ORLANDO, Fla. - The Southeast team was crowned champion at Gridiron Kings this weekend, but players from all four teams had their moments. Rivals.com's Josh Helmholdt breaks down the best of the weekend.
The West team lost in its first round game on Sunday to the Southeast, but San Diego (Calif.) Horizon wide receiver Darren Carrington brought the crowd to its feet one last time before his squad made its exit. On a straight go route, Carrington caught the eye of quarterback Troy Williams, who put the pass a little high and a little too far in front of the Oregon commit. That was no problem for Carrington, who leapt over cornerback Shaquille Wiggins and avoided a hard-charging Vernon Hargreaves III, to come down with a circus catch. The play was not enough to lead his team to a victory, but was enough to secure Carrington's spot as one of the best big-play wide receivers in the country.
Runner-up: Crete-Monee (Ill.) wide receiver Laquon Treadwell had several spectacular catches over the weekend, but one of his best came when quarterback Shane Morris threw a pass to the front pylon of the end zone that forced Treadwell to turn his body and catch the ball on his fingertips over his shoulder before falling out of bounds.
Five-star cornerback Kendall Fuller has shown he can check the best receivers in the country at several events this summer, but even he had to admit that the smart play when defending Orlando (Fla.) Jones' Levonte Whitfield is to start out with a little cushion. Whitfield has another gear that was immediately evident, even at an event that featured some outstanding athletes. Whitfield's speed came through both on deep routes where he outran defensive backs and also short and intermediate routes where he picked up yards after the catch.
Runner-up: Tulsa (Okla.) East Central's Stanvon Taylor broke loose on a skinny post route during Saturday's round-robin play, and that gave us a chance to really appreciate how much of a burner he truly is as he opened up a wide gap between himself and the group of defenders trailing him.
Top defensive back tandem
The overall theme of this weekend's Gridiron Kings was defense, and the team that played the best defense from the opening game to the championship game was the Southeast team. That was due in large part to the Tampa-area defensive back duo of Vernon Hargreaves III and Leon McQuay III, who totaled five interceptions between them on the weekend, which was more than a third of all interceptions during the entire event. Often times they were both back deep as safeties, but at times one would flash down and play the cornerback position.
Runners-up: The Southwest had one of the toughest defenses to throw on all weekend, and Class of 2014 cornerback Tony Brown and safety Marcell Harris were big reasons why. The duo shut its side of the field down and batted down a ton of passes.
Best Undersized Prospect
Seven-on-sevens often showcase prospects who do not have the ideal measureables for their position but possess outstanding athleticism. That begins to explain Belle Glade (Fla.) Glades Central 5-foot-7, 172-pound cornerback Will Likely, but it does not fully encapsulate all the Rivals250 prospect brings to the table. Likely was easily the most physical cornerback during the weekend's play, even taking bigger wide receivers and throwing them into the sidelines when he would come up in press coverage. Likely plays the game at a fast pace and has an incredible competitive streak. He may not be the biggest kid around, but he's definitely one you want on your side.
Runner-up: At just 5-foot-10, wide receiver Jalin Marshall is not going to be jumping over defensive backs in the corner of the end zone. But his game is the short, underneath routes that get the football in his hands quickly and allow the Ohio State commit to use his quickness and agility to pick up yards after catch.
With his team down a touchdown and needing a turnover during the first game of Saturday's round-robin play, Virginia Beach (Va.) Bayside class of 2014 safety Quin Blanding answered the call with an interception to set up a potential tying score. Blanding flew over from his safety position and leapt high to snag a pretty well-thrown football that potentially would have been caught if the 6-foot-2, 196-pound rising junior would not have gotten to it first. It was Blanding's second interception of that game.
Runner-up: Another key interception came at the end of the half in the semifinals game between the West and Southeast teams. With the West inside the 5-yard line, Tampa (Fla.) Wharton defensive back Vernon Hargreaves III baited West quarterback Troy Williams into throwing his way, then ripped the football away from the defender. That stop would prove important at game's end.
Best QB-WR connection
The top overall offensive performer on Day 1 was Southeast wide receiver Tony Stevens, but on Day 2 it was Seffner (Fla.) Armwood's Alvin Bailey who was quarterback Brice Ramsey's favorite target. The two connected for three touchdowns on the day, including two in the championship game. Their most impressive hook-up, however, did not account for a touchdown. Early in the championship game, the 5-foot-11, 170-pound Bailey was streaking down the sideline when Ramsey fit a perfect pass in between the cornerback and the safety. Both defenders were right on top of Bailey and tagged him immediately, but the pass and the catch were executed flawlessly with a high degree of difficulty.
Runners-up: Warren (Mich.) De La Salle quarterback Shane Morris is committed to Michigan and Crete-Monee (Ill.) wide receiver Laquon Treadwell has the Wolverines as his favorite. It remains to be seen if the two will hook up in college, but they connected more than any other wide receiver-quarterback duo over the course of the two days.
Although 6-foot-3, 231-pound Tampa (Fla.) Travis Johnson is destined to move from his favorite position - wide receiver - to the tight end spot in college, it is not because of his receiving abilities. Johnson proved to be a sure-handed target for Midwest quarterback Shane Morris and made several catches few others would have. Morris is known for slinging the football with a lot of zip, but the accelerated velocity did not bother Johnson. If he dropped a pass all weekend we did not see it.
Instead of a runner-up, we'll go to the opposite end of the spectrum. Orlando (Fla.) Dr. Phillips' safety Marcell Harris does an extraordinary job of closing down passing lanes and getting his hands on the football. The problem is he has trouble catching the football. Harris should have had at least four interceptions on day one alone but finished with just one.
Best 7-on-7 running back
Virginia Beach (Va.) Bayside running back Taquan Mizzell has been a 7-on-7 junkie this off-season, but that probably stems more from event and team organizers extending invitation after invitation to the explosive athlete. Mizzell has the tools to be very effective as a wide receiver, but from his spot at running back he is able to create mismatches with linebackers who do not possess his speed or elusiveness. Nobody was able to match Mizzell's four touchdown receptions during Sunday's championship play.
Runner-up: The other Midwest running back, Ezekiel Elliott, got a little overshadowed because his team featured Mizzell along with slot receiver Jalin Marshall and tight end Travis Johnson as check-down options, but the 6-foot, 198-pound Elliott is a deadly receiving option out of the backfield himself and made the most of limited opportunities.
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