Steven Mitchell was impressive on Sunday and has clearly established himself as one of the top athletes in the west region. His film shows him making a ton of athletic plays but not necessarily featured as a receiver. You see him in the backfield or returning kicks but on Sunday, Mitchell showed he can catch and made several acrobatic plays.
He looked polished as a pass catcher and wasn't fighting the ball. He's not blessed with great size and isn't the guy you want going over the middle with a cornerback trailing him but he's a definite game breaker and should be an impact player at the next level. He got locked in for NIKE's The Opening immediately following the event.
Although Mitchell won MVP honors, the player that may have created the most buzz following the event was Moreno Valley (Calif.) wide out Demorea Stringfellow. Stringfellow fits the mold of the big, physical receivers that are all the rage when the NFL Draft rolls around every year. When you have the size of Stringfellow, you're never covered because he can either outmuscle or out-leap a smaller defensive back. He has strong hands, catches the ball away from his body and even though he may not be a burner, he can run well enough. Simply said, there's not a program out West that Stringfellow can't play for.
Tight ends rarely get much consideration for WR MVP honors but Riverside (Calif.) J.W. North athlete Marcus Baugh was that good. The first thing that catches your eye is just what an athletic body he has. When you draw up what a tight end should look like, Baugh definitely fits that picture.
He looks all of 6-4 with a strong 215-220 pound frame that will easily hold more weight. He runs well, can stretch the field or do the underneath stuff you want your tight end to be able to do. Baugh even said he enjoys blocking and isn't afraid to mix it up in the trenches and is just a tremendous all around prospect.
Another player who currently plays receiver but projects as a tight end in college is Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei's Thomas Duarte. Duarte is as sure handed as they come and is one of the most natural pass catchers you'll find. You barely hear a sound when he catches the football and his ability to run should cause a lot of matchup problems at the next level.
Another ‘big' receiver who impressed was Etiwanda's (Calif.) Jordan Villamin. Villamin looks almost 6-5 and has a huge frame. He could grow in to a tight end as well or stay at receiver depending on how much weight he gains in college. He's another kid with very strong hands and made some nice catches with a defensive back draped all over him.
For pure speed and explosiveness, you won't find many better than Santa Monica's (Calif.) Sebastian LaRue. Larue can get down the field and is a true home run threat. He connected multiple times on deep post patterns and is probably the top home run threat in the region. Larue also has good hands and is a pure receiver, meaning he can do more than just catch streaks and long balls.
Maybe the best duo out there on Sunday was Long Beach (Calif.) Jordan's John Ross and junior Rahshead Johnson. Ross is right there with Mitchell and Larue in terms of being an explosive pass catcher who is also a dangerous return threat. He runs well, has solid hands and even brings a little more size than his two contemporaries.
Johnson caught our eye in Las Vegas a week ago and shined once again at Cerritos. He's smallish in stature but has a solid frame and is very quick. He explodes in and out of his breaks and catches everything. A year from now, don't be surprised if everyone isn't talking about Johnson as one of the elite pass catchers in the state.
A few other receivers who stood out included San Diego (Calif.) Helix's Kendal Keys, Harbor City (Calif.) Narbonne's A.J. Richardson, Long Beach Poly's (Calif.) Thomas Tucker, Encino (Calif.) Crespi's Jabrian Blackwell and Rancho Cucamonga's (Calif.) Victor Bolden.
There was a solid group of running backs on hand at the SoCal NFTC, with a couple of Scout 300 prospects in attendance
Yet the MVP was one of the more underrated backs in the Southland.
Walking away with MVP honors was Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure back Zachary Green, who started off showing well in the positional drills and when the running backs went up against the linebackers in pass-blocking drills, Green routinely got the best of his defender, including getting five-star linebacker Michael Hutchings in a 1-on-1. Green is a shorter, but compact and powerful back, who's got tremendous strength in the lower body and did a great job in using his lower body to leverage against the backers. In the 1-on-1 passing drills, Green continued his good play, showing soft hands and good wiggle to get open.
Redlands (Calif.) back Craig Lee had a very good performance, especially in the positional drills, looking real fluid and shifty. Lee has really good feet and good size and looks like an ideal back for the collegiate game, with really good balance and burst.
Bakersfield (Calif.) Stockdale running back Deon Martin, a commit to Cal, also looked good on the day. Like Green, Martin isn't the tallest back, but he's well put-together and did a good job in the pass-rushing drills, holding his ground on numerous occasions, though fellow Central California native Kevin Palma got the best of him on one. Martin looked really good in catching the ball.
Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian running back Damon Riggins is just a sophomore, but he should be the guy for the Lions next year with their two backs graduating, and he had a good camp on Sunday, and should continue the Lions' success in the backfield.
Also having good days were Chatsworth (Calif.) Sierra Canyon's Xavier Menifield, Bakersfield (Calif.) Liberty's Corbin Jountti and Menifee (Calif.) Heritage's Jamal Morrow. San Diego (Calif.) Madison back Pierre Cormier was at the camp, but a hamstring injury kept him from performing.