What We Learned: Chicagoland prospects stand out over weekend
CHICAGO – The Boom Football Best of the Best Showcase and the EFT/EDGYTIM Showcase took place over the span of two days, giving Chicagoland prospects in the 2020 and younger classes an early winter opportunity to make their mark this off-season.
DENVER WARREN READY TO ANSWER QUESTIONS
At the start of his junior season, West Aurora (Ill.) defensive tackle Denver Warren had the recruiting world at his fingertips. The 2020 prospect held more than a dozen offers and had already made a commitment to the University to Michigan. Just five months later, however, Warren is looking to re-energize his recruiting process after he and Michigan parted ways this past fall.
The Defensive Line MVP of the Rivals 3 Stripe Camp presented by adidas in Chicago last May, Warren’s talent has never been in question. This past fall, though, the three-star prospect did not always play up to that talent and his junior year performance did not meet his expectations.
“I feel like I could have played better and this is definitely a bigger year ahead,” Warren said. “I am just going to show them that I got it and whoever takes a chance on me will not be disappointed.”
Warren made good on that promise with his performance at Sunday’s Best of the Best Showcase, dispatching the competition to run away with Defensive Line MVP honors. His recruitment is starting to regain momentum too, with programs such as Illinois, LSU, Texas, Penn State, Minnesota and Michigan State showing the strongest interest. Warren was supposed to visit Purdue on Saturday, but had to postpone due to weather. That trip could be rescheduled for this coming weekend.
The Chicagoland area has seen some of its top prospects in recent classes transfer out of the area. Class of 2018 four-stars Houston Griffith and Verdis Brown as well as class of 2019 four-star William Putnam all started their careers in the Chicagoland area before transferring down to the southeast region of the country. That has resulted in a perception of a diminished talent pool, but the pair of camps in Chicago this week revealed a bright future for the Windy City.
The Best of the Best Showcase on Sunday saw a class of 2022 prospect take home overall MVP honors for the event. Chicago St. Rita freshman athlete Kaleb Brown worked out at wide receiver and won rep-after-rep by showing off tremendous ball skills and an extra gear he could kick in to separate from defenders.
With Brown taking overall MVP honors, another wide receiver, Tyler Morris from Nazareth Academy, won the class of 2022 MVP award. Morris already high jumps 6-5 on the track and showed polished fundamentals at the receiver position to complement his skill set. He beat out a pair of quarterbacks in Hampshire’s Nick Brown and Chicago Marist’s Dontrell Jackson for the 2022 MVP award, but those two passers will definitely be prospects to watch. Brown is already 6-foot-3, 190 pounds with a rocket of an arm, while Jackson threw for over 1,200 yards and rushed for more than 800 yards as a freshman.
Morris and Brown were back on Monday for the EFT/EDGYTIM Showcase, where a couple more intriguing freshmen emerged. Rashad Rochelle started at quarterback for Springfield (Ill.) High as a freshman, and he displayed outstanding arm potential at Monday’s Showcase. Meanwhile, Aurora (Ill.) Christian linebacker Bjourn Mayes is another 2022 prospect who played varsity as a freshman. He looked bigger than his listed height/weight and was especially effective playing in space.
EAST ST. LOUIS DEEP WITH TALENT
A group of prospects from East St. Louis High School made the four-hour drive north to take part in the EFT/EDGYTIM Showcase. Several from the school stood out at this event last year, including Rivals100 safety Antonio Johnson and 2019 linebacker Cameroon Clay. Johnson did not make a return appearance this year, but several of his teammates were in attendance and made a strong impression.
Offensive lineman Javontez Spraggins started the momentum for the East St. Louis crew, proving to be the most dominant offensive lineman in a deep group. Spraggins played offensive center this past season for the Flyers, and looks like a great fit for that role at the next level. A performance we were not expecting came from 6-foot-5, 320-pound future East St. Louis offensive tackle Miles McVay. Still just 13-years-old and in the eight grade, McVay was the biggest offensive lineman at the event, but showed impressive agility and strength as well as a bright future for a class of 2023 prospect.
Despite not having Johnson and three-star Lawaun Powell participating in the skill portion of Monday’s Showcase, East St. Louis prospects was still represented well by several wide receivers and their 2021 quarterback, Tyler Macon who was one of the better passers at the event. The top performer from East St. Louis’ skill contingent was 2021 wide receiver Keontez Lewis. An outside receiver with size, Lewis lives up to East St. Louis’ “Flyer” moniker. He burned several defensive backs deep and displayed high-end potential that should draw interest from the top programs in the Power Five Conferences.
EMERGING PROSPECTS TO KNOW
Three-star defensive tackles Denver Warren and Willis Singleton were among the highest-recruited prospects we saw this weekend, but other top performers have not seen their recruitments take off yet. One of the out-of-state attendees who showed out at the EDGYTIM Showcase was Davis Heinzen from Manitowoc (Wisc.) Lincoln. At 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds Heinzen has ideal size for the tight end position and has excellent athleticism and quickness for the position. Programs such as Minnesota and Wisconsin are evaluating Heinzen, but he has yet to land his first offer.
Chaddarian West out of Nazareth Academy in LaGrange, Ill., has grown into an impressive defensive tackle prospect since we last saw him in the spring. He is bound to generate some FBS looks this off-season, as will class of 2021 Gurnee (Ill.) Warren Township’s Malachi McNeal, who was the class of the linebacker group on Monday. McNeal has the frame to man the MIKE linebacker role in college, but he proved adept playing in space as well.
Lake Zurich, Ill., 2020 teammates Hunter Welcing and James Piggot are both stuck in that big wide receiver/small tight end frames, but they are quick, athletic and both proved to be excellent pass catches. Chicago Curie 2020 standout Damarius Johns was among the best quarterbacks at Monday’s event and has the build of a linebacker, while Crystal Lake (Ill.) South offensive guard Dominic Collado already has a pair of MAC offers, and should be in line for more this off-season.