LAS VEGAS- There was little doubt that this year’s New Level Athletics Elite 7-on-7 at UNLV was a step up in terms of talented prospects in attendance and sleepers that emerged.
It's a well known fact by now that five-star Su'a Cravens dominated the New Level Athletics Vegas Elite 7-on-7 this past weekend. He's the No. 9 prospect in the country currently according to 247Sports.
This event was a 7-on-7 that featured round robin play on Saturday, followed by a single-elimination tournament on Sunday. Team Utah won the event, outlasting the 1925 All-Stars, which were coached by former NFL receiver Keyshawn Johnson, in the championship game.
This was the second NLA event of the recruiting cycle. There was one in Atlanta in early March and Pittsburgh in late April is the next stop. There will be a national championship event this summer, which figures to feature many of the top teams/prospects that are showcased here.
Coverage of the top prospects in this region is not complete. Next weekend in Los Angeles, 247Sports will have coverage of the Juniorrank Diamond Flight Camp and the National Underclassmen Combine Five-Star Showcase on Saturday and the Nike Football Training Camp at USC on Sunday. All figure to be loaded events.
-Five-star safety Su’a Cravens, who currently the No. 9 overall prospect in the country according to 247Sports, was the best overall prospect at the event. Cravens’ size/athleticism combination that he displayed this past weekend, combined with what we see on film, reinforces that he’s an elite prospect. Whatever program lands him (USC is thought to be the team to beat) is landing a great all-around football player who physically is ready to step in and perform.
-It was pretty Cornerback Priest Willis (Tempe, Ariz./Marcos De Niza) was probably a little better than we expected him to be. The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder was strong playing press, but also showed the ability to turn and run, move his hips, etc. Many times, bigger cornerbacks end up not being able to move around well enough to be great at that position, so they end up transitioning to safety. While Willis could still play safety (he’d be very good there), we think corner is a definite possibility. In terms of his recruitment, he’s wide open. Watch the schools in the Southeast, like LSU, though.
-We saw safety Tahaan Goodman (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) at the Cal State Game Junior Combine back in December and he impressed there from an eyeball standpoint. With that, his showing was nothing like what he did this past weekend. Goodman’s size and range is evident, but the way he was able to break on the ball and his instincts for the game stood out all weekend. There is no early “feel” school for Goodman as his offer list continues to expand.
Overall, Cravens, Willis and Goodman were- to me- the top three 2013 prospects there, but three more caught our eye as well.
Cornerback Priest Willis reinforced why he has dozens of scholarship offers and is considered one of the top prospects in the West in this class.
-The stock of wide receiver Sebastian LaRue (Santa Monica, Calif.) has risen quite a bit in recent weeks as he now holds 17 offers. He’s just extremely smooth with and without the ball in his hands and when he turns on the jets, there aren’t many that can stay with him. He’s also an excellent route runner, which leads us to believe he will probably play receiver in college. Arizona State, UCLA and USC are the three teams that seem to have the best shot early, but others are in the mix as well. Oklahoma recently offered and he would be an outstanding fit for that system.
-Tight end Marcus Baugh (Riverside, Calif./John North) is a 6-foot-4, 225-pound tight end that runs around like a receiver and can make plays like a receiver. That makes him somewhat rare. Arizona State, Ohio State, Washington and others have offered. The Sun Devils have made an early impression. Look for Baugh to start getting mentions with the nation’s top tight ends. He’s not at the level of Breneman or a Howard at this point, but it’s not a very deep year nationally at that position, so he’s going to be among the best this cycle.
-We liked what we saw out of athlete Talon Shumway (American Fork, Utah/Stone Creek) on film and he backed that up with a terrific performance at receiver during the entire event, leading Team Utah to the championship. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder has excellent hands and strength and was impossible for even some of the bigger and better corners to jam at the line of scrimmage. Utah and BYU have offered the in-state prospect, who may project better at safety long term. He currently is rated as an 89 by 247Sports, which is the highest three-star rating numerically.
-USC was by far the college program with the biggest buzz among the prospects there. The excitement surrounding the Trojans’ forthcoming season has given Lane Kiffin’s program serious recruiting momentum, especially among prospects from the West.
-Oregon was another program that prospects mentioned a lot. The Ducks have been a trendy choice for some time, but it’s worth mentioning that there are a lot of prospects that impressed us that are “waiting” on offers from Oregon.
