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NextGen: Columbus/Charlotte

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After leaving Dallas, NextGen All America Camps continued #TheSearch with stops in Columbus, Ohio, and Charlotte, N.C. The Columbus event was held at the home of the National Champion Ohio State Buckeyes. With Columbus being the only Midwest stop for NextGen this year, talented athletes represented eight different states and #TheSearch identified 20 athletes for the Rivals.com database.
In addition to playing on the Ohio State practice fields, the NextGen Ohio attendees were coached and evaluated by several members of the Ohio State football team. The most impressive performances were from five athletes.
Class of 2020 dual-threat QB prospect Anthony Romphf from Lansing, Mich., led the signal-callers. The 5-foot-6, 120-pounder shocked quarterback evaluator and current Ohio State QB JT Barrett with his big arm and impressive accuracy.
The second-most impressive performance came from running back Michael Drennen II. Running back was the most competitive position group at the Ohio event, where 37 backs vied for attention from the evaluation team. Drennen is a seventh-grade prospect that has impressive size (5-foot-10, 165 pounds) and explosiveness. His ability to change direction was extraordinary, but it was his ability to move laterally with great body control and balance that were the key ingredients that caused former NFL'er and NextGen lead running back evaluator Ryan Powdrell to say, "Drennen may have the most upside of any back we've seen this year."
Two other 2019 homegrown products in wide receiver Jaylon Baylor from Columbus, Ohio, and running back Jaren Mangham from Toledo also stood out. Baylor, a 5-foot-6, 130-pound speedster, used his quickness to consistently win in the one-on-one competition while Mangham is a rare combination of size and speed. At 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, he was too fast for the big linebackers to cover and too strong for the smaller linebackers to handle.
The future of football in the Midwest is extremely bright as 2021 prospects consistently outperformed the older players at the event. Running backs Travis Boston Jr. and Keith Moton III, and wide receivers Jalen Gummer and Justin Whitehorn all had impressive days. But it was defensive end Damon Payne who played well beyond his years, as he repeatedly beat older, bigger, stronger offensive linemen during the Battle Showcase event.
There seems to be an athlete or two at each of the NextGen events that rises well above the competition, a player that is almost bored competing against athletes his age or younger. The athlete in Ohio that stole the show was Xavier Goldsmith. The 2019 cornerback prospect from Detroit excels in press coverage.
"He is the best corner that we have seen all year," said NextGen Founder Brent Williams. "It's not just that he's good, he has an understanding of how to play the position that is not normal for a kid his age. Not only was he the best corner in the showcase, he was probably the best receiver too."
"Polished is the word that comes to mind," explained Ohio State defensive back Armani Reeves, who worked with Goldsmith during the day. Ohio State linebacker Camren Williams was impressed with how Goldsmith reacted when was beaten.
"Even when he was beaten, he knew how to recover," Camren explained. "Our defensive coordinator, Luke Fickell, tells us that we should cover in a way that only a perfect pass can beat you, and that's exactly how Xavier plays".
Charlotte was the next stop on the NextGen talent search for the top middle school players in the country and the Mid-Atlantic region did not disappoint. Seventeen players from the NextGen Charlotte event will be added to the Rivals.com recruiting database. These 17 players along with the aforementioned 20 players from NextGen Ohio bring the number of middle school athletes receiving Rivals profiles to 89. Furthermore, the recent scholarship offer from West Virginia to NextGen Atlanta alum Owen Pappoe (eight offers) brings the number of FBS scholarship offers to NextGen alum to 20.
"We set out to change lives when we started this project," Brent Williams said. "I am not arrogant enough to think that all of the offers have come from the exposure from our platform. I realize it takes a village to open doors and create these opportunities. But with the success we've had I am confident that we are a major contributor.
"Our partnerships with Battle Sports Science, Next-Play, Gamebreaker Helmets, Generation Nexxt Youth Sports, Body Armor Sports Drinks and of course Under Armour have been great. But our relationship with Rivals has been the biggest factor in creating these opportunities for the Next Generation of great football players."
The Charlotte event was packed with talent with athletes from North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina and Maryland making the trek to Charlotte to compete for profiles in the Rivals database. Here's a breakdown by state.
Georgia
Two more athletes from Georgia have been added to the Rivals database. Class of 2019 wide receiver Jovonni Cunningham was unable to attend the Georgia NextGen event earlier this spring, but he showed why many are calling the 2019 class in the Peach State the top class in the country. The 5-foot-7, 155-pound receiver posted impressive numbers in the combine and proceeded to prove that he was more than just a combine wiz.
