SCPlaybook Expert Opinion

In this week's installment of SCPlaybook Expert Opinion we discuss which two players from the Rising Stars Camp we would select to build a program around. Look inside to see which recruits from the star-studded camp made the list.

Brandon Huffman, West Recruiting Manager, Scout.com
Picks: Ronald Powell and Christian Westerman

With 200 players and only two choices to pick, the decision becomes tough.

First, I'm starting out on the defensive side of the ball, and without hesitation, I'm taking Ronald Powell. Impact pass rusher? Check. Able to drop into coverage? Check. Even use him in goal line situations as a tight end? Another check. Powell may end up being the top prospect from the Golden State in the class of 2010. Watching him at USC, you could see him dominate in the 1-on-1s against the OLs, roaming sideline-to-sideline in 7-on-7 while playing in the middle and then even scoring touchdowns from the tight end spot.

Offensively? I like to start with offensive linemen, and even though there wasn't a real standout on the offensive line for the 2010 class, I'd get things going with Christian Westerman, the elite 2011 tackle from Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton. I've been hearing Jason Jewell, Scout.com's Southwest Regional Analyst for some time, touting him as possibly the best offensive lineman in the West in the 2011 class, so I was eager to see Westerman in action. Having to go against the stout group of defensive linemen on Day One, the younger Westerman more than held his own, and then on Day Two, was clearly the best offensive linemen there. As of now, Westerman has clearly elevated himself as the West's best in the trenches for 2011.


Ronald Powell showed his versatility by playing defensive end, linebacker and tight end.

Kevin Carden, Editorial Director, SCPlaybook.com
Picks: George Uko and Dillon Baxter

At most camps, selecting the top two players is usually fairly easy, but when you are talking about the Rising Stars Camp with prospects like Dietrich Riley, Ronald Powell, Jackson Jeffcoat and Dillon Baxter making plays all over the field, the choice becomes a bit tougher.

The good news is, no matter which players you pick, you will have a good foundation for a solid program.

My pick on the defensive side of the ball has to be the big guy, George Uko. The Don Lugo defensive tackle stood out above the rest in the talent-rich defensive line group on the first day of the camp, dominating the overmatched offensive linemen before heading home with an offer from the Trojans.

Defensive tackle is one of the toughest positions to recruit, and anytime you can add a player with the ability to stuff the run as well as apply some pressure to the quarterback, you have to jump at the chance.

USC fans have witnessed the importance of having a player like Mike Patterson or Sedrick Ellis in the middle of the line and from everything that we have seen this offseason, Uko has the potential to develop into that type of player down the road.

While I gave serious thought to picking 2011 offensive lineman Christian Westerman on offense, I just couldn't pass up the playmaking ability that USC commit Dillon Baxter displayed.

Baxter has the talent and football instincts to excel at either running back or wide receiver on the college level, as well as contribute in the return game on special teams. The smooth athlete from Mission Bay sometimes gets forgotten because he committed to USC over a year ago, but make no mistake about it, he is one of the truly special offensive weapons on the West Coast.

The thing about Baxter is he is such a talented kid that you get the feeling that we haven't even seen the best of him yet. For instance, at the Rising Stars Camp he continually beat some of the top defensive backs in the country and made it look easy.

Mark my words, Dillon Baxter will cause headaches for defensive coordinators in the Pac-10 for years to come.


George Uko put on a show during the one-on-ones at the Rising Stars Camp.

Scott Schrader, Senior Recruiting Editor, SCPlaybook.com
Picks: Ronald Powell and Dillon Baxter

Although I thought Ronald Powell was overall the top prospect at the Rising Stars Camp, I am going with Dillon Baxter as the top offensive performer.

We have been impressed with Baxter since he was a freshman and came to the Rising Stars Camp and was relatively unnoticed by those in attendance because he was so young, but his fellow camp attendees all expressed how impressed they were by Baxter.

He returned to the Rising Stars Camp last year with his stepfather, Anthony Mooney, and was offered a scholarship by Pete Carroll after the conclusion of the camp. He was extremely impressive last year and at these camps we get a better idea of the running back's talents as a pass catcher, and that aspect of Baxter's game stood out and the talk of him being a possible receiver at USC began. Especially after he verbally committed to USC after the offer.

This year, Baxter displayed the most impressive route running and soft hands of any prospect at the Rising Stars Camp. If he wasn't easily beating some of the finest DB's in the country and catching every pass thrown his way that was catchable, there would have been a pass interference call with the DB's grabbing his shirt or often times, simply holding him.

I picked Dillon Baxter, not only for his athleticism and breathtaking football abilities, but he will also be one of the Trojans' biggest assets with their recruiting efforts. He will be a team leader, although more of a leader by example like Reggie Bush was than a vocal leader, and that is a quality that sometimes is overlooked. I'm sure all who were in attendance at the Rising Stars Camp were blown away with Baxter's performance.

No matter how USC chooses to use Baxter, he will be a big-time playmaker early and often in my opinion.

It would be disingenuous of me not to pick Rancho Verde 'Spicemen' (is there a better descriptive word for him?) Ronald Powell. I know there isn't a 'Specimen' position category for a prospect in the Scout.com rankings, but Powell could be a five-star prospect as a defensive end, linebacker or tight end. How many 6-4, 235 pound prospects run a 4.5 forty, make elite offensive linemen look pedestrian and make some of the top linebackers in the country look average with his effortless route running and pass catching skills as a tight end? I can think of one with the 2010 class, and that's Ronald Powell.

I know this segment is supposed to be about the top defensive player, but Powell's abilities as a football player are limitless and the USC coaching staff recognizes that more than any other staff in the country, because USC has relentlessly pursued Powell for three years. A school like Florida basically jumped on the bandwagon, the same way it can appear USC does with an out-of-state prospect. Even though that's a bit of an exaggeration.

Pete Carroll told Powell after the Rising Stars Camp that his intention is to get Powell on the field as soon as possible at any whatever position they need him at, but Powell is a defensive prospect and he'll end up as a defensive end or linebacker in the end in my opinion. With that said, we shouldn't rule out the possibility of him playing defensive tackle with some added weight. He's the most versatile prospect USC is recruiting this year and should be the No. 1 priority for the Trojans.

The only offensive lineman that stopped Powell at the Rising Stars Camp during the one-on-one drills was Hamilton (AZ) 2011 offensive tackle Christian Westerman (I got run over by Powell on that rep). Other than that one rep, Powell had his way with the offensive linemen at the camp. Heck, he had his way with everyone he faced on June 24th and 25th.


Dillon Baxter (L) looked very comfortable at wide receiver during the Rising Stars Camp.


If you agree, or think we missed the mark with our picks, let us know your opinion on the SCPlaybook.com message boards




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