HYATTSVILLE, Md. – The high school football regular season kicked off in late August with one of the nation’s most-anticipated matchups: DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) versus Miami Central (Miami, Fla.). Terrapin Times was on-hand to watch many of the Maryland targets/commits participating, including one of the Terps’ most recent pledges, receiver Tino Ellis. The Stags’ four-star wideout ended up with more than 150 total yards and a touchdown, including an 80-yard return off a blocked field goal.
Here’s our take on his game:
A do-it-all receiver, Tino Ellis has plenty of upside given his inherent skill-set. The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder has the wheels, the size, the fundamentals and the IQ to succeed in the Big Ten.
Physically, Ellis has a long, sinewy frame, plus poll-length arms that give him a wide catch radius. He also possesses large hands and strong fingers, allowing him to complete the circus catch if need be.
But one quality that truly separates Ellis has nothing to do with his physical gifts: Field awareness. He readily reads and bates defensive backs, anticipating their moves and taking advantage of missteps. He knows how to deke a deep pattern before coming back; how to stagger his steps before bursting downfield; and how to cut inside if cornerbacks shade him to the outside (and vice versa).
It comes as no surprise, then, that Ellis is a fairly refined route runner, his steps pretty much on-point when executing basic patterns. He gets into his breaks well, demonstrating little wasted movement and limiting defensive backs’ ability to anticipate his moves.
Ellis also has terrific initial acceleration, while continuing to build momentum throughout the pattern. A long glider, Ellis can cover ground quicker than his 40-yard-dash time (in the 4.6 range) indicates. In fact, Ellis has no problem taking the top off the defense and making plays downfield.
And, really, it’s the downfield catches in traffic that have become Ellis’ forte (although maybe not so much against Miami Central). Those aforementioned big, strong hands usually allow him to grab throws while blanketed by defenders. Unafraid to go over the middle, Ellis can absorb a hit and still hang onto a pass.
Ellis also does a good job high-pointing the ball overtop cornerbacks, his vertical leap and long arms giving him an advantage. Athletic in the air with standout body control, Ellis can pull down jump balls in-between defenders, or even snare sideline throws while making sure he comes down in-bounds.
After the catch, Ellis is sneaky quick. He’s not going to juke his way by defensive backs, but he’s got some slipperiness to him. He’s also strong enough to break through arm tackles and/or drag defenders.
To improve, Ellis has to become an even more precise route runner. Once in awhile, when executing more complicated patterns (out-and-ups, etc.), he tends to be methodical. His hips can be a little stiff as well, so we’d like to see him become more fluid.
Secondly, Ellis had a couple of drops against Miami Central, which isn't characteristic of him. He looks to be a natural pass catcher, but has to do a better job concentrating and bringing the ball in.
Also, Ellis isn’t a pure burner; he could stand to add a bit more top-end speed if possible. Yes, he can easily defeat many high school corners, but might have more difficulty getting behind defenses in college.
And, as with any recruit coming out of high school, Ellis has to continue building his body. He's a physical specimen, for sure, but a little more work in a college weight program will help him.