Rising Stars Recap

The Rising Stars Camp at USC brings out the stars, including the best defensive linemen in the West, and one of the top defensive tackles in the country steals the show on Day One...

Pete Carroll has fielded some of the best defenses in the country since he's been at USC. So it's no surprise that the stars at the Rising Stars Camp were on the defensive side of the ball.

Not to say that there wasn't a good deal of talent on offense, because there were plenty of elite prospects on offense.

But one look at some of the defenders on Howard Jones Field was all you needed to see that defense was going to highlight this camp.

The star of the day was easily Chino (Calif.) Don Lugo defensive tackle George Uko, who continued his torrid spring. Uko was one of the stars at the Scout.com Combine last month, then tore it up at UCLA earlier this month to get an offer from the Bruins. On Wednesday, his performance throughout the day made the Trojans the latest to offer him.

Uko simply dominated during the 1-on-1s, whether it was the times he just effortlessly pushed his man back right into the bag, or the times he threw a spin move on the offensive linemen, who grasped at air. During the 11-on-11, it was much the same, Uko getting a great push each and every time.

One of the knocks on Uko had been his motor, whether he brings it every down, so with a healthy chip on his shoulder, Uko has tried to dispel that all spring and Wednesday was a day where you could see it.

As good as Uko was on Wednesday, he was hardly the only defensive linemen who stood out.

In fact, it's safe to say, that there was no better position to watch then the defensive linemen.

At one point in the 11-on-11, there were four defensive linemen who are a part of the Scout 100, all on the field at the same time: Uko, Ricky Heimuli, Jackson Jeffcoat and Ronald Powell. And when those four played together, the offensive line really struggled to give the quarterbacks time to throw.

Jeffcoat, the #2-ranked defensive end in the country, came out from his native Texas and showed why he's looked at in such high regard. Jeffcoat's first step is so quick, that there were times he was past the lineman before the lineman got out of his stance. On one play, he greeted the quarterback in the backfield before he finished his five-step drop.

Heimuli also looked good, getting a good push and showing pretty good burst. When he and Uko lined up next to each other, it was a pick-your-poison.

Powell is a physical freak and is so strong and quick off the edge. In the morning, he routinely was beating his lineman. In the afternoon, he moved to linebacker and played quite a bit in the middle.

Josh Shirley from Fontana (Calif.) Kaiser, is one of the hybrid type end/linebackers, and like Powell, he spent time in the morning with the defensive line, where he did well, getting a sack on his first rep, then in the afternoon, moved to linebacker, where he looked comfortable and smooth in the drills.

Joshua Shaw from Palmdale (Calif.), is high on several schools' lists, and for good reason. He's a big physical corner, who looks like a safety and he did well in coverage. Dion Bailey from Lakewood (Calif.) has a USC offer and while he only participated in the morning session, had a generally good day.

Shaquille Richardson from Los Alamitos (Calif.) got a lot of run with the first squad on defense as a cornerback, and he continued to excel, like he has for most of the spring. Richardson had two nice breakups during the 7-on-7.

Dietrich Riley is one of the more versatile players in the class of 2010, able to play running back, receiver or safety, and it was at safety that he showed best at on Wednesday.

Riley had a pretty pick-six, getting a good break on the ball, then showing off his athleticism to elude getting touched by the offensive side.

Justin Maclin committed to LSU earlier this month, but that didn't stop him from making an appearance in Los Angeles. Maclin looked every bit the part, constantly locking up his man at the line of scrimmage, and knocking him off his route.

Chula Vista (Calif.) Eastlake linebacker/safety Tony Jefferson looked very good in the morning, and he moved between outside linebacker and safety during the afternoon.

USC commit Dak Smith from Los Angeles (Calif.) Westchester, had some good moments on Wednesday, but others where he didn't show much effort. When he did though, he was a load for the offensive lineman.

There were some elite defensive linemen from the underclass ranks, most notably Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft defensive tackle Antwaun Woods, who followed his stellar performance from a week ago at the USC Lineman Camp with a dominant showing in the afternoon. Beverly Hills (Calif.) defensive end Greg Townsend and Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman defensive end Jalen Grimble, both had great moments in the 1-on-1s and in the 11-on-11s. At one point in the afternoon 11-on-11, all three linemen were in on the same group.

