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Rivals 3 Stripe Camp New Jersey: Top defensive performers

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – The Rivals 3 Stripe Camp presented by adidas rolled into New Jersey on Sunday, and some of the best prospects from the region turned out to compete. The day saw several impressive performances, but only the best of the best can make the cut for top performers. Here’s a look at the defensive players that out-shined the rest.

MORE: Top offensive performers | Recruiting notes | Camp chatter

Recruiting wrap: Temple, Purdue, and Maryland have offered Cross since he was named the defensive back MVP on Sunday.

Performance: Cross caught everybody by surprise with his excellent performance. He is a bigger defensive back who will play safety this year but could grow into a linebacker in college, which makes his speed and ball skills even more impressive. Cross jumped on a couple of double-moves from the wide receivers but showed tremendous closing speed and knocked down a number of passes. Look for plenty more offers to come his way.

Recruiting wrap: Jones holds offers from Army, Boston College, Howard and Purdue.

Performance: One of the most impressive performances in a one-on-one setting was Jones intercepting passes on each of his first three reps and having the ball just deflect off his fingers on his fourth rep. The long and lean athlete prospect seemed to know where the ball was going before the quarterback even threw it. He still has some fundamental kinks to work out, but it is nothing that cannot be coached up. That ballhawk mentality, though, is uncoachable, and Jones definitely has it.

Recruiting wrap: Temple and West Virginia are the first offers in for Smith.

Performance: The defensive back MVP award was the most difficult to determine because the position featured several worthy candidates. Smith was in the discussion until the end and may have walked away with it if he would have done a little less holding of receivers during routes. Still, the rising junior showed exceptional coverage skills during one-on-ones and also was impressive with his closing speed and change of direction during cat-and-mouse drills.

Recruiting wrap: Georgia, Duke, North Carolina, Rutgers, and Penn State are just some of Earlington's standouts.

Performance: Earlington has really come a long way over the last couple years. An accomplished basketball player, his explosiveness off the edge and strong hands gave plenty of offensive linemen problems. Earlington has filled out his frame well and that strength has helped him expand his pass rushing repertoire to include inside moves. He also showed a good motor and never stopped his rush even when it looked like the offensive lineman may have had him beat.

Recruiting wrap: Morgan is considering a June 6 commitment date and is looking hardest at Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Rutgers and Temple.

Performance: Listed as an athlete prospect, Morgan registered for Sunday’s camp as a linebacker but ended up running with the defensive line group. His performance from that position had him in contention for MVP honors. Morgan jumped in for one of the first reps in one-on-ones and immediately blew by his opponent with an outside speed rush. He continued to display that speed throughout the day and also was able to incorporate an effective counter move.

Recruiting wrap: Kentucky was the first to offer Ayamel.

Performance: Ayamel's play earned him the linebacker MVP award on Sunday and for good reason. His aggressiveness, patience and discipline helped him dominate the running backs in the cat-and-mouse drills, and he almost knocked the ball loose a couple of times. In one-on-ones, Ayamel had the burst off his plant foot to stay with running backs and tight ends once they made their break, and he had the speed to keep up with them. Ayamel also knew when he could be physical in coverage and it helped disrupt the chemistry receivers had with the quarterbacks.

Recruiting wrap: Goode hit 20 total offers recently when Virginia joined his list. He plans to start narrowing that list of contenders soon.

Performance: Goode does not have ideal height and he would benefit from trimming some bad weight, but what the three-star does have is an explosive first step and quick hands. His future is as a zero-technique nose tackle who can fill the A gap and pressure the pocket, and it is easy to see why so many teams value him for that role. Goode was so quick out of his stance that he caught most offensive linemen flat-footed, and he also had the strength to win the battle once they locked on.

Recruiting wrap: Joseph is waiting on his first offer, but has been hearing from Buffalo, Idaho, North Dakota, Syracuse and Virginia Tech.

Performance: This is the second time we have seen Joseph this offseason and the second time the Canadian has impressed. While college coaches have started to look harder at our neighbor to the north for college football talent, a player like Joseph still has to prove himself repeatedly against top competition in the States to earn those coveted scholarship offers. He did that this weekend, first earning his spot in Sunday’s camp with a top combine performance then being one of the top performers in a deep defensive back group.

Recruiting wrap: Hawkins will look to narrow his list of offers this summer, with Penn State, Virginia Tech, N.C. State, North Carolina, Minnesota, West Virginia and Nebraska likely to make the cut.

Performance: Although he is just a sophomore, Hawkins was one of the most physically impressive defensive backs in attendance. He looks bigger and more dangerous than his measured size of 5-foot-11 and 179 pounds would suggest, and although he is listed as a cornerback, he looks like a future strong safety. From a skills standpoint, though, Hawkins showed all the attributes to stay at cornerback. He was able to flip his hips fluidly to stay with receivers and showed a natural feel for the position.

Recruiting wrap: Franklin has narrowed his choices down to Notre Dame and Virginia.

Performance: Few defensive linemen have a motor like Franklin. He was involved in some of the best matchups of the day and was largely successful. Franklin was very quick off the line and played with great leverage, so he was able to continue gaining ground even if the offensive lineman seemed to get in his way.

Recruiting wrap: Lee has a very long offer sheet that includes Alabama, Ohio State, Maryland, Penn State, Clemson and many others.

Performance: There wasn't a linebacker on the field that was bigger than Lee. He has clearly been spending a lot of time in the gym, and a lot of players felt that strength on Sunday. Lee was good in the cat-and-mouse drill. He stayed patient and cut runners off before they could make it to the edge. Lee has been better in a one-on-one setting in the past but still made some plays by knocking the ball down and keeping running backs and tight ends in front of him.

Recruiting wrap: Boston College, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, and Wisconsin are just some of DePalma's biggest offers.

Performance: DePalma seemed like he was a step ahead of the offensive players for much of the camp. What was so impressive wasn't his physical tools but his instincts. DePalma can improve his speed, but he is very strong and very intelligent. He did such a good job of reading the body language of running backs and tight ends he faced and was able to force a lot of really bad throws.