PELHAM, Ala. – The date may have been May 15, but when Pelham High School hosted Bessemer (Ala.) Jess Lanier on Friday night, the atmosphere felt much more like a crucial fall Friday than a meaningless spring football finale. A big reason for the heightened intensity was the caliber of athlete on the field. In particular, three of the best defenders in the state of Alabama were showcasing their ability.
For Pelham, Auburn commit Jake Holland was manning the inside linebacker position while Nigel Terrell – also with numerous scholarship offers – was playing weakside linebacker. Meanwhile, Jess Lanier's highly-recruited defender LaDarius Owens was lining up at defensive end on the opposing sideline.
All three prospects came to play on the evening and it was a good night to have a strong performance. College coaches were everywhere on the evening taking in the action and keeping a close eye on the talent at hand. Among those in attendance were Florida State's Chuck Amato, Tennessee's Lance Thompson and Monte Kiffin and Auburn's Tommy Thigpen.
LaDarius Owens recognized the intensity of both playing in front of an impressive group of coaches and against such strong competition.
"Me and Jake [Holland] had dinner the other night and we were real excited to come out here and play for all of these different scouts we heard were going to be out here," Owens said. "It was real exciting. It turned into like a playoff atmosphere with everybody going hard so it was a really good feeling."
Though Holland is committed to Auburn and working on pulling Owens into the fold as well, the Jess Lanier defender is still up in the air as to where he will play his college ball.
"I don't really have any favorites because I haven't been to a lot of places," he said. "I've been mostly in state so I'm going to check out some other schools then I'm going to narrow it down after that."
This summer, Owens plans to camp at LSU, Tennessee, Florida State, Alabama and Auburn with the possibility of adding on to that list as well. After his performance on Friday night, more programs may continue to push hard for his presence at camp and for his signature in February.
Owens was all over the field from his defensive end spot. He was playing behind the line of scrimmage all evening, getting several big hits, making plays in pursuit and pressuring the quarterback. Even despite his success, Owens wasn't satisfied.
"I missed a sack so that's still stuck in my head but I got a couple of good hits and got some good pressure on the quarterback."
On the Pelham side, Jake Holland was a tackling machine that seemed to get stronger as the evening wore on. Holland is a true inside backer that is great in the box and showed good instincts getting downhill and finding the ball-carrier.
His linebacking teammate, Nigel Terrell is much more of a true outside linebacker with a good frame and length who excels rushing off of the edge. Terrell has good speed and chases well but is not as instinctive or physical in the run game as Holland on the inside.
All three players – Holland, Terrell and Owens – put SEC-caliber talent on display on Friday night and gave college coaches something to think about.
More to see
Though the big three linebacker prospects were the main attraction on Friday, those in attendance got a glimpse at some other intriguing prospects as well.
For Pelham, Ryan Williams is a do-everything athlete that touches the ball in a variety of different ways. He returns punts, lines up in the slot, catches and runs and is very explosive and quick with the ball in his hands.
His size limits him on offense to an extent but his skill set may allow him to develop into either a defensive back on the next level or a situational offensive player and a kick return specialist.
On the Jess Lanier sideline, Emmanuel Omere doesn't have any issues with his size. At 6-foot-4 and around 225 pounds, Omere was an outstanding complement to Owens coming off of the edge. He is very athletic and turns the corner well against Pelham's outmatched offensive tackles. With his frame and athleticism, Omere could develop into a productive Division-I defensive end.