The weekend starts early for the seven-on-seven as the small schools (1A-3A) kick off play on Thursday afternoon. They each play three pool play games and then are seeded for single elimination.
Coming in to this tournament as an analyst for Sooners Illustrated instead of Scout.com certainly changed my strategy on how to attack this event.
Normally I would dive right in and watch the top dogs in the country, but because there were not really any class of 2009 recruits in the small school division I switched the script and started by watching potential 2010 targets.
The first player I wanted to scout was Hitchcock running back Darius Dotson, who will be one of the top-rated players in the state next season. Dotson, was definitely a man amongst boys. He looks grown already. The seven-on-seven is not really his game, because he is a power back, but he does have some moves as well. Interestingly, OU was the first school out of his mouth when asked about favorites.
I then slid over to see Second Baptist and gunslinger Connor Wood, who gave Tyrik Rollison and Garrett Gilbert a run as the top arm at the event regardless of class or school size. What makes Wood so special is his arm is strong enough to deliver the ball in between the linebackers and defensive backs on an out pattern, but he is also probably one of the more balanced an accurate guys that you will ever see.
Enemy Report- While watching Wood, Navasota was one field over, so I had the chance to scout out future opponents Dexter Pratt (LSU) and Brandal Jackson (A&M). The guy who really caught my eye was Jackson. He does not do any one thing particularly well, but he is athletic and makes huge plays on the ball. With his physique and the way he moves around, Pratt looked more like a linebacker to me than a running back.
The talk of the afternoon (besides Connor Wood) was probably Diboll big man Antonio Johnson, who moved extremely well for a player that is checking in at about 6-foot-7, 250 pounds. The first two schools out of his mouth were KSU and OU. He has major potential as a defensive end or offensive tackle recruit.
Giddings had a number of talented prospects, but one who could emerge on the Sooner radar is receiver/safety Cory Brite. At about 6-1, 175 he was extremely athletic. He was a force to be reckoned with on both sides of the ball. On one reception he skied over the defender to haul in a TD, and then a few seconds later he did the same on defense to intercept a pass.
Melissa was playing Giddings at the time and they had who was probably the top 2011 prospect that I saw in John Young, who was as advanced as many of the 2010 stars that I had been watching.
Enemy Report- When scouting for SI you hate to have to say that a Longhorn commit was the best player that you saw, but that is indeed the case with Brownwood athlete Kenny Vaccaro. He is silky smooth and physical. He put a move on a defensive back that was so slick that his Brownwood teammates did not have the air to cheer him on because they were holding their breath. Vaccaro was the class of the small school division.
Day Two of the event was the longest day and started it by watching New Waverly take on Celina. Celina had a nice looking 2010 TE (Caleb Loney), who could be special if adds some size over the next year.
I then walked outside the practice fields to watch a little bit of the Texas A&M big lineman camp. I only got to watch the dline, so the top 2009 guys there were A&M commits Stephen Barrera and Rhontae Scales. One other impressive specimen was Fitiseula Partsch, who not only looked good, but moved extremely well, before he was sidelined with an ankle injury. There was some talk it seemed of a potential A&M offer, so he may be worth keeping an eye on.
The top underclassman that I saw at the camp was 2010 Connally High lineman Troy Baker. He was as impressive of a specimen that I had seen since my feet hit College Station soil. He did not move as smoothly through the drills as some of the veterans, but the potential is there and it is through the roof. I definitely expect OU to track him next year.
Before packing up to go and watch the big schools I had the chance to spend a few moments talking with Jamarkus McFarland, who was a big dude. He is definitely built like an elite defensive tackle. He was a very well spoken and thoughtful recruit. He is taking recruiting in stride and was very grounded about being a top level recruit.
After watching a portion of the camp it was time for the big schools to kick–off their seven-on-seven. The format is three pool play games with four teams in each pool. The top two teams from pool play advance to a Championship bracket and the bottom two teams are placed in to a consolation bracket.
The first game I headed over to watch was Mesquite and my boy Marcus Trice, and he did not disappoint. He started the game out with a catch, and then he kept he momentum going with another catch on play number two. Trice is rock solid and there is no dount he could play for anybody. http://oklahoma.scout.com/2/768907.html
Enemy Report- Future Texas gunslinger Garrett Gilbert was crisp with his passes, but was not the type of layer that you expect to see when scouting a Top 25 national level recruit. He has a lot to work with, but will not be the type that will be game ready coming in to a Top 10-15 level football program.
Temple's Lache Seastrunk was his normal upbeat self. He looked good running around, but his teammate WR Tevin Reese is the star of the Temple seven-on-seven show. OU remains one of his top choices, but he will be dropping down to LSU for a visit next week. Klein Oak's Jordan Najvar is a nice looking pass catching type of tight end, but the one thing that would have me worried from a protection standpoint is his build. He is not that big from the waste down and you worry if he could handle the type of monsters that the Big 12 throws at you in this day and age. He is definitely athletic enough to be a normal tight end, but I do not think he is the guy you would be looking for to throw in as Brody Eldridge type of position.
The real fun started when I walked the long distance over to see OU commit Jonathon Miller and Naaman Forest. As a RB Miller does not get the chance to work on his real skills, but his teammates John Harris and Terrence Bullitt did. Harris has to rank as one of the very best I saw. He is smooth and athletic. He goes to get the ball. Bullitt is long and is better in coverage than I gave him credit for. I can see why he has so many offers after watching him.
Enemy Report- Will Ford was at one time committed to OU, but now will sign with Texas Tech. He is not as big as I expected ( I would guess 6-0 even or a shade under), but he athletic and well built. He will definitely be a safety on the next level. I was actually more impressed with Bullitt than Ford.
If you are looking for a sleeper in the class of 2009, look no farther than South Garland receiver Darnell Smith (6-3, 190). Smith is a big target that uses his body and moves like a grisly veteran. He was the go to guy. Also keep a close eye on junior safety Will Wright, who will be special as well. OU has had some success recruiting Garland already, so South will always be a program we cover closely.
Westwood features one of the best class of 2010 recruits in Princeton Collins. Collins wants to play running back, but he looked pretty good at corner. It seems like Texas has an early advantage if they offer a scholarship. As good as Collins was Schertz Clemens corner Zack Winbush may have been even better.
Two recruits who looked nice, but did not list OU amongst their favorites in interviews were offerees LB Chris Williams and RB Christine Michael. Williams is back on the field and healthy and Michael had blazing speed.
One player who could push John Harris as the top receiver in Texas in 2010 could be Tomball's Jordan Leslie. He is not as athletic as Harris, but is a different type of receiver all together. He runs crisp routes and gets open. He already has college size. Schools will be lining up to get his signature.
The last day wrapped up with me watching Mesquite take on Lufkin. I wanted to get a last look at Trice before heading out and he did not disappoint. He was even more active in this game than he was in the first. He caught big pass after big pass and had a key break up in pass protection to help lead Mesquite to yet another win. He is fearless when going up to get the ball on offense or defense. It just looks like he wants it that much more.
Before heading out I had the chance to talk to A&M publisher David Sandhop, who informed me that Aggie commit Chris Henderson was now taking a long hard look at OU. The way he put it Henderson was very serious about OU, but it would come down to how serious OU is about Henderson. It is safe to say that he is on the fence at the very least.
After the Mesquite/Lufkin game I made the long trek back to Tulsa, Oklahoma to start getting out some of the major reports from the event. Mesquite was able to advance to the finals, but they were upset by a feisty Richland squad. I am sure that I missed some-exciting tidbits, but these were the highlights from what was all-in-all a very exciting trip.