Other defensive players who stood out included cornerback Anthony Jefferson from Los Angeles (Calif.) Cathedral, Agoura (Calif.) safety Lucky Radley, Palo Alto (Calif.) defensive tackle Troy Boyland, Fontana (Calif.) Kaiser cornerback Anthony Brown, Culver City (Calif.) linebacker Victor Burnett and Harbor City (Calif.) Narbonne cornerback Bryan Douglas.

Offensively, there was still plenty of studs on hand, but they just had their work cut out for them with the defensive talent. During the 7-on-7, the QBs had a hard time getting their receivers open because of the coverage, then in the 11-on-11, the offensive line struggles kept them from getting set.

USC has yet to offer a quarterback in the class of 2010, and no one really stood out from the group on hand. Lakewood (Calif.) quarterback Jesse Scroggins seemed to be the most likely passer to garner a Trojan offer, but he struggled a bit in the morning, pressing a bit in his throws. He looked much more comfortable in the afternoon session, but didn't have the eye-popping day we'd come to getting used to from him.

Kingsburg (Calif.) quarterback Tyler Bray had probably the best and most consistent day of the quarterbacks. Tall and lean, going about 6-5, 175, Bray has good feet, throws a nice spiral with good zip and has good touch on his throws. San Clemente (Calif.) quarterback Chase Rettig had some good moments, as did Milpitas (Calif.) Kent London, Stockon (Calif.) St. Mary's Marcus McDade and Hawaii native Andrew Manley. From the 2011 class, Bakersfield (Calif.) Centennial passer Cody Kessler had a good day as did 2013 prospect Troy Williams from Harbor City (Calif.) Narbonne.

At running back, the surprise of the day was Texas native Dontae Williams, who showed great burst out of the backfield and good cutback ability. Williams doesn't have an offer yet, but that should change soon, if Wednesday was any indication. USC commit Trajuan Briggs from Van Nuys (Calif.) Birmingham worked some at fullback and as the lone back in 1-back sets, and also did a good job catching the ball out of the backfield.

Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft running back D.J. Morgan, a Trojan commit only participated sparingly in the afternoon, trying to stay fresh for the Junior Track Nationals, but the few plays he got in, he showed nice burst. Fellow Trojan commit Dillon Baxter looked good in the individual positional drills, but in the scrimmaging, rarely saw the ball come his way. Baxter, though, physically is really impressive.

The receivers who made the best impression was Tulsa (Okla.) Central receiver Demarco Cobbs. Big, physical and fast, Cobbs was one of the better pass-catchers on the day. Stockton (Calif.) St. Mary's receiver Josh Harper also did really well in the morning, doing a good job in his route running and getting good separation on the corners. Harper has nice, soft hands, and is a crisp runner, and his timing with the quarterbacks was solid.

Harbor City (Calif.) Narbonne receiver Brian Hawthorne had a very nice day, scoring a touchdown on the last play of the morning scrimmage, throwing a nice head fake on the corner and catching the ball at the back of the end zone.

Anaheim (Calif.) Servite tight end Troy Niklas is one of the elite 2011 prospects in California, and he had a good morning, lining up in the slot and also playing on the line at tight end. He's got very good hands and is tough to jam at the line of scrimmage. Fellow Trinity League underclassmen Victor Blackwell from Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei had a good morning session himself, showing good explosiveness.

Other skill guys who stood out were Encino (Calif.) Crespi receiver Brandon Graves, Mt. Zion (N.C.) receiver Tehvyn Brantley and Lakewood (Calif.) receiver Kevin Anderson.

Generally, the offensive lineman struggled during the scrimmaging, but there were some who had good moments in the 1-on-1s. Class of 2011 prospect Christian Westerman seemed to get the most reps from the line, and while he was beat on occasion, by some of the bigger and older defensive ends, he also had some really nice moments where he staved off his defender. Westerman has excellent footwork and does a great job using his hands in pass pro. Fellow Arizona native Nick Rowland also had some really nice moments in the 1-on-1s.

Other linemen who caught our eye were Salinas (Calif.) tackle Chandler Hubbard, Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame tackle Ben Gottschalk, Riverside (Calif.) Arlington guard Corin Brooks, who also played some defensive line, and 2011 prospect from Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman, A.C. Patterson, who saw some time on defense as well.

There were a handful of players who came out but didn't participate, most notably Robert Woods from Gardena (Calif.) Serra.

Day Two of the Rising Stars Camp will continue on Thursday.


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