A 6-foot-4, 245-pound seventh-grader, Jackson Ramey has been on NextGen's "Can't wait to see list" for a long time. The powerful offensive tackle prospect was unable to finish the Georgia event due to injury. Ramey proved to be worth the wait, by displaying both power and athleticism.
Virginia
Class of 2019 prospects dominated the day in Virginia. Wide receivers Noah Anderson and Quinton Gregory, defensive backs Joseph Bray, Tyrese Williams and Gerrian Christopher, and running back Chappelle Jackson all had great days, as did 2020 running back Chris Tyree. They were all on a mission to show they belonged in the Rivals database.
Anderson, at 5-foot-8 and 130 pounds, is a smooth route runner with good hands. Gregory is an explosive route runner, with an exceptional burst and ability to separate. He posted a (then) NextGen combine record 4.60-second 40-yard dash, breaking the (4.64) record held by Pappoe.
At 6-foot and 170 pounds, and 6-foot, 165 pounds, respectively, Bray and Christopher are currently safeties heading to Indian River High in Chesapeake, Va. But they will probably grow into extremely athletic linebackers. Both have the speed to play in the defensive backfield, but impressed evaluators with their physical play - dropping down to cover as 'backer after they both dominated as a cover corners. Williams (5-foot-9, 160 pounds) is a long-armed cover corner, and showed tremendous ball skills throughout the day.
Jackson (5-foot-8, 170 pounds) and Tyree (5-foot-6, 130 pounds) were uncoverable during one-on-ones. Both displayed good hands and a willingness to compete for balls against extremely talented linebackers.
A 6-foot-4, 235-pound offensive tackle, Ben Smiley showed that Virginia is more than just skill players. Smiley is a long, athletic tackle that impressed as both a defensive and offensive lineman.
North Carolina
Not to be outdone by the out-of-state talent, the local talent defended its home turf in impressive fashion. Easily the most impressive prospect from the Tar Heel State was 2019 linebacker prospect Coleman Reich, who at 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds is athletic enough to play defensive back but competed at linebacker during the showcase. Reich allowed Virginia prospect Gregory to hold the NextGen combine 40-yard dash record for about five minutes, as he blazed a 4.57. And to prove his record-setting time wasn't a fluke, five minutes later he broke his own record with an even faster 4.52 40-yard dash. More impressive was Reich's ability to apply his athleticism to football drills.
Class of 2019 defensive backs Jalen Frazier (5-foot-8, 140 pounds) and Jaylen Haynes (5-foot-7, 140 pounds) impressed evaluators with their ability to play tight man coverage against a strong group of receivers.
Running backs Cameron Cloud (2019) and Demetrius Mauney (2019) used speed and power, respectively, to win one-on-one battles. Mauney (5-foot-11, 170 pounds) is a strong power back with speed and good hands while Cloud is a shifty, quick back that stood above the rest. Cloud also made a strong case for best receiver as he comfortably switched between running back and wideout, leaving no doubt he was an offensive weapon.
Closing out the top performers in the North Carolina event were linebacker Kevon Hilliard - a 6-foot-2, 195-pound eighth-grader - and 6-foot-2, 330-pound defensive tackle Jadacus Logan. Hilliard was impressive covering some excellent running backs. His frame and length may allow him to grow into a rush defensive end. Logan (2019) displayed surprising quickness for a kid his size but it was his leverage and power that made him unblockable.
Combine
North Carolina was packed with impressive athletic performances. In addition to the record-setting times by Gregory and Reich, nearly 30 athletes posted sub-5.0-second-flat 40-yard dash times.
"Although the quarterback prospects at the event were not as polished as we have seen throughout #TheSearch, they were the most athletic group we've seen," Williams said.
Marcus Graham (4.68), Jalon Jones (4.75) and Clayton Cribb (4.86) will be exciting to see develop as dual-threat prospects and all had exceptional 40-yard dash times.
In addition there are several young prospects that we will be adding to our Watch List. Defensive tackle Kaseem Vauls, offensive lineman Tyler Cain, defensive backs Mario Love Jr. and Thailand Baldwin, running backs Jackson McCrary, Jadus Davis and Chancellor Harris, linebacker Landon Elliot and tight end prospect Isaac Walker showed flashes throughout the day.
NextGen now takes #TheSearch to Tampa, Fla., for a June 6 showcase that is shaping up to be the largest event of the season. NextGen has worked closely with Valister Wilson and the Future Stars Game (Georgia vs. Florida) to make sure that the top talent will be on display.
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