The Opening Regional: Offensive Standouts

Mar. 8 -- We break down the best UCLA offensive prospects at today's Opening Regional Los Angeles. The quarterbacks struggled, while a couple of offensive lineman look very good...

QUARTERBACKS

It was a generally poor day for quarterbacks, with none of the big names in the West looking like particularly elite talents. Not to make an excuse, but it was a breezy day and that might have contributed to the ball floating on the quarterbacks.

K.J. Costello – Costello’s motion has gotten funkier since last summer, and it hasn’t served him well in throwing a consistent ball. He uncorked a few nice, strong throws throughout the day, but he was very inconsistent, with the ball often fluttering quite a bit. His motion and stride are now very herky-jerky, and, while he has good arms strength, the awkward motion looks like it’s putting too much pressure on his shoulder and arm.

Matt Fink – Fink looks the part physically, at an easy 6’3, with wide shoulders and plenty of room to thicken out. If you could envision what you might want your quarterback prospect to look like physically in March of his junior year, this would be it. He is pretty thin right now, though, and that might explain his lack of arm strength. Of the first eight or nine throws we saw, at least three skipped in the grass in front of the receiver, and throughout the day his throws were arriving just a few beats late. Even though the wind might have been affecting his throws, making them flutter, like everyone else, he still didn’t show that he had the arm strength of a high D-1 QB. He seemed a little slow in his decision making, particularly during 7-on-7 at the end when he was faced with a few different coverages.

Devon Modster – Of the big name guys, Modster probably threw the best, but even he wasn’t as good as we’ve seen him. He has a tendency to dip the ball behind his head right before he throws, which adds some length to his delivery that shouldn’t be necessary. He was more accurate than the other elite guys in the West, but given what we saw Sunday, that really isn’t saying a whole lot.

Kevin Davidson – Davidson might have had the biggest arm of the bunch on Sunday, and he seemed best able to cut through the breeze. He’s got a pretty big, pretty stiff body, and doesn’t look like a very good athlete, and his throwing motion looks very forced and unnatural. His decision making is a bit slow, and it looked like it took him a while to get through progressions in the 7-on-7. From the standpoint of pure arm strength, though, he was probably the best of the quarterbacks.

Dakota Miller – This lefty from San Marcos Mission Hills, the same high school as UCLA signee Dechaun Holiday, has been one of our favorites to watch for over a year now, and he didn’t disappoint Sunday. He’s not a real prospect, with a short, somewhat squat body, even though he’s grown to probably 5-11, but it you’re talking pure throwing mechanics and spiral he won the day. He generally showed off a very good arm and threw consistently and accurately all day. He’ll make some lower level school very happy.

Max Gilliam, Thousand Oaks (Calif.) Gilliam didn’t get too much exposure in this camp since he was relegated to the B group, which wasn’t justified since he was among the best quarterbacks on the day. He’s about 6-1.5 to 6-2 and 180, has a good body, but not a wide frame, so he couldn’t conceivably put on a great deal of weight. He was fluid in his footwork and showed naturally athleticism, and had one of the better throwing motions of anyone in the camp, and threw the ball with pretty good power. His throws fluttered sometimes, as did everyone’s on the day. He ran a 4.62, which was among the best for quarterbacks at the camp, and that time confirmed what his film has shown – that he has some straight-ahead wheels. Probably what would hold back big-time offers is his limits physically, with the question being just how big he can get, and just how strong his arm is. He’s definitely someone UCLA should have on their radar, and is easily in the same ballpark with Modster and Fink.

Patrick O’Brien – The quarterback out of San Juan Hills won the MVP, and it was definitely well deserved. He has a strong arm, and threw the ball accurately and on time. He doesn’t have a great body, looking pretty thick and not entirely with good weight, and didn’t appear to have very good athleticism, but his arm should make him a decent prospect at lower Pac-12 schools.

Tua Tagovailoa, the 2017 prospect from Hawaii, might have had the best overall day. He started out slow, floating some balls himself, but he then settled down and started throwing accurate darts. He's physically not ideal, at about 6-1 and a bit thick, but he moved well, and showed high D-1 arm strength -- and as still just a sophomore.

RECEIVERS

Despite it being a great year for receivers on the West Coast, Sunday was not full of elite talent at the receiver position, largely because many of the guys who might be elite receivers elected to play defense. Still, a few players stood out.

