Texas Road Show: Nussmeier shines, Campbell steps up, more
It was the third week in a row of statewide high school football in Texas. Despite a bevy of CoVid-19-related cancellations and postponements across the state, there were still ample opportunities to scout some of the top talent.
This week’s slate included Flower Mound Marcus in a playoff re-match with Keller Central, Arlington Bowie’s homecoming contest against Mesquite Horn and the star-studded national game featuring Texas powerhouse Duncanville hosting Florida's IMG Academy at Globe Life Field.
Flower Mound Marcus vs. Keller Central
Garrett Nussmeier spent the offseason adding new elements to his game to better diversify the Marcus offense, including his ability to extend plays, buy time in and outside the pocket and allow his receivers to get downfield for big chunk plays. Nussmeier executed almost flawlessly against Central in a playoff rematch where he threw for five touchdowns and completed 76 percent of his passes. He bought time in the pocket, evading pressure consistently while also keeping his eyes downfield. Nussmeier has exceptional deep-ball accuracy and the arm talent to laser throws in or use touch for shorter throws designed to let his playmakers create in space. One one touchdown throw, Nussmeier fired a dart in between two defensive backs for the scores. He takes chances, but more often than not, they pay off.
The LSU commitment covered a ton of real estate with his legs. He kept the defense off-balance with quick snap counts, short throws and quick plays. He made throws running to his left and right. Nussmeier’s game resembles Hall of Famer Brett Favre with the theatrics and gamer mentality.
Nussmeier’s No. 1 weapon in the passing game is none other than Cal commitment J. Michael Sturdivant, who had a breakout junior campaign a year ago and continues to evolve as a legitimate playmaker. Sturdivant’s stock is soaring due to his ball skills, his ability to pick up yards after the catch and bulldoze defenders in the open field with his 6-foot-3, 185-pound frame, as well as excellent hands and the ability to make exceptional grabs on contested catches and jump-balls in the red zone.
Sturdivant can take the top off defenses and also capitalize underneath. He’s been compared to current Cal wide receiver Makai Polk, who according to sources within the program will be a featured part of the Bears’ passing game when the Pac-12 kicks off the season next month.
Arlington Bowie vs. Mesquite Horn
Devon Campbell debuted as the No. 1 guard in the 2022 class at Rivals before being reclassified as an offensive tackle in the current Rivals100. Campbell brings position versatility and could be evaluated as an elite lineman whether it’s outside at tackle or inside at guard; the differences are negligible.
Campbell boasts massive size at 6-foot-6 and 320 pounds with little bad weight. He’s the focal point of the Arlington Bowie offense and is used at right tackle, left tackle and guard, and moved across the formation to pull or seal or carve out running lanes. More times than not, Campbell will eliminate one or two defenders from the equation and can help propel splash plays downfield. He’s athletic with a basketball background and can block well out in space. Physicality is a key element in Campbell’s game. Consistency is the biggest question mark.
Pass protection remains one area where Campbell is still developing. He packs a powerful first punch and explodes through his hips, but still struggles with speedy rushers off the edge and those that can capitalize on second and third moves. Campbell had a quiet offseason and improved drastically in a short period of time. With his size, approach and athleticism, the sky's the limit here.
Duncanville vs. IMG
All eyes were on the talent-laden Duncanville offensive line, which returns Rivals100 prospect Savion Byrd back at left tackle after a year on the other side of the ball. Jaylen Early, a high three-star junior tackle, slid in at left guard with Rivals250 junior tackle Cameron Williams manning the right tackle position. In what is certainly the most stout offensive front in the state, the IMG defensive front offered a unique challenge to these highly sought-after linemen.
Back at his natural position, Byrd has reshaped his body physically and is every bit of 6-foot-6 and 315 pounds. It was his second game back at tackle, but Byrd was largely in command for much of the afternoon. Byrd was at his best when he was able to make initial contact and was persistent in pass-pro. On a few occasions, he missed with hand placement and unable to make blocks out in space, but once in a rhythm, Byrd drove defenders off the ball, provided lasting protection against talented defensive ends and was able to reach multiple levels of the defense in the run game.
A first live look at Williams was certainly of note. He is every bit of 6-foot-6 and well north of 330 pounds. He possesses raw power and is refining his technique, and at his best was able to keep the pocket clean or overpower at least one defender on a given play. With massive size comes some difficulty opening up in protection, which is an area Williams can shore up, and hand placement to better drive defenders off the ball. Williams is continuing to improve and took care of business in 1-on-1 battles in the trenches.
