on the day.

The second game on Saturday again showed a ton of talent with First Coast from Jacksonville going against the hosting Berkeley Stags.

Without a doubt the best player on the field was First Coast's Jermaine Thomas, a Florida State commitment. Thomas looks like a different player from the film we saw last year. Still about 5-11/6-0 tall and right around the listed 190, but he looks a step faster than he did last year and he can turn the corner better than before. Perhaps that was due to the lack of speed from the Berkeley defense, but he looked great. Between the tackles, Thomas runs much harder than he did last year and is not tip-toeing like he did in the past.

Evaluating Thomas, there were two things I found concerning when put together. The first was his vertical running style, which was not a problem for guys like former Oklahoma back Adrian Peterson and Ohio State alumni Eddie George. However, the second problem is that he is a grinder who likes to fight for extra yardage after contact. There is a difference between fighting and being able to make defenders' impact lessen after a hit, and Thomas is more of the first. If he is not able to better play within himself, he can be susceptible to injuries and fumbles over the course of his career though he will rack up a ton of yardage. The last player I can remember with a similar style was T.A. McClendon at NC State, who was also about 30 pounds heavier than Thomas.

His running back counterpart in Andre Ellington just has the look of a major running back prospect with a great bounce to his step in the way he walks and has one of the best bursts in the country. Ellington is a threat to take the ball for a touchdown every time he touches the ball on the edge and he has great hands which makes for some major match-up problems. Still, between the tackles, he is not quite able to find and sense the seams and I believe some of that is due to not being patient with his blockers. Either way, he is a fantastic prospect for Clemson.

South Carolina commitment Shaq Wilson was all over the field, especially towards the end of the game when his team really needed him. The entire First Coast linebacking corp looks a little undersized for D1 prospects, but they all fly to the ball and love to make some big hits. Wilson is no different, and he always appeared around the ball throughout the game and was rarely fooled on the counters Berkeley loved to run.

Nigel Carr was moved to defensive end for this season by the First Coast staff, and the rumor going around was that they moved him because Florida State wants him to play the position in college. Right now, there is no question Carr is much better as a linebacker because of his ability to play the pass in space and he does not move as well in a crowd. Carr had trouble adjusting to the position very early and with the addition of a back injury he was completely gassed after the second Berkeley series.

Wide receiver Avis Commack had trouble getting started during the game as he and his quarterback did not seem to be on the same page with timing. When Commack was just starting to come open on some deeper routes, the ball was already out for shorter routes. He did get the ball several times on short routes and screens, showing more elusiveness than expected. Commack was also much better at run blocking than he showed last season, complete with a couple of knockdown blocks on a defensive back.

Looking down the road again, two wide receivers stand out. For First Coast, Adrian Williams is a big receiver with soft hands who looks great warming up with great lean into his cuts. He wwsa also a reliable receiver during the game, including a touchdown for First Coast in the second half turning a defensive back around with his first few steps off the ball. He is a junior this year and a member of the class of 2009.

While Andre Ellington had a great day on the ground, his younger brother Bruce Ellington may turn out to be the better prospect. Bruce, a sophomore and a member of the class of 2010, he looks to have a better body than Andre did as a junior. He plays the ball very well in the air and very strong, though his leaping ability is not a strength at the moment. He has great acceleration off the line of scrimmage, doing a surprisingly good job beating jams, and cuts about as well as his older brother. He has a bright future ahead.

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