The Opening Regional: Defensive Standouts

Mar. 9 -- The defensive backs were the most talented group, with three UCLA prospects showing as potentially elite cornerbacks...

DEFENSIVE BACKS

With many of the best receivers electing to take reps on defense, the defensive backs group easily had the most talent at the camp for the day.

Jack Jones, from Long Beach Poly, was the Pierson/Woods MVP of the entire camp. He’s about 6-0, and still pretty thin, at probably 165-ish, but he’s put on some muscle since we last saw him without pads, so his body is going in the exact right direction. He had a series of about 15 reps during 1-on-1s that was just about the most impressive thing we’ve seen in one of these camp settings. He played almost exclusively cornerback, and shut down virtually everyone he went up against, from Tyler Vaughns to Dylan Crawford to Damian Alloway. About the only guy who took a rep from him was Trevon Sidney. Jones has elite level quickness and anticipation skills, frequently breaking on the ball long before the receiver. He had at least three interceptions during the 1-on-1 period, along with a few more breakups. He also was very hungry for reps, frequently cutting in line to go against the elite receivers, which is something most coaches will tell you they like to see in these kinds of environments. He’s still raw in playing corner, but his natural ability at being able to stay with a receiver and anticipate makes him one of the best cornerback prospects we’ve ever seen at the Nike Camp.

When Jones got bored with playing corner, he took a few reps at receiver and looked very good there as well, catching one swing pass and exploding quickly down the sideline with it. We think he might be best suited for corner, though, after watching him dominate all day on Sunday.

David Long – Long was outshined by Jones, but if Jones hadn’t been there we would have been electing Long as the elite cornerback prospect. He and Jones both showed very quick feet during drills, and Long, like Jones, made an effort to match himself up against the best receivers during 1-on-1s. He’s about as quick as Jones, but doesn’t have quite that level of supernatural anticipation. He’s probably 5’11 to 6’0, a little thicker as well, and has a very good body for the position. In the defensive back drills, the two guys who had the best feet going through every drill were Long and Jones. When playing corner, there’s an element to a prospect where he just doesn’t struggle to do it, that staying with a receiver is natural and easy, while most corners are fighting to keep containment. But for Long, he’s in the small sample of prospects that falls into the former category. He didn’t take any reps at receiver and we know he’s good at catching the ball, but he’s a very natural cornerback, and easily one of the best at the position in the west.

Brandon Burton (167), David Long (185), and Jack Jones (128)
Trevon Sidney (Pictured above), the prospect from La Puente Bishop Amat, is probably best described as “polished.” At both corner and receiver, he’s very technically sound, and despite running a slower 40 than many expected (we heard it was clocked in the 4.7 range), he has more than enough quickness and technique to make up for the top end speed. So, to clarify – while he might not have top-end straight-ahead speed, he’s very quick in tight spaces. He has phenomenal balance and body control when engaged, either as a cornerback or a receiver. He plays bigger than he is, looking long on the field, and then when you get up next to him, he’s maybe 5’10. He also has great ball skills on either side of the ball. But after watching him at both positions, we’d say he makes more sense as a cornerback. His quickness serves him well there, and he also anticipates receiver movement very well. He and Jones seemed to match up every time one of them switched to offense, and Sidney was about the one receiver who could beat Jones. Here’s the thing, though: If we were evaluating him as a receiver at the event, he probably had the best performance in his limited reps at that position, too.

Chaz Ah You, the 2017 safety out of Utah, looks good physically, at about 6’0 or 6’1 with a good body. He has a smooth running style, but didn’t look extremely explosive in his 40. He did well in the flexibility drills from what we saw, and he had some moments during 1-on-1s. He’s built pretty well and at his height as a sophomore in high school he projects as a pure safety in college, and he showed some potentially great athleticism for the position. He’s definitely one to watch over the next year.

Micah Croom, from Anaheim Servite, was intriguing Sunday. He is a physically-built specimen, at about 6’2 (maybe bigger) and 190, looking like a college safety already. He ran a 4.60 40, and looked really impressive running it, for a guy that size. He certainly has more than enough straight-ahead speed for safety at the next level. He’s a bit stiff, though, and his quickness isn’t great. It’ll be interesting to see if he can get a bit bigger and maybe switch down to weakside linebacker.

Troy Warner, from San Marcos Mission Hills, is a nice, long 6’2, with a pretty good body. He was a little up and down on Sunday, but toward the end of the day he seemed to be performing better. He struggled some in the DB drills, not showing very good feet comparatively to the other high-end prospects. He isn’t super quick, so if he’s lined up in man coverage he can get beaten pretty quickly by some shiftier receivers, but when he turns and runs, he does a nice job of keeping up with guys on the outside. He showed good ball skills from what we saw.

C.J. Pollard, the prospect for Gardena Serra, won the MVP for safeties at the event and got an invitation to The Opening, having a pretty good day. He’s pretty tall, at probably 6’1, and has good length, but a little narrow-shouldered. He doesn’t have the cover skills of a cornerback but solid cover skills for a safety, and that’s what makes him intriguing.

