PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Over the weekend, New Level Athletics hosted its fourth 7on7 event of the spring with the Pittsburgh BadgerSports Elite 7on7 Camp. Each event has been teeming with elite talent. However even with events drawing the top players from Florida (Tampa) and the top players from around the west coast (Las Vegas) in the books, the Pittsburgh event may have been the best collection of talent that we’ve seen yet.
Gehrig Dieter was terrific on both offense and defense all weekend.
We take a look at some of the superlatives from the weekend’s top performers.
Playing on a high-profile team that featured five-star quarterback Zeke Pike, Top247 members Deaysean Rippy and Armani Reaves as well as Penn State tight end commit Jesse James, it would have been easy for Gehrig Dieter to be overshadowed. Instead, Dieter overshadowed his high profile teammates.
Dieter is being recruited as a wide receiver and he was an outstanding target for Pike all weekend. He showed sure hands, rarely – if ever – dropping the ball. He can make both the routine and spectacular catches. Dieter runs good routes, shows very good body control in the air and has an even keel, competitive attitude.
Even more impressive, Dieter may have been one of the top linebackers at the event. At 6-2.5, 215 pounds, Dieter could certainly play linebacker at the next level but he is talented enough to project at wide receiver, safety, linebacker or perhaps even cornerback where he will play for his high school in the fall. He’s just a natural athlete that does a lot well.
With a documented 4.50 40-time, clocked at the Under Armour National Combine in January, expect Dieter’s recruitment to continue to heat up.
One-hand-touch 7on7 football lends to a limited number of exciting plays in space. Very few players have the speed or make-miss ability to cover any ground once the ball is in their hands in a 7on7 setting. Don’t count Dennis Norfleet among those players.
Though he has limited height, Norfleet is the type of player that you don’t want to miss with the ball in his hands. The Detroit (Mich.) King back is so explosive, incredibly elusive and runs with an energy that you don’t often see. Even in the one-hand-touch setting, Norfleet was making multiple players grasp at air, sometimes many in the same play. With the ability to catch passes to go with his explosiveness, the Top247 prospect truly looks the part of one of the nation’s most exciting prospects.
Most efficient weekend
After missing Saturday’s pool play, Baltimore (Md.) Dunbar athlete Deontay McManus showed up looking to make up for lost time on Sunday. He accomplished that in a big way. Right from the start, McManus provided a huge offensive weapon for his Maryland team. He made a variety of catches, was able to get open using both his athleticism and his size and made some terrific catches.
Dennis Norfleet was explosive with the football.
On Sunday, McManus made it clear that he thinks of himself as a wide receiver and he certainly was as productive as you can ask out of a wide receiver but there is still no denying that he looks the part of an elite linebacker. If he is to commit to the linebacker position, McManus’ combination of size, frame and athleticism would make him one of the best defenders in the nation.
Least likely to miss
There are several reasons why Cooper Rush was a hard prospect to miss, particularly on Sunday. For one, Rush stands out physically at 6-4, 220 pounds with bright red hair. But while that may draw the eye, what keeps your attention is his productivity as a passer. Along with his good size, Rush was throwing strikes all weekend at quarterback with a very quick release, great touch and precise ball placement.
Moreover, the 2012 prospect out of Lansing, Mich., got plenty of opportunities to show off his talents in case you thought his play was a fluke at first glance. That’s because he was playing longer than any quarterback at the event, leading his team to a championship over some much more highly-touted teams.
Most explosive receiver
Arguably the most talented team in Pittsburgh was the loaded Virginia squad that featured speed and elite athleticism at every position. Among all of that athleticism though, Anthony Cooper emerged as the most explosive of the bunch and maybe the most explosive receiver in attendance.
Cooper, out of Virginia Beach (Va.) Bayside, showed elite speed and was dangerous not only as a vertical threat but as an underneath receiver, taking a few receptions on drag routes and turning them into huge gains. Recently dubbed a Top247 prospect, Cooper certainly lived up to that billing.
Best makeup speed
Hailing from Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech, Terry Richardson is not blessed with great size at the cornerback position but he has phenomenal game speed. Richardson is a fluid corner that really reacts well, plays with great fluidity and is polished. Richardson best quality though is his rare makeup speed.
