There is a reason we have Chris Martin as the #1 defensive prospect in the West. Though he's projected as a defensive end, Martin is an excellent linebacker. In fact, one coach told us this weekend that Martin may be the most athletic linebacker they've ever seen. He's that good. Martin can drop unto coverage with ease, and he's so active and big, he disrupted a lot of passes. Going both ways, Martin was probably the star of the camp. The Notre Dame commit from Oakland is an instant impact guy and every bit the 5-star prospect Scout has him rated.
Teaming with Martin at linebacker was Dave Wilkerson from Monte Vista in Danville (Calif.). Wilkerson is one of those backers who you're anxious to see with pads on because of the physical nature of his game, but he's good in coverage too and real fluid in his pass drops. Wilkerson had an excellent weekend playing linebacker.
Josh Shirley from Fontana (Calif.) Kaiser was playing linebacker for the first time but he looked natural there. Shirley plays with his hand down for Kaiser, but he projects to an outside linebacker in college, at 6-2, 220. And he looked comfortable playing linebacker over the weekend. Shirley is real athletic and quick (he's a 4.5 forty guy), has quick hands and also has good fluidity to his coverage. As he plays more linebacker during the spring, expect his stock to rise. As it is, he's got a couple of offers based on his athleticism and potential move to linebacker.
Texas' native Shaun Lewis was one of the most physically impressive players in the entire tournament. He's very athletic, can move sideline-to-sideline and excels in coverage. James McConico from Compton (Calif.) was the top running back there and he also looked very stout playing linebacker.
Utah had a slew of talented backers, led by La'au Tanuvasa, who was a big part of the defense that helped Utah #2 to the finals. The Hunter HS prospect moves really well laterally and looked good in his drops. Alema Key from Provo (Utah) Timpview, who can play either safety or linebacker and is another real physical guy.
Alec Gletzer from Los Gatos (Calif.), was one of the defensive standouts for his team, which advanced to the quarterfinals. Gletzer is another one of those guys who's probably better suited for a more physical game, but showed that he could cover with the best of them too.
Agoura (Calif.) linebacker Lucky Radley will play safety in college, at 5-10, but he's another guy who looks comfortable at linebacker and isn't afraid to knock your head off. Anthony DeMatteo from Skyline (Wash.) could play either safety or linebacker in college too and was steady throughout the weekend. Victor Burnett from Culver City is a physical, run-stuffer who had some good moments covering during the tournament. Bishop Kelly linebacker Cody McCarthy was the standout for the Idaho team.
Other linebackers who showed some good flashes were Soma Vainuku from Eureka (Calif.), Princeton Fuimaono from Long Beach (Calif.) Jordan, Vista's Jeremiah and Ofisa Kose.
The debate will range on between Ahmad Dixon and Sean Parker between who projects to be the better safety. The fact of the matter is, they're both elite and you can't go wrong with either of them.
The Texas native, Dixon, was the most steady and consistent performer through the weekend for his team, good in coverage and having great ball skills. Parker, the California prospect, seemed to match Dixon in all those categories too. Parker physically looks much thicker too, then from when we saw him as a sophomore at the Scout.com Combine. Expect the debate to continue for a while between those two.
Provo (Utah) Timpview's Chris Badger had a big week, committing to Stanford earlier in the week, then helping his Utah squad to the finals. When you see Badger, you see a guy who's vocal and leads immediately, and backs it up with good ball skills and cover ability. Badger was barking out coverages all day and really took a leadership role with his team. Samson Faifili from Granger flanked Badger and physically looked ready to play in college while showing the necessary skills.
Dion Bailey from Lakewood (Calif.) played a major part in Team AIGA's tournament win, and he played tough throughout the weekend. He's got a mean streak in him and he was one of the few defensive backs you wanted to see in pads out there because you can tell he loves to lay the wood.
Tony Hurd was another one of the Texans who came out and lived up to the hype. He's a lockdown cover guy, with great backpedal quickness, recovery and fluid hips that mark an elite cornerback. He's not the biggest guy but he reminds a lot of Cliff Harris, who makes up for his size with the ability to irritate receivers with his coverage skills.
Terrance Mitchell's team wasn't as successful as they had hoped, but the Sacramento (Calif.) Burbank corner, who was an all-combine pick in Oakland last year at our Scout.com Combine, showed he's got the ability to play at a high-major level. He had a number of picks, and a few more he just missed. He's got real long arms that disrupt a lot of passes.
Dietrich Riley from La Canada (Calif.) St. Francis is one of the top 100 players nationally, and one of the more versatile players around. He can play running back, safety or receiver, and while he likes offense, physically, he looks like he could be a bigtime safety. He's still fine tuning his cover ability, but he's easily an elite prospect.
Derron Smith from Banning (Calif.) was another defensive back who had a good weekend, the athletic back able to play either corner or safety and doing it well. He's probably better suited for corner because of his size and athleticism, but safety isn't out of the question if he keeps growing.
Robert Watson from Los Alamitos (Calif.) doesn't get the recognition that some of his more decorated Los Al teammates get yet he helped his team all the way to the title by playing stout defense all weekend. He had a scare in the finals, going head first into a teammates knee, but only missed a play before returning for the clinching goal-line stand.
Anthony Brown from Corona (Calif.) Santiago, stands about 6-2, 195, and looks like he could put on more weight and move to outside linebacker. He can run really well too and he'll be a guy to watch during the spring.
Reggie Davis from San Ramon (Calif.) California is a guy we saw during the fall live, but it was primarily against a running team. This weekend, we got to see his cover skills which were solid and he's a pretty physical cover guy. Troy Hill from Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure will continue the long line of stellar prospects for the Seraphs and he's a true cover corner. He's a smaller version of Robert Golden, who was the #1 corner in the West two years ago.
Washington had a pair of corners who had great weekends, Lakewood (Wash.) Lakes teammates Dee Maggitt and Willis Wilson. Wilson probably had the better weekend of the two and its scary to think about how good their secondary will be this fall with the two of them at corner and elite receiver/safety Jamaal Kearse behind them.
Joshua Shaw from Palmdale (Calif.) is a guy who's stock will be on the rise throughout the spring as he gets more exposure. He's a physical looking guy who can play either corner or safety, or even receiver and passes the look test quickly.
Other defensive backs who were steady throughout include Brandon Graves from Encino (Calif.) Crepsi, Tre Sayles from Corona (Calif.) Santiago, Keith Hutchins from Upland (Calif.), Bryan Douglas from Harbor City (Calif.) Narbonne and Shaquille Richardson from Los Alamitos (Calif.).