-If I am Notre Dame, it’s not worth it to me to continue to recruit Fresno. After losing Deontay Greenberry (defected to Houston on signing day) and Tee Shepherd (left school after enrolling early), the Irish don’t have the momentum they once did in the area and we were told that Hatari Byrd and L.J. Moore likely will remain on the West Coast, based on early returns. The Irish have great recruiting momentum right now and that figures to continue regardless of what happens in Fresno.
Quarterback Jarrett Solomon was impressive all weekend. The Las Vegas Bishop Gorman quarterback should see his stock climb in the coming months.
Three signal callers impressed enough during the event to be considered undervalued.
-You can tell that Jarrett Solomon (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman) plays for one of the West’s best high school programs because he’s well-coached in the sense that he’s cool under pressure. Solomon is 6-foot-0, so size is a concern, but he has a quick release and hits his receivers. His performance in a 7-on-7 setting is similar to Texas 2012 quarterback signee Connor Brewer- it’s not always a beautiful spiral, but it flat-out gets to where it needs to be. Arizona has offered Solomon and other schools could follow. Solomon debuts as a three-star with an overall grade of 83 in the 247Sports prospect rankings.
-Jake Lloyd (Provo, Utah/Timpview) doesn’t have great velocity on his passes or the quickest release, but he has a great feel for the game and led his Team Utah squad to the championship of the event. The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder’s coaches are extremely high on his upside and ability and we suspect he will pick up offers moving forward, perhaps even at the FBS level.
-Andrew Elffers (Pasadena, Calif./Maranatha) was the quarterback for Cravens’ team and performed well. He’s got a big arm and good size at 6-foot-3, 210 pounds. Oregon State, UCLA, BYU and others have been showing interest.
-Wide receiver Jack Austin (Chino Hills, Calif.) was dominant at times during the event. He’s a big-bodied prospect that has good hands and plays strong. Austin could project on either side of the ball in college and we expect this Inland Empire standout, provided his film checks out, to receive increased attention moving forward.
-DeShawn Stephens (Portland, Ore./Putnam) is a 6-foot-3, 185-pound jumping jack of a receiver that showed excellent hands during the event. We expect him to debut in the three-star range in the 247Sports rankings and for programs to jump in the mix with offers soon.
-It shouldn’t be long before some program somewhere offers three-star receiver Drew Wolitarsky (Canyon, Calif./Canyon Country). He runs excellent routes and never drops anything. Also, he has more speed and athleticism than perhaps he is given credit for. He’s similar to Shumway in that regard, but is a definite receiver in college as opposed to a prospect that could play either side of the ball. It’s hard to call him a sleeper with an overall grade of 87 (high three star), but that’s what he is right now.
Class of 2014 defensive back Edward Paris from Texas displayed excellent size and coverage ability at cornerback this past weekend. He recently visited USC and UCLA unofficially.
-Defensive back Edward Paris (Arlington, Texas/Mansfield Timberview) played cornerback throughout the event and has a chance to project at that position. He also could be an excellent safety prospect, though cornerback admittedly is his first choice position-wise. Right now, he has offers from LSU, Clemson, SMU, Georgia Tech and others and visited UCLA and USC unofficially last week. He plans to attend “as many camps” at SEC programs as he can this summer as well as a potential return trip to the West Coast. Texas and Texas A&M also are showing attention. Paris was one of the more impressive underclassmen at the event.
-Safety Brandon Simmons (Arlington, Texas/Mansfield Timberview) is Paris’ teammate both in high school football and 7-on-7. Simmons showed very good instincts in pass coverage and has good size to play the run in pads. Arizona State, Temple, UCLA, SMU and Georgia Tech all have offered.
-Athlete Cameron Denson (Tucson, Ariz./Salapointe Catholic) was impressive on both sides of the ball during the weekend. His higher upside probably is at cornerback after watching him, but receiver certainly isn’t out of the question, either. Arizona and Arizona State already have offered in the in-state star and we feel like more offers are just around the corner.
-Linebacker Dwight Williams (Gardena, Calif./Serra) is undersized at 6-foot, 200 pounds, but he can move and cover and obviously comes from a great high school program. No offers yet, but we expect him to pick up several as he camps at various colleges this summer. Very good prospect.
