SOUTHLAKE, Texas - Even though National Signing Day for the class of 2011 is mere days away, it is never too early to evaluate younger talent. That was exactly the case on Sunday with the Next Level Athletics Texas Top 100 Camp. Many of the top juniors in North and East Texas took place in the showcase.
Eschewing the traditional combine format, the camp consisted of no testing. There were some individual position drills and then a lot of one-on-ones. It allowed the players to show what they could do against good competition.
Several big names highlighted the event roster coming into the day. Richardson (Texas) Pearce athlete Corey Coleman is one of the fastest prospects in the state and he did not disappoint. Playing wide receiver, he was able to most of the defensive backs off the line and showed good hands when getting open.
DeSoto (Texas) offensive lineman Curtis Riser was also on hand. He measured in a bit smaller than expected at 6-2.5, 283. Riser was one of the better lineman in attendance but needs to work a bit on his pass pro. He tried to simply use his size to get in the way at times and it doesn't work against more athletic defenders. Though he played tackle on Sunday, he is likely a guard at the next level.
Van (Texas) linebacker Dalton Santos was another participant in the event. He is a big body, measuring in a 6-2, 245. He is purely an inside backer and s much more effective in pads but he fared pretty well covering the running backs and tight ends. The Oklahoma State commitment would seem to be ideally suited for a 3-4 defense but should fit in a 4-3 as well.
A couple players from Allen (Texas) were standouts on the day. Running back Jonathan Williams is by no means a new name after rushing for over 2,000 yards this season but he won MVP of a strong group at the position. The 5-foot-11, 205-pound back showed a great burst and was able to change directions well for a big back. Though the state of Texas is loaded at the position for the class of 2012, Williams will receive plenty of interest. He needs to work on catching the ball away from his body but, other than that, did not show any weaknesses in his game.
Williams' linebacker teammate, Thaddeus LaGrone was probably the biggest surprise of the entire day. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound defender has a very long and lean frame and has the potential to add a lot of good weight. He was exceptional in the individual drills, showing the ability to change directions on a dime. However, he excelled the most in the one-on-one drills. Though running backs usually have an advantage, LaGrone was able to use his hands to blanket most of them and end up with several pass breakups. He had a productive year for Allen as a junior, finishing with over 90 tackles. He will surely see attention pick up from colleges this spring.
A couple high school defensive ends also worked out at linebacker and looked the part. Lincoln Richard from Everman (Texas) is a big prospect at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds. He is very fast for his size and plays downhill very well. He could end up as a linebacker or a defensive end in college. Damien Neroes of Garland (Texas) is a bit shorter at just shy of 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds. He has the skillset to play linebacker but it is clearly a new position for him.
Longview (Texas) was well-represented including a top receiver and a top defensive back. Wide receiver Eric Hawkins was one of the fastest players at the event and has long strides. He gets in and out of his breaks well and has solid hands. He has some good matchups with his high school teammate, safety Jordan Burton. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound defender is surprisingly good against the pass.
The Colony (Texas) wide receiver Gerald Thomas walked away with the MVP award for the position and was another player who showed good speed and hands. Cameron (Texas) Yoe wide receiver Dede Westbrook showed why his big junior season was not a fluke as he caught everything thrown his way. Jonathan Aldridge from Whitehouse (Texas) was yet another speedster at the position.
Grand Prairie (Texas) South Grand Prairie quarterback Jared Johnson won the MVP for his position group. He showed good velocity on the ball and a nice touch on his deep passes. The quarterbacks were a very deep group and some of the others who stood out were Marshall Williams from Flower Mound (Texas), Jake Larson from Coppell (Texas), Zed Woerner from Marble Falls (Texas) and Brady Burgin from Dallas (Texas) Highland Park.
The offensive and defensive line group was not as deep as the other positions but there was still some talent there. In addition to Riser, College Station (Texas) A&M Consolidated tackle Cameron Cermin is a big offensive lineman at 6-foot-5, 291 pounds. He is still learning how to move his feet but looks like he has the tools to put it together. Just a sophomore, Garrett York from Crandall (Texas) also plays some linebacker but was one of the better rush ends on the day.
One of the biggest surprises on the defensive line was Ikenna Nwafor of Irving (Texas) Cistercian. The 6-foot-5, 298-pound tackle is a bit raw but has the size and athleticism that colleges covet in interior defensive linemen. If defense does not work out, he could play offensive guard as well.