The air was musty, the sky a greyish-blue and the weather an uncomfortable mix of moisture and heat. Whenever the wind came unannounced, players and coaches reveled in its arrival.
To get an idea of how expansive the IMG grounds were for the Madden Academy 7on7 football tournament, picture a gorilla conservatory. Huge trees outlined the six fields of play, blocking anything else emerging from the horizon. It was a football lover's dream, minus the minimal contact.
Despite this lack of heavy hitting, the 7on7 had a depth of talent.
Starting with the champions, two players from “Max Exposure” out of Detroit, Mich., were awarded Most Valuable Player. Quarterback Shane Morris (class of 2013)- a Michigan commit- and Dennis Norfleet (class of 2012), a runningback/cornerback with offers from Cincinnati, Michigan State and Tennessee, both stole the show offensively.
Scout.com analysts Bob Redman, Scott Kennedy, Bill Greene and Bob Lichtenfels weighed in on other standouts from various teams playing in the event.
All four scouts felt two 2012 recruits, Amari Cooper and Brandon Snell, performed well and consistently throughout the tournament. The two receivers from the 7on7 team “South Florida Express” (a semi-finalist in the event) rarely made mistakes and seemed to get open rather easily.
Cooper attends Miami Northwestern. The Scout four-star recruit (6-2, 180) has corralled offers from Miami, Florida State and Ohio State, among others. Snell, another receiver out of Miami Norland High School (5-11, 175) is just a three-star recruit, but many of the scouts believe he should move up the rankings considerably.
Beginning with Redman, E.J. Hilliard was a memorable player from the event. The quarterback of the same 7on7 team as Cooper/Snell and another Miami Northwestern product has committed to Florida International University.
Kennedy was particularly taken with another quarterback, that of Nate Peterman out of Bartram Trail High. The signalcaller of “Team Tampa” (another semi-finalist) helped lead his team into the finals with a clutch pass in overtime to receiver (and apparent gymnast) Zebulon Perkins, who did a 360-degree aerial into the endzone for the win.
Greene thought Ruben Lile, another member of Maximum Exposure 7on7 champions out of Michigan, was a standout player at the IMG event. An incoming senior at Cass Technical, Greene said Iowa may be the receiver’s best offer at this point, while he does have a good amount of offers from schools such as Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Cincinnati and Vanderbuilt.
Lichtenfels felt Leon McQuay, safety by day, child-prodigy (with a self-reported 4.24 GPA) by night was a great player on the final day of the event. While the Armwood product already holds a handful of offers, the kid (6-1, 175) has a great demeanor and attitude.
Keith Brown, P.J. Williams, Jordan Diggs were other names tossed around for their impressive play and overall consistency. Brown, a Scout four-star linebacker out of Miami Norland High School was one of the event’s best defensive players, according to Lichtenfels. Williams and Diggs are two Florida safeties from the Class of 2012 who showed why they were also four-star recruits by coming up with big plays at critical moments. While Williams has committed to Florida State, Diggs stated he currently has about 25 offers.
The IMG Madden Academy 7on7 showcased much of Florida’s upcoming talent as well as a few other states that have some strong young arms and legs. Two-days in Bradenton, Fl. may not be a dream, but training at such a facility can definitely put an athlete one step closer to his.
“IMG is the best facility in the world for what they do here and if they got to tour the facility at all they get to see what a commitment playing sports professionally and trying to make that type of level is,” scout Scott Kennedy said. “It helps them set an eye on the prize and give them goals to shoot for.”