Traveon Beck, the Bellflower St. John Bosco prospect, generally had a good day, looking fairly quick in the drills and solid in the one-on-ones. He’s about 5’9 and pretty slight, and probably not a UCLA-level guy, but he’s definitely someone that UCLA should be watching this spring and summer.

Brandon Burton, the safety prospect from Gardena Serra, didn’t have a great day. He reported he had a hip injury but still wanted to participate, so give him credit for that. He’s probably 6-1 and 185ish, and in the 40, he didn’t have a great get-off, but then looked fine once he got going. It was the same in the drills, looking a little slow-footed, and it showed in the one-on-ones where he was a step slow and not fluid. He generally struggled to stay with receivers.

Deommodore Lenoir, the 2017 cornerback prospect from Los Angeles Salesian, has a bit of a weird body, looking pretty thick and stout, at about 5’10. He also ran a little peculiarly, with his arms at his sides with long strides. He was productive on Sunday, though, and was probably one of the 2017 standouts from the day, looking quick in coverage. UCLA has offered.

Thomas Graham, the new UCLA offeree from Corona Roosevelt, was impressive. He’s probably 6’0, and long and lean, and looked very smooth and fast running the 40. He showed good feet in the drills and very good instincts in the one-on-ones. He definitely has a chance to be one of the best corner prospects in the west for 2017.

LINEBACKERS

There wasn’t a great deal of talent, but a few key guys to watch.

Krys Barnes, the prospect from Bakersfield Liberty, put in a good performance, winning the camp linebacker MVP and earning the invite to The Opening, and showed he was one of the better linebacker prospects at the camp. He has a good body, a solid 6’2 and 215ish, looking fairly developed but also having a frame that could put on 15 more pounds, easily. He moved well laterally for that size, and was able to break out of his stance with ease. He was one of the best at pursuing and containing among the linebackers. He’s looking like a prototypical inside linebacker, and one of the best in the west.

Curtis Robinson
Curtis Robinson, the Santa Ana Mater Dei product, is a good 6’3 and still fairly lean, probably at 200 to 205. He has good, wide shoulders and clearly could add easy weight. He looked very long comparatively to the other linebacker prospects, and moved really well side to side and in pursuit. He didn’t record a great 40 time, but it didn’t really matter in the linebacker drills, where he looked quick for his size in short space.

Lokeni Toailoa, from Rialto Carter, is a tough evaluation. He’s probably 6’0.5 and has now gotten up to probably 215ish. The body isn’t optimum, and it appears like he’s gotten a bit thicker, and not entirely in a good way. So, there’s a worry about his body, and which direction it’s going to go. He did pretty well in the drills, not really among the quickest, but he was pretty technically sound and didn’t struggle to keep running backs in front of him. Seeing him side by side with Barnes and Robinson, though, he didn’t hold up well, in terms of his body and athleticism.

Bryce Youngquist, from Rancho Cucamonga, was a bit disappointing in this environment. His body is decent, with a long torso and shorter legs, but probably 6’1 and 215. He didn’t run exceptionally well, without a natural running motion. He appeared a little stiff and didn’t move laterally or turn well. In the one-on-ones he had some solid moments, but some breakdowns, too, when he got juked by a running back.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

There wasn’t a great deal of talent, and just a handful of guys that would be UCLA-level prospects.

Garrett Rand, from Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton, was the defensive line MVP on the day. He started slow, losing his first two reps, before taking off and not losing the rest of the event. A year ago, Rand burst on to the scene in Los Angeles and he’s bigger, stronger, quicker and has a better body than he did a year ago. He has great get-off, shoots off the line and has a quick first step, but just needs to develop a few more moves instead of just trying to use his strength to overwhelm.

Curtis Weaver, from Long Beach (Calif.) St. Anthony, got his first offer from Nevada last week and will probably add more. He’s about 6’3 and 245ish, looks really young and has a lot of room to add weight, but he was one of the quickest defensive linemen off the ball, firing off, playing low and getting past his blocker. He had really long arms, which helped him get separation. He won his first six reps with relative ease, before going against a more physical lineman, but still had some nice moments. He’s a player we think will really blossom over the next year.

Justin Holt, from Tucson (Ariz.), a commitment to Arizona, had a good day overall. He doesn’t have a great body, pretty round and short-armed, at about 6-1 and 275, but he showed decent athleticism and quickness.

Marcus Moore, the defensive end from Encino (Calif.) Crespi, beat OL Frank Martin in the Lineman Challenge and stalemated him in another. He has some offers and, if he gets bigger, could end up with more. He fires off the ball well, has a pretty good array of moves and doesn’t usually let his blocker get set. He shed his blocks well throughout the day. He had just an okay body, at about 6’2 and 230ish.

Oluwole Betiku, the defensive end from Gardena (Calif.) Serra, didn’t end up working out, not being cleared for a wrist injury in time, so he’ll camp at the Oakland The Opening Regional. Physically, though, Betiku was one of the most physically impressive prospects at the event. He looks a good 6’3 and a rocked out 240. If there’s anyone who physically resembles Owamagbe Odighizuwa, UCLA’s graduated defensive end, its Betiku.

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