BRADENTON, Fla. - Over Saturday and Sunday, 25 teams from around the nation competed at the IMG 7-on-7 National Championship. Here are five things we learned at the event:
1. Hargreaves is arguably the nation's top CB
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Tampa Wharton five-star cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, who is currently ranked the No. 2 cornerback in the nation and No. 9 prospect overall, put on a strong two-day performance showing all of the reasons why he is considered among the nation's elite prospects. He made a clear argument to take over the top spot at cornerback in the rankings with a dominant MVP-worthy performance. Over the two-day event, he gave up only a handful of completions to opponents.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound defensive back is the definition of lockdown corner. He is physical at the line of scrimmage using his arms and hands effectively to derail wide receivers off the snap. He has the athleticism to flip his hips and stay step-for-step with the fastest of wide receivers down the field. He is incredibly gifted when it comes to springing off the ground in full stride and going up to compete for the ball. He broke up numerous passes and intercepted a number of others.
The most impressive thing of all with Hargreaves, though, is that he seemingly gets better every time he steps on the field. He continues to add bulk to his frame but hasn't lost a step. It is evident he is the son of a coach with his understanding of the game and the ability to adjust from one snap to the next. He isn't a finished product and yet he is an elite talent at this stage.
2. Smith deserves his five-star ranking
While the event had a great deal of talent from the Sunshine State, one of the most impressive prospects over the two days hails from Indiana - Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Luers five-star linebacker Jaylon Smith. The 6-foot-3, 218-pound linebacker was a force on defense and made his presence known early and often for his AWP squad. His strong two-day performance showed why he is considered the No. 4 prospect in the Rivals100.
Smith is incredibly athletic and has great length. He is quick to the spot and disruptive in the passing game against running backs and tight ends in the flats and middle of the field. What sets him apart from so many of his peers is his ability to flip his hips and defend down the field. He has the ability to cover a third of the field on any given snap, taking away options for the quarterback.
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3. Morris has a wealth of talent
Warren (Mich.) De La Salle four-star pro-style quarterback Shane Morris had an up-and-down two-day performance at the event, but when he was on, it was clear why he is considered the No. 2 pro-style quarterback in the nation. Morris was the primary reason his Max Ex Blue team advanced to the championship round, where they ultimately fell victim to Team Tampa.
Morris possesses a clean release, good throwing motion and very strong arm. He was inconsistent with accuracy but when he was on, he showed the ability to thread the needle. The velocity and tightness of his throws was impressive. He showed the ability to stretch the field vertically but also possesses touch and the ability to make reads finding spots underneath. With the right receiver corps, Morris can pick apart a defense making every kind of throw asked of him.
4. Team Tampa is a great collection of talent
Hargreaves III is the headliner for the event champions, Team Tampa, but the squad is loaded with talent from this year's class as well as the next two.
The offensive MVP for the squad was Tarpon Springs (Fla.) East Lake three-star pro-style quarterback Pete Dinovo, who has picked up offers from UCF and USF since the event concluded. Some of his offensive weapons include Seffner (Fla.) Armwood Rivals250 four-star wide receiver Alvin Bailey, three-star wide receiver Richard Benjamin, and three-star wide receiver Travis Johnson, who will transition to tight end at the next level. Rising junior wide receiver Artavis Scott from Tarpon Springs (Fla.) East Lake showed flashes of greatness during the event. He also has Tampa Catholic three-star wide receiver Zach Benjamin as a big target down the field. Benjamin is a great red zone option who uses his height and hands to his advantage.
The defensive side of the ball is equally loaded. Hargreaves is joined in the secondary by Rivals100 four-star safety Leon McQuay III as well as the twins, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Lakewood defensive backs Shaquill Griffin and Shaquem Griffin. Tampa Freedom cornerback Nate Godwin also is a playmaker for the squad. From the 2014 class, Seffner (Fla.) Armwood cornerback Kyle Gibson is worth keeping an eye on. At linebacker, they have Tampa Hillsborough Rivals100 defensive end Jordan Sherit, Tampa Hillsborough three-star linebacker Nigel Harris and Tampa Jesuit rising junior linebacker Vincent Jackson, among others.
The 2015 class is led on the squad by talented athlete George Campbell from Tarpon Springs (Fla.) East Lake.
5. Couple sleepers emerged
While a majority of the talent at the event was known coming in, a few new names and faces emerged. One rising senior who made an impression and was an unknown prior to the event was Lauderdale Lakes (Fla.) Boyd Anderson wide receiver Richard Lopez. He lacks great size, but has excellent quickness and is a great player in space.
The 2014 class also had some representation in the sleeper category. Woodville (Miss.) Wilkinson County rising junior defensive back Devin Voorhies will be a big-time prospect in the 2014 class. Cartersville (Ga.) rising junior quarterback Brooks Barden is smart with a good arm and is an excellent team leader.
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