Dylan Crawford
Dylan Crawford -- Santa Margarita’s Crawford won the receiver MVP award, and, to be honest, we really didn’t agree. He’s not particularly quick or explosive, looking more like a possession receiver with some decent straight ahead speed. He had some drops early on, but settled down to make some tough catches in the 1-on-1 period and during 7-on-7. He’s a good receiver and a decent prospect, but there just didn’t seem to be much that was elite there in terms of explosiveness. He did arrive at the even wearing UCLA gear.

Tyler Vaughns – The La Puente Bishop Amat prospect perhaps doesn’t have any one elite quality, but he’s at the very good end of a lot of things. He has good speed and good explosion to go along with great body control and very good hands. His route-running was excellent on Sunday, and he showed great concentration on a few catches in traffic. He drew the unfortunate assignment of going against Jack Jones on basically every rep in 1-on-1s, and Jones won the majority of them. We’ve heard that there could be academic issues, of the sort that even USC might have to back off.

Damian Alloway – Alloway, from Fontana Summit, was very productive on Sunday, seemingly catching a ball every time we looked at him during 1-on-1s. He has quick feet, and showed good quickness and speed throughout drills. We didn’t see that elite level burst, though, and he was often having to make tough catches because he wasn’t getting a ton of separation with cornerbacks. He did drop a few, too.

Steffon McKnight, from Mira Mesa, was among the best handful of receivers, even though, as we said, it wasn’t a great bunch. He has good size, probably 6-1, but is very narrow, with narrow shoulders. He ran very good routes and was very good in disguising his cuts, and then showed good ball skills. UCLA has offered as an athlete, but we’re uncertain if the future in college is at receiver or DB.

Joseph Lewis, The 2017 receiver from Los Angeles Hawkins, didn’t disappoint, looking like the elite player we’ve seen all throughout the spring so far. He has very good speed for his height (probably 6’2-ish) and already shows advanced route-running ability.

RUNNING BACKS

There wasn’t a guy who was just clearly an elite national prospect. Most of the good prospects had just one thing not quite right with them – mostly that they were all on the smaller side. But there was still a decent amount of talent.

Sean McGrew, the St. John Bosco prospect, was one of the fastest participants in the camp, running a 4.44, and looking smooth and explosive doing it. His burst in the middle 20 yards was very impressive. He’s probably 5-7 and 175, but he’s gotten a bit thicker since we last saw him, and in a good way. While he just isn’t very big, height-wise, there is, of course, a question of just how big he could get, but given the way he’s added good weight and it looking good on him, and how young he still looks, we would bet he could get to 195 comfortably in a college program and with maturity, and not lose any of his speed. In the drills he showed great feet and burst, and then, interestingly, when he got in the one-on-ones against the linebackers, didn’t really stand out. McGrew isn’t necessarily a shifty guy who’s going to make you miss; he’s a one-foot-in-the-ground-and-go guy, so he didn’t juked many linebackers today. He did look very natural catching the ball and was a good blocker, even going up against much better linebackers. The speed is a difference maker.

Melquise Stovall, from Lancaster Paraclete, is the exact kind of running back who will showed really well in this environment, and won the running backs MVP. He’s pretty fast, running 4.55, and showed good explosion, and he’s about 5-8 and 180, so small and compact – and very shifty, so he pretty much was the best running back in the one-on-ones with the linebackers, getting the most whiffs. He He’s pretty small-framed, so there probably isn’t a great deal of weight he could add, but he’s good enough as a scat-back in the 190ish range with his speed and ability to make tacklers miss. He’s not probably someone UCLA should offer now, but should be on the to-watch list.

Dylan Thigpen, from LaVerne Damien, the brother of former Bruin Damien Thigpen, had a good day, looking quick and elusive in both the drills and one-on-ones. We don’t know what he ran in the 40, but would suspect it wasn’t 4.4, probably in the high 4.5s. But we liked the fact that he was a little bigger than we thought he’d be, probably 5-9 and 180, and had a good body with a decent frame that had some muscle to it, and looked like it could hold more weight easily. He and Stovall were probably the two best in the one-on-ones in terms of making the linebackers miss, with Thigpen having some quick feet and instincts. He’s someone UCLA definitely needs to bring into their camp.

Demetric Felton
Demetric Felton, from Temecula, was close in stature and ability to Thigpen. He’s about 5-9 and probably 180-ish, and a little thinner than Thigpen and possibly a little narrower. He ran very well (we didn’t get his 40 time, but will soon), and some some good cuts and moves in the one-on-ones. He’s also someone UCLA needs to keep evaluating and hopefully bring to camp.

Alexander Mattison, from San Bernadino, achieved the best SPARQ score. He's a bigger back, at about 5-11 and probably 200, and looks great physically, with some big arms and thick legs. He ran just okay (at a 4.6-something we believe), but showed some decent agility in the drills.

