With six backers ranked in the top 50 and two of the top three middle linebackers
in the nation, the N.C./S.C. Shrine Bowl is shaping up to be a linebacking showcase.
two players that everyone will be watching are Ricardo
Hurley (Greenwood, S.C.) and A.J.
Nicholson (Mount Tabor, N.C. pictured). Hurley and Nicholson are ranked No. 1
and No. 3 respectively in the Rivals100 rankings
for middle linebackers. This tandem will provide enough highlights to fill
any linebacking fan's needs, but I'm also going to throw the No.
16-ranked outside linebacker, Omar
Gaither, into the headliners. After watching Gaither during drills,
it's obvious that he's a step above a supporting role.
Two minutes into practice and it's obvious why Hurley is ranked No. 1 at his
position and No. 17 overall. At 6-3, 235 pound, Hurley displayed cornerback
speed along with keen awareness to make plays in the backfield time after time
during drills. If a blocker is able to hustle into position, Hurley also has
the strength to fend off or go through people. A new-age linebacker who combines
size, speed and strength, Hurley has listed South Carolina as a slight leader
over Tennessee, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Florida and Florida State. With visits
to Georgia, Georgia Tech and Tennessee coming up in January, it's clear that
the race for Hurley is just beginning to heat up.
Nicholson is as solid of a prospect that I've seen this year. With speed to
match Hurley (although Hurley appeared quicker off the ball), a noticeable
understanding of the position and a 6-2 frame which has room to expand, Nicholson
will be a huge signing for one lucky college. That lucky college may well be
the University of Texas. Nicholson visited the Longhorns back and mid-November
and was still talking about it during practice. While on the sidelines, Nicholson
gave fellow Shrine Bowl players A.J. Davis and Gaither an enthusiastic short
speech on "How things are in Texas." Nicholson also confirmed Texas
as his favorite, but said he will still take trips to Miami, Florida State,
Tennessee and North Carolina or Georgia.
Gaither, an outside linebacker, shined during practice displaying the quickness
and athleticism found in elite recruits. He looked muscular, but skinny at 6-2,
210 and has shoulders that could hold 20 more pounds easily. Gaither did not
show any signs of backing off of his commitment to Tennessee.
The Supporting Cast
Victor Worsley (pictured)
- At 6-2, 230 pounds, Worsley has a frame that could still add on 20 more pounds.
Worsley, a North Carolina commit, is gifted from a frame standpoint and has
good speed for a prototypical run-stopping linebacker.
Patrick Lowery - At 6-2,
227 pounds, he is similar to Worsley in size and speed. Though Lowery's upside
is not as blatant, he will still be a solid contributor in college. Lowery has
offers Duke and East Carolina, but should get some looks from bigger schools
after a productive senior season.
Lorenzo Pickett - Speaking
of East Carolina, Pickett has already committed to the Pirates. The 6-2, 200
pound backer is a little raw, but could turn into an instant contributor. If
East Carolina can get Lowery, the Pirates will have a solid foundation for the
future of their linebacking corp.
Anthony Waters - Ranked 39th
among outside linebackers, Waters has the speed and the size (4.5 forty, 6-3
frame) to bulk up from his current weight of 205. Waters is committed to Clemson
and has not scheduled any additional visits.
Cory Groover - Another Clemson
commit ranks 54 in the nation among outside linebackers. Groover has ravaged
opposing backfields utilizing his 6-3, 240 size to stop plays head-on and used
his 4.6 speed to chase down anything going the other way.