SPARTANBURG, S.C. – There were a number of talented players at Saturday's Shrine Bowl. Some prospects had exceptional weeks and raised their stock while other prospects struggled at times.
Anyway you slice it, this was the first chance these prospects had an opportunity to play against the raised competition level and it was a chance to see what players have the ability to contribute next year and the one's that will likely need a few years to develop before they can make an impact on the college level.
After watching every practice this week, seeing the behind the scenes events and watching the game on Saturday, Rivals.com names its top 10 performances for the week. Rivals.com also gives out our own special set of awards, which digs deeper than just the regular MVP honors.
Here are the week's top 10 performers according to Rivals.com Southeast recruiting analyst Jeremy Patterson based on the prospects performance from the first practice on Monday all the way through the game on Saturday:
1. Without question the best player on the field was Charlotte (N.C.) Independence wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi. You could probably count on one hand how many people that actually attended all of the practices and Saturday's game that would disagree with you and you'd have to really be trying in order to do that. He looks like a junior in college right now and there is not a single program in the United States that would not sign this kid, given the opportunity. He absolutely dominated the North Carolina defensive backs in practice all week and caught seven passes for 94 yards and one touchdown on Saturday. Simply put, no other player was on his level at any point this week.
2. The talk of the South Carolina squad all week has been the play of Rock Hill (S.C.) Northwestern defensive back Jamie Robinson. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Robinson shut down the likes of Eric Huggins and Reynaldo Hunter all week in practice. On Saturday he was in the unenviable position of attempting to cover the impossible to cover Mohamed Massaquoi. There were times when Robinson was on the field and not matched up with Massaquoi and other times when Massaquoi was on the field and Robinson was not. The battle seemed to go back and forth with each one getting the better of the other at times, but nonetheless, he held his own with one of the top receivers n America.
3. Sumter (S.C.) Lakewood athlete J.C. Neal was one of the most fun guys to hang around all week and he also put on a show proving he is one of the Palmetto State's elite prospects. Neal took home defensive MVP honors for the South Carolina squad after two interceptions (which eventually led to touchdowns) and collecting five tackles, one of which was for loss. He looked great all week long in practice as a defensive back, however, most of the schools recruiting him are looking to sign him as a wide receiver.
4. Greenwood, S.C., linebacker Alonzo Higgins was one of the biggest surprises of the week. Keep his name in the back of your mind because he does not have the grades to enroll in a Division I school this fall, but hopes to enroll at Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia in the fall, if that happens look for him to re-surface at a major program when he completes his time there. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Higgins is a physical freak, who would be considered a top three in-state player if it were not for grade issues. In Saturday's game he led the South Carolina team in tackles with eight tackles, two for loss and one sack.
5. Winston-Salem (N.C.) Mt. Tabor linebacker Derek Nicolson started the week off pretty slowly, but seemed to pick up the pace with each practice and by Thursday and Friday was a menace in practice. On Saturday he collected seven tackles, but it seemed as though he must have had 15 tackles because he was near the tackle each and every play. The 6-foot, 220-pound Nicholson looked very much like his older brother A.J., who is a linebacker at Florida State.
6. Waynesville (N.C.) Tuscola quarterback Jonathan Crompton is another prospect that seemed to gain momentum each practice as he had to learn a new system for the week. There is no doubt that the Vols are getting a good one in Crompton, who is big and hard to bring down, athletic, has a cannon and makes great decisions. Even though Cox got the start and is a fine player, there is no doubt that they are on different levels at this point in their careers. On Saturday he completed 10 of 22 passes for 139 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
7. Jamestown (N.C.) Ragsdale running back Toney Baker is one impressive looking athlete. His thighs are as big around as people's torso and he uses every ounce of muscle in them to churn out yardage. He was limited somewhat in Saturday's game only gaining 57 yards on 14 carries, but was never taken down by just one player it always took several defenders to wrestle him to the ground.
8. North Augusta, S.C., athlete C.J. Byrd is a tremendous hard-hitting athlete, that posted a very solid performance in Saturday's game collecting seven tackles. He has a long lean body that will allow him to play several positions on the college level. He runs well and has great instincts. Byrd is already very polished and is the kind of player that could come in and contribute early in his collegiate career.
9. New Bern, S.C., athlete Montario Hardesty is exactly that, an athlete, and a tremendous one at that. When you look at Hardesty and watch him even do a light run through in practice you think to yourself that this kid can play running back, wide receiver or defensive back and earn all-conference in honors in just about any conference in the land. On Saturday he won offensive MVP honors for the North Carolina squad, 12 carries for 55 yards and one touchdown, five kickoff returns for 136 yards.
10. Camden, S.C., offensive lineman Thomas Austin is a solid, 6-foot-4, 286-pound lineman with great strength and tremendous feet. He has had a tremendous week of practice and absolutely whipped whoever was in front of him on Saturday. The Clemson commitment has great leg drive and could play early on the collegiate level.