Defensive backs lead the way in State College

The Penn State Nike Football Training Camp annually draws the premier players in the Northeast; this weekend was no different despite the inclement weather. An elite group of defensive backs had the camp buzzing, led by Akron St. Vincent Mary star Doran Grant.

Grant, Kirby, and Jarrett

No, this is not a law firm, but it is the last name of three of the top cornerbacks in the country.

Starting out with Doran Grant, who couldn't participate in the Nike Camp in his home state of Ohio on Saturday because of his commitment to track and field, but still felt the need to show up and compete in State College to stake his claim as the number one cornerback in the country. Grant won't get much of a disagreement here, as he possesses prototypical size and shutdown ability. Watching him in drills, it's clear that Grant is an explosive athlete. He gets out of his backpedal quickly, and is able to turn and run with anybody who wants to test his deep speed. During the 1 on 1's he used his strength to re-route receivers, throw them off balance, limiting any chance of a completion. Grant does need to improve his zone coverage skills, he's so aggressive that it sometimes affects his drops and causes him to impede the progress of receivers. His overall performance resulted in him being named the defensive back MVP.

Terry Smith has been developing division one talent for years as the head football coach at Gateway, none better than son Justin King, who starred at Penn State a few years ago, before being drafted in the second round by the St. Louis Rams. Well, Smith expects his current pupil Dondi Kirby to have a similar career path. This was GBW's first in person look at Kirby, who worked out almost exclusively at corner. The first thing that stands out is his tremendous size, at nearly 6'3" and about 185 pounds. The question mark with regard to Kirby's game has always been about speed and hips. I think you can throw those concerns out the window. He showed good speed throughout the day, with nobody ever being able to run away from him. Most impressive was his work in pass skeleton and 1 on 1's. He showed great fluidity lateral, stayed low in his back pedal, and kept his head on a swivel. Kirby got his hands on a number passes, and made some impressive interceptions. His most recent offer is from Ohio State, but more will be on the way once coaches see him in person. Coaches from Florida and Alabama are scheduled to be at Gateway this week.

Kyshoen Jarrett made the three hour trip from East Stroudsburg to Happy Valley and performed admirably. This is nothing new for Jarrett, as he won the "Gridiron King" award last weekend at Schuman's Underclassmen Combine last weekend in Pittsburgh. On Sunday, Jarrett flashed his quick feet in drill work and loose hips during the 1 on 1's. He also reads routes well, which is why he's always in position to make a play on the ball. He's not a burner, but he has above average speed. Jarrett proved he's one of the top prospects in Pennsylvania, as well as one of the top cornerbacks in the country.

There were a few surprise performances from two defensive backs that are vastly underrated at this point in the evaluation process. Coincidentally, they both hale from the MD/D.C. area.

If you're a college coach looking for a pure cover corner, then Sherwood's Jamal Merritt is your guy. He stuck to receivers like glue all day long. He has a rare ability to cover routes just as quickly as the receiver who is running it. Merritt was one of few cornerbacks that utilized the sideline technique effectively. He put together an impressive string of pass breakups.

And Lorenzo Fisher from Friendship Collegiate Academy showed incredible quickness, contesting every pass that came his way. He plays much bigger than what his 5'10" 180 pound frame would suggest.

The Michigan Insider Top Stories