NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. - It was a rainy, cold, nasty day in the Pittsburgh area on Saturday at the NLA Elite 7on7 East Regional. However nothing was going to dampen the enthusiasm of five-star linebacker Jaylon Smith.
Jaylon Smith came to play on Saturday.
From the moment Smith stepped on the field, his excitement for being there to compete was evident and on the first snap he made his presence felt, deflecting a pass over the middle with his long arms. Smith's length, range and athleticism saw him get his hands on several other passes throughout the afternoon session and allowed him to live up once again to his five-star billing.
There are few prospects in the nation that have defended their ranking as effectively, consistently and continuously as Smith and he doesn't look like he's slowing down. Smith has one of the best linebacker frames you could ask for and he seems to get better every time we see him.
Smith wasn't the only elite prospect to step up and stand out on the first day of action. Four-star Nadir Barnwell put on a show on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball for his Goon Squad team.
Barnwell looks natural and incredibly fluid at the cornerback position but on offense has big play potential as well. On a couple of occasions he beat cornerbacks to the football in the air, showing tremendous ball skills.
Though he probably projects to cornerback on the next level, Barnwell made it clear that he'd like an opportunity to touch the ball as well, weather that be on offense or special teams. Along with his 11 offers, Barnwell lists USC, UCLA and Ohio State as schools he hopes to see added to his list.
Barnwell was making plays in the morning and was followed by his Piscataway, N.J. teammate Kyle LaPorte making plays in the afternoon. LaPorte was lining up at running back but says he is being recruited at safety and as an athlete, naming Florida, Florida State, Rutgers, Penn State and Towson as his current offers.
One of the top defensive back groups at the event came from the local Steel City Starz led by Malik Shegog and a few sophomores such as Trevon Mathis and Ron Brown. The group was a ballhawking crew that was consistently finding the football on defense.
Carlos Thompson out of Manvel, Texas was hawking the ball on the offensive end and was the favorite target of his high school teammate, quarterback Shane McCarley. The two had a great connection all day long and seemed to be really dialed in offensively.
McCarley was one of the more productive quarterbacks in attendance but none were more highly touted than Shane Morris who did nothing to hurt his stock as one of the top quarterbacks in the country. Morris' top targets included his future Michigan teammates Khalid Hill and Jourdan Lewis while Iowa commit Delano Hill was manning the secondary at safety.
A loaded Virginia team was less talented than usual due to many of its top prospects missing the event due to spring games but that didn't stop Quinn Blanding from making his presence felt. Blanding and running back Taquan Mizzell helped lead a younger Virginia to a solid first day's performance.
Many more prospects stepped forward on Saturday but Sunday's tournament play should help reveal the best of the best from the weekend and 247Sports will be on hand to recap the weekend's event.