NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. – The weather wasn’t very welcoming over the weekend in the Pittsburgh area but The Goon Squad didn’t care. Fighting cold, wet, windy conditions, the team comprised of players from Texas, New Jersey and even West Virginia took home the title at the NLA 7on7 East Regional.
The team had a healthy mix of big names, rising stars, sleepers and underclassmen that came together to have a dominating weekend.
The triggerman was Manvel, Texas quarterback Shane McCarley. A 6-1, 195-pounder, McCarley recently landed his first offer from Appalachian State and with interest from the likes of Rice and Arizona, he could be close to more.
McCarley was fantastic all weekend, making clutch throws and putting the ball where it needed to be, often that was in the hands of wide receiver Carlos Thompson. Thompson, also from Manvel, has no offers but was probably the most outstanding player at the entire event over the weekend. Currently Thompson is receiving interest from Houston, North Texas and South Carolina.
Along with the Manvel connection, The Goon Squad had the benefit of playing with one of the top performers at the entire event, Top247 athlete Nadir Barnwell. Barnwell made plays at cornerback and wide receiver and really impressed us with his ability to find ways to make big plays.
Four-star Chevoski Collins also presented a big target on the offensive end and UNC commit Ryan Switzer made an appearance on Sunday to provide some big play burst and excitement to the offense. Switzer’s play earned him an invite to the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl following the event.
Defensively the steady presence of 2014 safety Brandon Simmons out of Mansfield (Texas) Timberview was huge for the Goon Squad. Simmons played on both sides of the ball but his command of the defense from his safety position was huge all weekend.
Simmons has offers from the likes of Arizona State, UCLA, Georgia Tech, Ole Miss Purdue and SMU but is anxious to add Stanford to his list.
These guys are different
UNC commit Ryan Switzer
A few prospects were just on another level than their counterparts over the weekend and there is a reason that they have their virtual pick of college programs.
- Jaylon Smith was our top performer over the weekend and he wowed us in the same way he seems to impress at every event. Smith’s length shrinks throwing windows drastically and he plays with great energy and athleticism. He affected the game like few linebackers can in 7on7. Currently Smith’s recruitment is shaping up to be a battle between Notre Dame and Ohio State and we’re giving the slight edge to the Irish at this stage in the process.
- Shane Morris fought off the cold, the wind and the rain to have a decent day on Saturday but when the chips were on the table during Sunday’s single-elimination tournament, he really picked up the slack. He showed poise and focus in leading his team to the final four of the tournament while making some fantastic throws in the cold. The Michigan commit also flashed that renowned leadership ability that has Michigan fans so excited.
- Nadir Barnwell takes what he wants. On Saturday he was snatching interceptions out of the air, delivering on jump ball situations on offense and generally flying around the football field. During the day on Saturday, Barnwell mentioned that UCLA, USC and Ohio State were the three schools that he hopes will offer that haven’t. On Sunday, he took one of those too with UCLA extending an offer in his direction.
No offers, no explanation
There were numerous 2013 prospects in attendance over the weekend that were without their first scholarship offer but of those players, a few stood out as being long overdue for plenty of college opportunities.
- The star of the tournament could arguably be identified as Carlos Thompson out of Manvel, Texas. He plays a lot of defensive back for his high school team but he was often uncoverable out of the slot over the weekend. Currently Thompson has interest from South Carolina, Houston and North Texas but we feel he is a viable option for BCS programs out of the slot or on defense.
- Whether it was on the offensive end out of the backfield or at safety, Najee Goode out of Philadelphia (Pa.) Imhotep Charter was exciting and impressive. The 5-10, 160-pounder projects to cornerback on the next level and he was all over the field on Saturday and Sunday. Goode’s current interest consists of Temple, Maryland and Louisville.
- A talented Virginia team was without some of its big name 2013 prospects over the weekend due to spring game visits but that allowed athlete Damion Nicholson to really assert himself. A do-it-all prospect on Friday nights, Nicholson looked good at wide receiver and cornerback and has the size/athleticism combo to be a major college factor. He’s currently got interest from NC State, Hampton, Maryland and Tennessee.
- Slot receiver Gairus Coleman seems to impress every time we see him in a 7on7 setting. He is undersized at 5-8, 175 pounds but he always seems to find himself open and he was a big part of his team landing in the finals of the tournament. Still waiting on his first offer, Coleman could be a mid-major steal.
On a weekend that had saw a number of elite prospects miss the event due to their attendance at spring games, the underclassmen had a real opportunity to shine and many of them took full advantage of that opportunity.
- Virginia Beach (Va.) Bayside safety Quin Blanding may be in line for a five-star rating in the near future and he did nothing to change our minds on his skill level with his weekend performance. He led a Virginia team made up almost exclusively of underclassmen. Among them 2015 linebacker Jahvoni Simmons and wide receiver Quintin Reynolds were standouts of a team that was one of the final few teams standing.
- The Steel City Stars had one of the top defensive backfields at the event. Malik Shegog leads the way out of the 2013 class for the team but his secondary mates – all underclassmen – were making countless plays as well. Safeties Trevon Mathis and Harry Randall were major impact players all weekend and undersized cornerback Ron Brown locked down most receivers placed in front of him.
- No prospect looked better on the hoof than Jamitreus Crockham and very fewed displayed the kind of upside that Crockham possesses. He’s a big back that has an imposing build but he can still make spectacular plays downfield in the pass game. Louisville, Tennessee and Wisconsin are among the schools showing interest at this point for a prospect that could be the Hoosier State’s top 2014 talent.
Have offers, need more
William Fuller and Csont’e York are good. There are a few schools that recognize that but not enough. Currently Fuller holds offers from Temple, Kent State, Toledo, Rutgers and Delaware but we could see him being a receiver worth the trip for colleges outside of the region.
York, similar to Fuller, has good length and long arms and currently only has offers from Bowling Green and Toledo. If his play over the weekend is any indication of what he does under the lights on Fridays then he is way underrecruited.
Both prospects showed fluidity, hands and good wide receiver frames and look like BCS prospects.
- Na’Ty Rodgers – all 6-5, 270 pounds of him – was working out over the weekend at wide receiver and tight end and though his size had him well out of place next to all of the skill players, the big lineman moved well at that size. Currently South Carolina looks to be out front for the four-star.
- Canadian class of 2015 quarterback Michael O’Connor impressed at this event for the second year in a row. The 6-foot-5, 205-pound O'Connor is a strong-armed passer that has developed significantly in reading coverages and throwing to the right spot since we last saw him. He plans to camp at Boston College, Rutgers and Syracuse. O’Connor added that he’ll either attend prep school in Tennessee or Pennsylvania come next fall.
- The Indiana-based AWP team was more than just Jaylon Smith and stud sophomore Crockham. Receivers Isaac Griffith and Jared Murphy gave AWP a potent one-two punch that helped them make a deep run. Both are smart route runners with above average speed, and each were able to easily gain separation from defensive backs in every game. Griffith holds Ball State, Toledo and Wyoming offers while Murphy continues to fly under the radar.
On defense for AWP, it was cornerback Andrew Spencer that performed as the team’s top player outside of Smith. The younger brother of Dallas Cowboys linebacker Anthony Spencer, the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Luers junior is another prospect we expect to see land a Division-I offer come camp season.
- Some quarterbacks that stood out aside from four-star Shane Morris included Jake Clise for Maryland Flex, Cameron Thomas out of Michigan and his 2014 teammate Tyler Wiegers. Clise is currently committed to Maryland for lacrosse but would like to play football if another opportunity arises.
Steve Wiltfong contributed to this report.