After walking around in 70 degree weather on Tuesday we were welcomed to Gustafson by a bright sun and extremely cold winds. It looked warm when I left the hotel so I didn't dress for the conditions. Needless to say it wasn't the most pleasant experience of my life. But watching the nation's top players made me feel a bit warmer inside.
Some thoughts from Tuesday's morning practice….
It all starts with Terrelle Pryor. Pryor is arguably the biggest name in high school football. The comparisons to Vince Young as a runner are legitimate. He's a legit 6-6 and runs like a back. The thing that keeps me from loving Pryor is his ability to throw the football. His arm is strong, but his delivery isn't. Pryor has almost no technique as a passer. He will need a lot of coaching as a passer but his athletic skills are top notch.
MarQueis Gray has a very strong arm and showed promise. When he is right the ball jumps out of his arm. He threw a beautiful seam route for a TD in the morning practice. Gray isn't consistent as a thrower and needs a lot of work, but he has good size and plenty of arm to work with. Star Jackson is a very good athlete with a good arm. He doesn't have the arm strength of Pryor or Gray, but he has enough. As with Pryor and Gray, he struggles with consistency. Gray and Jackson threw the best and are ahead of Pryor as passers, but all three quarterbacks struggle with consistency…watch for this on Saturday.
Jonas Gray missed the morning practice due to an ankle injury. It will be interesting to see how healthy he will be for Saturday's game. He likely would have been the primary ball carrier for the East squad. Lamaar Thomas and Ryan Williams are very similar in style. Williams is not a true burner, but he is extremely quick and has lightning moves. Thomas shows good hands, and like Williams, is more of a scat-back than a true running back. He's a player Ohio State doesn't have right now on offense and should be a good addition to their offense.
The East is loaded with talented wide receivers. The most impressive of the bunch was DeAndre Brown from Ocean Springs, Miss. Brown is every bit of 6-6 and is fast. I remember the days when 6-4+ guys who could fly were rare. In this recruiting class there are at least five guys like that. Brown is a smooth athlete and has good ball skills. As he develops his game and gets stronger he could be great. Brice Butler might be the most fundamentally sound high school wide receiver I've seen. Butler isn't a burner but is smooth, runs precise routes, and fits in nicely to USC's offense. DeVier Posey also has been impressive. Posey is also a very smooth player and is a bit faster than I saw on film. He and Butler both need to fill out a bit but possess outstanding skills. Posey is better after the catch. but Butler is the better route runner.
John Goodman proved today he not only belongs in this game but also proved he belongs in the discussion on who is the best wide receiver on the East roster. Goodman is as smooth as Butler and Posey and shows every bit of the play-making ability of Posey. He had three consecutive dropped passes during the one-on-one period but I wasn't concerned. His drops were due to technique mistakes (taking his eye off the ball, running before he secures the catch) and not spotty hands. The rest of practice Goodman showed very natural hands and catches the ball well.
Jonathan Baldwin has a chance to be the most dominant football player in the Big East in the very near future. Baldwin is as raw as they come but possesses as much pure physical talent as any football player in the country. That's saying something. Anyone who still has him listed as a tight end needs to come down to San Antonio and have a look at Mr. Baldwin. He's every bit of 6-6 and runs like a deer. He's listed at 225 but still has the frame to add another 20 pounds. If the Pittsburgh coaches can harness his physical tools and develop his game he will be a stud in college. Kenny Tate from DeMatha High School in Maryland rounds out the East receiving corp. Tate has a tremendous frame and shows good athletic ability. I heard Tate performed very well on Monday but I wasn't overly impressed with him today. He is spotty at times catching the football and doesn't look natural as a receiver. I will try to watch him more over the week and try to get a better feel.
It was frustrating watching the East practice with regards to the tight ends. Even during 7-on-7 periods they were asked to block more often than they were asked to run routes. Kyle Rudolph looks great physically. He has great height and the frame to add plenty of weight. What I liked about Rudolph was his ability to get after it in the run game. He doesn't win all the battles but he fights, plays with good leverage, and blocks to the whistle. When he struggles it's usually due to him not using his hands well. He'll allow the end to get into his chest and get knocked back a bit. The few occasions Rudolph was used as a pass receiver you see why he is a 5* player and the nation's top tight end.
On one particular play Rudolph blew past the linebackers and caught a "seam" route for a 35-yard touchdown. Rudolph is going to be special, although we might not get to see it on Saturday. Jacob Stoneburner has a chance to play wide receiver at Ohio State. I don't know if Ohio State is recruiting him to play there, but I'll bet that Stoneburner lines up plenty out wide as a Buckeye. Stoneburner has outstanding speed and reminds me a lot of Mike Ragone. Also similar to Ragone is that Stoneburner is more fast than he is quick. He doesn't have Rudolph's ability as a blocker and is at least two inches shorter. Buckeye fans will like this kid!
The East offensive line has some talented players but none of the players have been consistently dominant. At times Mike Adams looks like a future Top 10 NFL Draft pick. Other times he shows poor footwork and gets blown by outside. Adams needs A LOT of work but has great size, extremely long arms, and a ton of raw strength. He has a chance to be a good one. The East coaches have been using Lucas Nix at guard. Nix doesn't look comfortable playing guard and isn't the same player. I've always thought of Nix as one of the nation's top players so he gets a mulligan today. Expect him to get much better during the week.
A.J. Harmon is a monster on the hoof. It's very hard for defenders to get around him. When he gets a hold of defenders they lose. Harmon needs a lot of work from a technique standpoint and is wildly inconsistent but the talent is there. Josh Jenkins struggled today. He got beat a lot off the ball and speed rushers gave him fits. Barrett Jones is having trouble adjusting to the move to center. It wouldn't be fair to judge him too much for this reason. He has been okay during one-on-one's but hasn't been as dominant as I've seen him before.
Lane Clelland and Michael Golic have had the same problems all week. They lack the size and strength at this point to hold up against a talented East defensive line. Their struggles are during the one-on-one periods. During team periods both players have been much better. Clelland doesn't play with great technique. If you are going to weigh only 260 pounds and not play with technique you will get beat. Far too often he is on his heels and allows the defenders to get in on him and push him back. He showed good quickness at tackle, and was at his best working up to the second level. On one snap he came off, worked to the second level, and drove Nigel Bradham back a few yards. That was encouraging. Golic is basically the player I expected him to be. He is fundamentally sound, he is sharp snapping the football, but struggles to hold up physically against the nation's top defensive players. But that doesn't mean Golic is just a "legacy" commit as some have mentioned. Like Clelland, Golic has shown well during the team periods. He is quick off the ball, reacts well, and plays with good leverage. Golic is a ways away physically but has tools to work with.
TOP EAST PLAYERS – OFFENSIVE
• Jonathan Baldwin, WR
• DeAndre Brown, WR
• DeVier Posey, WR
• Brice Butler, WR
• John Goodman, WR
• Kyle Rudolph, TE
• Terrelle Pryor, QB
• Mike Adams, OL
• MarQuies Gray, QB
• Ryan Williams, RB
First Look at the Talent on the East
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