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Rivals Recap: Best of Midwest

INDIANAPOLIS – The Best of the Midwest Combine regularly draws top talent from across the region, and Monday’s event was no exception. The only difference this year was that underclassmen dominated.

TOP FIVE

L'Christian Smith
L'Christian Smith (Rivals.com)

1. WR L'Christian Smith, Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne (2018)

The 6-foot-5, 215-pound Smith showed again why he is one of the most intriguing prospects in the 2018 class. His measurables suggest tight end, but the sophomore definitely has the explosiveness to stay on the outside in college. Smith did not test because he is in the middle of basketball season, but we did not need to see a stopwatch to know that he has plenty of speed and quickness. The only question going forward will be whether he does pursue football in college, or if a future in basketball woos him away.

2. DT Derrius Mullins, Columbus (Ohio) DeSales

When announcing MVPs, the defensive line coach noted that Mullins still had not been blocked. The 6-foot-4, 326-pound defensive tackle is a load to handle in the middle, but he brings more than just size and strength. Mullins displayed excellent hand work and never let offensive linemen lock on. That allowed him to work angles and continue his upfield momentum. We would like to see him get a little more explosive off the snap, and offensive guard is still not ruled out as a future position for the three-star prospect.

3. WR Hunter Rison, Ann Arbor (Mich.) Skyline

One of the two wide receiver MVPs from Monday, Rison put on a clinic of how to create separation is confined spaces. If he has not drawn this comparison already, I’m going to be the first to say he reminds me a lot of recent Ohio State slot receiver Jalin Marshall from both a size and skill standpoint. Rison is explosively quick in and out of his breaks, and his 5-foot-11, 190-pound frame allows him to handle press coverage very well. The four-star prospect also possesses a strong pair of hands and attacks the football at its highest point.

4. RB Jaelen Gill, Westerville (Ohio) South (2018)

He is just halfway through his sophomore year of school, but it seems Gill has been on the recruiting scene for much longer. Listed as a running back, the 6-foot, 170-pound Gill is really more of an all-around athlete who is just as dynamic split out as a receiver as he is coming out of the backfield. The word most often associated with his performance on Monday was, “smooth.” Gill makes it all look very effortless, but in reality he is physically and fundamentally several years ahead of where we would expect a sophomore to be.

5. WR Joseph Scates, Dayton (Ohio) Dunbar (2018)

Like Smith, Scates is in the middle of basketball season and did not do any of Monday’s testing. The position work and one-on-ones gave us a good look at the 6-foot-3, 175-pound wideout, though, and he is going to be drawing national attention for his football potential very soon. Scates is a big, fluid and athletic prospect who has the speed to get behind defensive backs, but also the size and strength to make the tough catches in traffic. The raw tools are very impressive, but he is also tracking the curve and should not be deemed “raw” as a sophomore.

TOP VIDEO

NEWCOMER TO KNOW

Cameron McGrone
Cameron McGrone ()

LB Cameron McGrone, Indianapolis (Ind.) Lawrence Central (2018)

Winter camps and combines always reveal new names and McGrone was a name we were not familiar with coming into Monday’s event. Looking every bit his listed 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, McGrone has an excellent linebacker frame with long arms. He tested really well, running in the 4.5 range for the 40-yard dash, then went out and made one-on-one work look very easy – which is difficult to do from the linebacker position. Expect the Indianapolis prospect to see his star rise significantly on the recruiting trail this off-season.

NEWS AND NOTES

- Class of 2018 athlete L'Christian "Blue" Smith has drawn offers in football from Kentucky, Michigan, Penn State and Purdue, but there is not guarantee any of those programs will sign him … or any football program at all, for that matter. The 6-foot-5 Smith is also a standout basketball player who leads an undefeated Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne basketball team and is getting plenty of college looks for that sport as well. Smith said Monday that he is not sure which sport he will focus on in college, and may not decide that until his senior year of high school.

- The three top prospects out of Indianapolis (Ind.) Cathedral – four-star 2017 linebacker Pete Werner, 2018 offensive lineman Emil Ekiyor and 2018 running back Markese Stepp – were all in attendance, but did not participate due to various injuries. None are serious and all should be available working out at full strength later in the off-season, but we did not get to see anything new from them on Monday.

- Werner, the No. 240 ranked player in 2017, revealed a top three of Duke, Northwestern and Wisconsin on Monday. He is just coming off a visit to Duke this past weekend and that experience vaulted the Blue Devils into his top group. Boston College is a recent offer and they could join the other three at the top of Werner’s list if his research into the program continues to reveal that program as a good fit.

- Ekiyor, a class of 2018 offensive lineman with 14 scholarship offers, said that based on all his travels thus far, Tennessee has established itself as the early favorite in his recruitment. Michigan has also made a strong, early impression and has his attention. Oklahoma had been giving him strong indications an offer was coming, then delivered on that offer Monday afternoon.

- Stepp, meanwhile, joined Werner, Ekiyor and other Cathedral teammates on the visit to Illinois and also made a visit down to Louisville. The class of 2018 running back has several more visits planned in the coming weeks. During the final weekend of February he will see Ohio State and Michigan State on back-to-back days. He also plans to work in a visit to the home state Indiana Hoosiers over the next few weeks.

- Besides McGrone, there were several more young prospects who emerged as players to watch from Monday’s event. Belleville, Mich., class of 2019 wide receiver Julian Barnett is a 6-foot-2, 180-pound prospect who clocked 4.47 in the 40-yard dash and looked the part in position work and one-on-ones. Class of 2017 running back Alec Gold hails from Anna-Jonesboro High School in the southernmost part of Illinois, but showed he has the skill set to attract coaches his way. The 5-foot-11, 191-pound Gold ran in the 4.5 range for the 40-yard dash and showed a great pair of hands while running routes. Finally, Canal Winchester (Ohio) Harvest Prep 2018 defensive end Isaiah Mullens looks the part physically and tested really well. He is raw from a technical standpoint, but has a couple years to put it together.