At times, Richardson was caught trailing receivers on crossing routes only to find another gear to accelerate to break up what were well-designed completions on paper. That speed reveals itself on go-routes as well and he even showed off some offensive skills as a situational home-run threat out of the slot.
Most unique prospect physically
You’re not going to miss Virginia Beach (Va.) Ocean Lakes defensive end Eli Harold on a football field. Length is the key word for Harold who played linebacker for his Virginia team over the weekend and was able to hawk down ball carriers with ease due to his speed, size and long arms.
Eli Harold is a unique athlete.
On a few occasions, Harold took reps at wide receiver and he looked incredibly fluid and natural for a player of his size. Formerly a quarterback, Harold clearly has the kind of athleticism and versatility to do all kinds of things on a football field but his body really projects well as an impact pass rusher.
Best cover 2 corner
Top247 cornerback Armani Reeves made the trip to Pittsburgh from West Roxbury, Mass. despite an extensive offer list. With nothing to prove, Reeves came out and backed up his lofty ranking with a complete weekend. Playing ‘cover 2’ for his Goon Squad team, Reeves was extremely disruptive and looks to have a serious comfort level in that role.
There may not have been any cornerback that had more break ups on underneath and flat routes than Reeves. He has a great understanding and feeling for what is coming to him as far as route-combinations and great timing in making those breakups. He’s also a stocky, physical cornerback who looks like he would be very comfortable as a primary run-supporter on outside runs or plays into the boundary.
Most natural cover corner
Towson (Md.) Calvert Hall cornerback DaQuan Davis was one of the top cornerbacks at the US Army Combine, he then excelled at the Rutgers Badger 7on7 and he once again showed a lot of ability at the Pittsburgh Badger event. Davis doesn’t have great size but he has quick, active feet, he is comfortable playing in press or off coverage and it’s clear that he loves and embraces the challenge of playing cornerback.
Best receiving back
Watch Greg Garmon’s film and he is a big, physical, productive running back that has a lot of ability with the ball in his hands. Watch Garmon during 7on7 play and he looks like an elite wide receiver with size, speed and hands. Playing strictly at wide receiver over the weekend, Garmon made a number of spectacular plays and made it clear that catching the football is very much in his repertoire. Yet another Top247 member that was competing, Garmon was also a player that looked deserving of his lofty ranking.
Most impact per square inch
Pittsburgh (Pa.) Penn Hills wide receiver Corey Jones only stands at 5-foot-9, 160 pounds but when the ball is in his hands, defenders aren’t thinking about his size, they’re thinking about his speed and big-play ability. Over the weekend, Jones put that big-play ability on display and was seemingly unstoppable at different points during the weekend.
Despite his size, it’s easy to see what West Virginia, Kansas and Kent State see in the speedy slot receiver. He holds offers from each of those three schools and is getting serious interest from the likes of Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Toledo.
Best young arm
The quarterback group in general was strong in Pittsburgh and the strength extended beyond the class of 2012. In fact two of the best passers at the event were 2013 prospects Bucky Hodges and Shane Morris.
Shane Morris had a big day on Sunday.
Hodges, out of Salem, Va., has offers from Virginia Tech and Virginia already and at 6-foot-6 with poise, a strong arm and good accuracy it looks as though those two in-state offers will only be the beginning. Morris, a lefty out of Warren, Mich., has already picked up seven offers from the likes of Michigan, Michigan State and Cincinnati. Not only was Morris an effective passer over the weekend, but he exudes the confidence and leadership you look for out of the quarterback position.
Biggest upside at linebacker
Another Top247 prospect in attendance was McKees Rocks, Pa. linebacker Deaysean Rippy and Rippy has every bit the look that you want out of an elite backer. He has a big strong frame with great length and covers a lot of ground very quickly. Not only was Rippy making a number of plays defensively including multiple interceptions, he also lined up on offense at times making big plays with his hands downfield.
Best young linebacker
Ohio State fans familiar with redshirt freshman running back Rod Smith may want to remember the name of his brother Jaylon Smith. So might anyone else in need of an elite linebacker in the class of 2013.
