There may not have been a better position group at any camp or 7-on-7 tournament this past summer than the secondary on the Southeast squad at Gridiron Kings this past weekend.
Vernon Hargreaves, the consensus No. 1 cornerback in the country, was the Defensive MVP of Gridiron Kings last weekend in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Two Tampa-area prospects, the nation’s top cornerback and Florida commit Vernon Hargreaves III (Tampa, Fla./Wharton) and four-star safety Leon McQuay III made big play after big play in helping the Southeast squad claim the championship.
Hargreaves, who is rated currently as the nation’s top cornerback prospect according to 247Sports and the 247Composite (which factors in equally a number of rankings from recruiting media outlets and services, including 247Sports), saw action primarily at safety during the two-day event. He had multiple interceptions and big pass break-ups, displaying rare instincts and ability to break on the ball, even playing a new position.
Donovin Darius played safety in the National Football League from 1998-2007 for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders and Miami Dolphins and was the coach of the Southeast squad.
“(Hargreaves) has tremendous ability and as I shared with the players earlier, I was a long-snapper for three years in college,” he said. “I was a back-up long-snapper in the NFL as well outside of being a safety, so the more you can do the better. It’s giving these guys the ability to understand that they are all athletes and you just want to try to get in where you fit in and learn techniques. Prior to this event, he’s a great corner. Hopefully through this, he’s got the chance to learn safety so that no matter where he is he can fit in.”
Hargreaves was named Defensive Most Valuable Player of the event by the coaches. McQuay was playing his projected position and was equally impressive. He made at least one touchdown-saving interception and had multiple key pass break-ups. Had Hargreaves not won the MVP, it would have been easy to award it to McQuay.
“(McQuay) is just poised,” Darius said. “I think that’s it. He has the confidence and poise to understand what his job is. He may not be the guy that has to bark out a lot of commands, but he’s where he needs to be and he’s all about finishing.”
McQuay is uncommitted and while there was a pending announcement earlier this week (we think it may have been for USC), he has since postponed his decision. He is the nation’s fourth-ranked safety prospect according to 247Sports and the 247Composite.
Georgia cornerback commit Shaq Wiggins isn’t the biggest or fastest cornerback out there, but he’s a big-time playmaker in this setting and on Friday night’s. That was evident at times during this event. He wasn’t perfect and did get beat a few times, but always came right back and competed at a high level. Confidence does not elude Wiggins.
Five-star linebacker Matthew Thomas is outstanding in pass coverage.
“They always say you can’t teach a person to be a playmaker,” Darius said. “You either have it or you don’t. Out here he’s done a great job of bringing his energy and his intensity and also just being a professional about what he’s doing. I was proud to have him on our squad.”
Wiggins is the No. 142 overall prospect nationally according to the 247Composite and despite visits to other schools this summer, he is firmly committed to Georgia.
The secondary wasn’t the only part of the Southeast squad that shined this past weekend. The linebackers, particularly five-star Matthew Thomas (Miami, Fla./Booker T. Washington) and four-star Larenz Bryant (Charlotte, N.C./Vance), came into the event with a reputation for being skilled in pass coverage and they did not disappoint.
“At this stage, where the running backs and guys you have to cover are basically running 4.4s and 4.5s, the linebacker’s ability to move in space is a definite attribute and skill to have,” Darius said. “This week, it was tested at this level probably more than it will be. For them to cover guys out the backfield doing wheel routes, wide receivers and more, I was really proud of what they learned and what they did.”
Thomas, the No. 10 overall prospect nationally and the nation’s No. 2 outside linebacker according to the 247Composite, is currently favoring Florida State over Miami (Fla.) and Alabama. The long-armed 6-foot-4, 205-pounder covers a lot of ground laterally and uses his length to break up passes well. Bryant, who is the No. 1 prospect in North Carolina for this class according to 247Sports (No. 3 in the 247Composite), is similar in terms of arm length, just not as tall. He is committed to South Carolina.
In general, this was one of the most talented 7-on-7 defenses in recent memory at any event.
“As coaches, we just gave them some general areas and general responsibilities and then they just go out there and make plays,” Darius said. “It’s a credit to the talent of these guys and I wish them nothing but the best moving forward.”