The VTOSports/Rivals.com Elite100 Camps are heading further south this upcoming weekend after successful stops in South and North Carolina this past Saturday and Sunday. The next two stops are in Georgia at Marietta High School on Saturday and in Alabama at Leeds High School on Sunday. With top prospects like Atlanta (Ga.) St. Pius X School cornerback Geno Smith and Birmingham (Ala.) Woodlawn defensive end Cassanova McKinzy ready to strut their stuff, both camps will be loaded with talent.
The first event of the weekend is on Saturday, April 9 at Marietta High School in Marietta, Ga., where former Richmond assistant Scott Burton is now in charge. Burton, who led former five-star recruit and current Washington Redskin Victor Harris through the recruiting process when he was at Highland Springs, Va., will speak to the players regarding the process and what to expect. Following that the players will be tested in the 40-yard-dash, short shuttle, bench press (185 pounds) and vertical jump. Positional drills and one-on-ones will follow as the prospects will be coached up by former NFL players like Mo Collins (Oakland Raiders), Brenston Buckner (Carolina Panthers), Natrone Means (San Diego Chargers), Ethan Horton (Oakland Raiders), Anthony Wright (Dallas Cowboys) and Myron Bell (Pittsburgh Steelers).
Over 200 of the top prospects in Georgia are expected for this invitation-only camp and the Georgia event looks to be the deepest of the five VTO events this spring on paper. Fifty of those players already registered have D-I offers and a number of new names will likely emerge for the 2012 and 2013 classes.
The quarterbacks at the Georgia camp are headlined by Henry County dual-threat passer Chris Moody, who threw for 1,382 yards and 13 touchdowns last year, and ran for another 778 yards and seven scores on the ground. Five schools from the SEC and ACC conferences have already offered the 6-foot-1, 190-pound athlete.
The backfield is stacked for April 9th, with Stephenson tailbacks Mike Davis and T.J. Moon, Hillgrove's Kenyan Drake, Columbia's Kenno Loyal, Washington High School's Justin Taylor and Liberty County's Shadrach Thornton all planning to compete. Chances are very high that the top three backs in the Peach State for 2012 will come out of that group. Three have already committed, with Davis headed to Florida, and Drake and Taylor going to play for Nick Saban at Alabama.
Moody and the other quarterbacks with have no shortage of talent to throw to on Saturday, including Sandy Creek's Jaquay Williams, Crisp County's Jontavious Carter, North Hall's C.J. Curry, Columbia's Keithon Redding and Stephenson's Demarcus Sweat all ready to show off their hands, body control, speed, and route running ability. Big physical wideouts seem to be all of the rage now, and three of the better ones in the south are coming to the camp. Williams, at 6-foot-3, 195-pounds is the early favorite for top wideout in Georgia, Carter, at 6-foot-4 200-pounds is committed to Miami and Curry is committed to the University of Georgia.
Callaway's Ricky Parks and Stephenson's Joshua Parris are two of the talented tight ends ready to showcase their skills. Parks, at 6-foot-3, 215-pounds, is considered by many to be one of the top five tight ends in the southeast.
Football is a game of inches, and the trench battles set to take place at Marietta High School should be tremendous. The offensive tackles often get top billing, but Lithonia's Joe Harris has a chance to be the best offensive lineman in Georgia for 2012. The 6-foot-4, 320-pound guard should hit double-digit offers soon. Other notable blockers include Damon Sprouse from Southwest Dekalb, Jacob Southerland from Whitefield Academy, Nicholas Gibbons and Steve McKenzie from Stephenson, and Tyler Claytor from North Atlanta.
The strength of the 2012 class in the Peach State is definitely on the defensive line. Last year, 32 defensive linemen from Georgia signed with D-I programs. Well with only half of the D-I kids having emerged so far, 32 defensive linemen in Georgia already have D-I offers. At least a dozen of them will be at the Rivals.com/VTO Sports Elite 100 Camp, headlined by top 10 prospects Jonathan Taylor of Jenkins County and Sandy Creek's Quinteze Williams, who committed to the University of Florida last week. Taylor, at 6-4, 315-pounds, is a mobile interior tackle who benches 430 pounds and had 15 sacks last year. He very well could be the top player in Georgia for 2012.
Some of the top defensive ends expected include Calhoun's Reed Allen, Jenkins County standout James Deloach, Stephenson sack master Jarontay Jones and North Atlanta's Stephen Weatherly. Woodward Academy stud Jordan Watkins could play inside for some schools, or kick out to end in other defensive schemes. Watkins has one of the most impressive offer lists in the country, with over 30 schools from coast to coast offering the 6-foot-5, 270-pound lineman.
He may have two years left to play, but 2013 defensive end Reginald Carter has already emerged as a BCS level prospect. As a sophomore, Carter racked up 75 tackles and 10.5 sacks for Stephenson, and since then got his first offer from Florida State.
Other defensive tackles of note include Pepperell's Dakota Ball, an early Alabama commitment, Henry County's Dalvin Tomlinson, also a two time state wrestling champion, University of Florida commitment Jafar Mann and teammate Carlos Hood from Stephenson, as well as Derious Bennett from Carver-Columbus.