Chase Lucas, from Chandler (Ariz.), chose to work with the running backs and that was probably a mistake. He’s about 6-0 and maybe 180, pretty lean but with an excellent body – for a cornerback. He looked good running his 40 and good in the drills, but didn’t have the shiftiness to make tacklers miss in the one-on-ones. We’d really like to see him work as a corner.

Greg Johnson, the 2017 prospect from Los Angeles Hawkins, looked good running his 40 and especially in the one-on-ones, displaying some good elusiveness.

Stephen Carr, the 2017 prospect from Fontana, could have been the running back prospect with the most upside. He looked to be about 5-11 and 185, with a very good body combined with nice quickness.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

Michael Eletise, from Honolulu (HI) Kaiser (Pictured above), was selected to The Opening finals after a good performance throughout the day. Playing guard, Eletise has a great first punch, a strong lower base and good feet and stays in his stance low, using his hands well on his defender and stabilizing him. He didn’t lose a rep in the 1-on-1s and went 3-0 in the Linemen Challenge. The top guard in the West, Eletise backed it up on Sunday. He visited UCLA early Sunday morning before the camp, and we heard that he’s very enamored of UCLA.

Frank Martin, the Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei product, also had a really good day, playing right tackle, and showing a lot of nasty and aggression in the 1-on-1s. He’s a pretty polished player, moves his feet well, has good hand placement, and did a good job staying low and keeping his defender out wide. He did lose a rep in the Lineman Challenge when the end threw a move on him and he reacted slowly, but that was a rarity on the day. He was no worse than in the top three linemen.

Toleafoa Auwae, from Kapolei (Hawaii), won the MVP for the offensive lineman, the second year in a row that a Hawaiian lineman won the positional MVP after Fred Ulu-Perry last year. Like Ulu-Perry, Auwae has had a slow recruitment to start, but that changed when Texas Tech gave him his first offer just after the camp today. Auwae can play any of the interior line spots, and did a great job throughout the day playing low, getting under his defender and keeping him from getting any penetration. As he continues to refine his body, he’s got a chance to be a good inside lineman. He visited UCLA the week before the camp.

Alex Akingbulu, from Harbor City (Calif.) Narbonne, was one of the players we were most excited to see. First, he’s going to need to add weight. A lot of it. He said he weighed in just over 230, after playing around 250-255 this season, which he lost in basketball. He’s really slight and said he wants to get up to 265, which he’ll need to do. We think, though, that weight is going to be a problem, because he has a narrow frame, looking more like a small forward than an offensive tackle. He actually moved really well and has very good feet, but he was overpowered a couple times by his defender who was just bigger and stronger than he. He also had a tendency to lunge at his defender instead of getting inside his block. He’s raw and a bit of a project, but at at least 6-5, with long arms, you can see some tools there.

Nathan Smith (Pictured in top pic, on right), the Murrieta (Calif.) Mesa lineman, is another guy who’s still on the slight side, and can serve to add much more weight. He’s only about 260, but with a frame that can probably add 30 more pounds, with a good lower body. He was light on his feet and long, but played too high at times and quicker defenders who played low made it a little more difficult for him. But like Akingbulu, the tools are there, with Smith having more physical upside than Akingbulu. We saw him grimace a few times during the camp and found out that he was suffering back spasms, but decided to gut out the camp anyway.

Nate Herbig, from Honoluu (Hawaii) St. Louis, who visited UCLA unofficially this past week, was probably the most surprising player we saw on the line. He easily had the best first punch of any lineman we saw, and actually beat Scout 300 defensive tackle Garrett Rand on consecutive reps, after delivering the punch. Herbig needs to refine his body a bit but moved pretty well still for his size. He’s definitely a guard at the next level and someone UCLA will watch through spring and summer.

Daniel Juarez, the prospect from Corona Centennial, was probably the guy we didn't know about that we came away believing he has a chance to play at UCLA's level. He's about 6'5, or maybe taller, and probably 260ish, and he had the best body of any tackle-type in the camp. He had some bulk, but not too much, and had some muscle, and had proportionate lower body to go with long arms. It's the kind of body you could see easily adding 30 pounds of muscle, no problem. He's pretty raw and doesn't know much technique, but he showed very good feet for his size, especially in the one-on-ones. His balance was exceptional, with an ability to keep straight and not lunge while moving his feet. To be candid, he looked better than Nathan Smith, who UCLA has already offered. He's definitely someone UCLA should get on and invite to their camp in June.


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