COLUMBUS, Ohio – Saturday’s Ohio State Nike Camp was a very talented affair and it was hard to argue that the defensive line group didn’t steal the show. However, at any other event, the talented group of defensive backs in attendance would have been the story of the weekend.
Sebastian Smith used his length and range to take the MVP honors on Saturday.
We take a look at the top performers out of the secondary and the linebacking corps in the second of three top performers pieces from the weekend.
Taking home MVP honors for the defensive backs was Sebastian Smith of Pickerington (Ohio) Central. With one offer from Indiana, Smith showed that he deserves several more. His size and length are undeniable at close to 6-3, but Smith was comfortable in his backpedal, turned his hips with ease and was a ball-hawk roaming the secondary. After playing in the shadows of Notre Dame signee Eilar Hardy in 2010, expect Smith to take the spotlight in 2011.
De’van Bogard was one of the most highly rated defensive backs in attendance as a four-star and member of the Top100 and he represented himself well Saturday. Bogard shows up on Friday nights in the pads and he displayed some of that feel in the 7on7 session, showing good instincts both as a free safety and as an underneath cover three, curl-flat defender.
Bogard was joined by an offerless Sean Draper who teams with him in the Cleveland Glenville backfield. Draper’s lack of offers coming from a high profile program like Glenville was one of the head scratchers on the day. He was as fluid and polished as any defender and has good size at the cornerback position. Expect his interest to pick up quickly this fall.
Cameron Burrows should see his interest continue to pick up as well. The cornerback out of Dayton (Ohio) Trotwood-Madison already claimed offers from Cincinnati, Missouri and Illinois. After Saturday Ohio State added its name to the list. As only a rising junior, Burrows looks like he has the makings of one of the top cornerbacks not only in Ohio but in the entire Midwest and beyond. With size, ball skills, turn-and-run ability and natural athleticism, Burrows doesn’t lack much.
Burrows was lined up in drills with a few other big safety bodies that had good days including his teammate Bam Bradley, Indianapolis (Ind.) Central’s John Turner, and Cincinnati commit Marcus Foster. All three had the frame of prospects that could eventually grow into linebackers but they also showed some traits that would make a coach reluctant to pull them away from the safety position. Foster in particular showed phenomenal ball skills and emerged as one of the real sleepers of the camp.
Alongside the oversized defensive backs, one diminutive defender refused to be ignored and that was Kaleb Humphrey out of Indianapolis (Ind.) Warren Central. Humphrey showed the best change of direction, burst out of his breaks and makeup speed out of any cornerback. However, Humphrey is 5-7 on his best of days and every bit of that athleticism is necessary.
Kaleb Humphrey has limited size but big-time ability.
Michigan commit Terry Richardson has to deal with size issues as well but evidenced by his earning a ranking as the nation’s No. 3 cornerback on 247Sports, he has quelled any doubts. Richardson was in attendance on Saturday and he met his expectations. He has an ability to seamlessly turn his hips and change direction in coverage and when he has to turn on his burners, he can absolutely accelerate with any receiver. One of the highest rated players in attendance and already committed to his college of choice, Richardson had no reason to show up but he did anyway and put together a terrific performance.
Richardson's teammate, Ruben Lile also seems to get better every time we see him. Though he's a big body, Lile has no fear in stepping up and covering the best wide receivers in attendance. That mentality helped him earn a Wisconsin offer on Sunday night and we believe more offers are on the way.
Other defensive back standouts: Billy Eakins, Pickerington (Ohio) Central; James Turner, Fairfield (Ohio) High School
The talent on the defensive side of the ball was completed by the linebackers, a group that was highlighted by some elite attendees out of the 2012 class as well as some rising stars out of the class of 2013.
Headlining the group in Columbus was Michigan commit James Ross out of West Bloomfield (Mich.) St. Mary’s Prep. Sporting a Michigan hat on the Ohio State practice fields, Ross already looked ready to strap on the pads and head into Ohio Stadium. At 6-1, Ross is not an overpowering presence but his feet, balance, athleticism and activity in space were all unique. Ross was nearly unblockable in the pass rush drill and he also has the ability to run and cover in the pass game.
Similar to Ross, Jordan Wallace out of Indianapolis (Ind.) Warren Central shows a lot of athleticism and leadership on the football field. The rising senior was directing traffic and making pre-snap adjustments throughout the 7on7 period and was making physical plays in the one-on-ones. He added a PItt offer over the weekend.
Despite the Michigan commit’s strong performance the MVP for the position had a slight Buckeye feel to it. Jaylon Smith, the younger brother of current Ohio State running back Rod Smith, took home the MVP hardware despite his status as an underclassman. This was the second event this spring that Smith had excelled at following a breakout performance at the Pittsburgh Badger 7on7.
Smith is long, athletic backer that plays with the fluidity of an underneath safety in coverage. He also showed speed off the edge and a comfort level rushing the passer. With his closing speed and length, Smith will be a terror in pursuit. Expect Smith to be one of Indiana’s top prospects in 2013.
Another youngster that made some waves was Darrien Howard out of Dayton (Ohio) Chaminade Julienne. Howard was perhaps the most imposing linebacker in attendance standing at 6-2, 241 pounds. Howard’s size is scary considering his status as a 2013 prospect and considering his ability to move at that size. His combination of agility and size was more than any running back could handle in the pass rush drills and with an offer from Cincinnati already in tow, Howard could be a prospect that has a long offer list early.
Adding to the sophomore showcase, Indianapolis (Ind.) Warren Central's Tim Kimbrough showed very good fluidity and lateral movement. He should join Smith as not only one of the top linebackers in Indiana but a likely national recruit.
Other linebacker standouts: George Stone, Louisville (Ky.) St. Xavier; Mike Svetina, Cleveland (Ohio) St. Ignatius
National Analyst Steve Wiltfong contributed to this story.