-Tight end Eric Burrell (Las Vegas, Nev./Valley) impressed us with his size/hands combination in the passing game. The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder showed the ability to jump up and get the ball even when facing tight coverage and runs quite well. Illinois State, UNLV, Arizona State and others are showing preliminary interest. We expect him to pick up even more moving forward, particularly if the film checks out.
-Running back Nathan Starks (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman) showed up. This is not the type of setting a talented running back with his style can best display his ability at, but still he passed the eyeball test and is expected to be highly-recruited for the 2014 cycle. Oklahoma is a team he mentioned that has caught his eye early, no surprise given the Sooners' history at his high school (DeMarco Murray, Ryan Reynolds, etc.).
Defensive lineman Joe Joe Mathis (Upland, Calif.) impressed athletically during the event, even though he played linebacker, which isn't his natural position.
-Four-star quarterback Troy Williams (Harbor City, Calif./Narbonne) has gotten bigger physically and his arm has always been elite. He had the luxury of playing with some excellent receivers on his team this weekend, but Williams still hit them in stride and was definitely the straw that stirred the drink for Johnson’s 1925 all-stars. Arizona, Arizona State, Bowling Green, Nevada, UCLA, Washington, Washington State and SMU all have offered the nation’s No. 10 pro-style quarterback. We suspect there will be more and heavier interest as time marches on.
-Four-star safety Tyler Foreman (Encino, Calif./Crespi) looks like a linebacker eyeball test-wise, but after watching him move around, close on the ball and cover, he’s just a good-sized safety. Arizona, Arizona State, Boise State and Oregon State all have offered Foreman, who is also getting attention from UCLA, Oregon and others.
-A pair of defensive linemen, Chauntez Jackson (Inglewood, Calif.) and Joe Mathis (Upland, Calif.) played out-of-position at linebacker during the event, but showed outstanding athletic ability. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Jackson may be the best-kept secret in Los Angeles right now as Nebraska, San Diego State and others have offered, but many of the Pac-12 programs have not as of yet. Mathis was extremely active and looked like, at least from a lateral movement standpoint, he could see some snaps at middle linebacker in an actual football setting. USC is the team to beat right now, but he had a Nebraska hat on during the event.
-Four-star cornerback Chris Hawkins (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) has the hips and recovery speed to be good at this position in college. On Saturday in particular he caught our eye. His recruitment is up in the air between USC and Stanford.
-Byrd, a four-star, is going to outgrow safety in the very near future if he hasn’t already, but his athleticism gives him big upside at that spot provided he can become more instinctive (something that was a concern on film). Arizona, Cal, Notre Dame and UCLA have offered and we hear USC may be close. If the Trojans do come through with a tender, we expect them to emerge as the favorite.
-Arkansas jumped in and offered four-star quarterback Kelly Hilinski (Sherman Oaks, Calif./Notre Dame) nine days ago and after watching him this past weekend, you can see why Bobby Petrino and staff like him. He’s got a big arm, particularly on short and intermediate routes where he can zip it in, and also throws a beautiful deep ball. There’s a lot he needs to work on, so he’s not really in the “undervalued” category (he’s currently the No. 33 pro-style quarterback prospect in the country) but we definitely see him improving each and every time he’s at an event like this.
-Another quarterback to keep an eye on is Shane McCarley (Manvel, Texas). He’s not the biggest signal caller in the world nor the most athletic, but he’s an accurate passer and threw some nice balls this past weekend. We think he could end up on an FBS roster somewhere.
This and That
Former Notre Dame cornerback Tee Shepherd actually was at the event both days and wore a Irish football shirt both days. He told us that he planned to head to a West Coast school after a “couple of weeks”. ...Looking forward to the Class of 2016- quarterback Justin Berry had some nice moments for his team when he played (he was the back-up to McCarley) and threw a long touchdown pass. For such a young player, he has excellent poise and confidence. ....Athlete Johnny Ragin (Wilsonville, Ore.) was another surprise from that state from an eyeball test standpoint. The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder is big and can run. ...We had the chance to talk with Seattle (Wash.) Prep athlete Tere Calloway. He said most schools are recruiting him as a safety or a corner and he has no preference. Calloway performed well at the event and we expect his offer list to continue to grow. ...Cravens was officially invited to the Semper Fidelas All-American Bowl during the event and presented with a jersey. More selections from the state of California are forthcoming. ...Rhode Island speedster Joshua Morris was impressive yet again after playing well in Atlanta early this month.