BRADENTON, Fla. – The IMG Madden Football 2012 National Championships got underway on Saturday under a hot sun in Bradenton, Fla.
The nation's top CB Vernon Hargreaves made the most of his limited opportunities on Saturday.
Pool play and the first round of the tournament are complete, setting up for an exciting Sunday, where many of the nation’s top prospects are competing in this double-elimination format.
Here’s the first day breakdown.
Five Stars Were Fantastic
-Ranked as the nation’s top corner and No. 5 prospect overall, Tampa (Fla.) Wharton’s Vernon Hargreaves III was rarely tested in helping lead Team Tampa to a 5-0 start, but he makes the most of his opportunities when the football comes his way. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Hargreaves intercepted two passes in the end zone over the final two pool play games, and he had at least one pass breakup in every contest. Other than an occasional hitch pattern, Hargreaves did not give up a completion. Florida, Miami and South Florida are a few of the schools Hargreaves is high on at this point in the recruiting process, and next week he’s hoping to visit Oregon, Stanford and USC while he’s out West for The Opening. Other summer visits he says he’s looking to make are Ohio State, Notre Dame, Georgia, Clemson, Auburn and Alabama.
-Notre Dame commit Jaylon Smith continues to prove why he’s the nation’s top-ranked outside linebacker. The No. 7 player in the land overall, the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Luers standout finished pool play with what would’ve been a pick six. With his long arms, good hips and physical play, Smith is outstanding in coverage, and with his quickness, agility and length, he can take two steps and cover half the field.
Team Tampa Cruises Through Day One
With NFL Rookie of the Year Cam Newton on the campus, the Cam Newton South All-Stars earned the No. 1 seed for the tournament following pool play, but there was no question the most dominant team through the first five games was Team Tampa.
With a smothering defense led by Hargreaves, Leon McQuay III, Shaquill Griffin and Nigel Harris, Team Tampa was tough to string together first downs against. McQuay comes in as the country’s No. 5 safety, but he demands to play corner during the summer and he looked excellent in coverage. He broke up several passes and the interceptions will likely come on Sunday. Griffin is a big-bodied defensive back that is instinctive, and Harris is a long linebacker that is disruptive in cutting off the quarterback’s passing lanes.
Notre Dame commit Jaylon Smith continues to show why he's the nation's top-ranked OLB.
Offensively, Tarpon Springs (Fla.) East Lake’s class-of-2014 receiver Artavis Scott is special. His lateral quickness is off the charts. Top247 receiver Alvin Bailey of Armwood (Fla.) Seffner had the “wow” play of the day, taking a short pass 30 yards for a score, in the process making two defenders miss in the open field. Scott and Bailey give Team Tampa two big-play threats.
-Clemson bound quarterback Deshaun Watson started out the day with a bang, throwing for six touchdown passes against Core 6 and never slowed down. The Top-100, class-of-2014 passer was consistent all afternoon, making the right reads as the Cam Newton South All Stars cruised like a well-oiled machine.
-South Florida four-star quarterback commit Asiantii Woulard hit on several deep throws, made a few nice passes on the run, and seemed to always make the right read during pool play. There’s no question he has a big arm, and the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Woulard just needs to polish up a few things with his delivery.
-Pool play was tough on Michigan quarterback commit Shane Morris, but the nation’s No. 2 ranked pro-style passer continues to show he’s a gamer when there is something on the line. The Warren (Mich.) De La Salle product found his rhythm in directing Maximum Exposure to a win over Woulard and his Central Florida Top Recruits teammates in the first round of tournament play. Early on, the strong-armed Morris was a hair off with his accuracy, and when he did find the right touch, receivers let him down with dropped balls.
South Florida Express Still Contenders
One of the favorites coming in, many of the top players for the South Florida Express were unable to make it on Saturday. Although not as loaded as usual, they still have a bunch of talent on both sides of the football.
Consistently making plays on offense were receivers Jordan Cunningham , Emmanuel Soto and Richard Lopez. Cunningham is a dependable player who catches everything that comes his way. Soto is a big-play threat that made quite a few plays downfield. Lopez was really good catching the football, making a cut and getting defenders to miss.
Outside of Hargreaves, Pompano Beach (Fla.) Blance Ely four-star Rashard Robinson was as impressive a cornerback that was on the IMG property.
Guys You Couldn’t Miss
-Duke commit Johnell Barnes made play after play for Team 239. Was a reliable possession player, but his strength is getting behind the defense and making something big happen downfield.
-Florida State pledge Tony Stevens was throwing his body all over the field for the Central Florida Top Recruits, and was arguably the top performer at his position. Many of his plays came catching the football in traffic.
-Florida bound safety Keanu Neal was a standout for Central Florida Top Recruits. Playing mostly Cover Two, he does a nice job of reading the quarterback and finding his way to the football to make a pass breakup.
-LSU Top247 commit Tre’Davious White is a lockdown cornerback that also made several clutch catches for the Bootleggers team out of Louisiana.
-The nation’s No. 4 tight end in DeSean Smith has good ball skills, strong hands, and uses his body well to shield himself from the defender. Was the go-to guy on offense for the Bootleggers. LSU is his leader heading into the summer with Alabama and Florida still in the mix.
-Evan Berry and Elliott Berry, the younger twin brothers of NFL safety Eric Berry, are going to be ones to watch in the class-of-2014. Both are space eaters that break on the football well and made a big impact for the Cam Newton South All-Stars.
-The nation’s No. 2 outside linebacker in the class-of-2014 in Joliet (Ill.) Plainfield South’s Clifton Garrett is another Midwest prospect that like Smith, definitely fits in with the caliber of athlete in the Southeast. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Garrett is a physical specimen that moves well for his size. He made several plays in the flat, and he’s also a vocal leader for the Core 6 defense.
Under The Radar Players That Impressed
-Miami (Ohio) receiver commit Jared Murphy and Indiana receiver pledge Isaac Griffith routinely made plays of 20-yards or more for AWP out of Fort Wayne. Murphy had two touchdowns in a close loss to the South Florida Express, and found the end zone in just about every game on Saturday.
-Seffner (Fla.) Armwood quarterback Darryl Richardson was a last-minute addition to the BBT roster out of California, and he stepped in and proved he could also be a BCS tight end. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Richardson made a couple acrobatic receptions and also ran pretty good routes.
-The surprise of the tournament was Lenoir City (Tenn.) High tight end Lucas Hamilton for the D-Block #7 team out of Knoxville. Holding just one offer from Middle Tennessee State, the 6-foot-5, 235-pound Hamilton made numerous receptions with the coverage draped on him.
-Central Michigan is getting a good one in Detroit (Mich.) Crockett cornerback Desmond King, who played press coverage most of the afternoon, and also made a key grab for Max Ex in their first-round tournament win.
Josh Newberg of Noles247/Bulls247, Luke Stampini of GatorBait.net and Kyle Bennett of Bulls247 contributed to this report.