The running backs, as deep and as talented as they are, may have their hands full with this impressive group of linebackers. Stone Mountain's Ukeme Eligwe and the Stephenson duo of Raphael Kirby and Darreon Herring lead the group. The trio has a combined 42 offers amongst them, and will look to showcase all-around skill in coverage against the many talented running backs. Norcross jumbo athlete Justin King could play a number of positions at the next level, but will likely start out at linebacker at the camp. John Law from Grady and John Silas from Hillgrove are emerging talents who recently picked up their first offers. A contender for the top prospect in 2013 in Georgia, Troup's Reuben Foster is already a household name for most recruiting fans because of his incredible freshman season highlights. The 6-foot-1, 225-pound rising junior already has six offers from SEC and ACC schools.
With most elite athletes having to play quarterback or at least both sides of the ball for their respective high schools, is tough to find a pure cover cornerback at the prep level. But that is exactly what St. Pius X star Geno Smith brings to the table. With incredible instinct and fluid hips, the 6-foot defensive back was an easy invite for the Army All-American game. With 27 offers to date, the Atlanta native is using the high level of competition expected at the Rivals.com/VTO Sports Elite 100 to improve his skills and prepare for his senior season and the next level.
Creekside's Joshua Holsey and Union Grove's D.J. White are also likely top 30 Peach State prospects coming to shut down the wideouts on Saturday. Other BCS level prospects planning to showcase their coverage ability are Peachtree Ridge's Ray Buchanan Jr., North Hall 2013 defensive back Darius Curry and Stephenson safety Kyle Fleetwood.
Once again, the Georgia event is being held on April 9 at Marietta High School in Marietta, Ga.
The next day, the Rivals.com/VTO Sports Elite 100 hits Leeds, Ala. just outside Birmingham. Leeds head coach Keith Etheredge, who guided Rivals250 defensive back Jonathan Rose (Auburn) through the process, will speak to the players regarding the process and what to expect. Like in Georgia, the players will be tested in the 40-yard-dash, short shuttle and vertical jump and then begin positional drills and one-on-ones coached up by the former NFL players.
The Alabama event won't be as deep as the Georgia Elite 100, but there is still plenty of talent expected on hand. Leeds will be represented by linebacker Javierre Mitchell who has an early Auburn offer. Mitchell is one of the fastest prospects in the state for his size and is expected to do very well in testing as well as in the position drills and one-on-ones.
McKinzy, an early Auburn commitment, will also be on hand. The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder projects as a linebacker for Auburn but plays with his hand down often so he could do double work as a defensive lineman and linebacker if he chooses. He chose Auburn over Alabama, Clemson, Arkansas, Florida State and others.
Prattville, Ala., will be sending numerous prospects to the event. While the bigger names like Justin Shanks and Justin Thomas are expected to be in attendance, they likely won't work out. However, defensive end and Alabama commitment Caleb Gulledge is a possibility to participate and players like Justin Oates, George Rowe, Nick Shanks, Mike Smith, Bradley Steele, Laronji Vason, Jalen Whitlow, Jacob Williams, Kordel Arrington, Orlando Bowman, Rann Causey, Lawon Debardelaben, Jeremiah Gardner, Se'Cortny Gardner, Austin Golson, Jonathan Haynes, Jay Minor and Terrance North. Prattville is one of the top programs in the country and each player is expected to represent well.
Other notables at the event include Thomasville, Ala., athlete Tyler Hayes, an early Alabama commitment and one of the top players in the state. Florence, Ala., running back Beniquez Brown will also be in attendance. The big running back has offers from Auburn, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and others. Phenix City (Ala.) Central teammates Jonathan Wallace and Jonathan Curry, a quarterback to tight end duo, are both also attending and each has multiple offers. Quarterbacks Austin Grammer from Tuscaloosa (Ala.) American Christian Academy and Ben Craft from Birmingham (Ala.) Briarwood Christian are two other quarterbacks attending with offers.
There will also be some top out-of-state prospects expected to attend. Aberdeen, Miss. defensive end Channing Ward has offers from pretty much every team in the SEC and will show off his ability on Sunday. The 6-foot-4, 230-pounder is one of the top rush ends in the country. Olive Branch, Miss. wide receiver D'Arthur Cowan, who has an offer from Mississippi State, will also make the trip one state over. The same can be said for running back Jaborian McKenzie from Natchez (Miss.) Trinity Episcopal, who has offers from Vanderbilt, Memphis and Southern Miss.
There will also be a few 2013 standouts at the event led by Fayette County standouts Marcellus Redmond and Jatrae Madison. Redmond, a quarterback, has early interest from Auburn and Ole Miss who have expressed interest in offering and Madison, a cornerback, has early offers from Auburn and Notre Dame.
The Georgia camp is full, but players and coaches interested in sending prospects to the Rivals.com/VTO Sports Alabama Elite Camp can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Kipp Adams contributed to this report