Pack Pride breaks down Saturday's top five performers from the North Carolina Shrine Bowl squad. This is a scouting report of the top players from the game and is not indicative of which player may be the best college prospect.
1. RB Norman Whitley from Richmond County....Whitley was named offensive MVP for the NC squad and deservedly so. The diminutive back rushed for a game-high 132 yards and two crucial scores for the Tar Heels. Whitley seemed much more comfortable in the NC offensive set than his counterpart, Josh Adams. He showed a super burst through any crease he could find in the South Carolina defense and displayed amazing toughness, often grinding out an extra yard or two. Perhaps Whitley's greatest asset is his vision and overall feel for the RB position. He knows when to duck and take a two yard gain but also had an impressive wiggle that helped him rip off several nice runs. On the collegiate level, his size, or lack thereof, is likely to be an issue. However, Whitley is a player that will be an asset to some program whether he stays at RB, moves to CB or plays in a utility-type role.
2. S/LB Deunta Williams from White Oak High School...In the 5-0 defense, the OLB's often thrive and Williams made the most of his time at that position on Saturday. What impresses you most with Williams is his athleticism. On one play he blasted off the left tackle and jumped ‘Manny Lawson-like' to knock down a pass for the SC QB. That was just one of several impressive plays Williams had on the day. Williams also brings a swagger and attitude to the game that could help make him a leader of the UNC defense in years to come should he ultimately play at safety or linebacker.
3. OL Hutch Eckerson from Lumberton High School....Linemen rarely get kudos in an all-star game but Eckerson played a whale of a game on Saturday. The improvements he's made in his game from just last summer to now was impressive. Eckerson lined up at left tackle and lead the way on many of the NC squad's successful runs to that side. He drove a SC defender 15 yards downfield on a crucial fourth down play late in the game. The SC defender was so irritated at the play that he drew a 15 yard penalty and helped sustain the NC drive. Eckerson has clearly added quite a bit of bulk to his frame and it hasn't slowed him a bit. He also plays with a nasty streak and, on this day, despite the fact his name didn't end in Johnson, was the most active and effective offensive lineman on the Tar Heel squad.
4. DL Tavares Brown from Richmond County...If you're looking for a 6-3, 260 pound defensive end with 4.6 speed then Brown is not you guy. If you're looking for a football player and someone that just goes out and makes life miserable for the opposing offense, then Brown is exactly what you want. In a defensive set where defensive lineman rarely put up big stats, Brown dispelled that myth and finished off the day with two sacks and four tackles. He was super quick off the line of scrimmage and was excellent and shedding blocks and penetrating into the backfield. Brown seemed to be in the QB's back pocket off and on all day. He would remind a lot of Pack fans of former DE Maurice Charles.
5. LB Brandon Spikes from Crest High School...You have to give Spikes credit. Facing a team that threw the ball on most downs, it was unlikely that Spikes would make a huge impact at MLB because he spent so much time dropping into pass coverage. However, he found a way to make to blow up several plays and was clearly the biggest hitter on the field for either team. On one play in particular, SC set up a well-designed screen pass which Spikes read perfectly. He shed a block and made a crushing hit on the SC receiver. Spikes' potential is limitless but it will be interesting to see if he's still playing MLB three or four years from now.
Best player you've never heard of....LB Drew Adams from Butler High School....So we admit it's unlikely you'll ever find many 5-10, 185 pound outside linebackers in college, but if you're just a fan of high school football, Adams is a treat to watch. He was all over the field Saturday, making tackles, blocking kicks and just seemed to be around the ball on every play. Although he won't receive the publicity of his highly-regarded cohorts on defense, Adams more than held his own against the recruiting elite in this game.