Close to 100 of North Carolina's best high school football players took to the field at West Forsyth High School for the annual Shrine Bowl invitation-only workout. Pack Pride was on hand to break down all the action. Here's a look at several of the standout performers.
This was our first time seeing South View's Greg Gilmore in person and he definitely didn't disappoint. Physically, he is massive and looks D-1 ready right now. During drills he was solid but it was in one on ones where he simply dominated. While he'll likely play inside in college, Gilmore showed a good burst off the edge but it was his sheer strength that got the best of virtually every offensive lineman he faced. As of right now, LSU, USC, Florida, LSU and Clemson lead the way.
We came away more impressed with Jack Britt's Jalen McDaniel this time compared to our earlier visit to scout him. As it turned out, we heard he had been hampered by a hamstring issue at a Shrine Combine held earlier this spring. On Saturday he looked quicker, more fluid and caught the ball well. We wouldn't label him an elite receiver but he's solid and could grow into a reliable contributor in college. State, ECU and UNC are still in the mix as is Virginia Tech.
NC State RB commit Dakwa Nichols definitely impressed and you can tell his quickness is simply on another level. He runs very close to the ground and is cuts are extremely sharp and all that should be setting the table for a big year at Richmond County in 2012. The running back's coach for the Shrine team told us Nichols had a different gear than most of the other running backs in the state.
Davie County offensive lineman and Wolfpack commit Cole Blankenship had a so-so day. Because he plays inside, one on ones are never going to be his strong suit and that was evident this weekend. He got beat numerous times but again, he was being asked to do something that he'll never have to accomplish in a football game. Blankenship is built like a fire hydrant and he sort of reminds me of Jeff Saturday that played at Carolina.
One player that is clearly on the elite level is Kannapolis' WR Keeon Johnson. If there was any question about his place in North Carolina's top five, those were erased during this workout. He is simply a natural at wide receiver. His stride is effortless. He runs good, crisp routes and had the best pair of hands of any wideout in attendance. Johnson is going to be a huge get for the college lucky enough to land him. Right now, UNC, Notre Dame and Virginia lead the way.
One player that certainly took a step forward in our opinion was Bunn's Johnathan Alston. Initially we had him pegged for linebacker but after watching him Saturday, we're not so sure he can't stick at receiver. He looked much more comfortable but the thing that jumped out was how much better he caught the ball compared to the last time we saw him. He may never get into Keeon Johnson or Marquez North territory but the potential to be a good wideout is there. For now we feel pretty good about NC State's position with Alston. UNC and Notre Dame are in there as well. Georgia and Syracuse were the two latest schools to offer.
Tyrone Crowder continues to impress. It's simply rare to see someone as big as Crowder move the way he moves. During one on ones, it was over once he got his hands on the opposing defender. Only once did we see any player get the best of him and interestingly, that one person was his Richmond County teammate, Devante Covington.
We are still a little torn about Hunt's Lewis Neal. He has a tremendous motor and all the intangibles are there but physically, he's still a ‘tweener in our opinion. During one on ones he was good but not dominant. He had good moments and was beaten occasionally. Neal is getting heavy attention from all over despite the fact that we really don't know where he'd be best suited to play- linebacker or defensive end. He has a visit to LSU planned and he still stays in contact with Ohio State, a team he committed to for a short time earlier in the year. Neal told us that NC State and UNC are still in the mix as well with Wolfpack DL coach Keith Willis being the main reason for his interest in State.
Hillside's Josh McNeil may be the state's best tight end but Mt Tabor's Lucas Wilson isn't shabby either. Physically he has a great frame for the position and should grow into a monster down the road. His catching was good at times but somewhat inconsistent on Saturday. Still, we think this a very good player that has gone largely unnoticed on the recruiting scene. Wake Forest may be the team to beat but State is right there. An offer from Tennessee recently may be something to watch as well.
Our hat was off to East Forsyth and ECU commit Brandon Smith. The hulking offensive tackle was the surprise of one on ones for us. He was the only one brave enough to go up against Greg Gilmore repeatedly. Smith only beat him once but we didn't see any other defender there get the best of him.
Keep the name Jeff Deleon from TC Roberson in mind. He performed well on Saturday and has an offer from ECU. He's a 6-4, 290 pound offensive lineman and State in interested although just in the early stages of showing interest right now.
From a distance, Northern Guilford's T.J. Logan could pass for the identical twin of Dakwa Nichols. Physically, both are very similar. He could play running back or slot receiver on the next level. UNC has been out front but we hear the Heels may not have formally offered yet.
Connor Mitch, Riley Ferguson, Marquez Grayson, R.J. Prince and Marquez North were some of the notable no-shows for Saturday's workout.
NC's Best Take the Field for Shrine Workout
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