CHANDLER, Ariz.- Two of the nation’s top cornerback prospects were on display at the Phoenix Under Armour Sevens 7-on-7 tournament on Saturday at Hamilton High School. Cole Luke (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton) and Priest Willis (Tempe, Ariz./Marcos de Niza) both lived up to their billing as elite prospects.
Top247 cornerback prospect Priest Willis showed off his versatility and athleticism during Saturday's Under Armour Sevens tournament in Chandler, Ariz.
Here are the top five prospects from the event.
1- Priest Willis, CB, Tempe (Ariz.) Marcos di Niza
In this setting, Willis played a number of different roles for his team’s defense, including free safety. This simply further underscored his versatility, which combined with his elite size makes him one of the best prospects in the country. Willis has excellent change-of-direction ability and plenty of recovery speed. His team was one of the more athletic groups there and he stood out as one of the best. On the recruiting front, we continue to feel like Willis could end up in the Southeastern Conference when all is said and done, but USC also is a very strong player. With that, he contemplated narrowing his list of schools this past week and simply did not feel like he was ready to make a number of cuts.
2- Cole Luke, CB, Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton
As far as a pure cornerback goes- Luke looked better than Willis. Willis ranks higher as a prospect because of the versatility factor and his size, but Luke is one of the best pure cover corners in the country in a recruiting cycle where the position is extremely deep. Luke’s ability to change directions and recover stood out as elite. Several times, it looked like he literally came out of nowhere to break up passes. Oklahoma seems to still be in good shape here, but a Texas offer earlier this month likely puts the Longhorns in the thick of things as well.
3- Jalen Ortiz, CB/ATH, Peoria (Ariz.) Centennial
Ortiz, who led his team to the finals, is built like a small tank- low to the ground and thick- but he’s athletic and has good hips, so he changes directions fluidly. During this event, he also impressed on the offensive side of the ball and he could end up playing offense in some capacity on the college level. His explosiveness (he ran 10.7 in the 100-meter dash this spring and was laser-timed at 4.54 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the Oakland Nike Combine) means he’s a big play waiting to happen with the ball. Arizona State, Washington, UCLA and a number of others are in the mix for his services.
4- Patrick Baldenegro, TE, Chandler (Ariz.)
Baldenegro is a tall (6-foot-5), lean prospect with excellent hands and athleticism. He’s a matchup nightmare that makes him at times dominant in this setting. Multiple times, he made outstanding catches in traffic to help his team reach the championship of the event. If there is a drawback, it’s that Baldenegro has not yet begun to fill out his frame, so he’s in the 210-pound neighborhood. After his showing Saturday, he was given an overall rating of 79 (two stars) from 247Sports.
5- Paul Elvira, WR/S, Tempe (Ariz.) Marcos di Niza
Elvira is a true sleeper for the 2013 class in the Grand Canyon State. Once programs start digging in to his ability, they will find a prospect that not only is an excellent, productive football player (48 catches for Marcos last season at receiver), but also is versatile in his ability. He showed excellent hands, instincts and the ability to get open on Saturday, but watch out for the 5-foot-11, 180-pounder on defense as he may project better as a safety. He was all over the place during this event and combine that with what he does for his high school team and he could end up being a steal for some FBS program.
-Class of 2014 safety JR Hunt (Chandler, Ariz.) was arguably the top underclassmen at the event. The 6-foot-3, 190-pounder is a smooth operator in the secondary and had multiple impressive pass break-ups in the semifinals and finals. He’s already received an offer from FCS program Montana, but we feel moving forward he could be a 10-15 offer prospect for the next cycle.
-Class of 2014 Top247 offensive tackle Casey Tucker (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton) and his Top247 defensive end teammate Qualen Cunningham both were in attendance supporting their school’s 7-on-7 team. Tucker says he may take up wrestling next year, but may not camp at any schools this summer. Oklahoma and others were by to check on him during the spring evaluation period. As for Cunningham, he’s nearing the double-digit offer mark and definitely passed the eyeball test in terms of matching up with what we saw on film.
-Arizona commit Mauriece Lee (Tempe, Ariz./Marcos di Niza) looks the part- he’s built low to the ground and is quick. Just going off the eyeball test/7-on-7, he is the type of back that could be an excellent fit in the offense of Rich Rodriguez.
-Another athlete from Marcos di Niza, Josh Kirkwood, has played receiver most of his career, but could project better as a cornerback. He impressed on both sides Saturday.
This and that
Though undersized, quarterback Darell Garretson (Chandler, Ariz.) did some nice things and has a chance to play at the college level. ...Cornerback Nate Simpson (Peoria, Ariz./Centennial) is an intriguing prospect because of his size. He may be a safety at the college level.
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