Smith jumps off the field with his 6-3, 215-pound frame and his natural athleticism that allows him to drop into coverage with ease and run with receivers and running backs. The Fort Wayne, Ind. native has the look of one of the top 2013 linebackers in the Midwest.
Most natural athlete
Piscattaway, N.J. athlete Nadir Barnwell plays quarterback for his high school team but projects as an athlete to the next level and he certainly displayed some athleticism over the weekend. Barnwell is the type of athlete that has an effortless ability at wherever he lines up. Barnwell showed some devastating open field moves to make defenders miss with the ball in his hands, he can catch anything thrown to him and he’s comfortable in a backpedal or moving forward defensively.
Barnwell will only be a junior in the 2011 season and he should be one of the state’s most heavily recruited prospects.
Biggest wide receiver sleeper
Early in the day on Saturday, Lanham (Md.) Duval tight end Daniel Nwosu made sure that he made his presence felt. He currently only holds an offer from Bryant but at 6-4, 220 pounds, Nwosu proved he’s worthy of many more.
Nwosu has the ability to line up at tight end or wide receiver and he proved to be a matchup problem due to his athleticism upfield, his hands and his ability to make plays in the air. For his high school, Nwosu also lines up at defensive end and with a body and a frame capable of carrying plenty more good weight, it’s easy to project him to the defensive side of the ball as well.
Marchez Coates could be a DB on the rise.
Defensive back least likely to remain anonymous
To date, Pomfret (Md.) McDonough cornerback Marchez Coates has no offers. There’s no telling when his first offer will come but one thing is certain; the more coaches that see Coates in person, the sooner his offer will come.
It’s hard to watch Coates compete at defensive back and not come away impressed. He’s a big kid at cornerback, he shows good burst out of his backpedal, he’s a very natural kid in and out of his backpedal and he has very little wasted movement. Coates spent most of the weekend at safety and he likely has the ability to cross-train at both corner and safety.
Currently Coates is hearing from the likes of North Carolina, Penn State and Kansas State. As soon as his first offer comes, don’t be surprised if several more follow.
Biggest ball hawk
Southfield, Mich. cornerback Leviticus Payne will not be the first defensive back you pick out of a lineup to populate a backfield due to limited size but it’s hard to deny his knack for finding the football. Quarterbacks could not get away from Payne who spent a lot of time at safety tracking down passes. Payne wasn’t just around the ball though. He was turning it over.
Though there were no official stats for the weekend, Payne would be hard-pressed to find any player that could challenge his interception total for the event. Currently Payne holds a verbal offer from Iowa.
The strong performance in leading his Michigan-based team to the championship by Cooper Rush was impressive but he didn’t do it alone. He had several go-to receivers and none more than 2013 wide receiver Gairus Coleman. Coleman has the look of a running back on the hoof, and a slightly undersized back at that, but he is very proficient at receiver thanks in large part to his feet.
Coleman’s ability to start and stop instantaneously, his precise route-running and his burst with the ball made him one of the events most effective receivers, even as a sophomore.
Most to prove
Rochester, N.Y. natives Marcus McGill and Jahmahl Pardner are tired of hearing that only basketball players come out of New York. Over the weekend they took it upon themselves to prove that football talent can be found in New York as well and they certainly accomplished their mission.
McGill in particular was a major factor as a sure-handed physical receiver that made numerous spectacular catches over defenders and in traffic. Pardner – a teammate of five-star defensive tackle Jarron Jones – is a tall cornerback prospect with raw athleticism that also made the most of his appearance. Currently McGill holds an offer from Buffalo while Pardner holds Buffalo and Akron offers. Both are looking for more and are getting serious interest from the likes of Louisville, Bowling Green, Syracuse and UConn.
Best small school gem
As a wide receiver Goose Cohorn isn’t going to win any beauty contests. He’s short and stocky and his speed is just okay but he gets the job done in a big way. It may be tough for Cohorn to score any major college offers as schools may get scared away by his frame but if he falls to an FCS type program, he could be a extremely productive player.
Five-star Zeke Pike looks to Cohorn as his top receiver during the fall and during 7on7 and Cohorn rarely lets his big quarterback down when he goes to him. With great routes and hands and a feel for getting open, Cohorn quickly silences any doubters every time he walks on the field.