Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell has been all over the Rivals.com/VTO Sports Elite 100 Showcases this spring. While the talent at each event varied by position, Farrell shares five things he learned from all five events.
VTO camps: What We Learned
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1. Defensive big men dominate
While there were many talented positional groups at each of the five events, the big men on the defensive line stood out at each one.
Bamberg (S.C.) Bamberg-Ehrhardt defensive end Martin Aiken was the best overall player at the South Carolina showcase, defensive end Jonathan Bullard from Shelby (N.C.) Crest dominated the North Carolina event and defensive tackle Carlos Watkins from Forest City (N.C.) Chase wasn't far behind.
McDonough (Ga.) Henry County defensive end Dalvin Tomlinson was the talk of the loaded Georgia event and two underclassmen, Muscle Shoals (Ala.) defensive tackle Dee Liner and Chesapeake (Va.) Indian River defensive end Andrew Brown beat out upperclassmen for the MVP awards.
Others that stood out at the events include David Deleon, K'Hadree Hooker, Dakota Ball, Jarontay Jones, Torey Agee, Korren Kirven and Demetri McGill.
2. Passing the eyeball test
Based on the eyeball test alone, there were some impressive-looking prospects at each event. South Carolina and Alabama, probably the thinnest events when it comes to depth of talent, had Aiken, Darrion Hutcherson and Javierre Mitchell lead the way, but the North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia events were loaded with impressive specimens.
In North Carolina, Bullard and Watkins both looked great on the hoof while linebacker Nick Dawson and wide receiver Jody Fuller could have passed for college players.
In Georgia, the list was amazing. Tomlinson, C.J. Curry, Mike Davis, Ukeme Eligwe, Raphael Kirby, Justin Taylor and Jaquay Williams all could have passed for BCS freshmen or sophomores.
Virginia was also impressive led by Brown, Joel Caleb, Alex Carter, Ken Ekanem, Derrick Green (2013), E.J. Levenberry Jr., Kwontie Moore and Michael Parker (2013). And the best thing? Each played as well as they looked.
3. The SEC is popular
Most of the top prospects at these events talked about the SEC as an attractive conference, had an SEC school as their leader or at the very least had an SEC school in their top five.
That might be natural when you consider that showcases were held in South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama, but even in North Carolina and Virginia the SEC was well represented. South Carolina and Auburn are in the top four for Aiken. Hutcherson committed to Auburn shortly after the camp and Mitchell may as well already be a commit to Gene Chizik as well.
Curry is headed to Georgia, Davis is a Florida commitment and many of his teammates on hand (Kirby and Jones) also seem to favor the Gators. Taylor, Ball and Kenyan Drake are already committed to Alabama. D.J. Humphries, who didn't participate but was at the North Carolina event, came out and named Florida as his leader and Bullard is also considered a Florida lean right now.
Clemson, Miami, Virginia Tech and Florida State are holding their own for the ACC: Germone Hopper(Clemson), J.C. Coleman (Virginia Tech), Aiken (Clemson leads?), Watkins (Clemson, Miami), Eligwe (looks like an FSU lock), Levenberry (FSU lean?), Stefon Diggs (Miami, FSU, Virginia Tech near top of list), Dawson (Clemson leads). But the lure of the SEC is strong.
4. Underclassmen hold their own
At each event, there was at least one or two and sometimes a handful of underclassmen that stood out against older prospects. In South Carolina, Bamberg (S.C.) Bamberg-Ehrhardt tight end Kevin Crosby (2014) and Fayetteville (N.C.) Jack Britt wide receiver Jalen McDaniel (2013) are surefire D-I prospects and in Alabama, Liner has a great future.
In North Carolina, Charlotte (N.C.) Providence defensive end Daniel Garces, Hope Mills (N.C.) South View defensive tackle Greg Gilmore, Mount Ulla (N.C.) West Rowan defensive tackle Trey Shepherd and Charlotte (N.C.) Mallard Creek cornerback Brian Walker all stood out among the best. In Georgia, Marietta (Ga.) Lassiter quarterback Eddie Printz was the best at his position. In Virginia, it was Brown, Green, Levenberry, McGill, Parker, Olney (Md.) Good Counsel cornerback Kendall Fuller and Washington (D.C.) Friendship Collegiate Academy defensive back Jalen Tabor among the top performers.
Camps in the spring have become more about finding the top sophomores as much as they are about evaluating the best juniors.
5. Plenty of sleepers at tight end
Of all the positions, tight end produced the most sleepers. And in a year when the position is very thin nationally, that's a good thing. In South Carolina, Greenville (S.C.) J.L. Mann's Cameron Martin emerged and should start getting more looks while in North Carolina, Terrance Knox of Concord (N.C.) entered the camp with no offers but came away with North Carolina and Louisville soon thereafter.
In Georgia, Sharpsburg (Ga.) East Coweta's Cole Trolinger took home the MVP award and saw his recruiting shoot upward as well. In Alabama, Hutcherson entered the camp without any offers but has picked up Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Louisville, East Carolina, Oklahoma State, Southern Miss, Utah, Vanderbilt and Auburn since have offered. Phenix City (Ala.) Central's Jonathan Curry has also blown up a bit since his performance and Birmingham (Ala.) Briarwood Christian's Canon Smith is now emerging as well.
Finally in Virginia, Standardsville (Va.) William Monroe's Zach Duprey won the MVP award and Springdale (Md.) Flowers' Monte Taylor looks like a D-I prospect for sure. Heading into these camps, the above prospects had very little going for them as far as D-I offers and interest. But by National Signing Day, each of them could all be D-I.