The other notable standout up front on Duncanville's line is fellow 2022 tackle Early. Playing inside at guard, Early was fantastic sealing the edge and pulling in the run game and contributing to some of the longer runs by the Panthers offense. In pass pro, Early is well-versed after spending his sophomore season at tackle and that position versatility is certainly noticed. Early battled inside with Power 5-caliber tackles in Dominick James and LSU commitment Anthony Hundley, and Early impressed.
Also back to the Duncanville lineup was Rivals250 linebacker Kendrick Blackshire, who is back after missing all of 2019 with a leg injury that sidelined him. The Alabama pledge was back healthy and back to form, playing downhill, being physical in the trenches against the run and making a few plays out in the flats on occasion. Blackshire remains one of the more physical inside linebackers in the country and at full strength is a difference-maker.
Rivals250 defensive end Omari Abor has surfaced as one of the most sought-after edge-rushers in the country after a breakout sophomore season last fall. Abor faced his biggest challenge yet in the form of Rivals100 offensive tackle JC Latham, another Alabama commitment, who was responsible for containing Abor off the edge for much of the game. Abor has a basketball background and packs a strong blend of power and speed as a pass-rusher, but was largely held in check by Latham. Abor put pressure on IMG quarterback J.J. McCarthy consistently, but couldn't finish. Credit Latham, who is squarely in that five-star conversation.
On a defense littered with star power, IMG 2022 defensive back Kamari Wilson might have been the most impressive performer throughout the game. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound is a hybrid defensive back capable of playing cornerback or safety at the next level. He was physical stopping the run and came up with a handful of key open-field tackles and behind the line of scrimmage and down the line of scrimmage. Wilson also led the way with multiple pass break-ups, showing off excellent closing speed and coverage skills.
... 2022 Mesquite Horn wideout Xavier Brown came down with one catch on a handful of targets against an injured Bowie squad. Brown, who holds an early offer from Kansas, struggled on contested passes downfield and should've come up with three big receptions. There's a lot to like, but the young receiver is still raw.
... RJ Daniels is the catalyst on the Duncanville offense and is used in a multitude of ways to get the Baylor pledge in space in creative ways. Whether it's on a screen, end-around or in the Wildcat, Daniels overcomes his frame with immediate acceleration and the ability to stay on his feet through contact. He impressed every opportunity he touched the rock.
... SMU commitment Jadarius Thursby has always had our attention, but he's thriving as Duncanville's jack-of-all-trades in that hybrid safety/outside linebacker/nickel role. Thursby came up with a handful of highlight-reel pops on IMG defenders in space and was fantastic on kick coverage. He'll be a name we hear a lot from on The Hill in short time.
... Rivals250 running back Lovasea Carroll fits the mold as a Georgia running back to a tee. While the volume wasn't there in IMG's loaded backfield, every time Carroll touched the rock he produced a positive play. He's elusive in the open field, but he's at his best running downhill with the ability to continue to power forward. He also contributed in the passing game.
... Class of 2022 linebacker Jordan Crook is the newest addition to Duncanville's front seven playing alongside Thursby and Blackshire. An athlete that played both ways for Dunne, Crook shined as a versatile linebacker defending the run, putting pressure on the quarterback and dropping back into coverage. He blends a lot of physicality and athleticism for the position.
... With so many talented linemen on both sides of the ball, Quincy Wright may get overlooked. However, the 2022 defensive tackle is Power 5-bound. At 6-foot-5 and 285 pounds, he's brings size and athleticism to the middle of Duncanville's defense. He was a force in the middle and helped slow down IMG's rushing attack even if his name didn't come across in the box score.
New names surface
If you’re familiar with Keller Central, then Darius Graham should certainly ring a bell. Graham’s older brother, DJ Graham, was a standout for the Chargers for years and is now a freshman cornerback at Oklahoma. The younger Graham, Darius, boasts a 6-foot-2, 225-pound frame as a junior outside linebacker and was the bright spot for Central against the run and making tackles out in space. No offers have arrived yet for Graham, but that should change in due time for the athletic outside backer.
Sophomore cornerback Deldrick Madison was charged with slowing down Rivals100 wide receiver Jacorey Brooks and stepped up to the task seamlessly. Madison, who measures in at 6-foot and 170 pounds, came up with a handful of key stops against the run and multiple pass break-ups, including a contested ball for Brooks in the middle of the field. He boasts fantastic timing in coverage. He'll be on Power 5 schools' radar in no time.
Another 2023 prospect of note on Duncanville's roster was running back Lontrell Turner, who was the go-to guy in the screen game in this contest. The 6-foot-1, 170-pound sophomore was slippery in space with reliable hands and was able to consistently push the pile forward. He, too, should see his role in the offense increase over time and garner Power 5 attention.