Big Names At First Elite Camp
Dee Finley
Dee Finley - Southeast
Posted May 28, 2007

ATLANTA, GA -- The first annual Elite Camp took place on the campus of Georgia Tech Saturday bringing in some of the top prospect throughout the Southeast region. A solid mixture of Peach State talent alongside stars from around the country opened the eyes of college scouts and media on hand for the workout.

The known stars heading into the event certainly did not disappoint with two defensive backs stealing the show in Dee Finley, a very well put-together safety from Auburn, Ala., and cornerback Robert Blanton from Butler High in Charlotte, N.C. Finley started the "oohs" and "aahs" early with several diving grabs in individual workouts and selling his body dirtying up his shirt much like he does on film. Either way, it looks like Finley set himself up for potentially five star status on June 15 when the next edition of the National 100 rankings come out.

Robert Blanton
Blanton is known as a hard-hitting cornerback, but his footwork really set him apart from all the other defensive backs early in the day. As the one-on-one period began, Blanton started up again stepping in front of a quick out and grabbing his first of four interceptions in period. A tall and rangy defensive back, Blanton also has a great swagger and instinct for a cornerback at the next level.

Alabama is as loaded this year as it has ever been, and that was very apparent with two players in addition to Finley who were dominant on the day. National 100 member Jerrell Harris from Gadsden City High in Gadsden, Alabama looked to be a little wild rolling through the early workouts, but as the day progressed a light came on and Harris was a monster in pass coverage and with his footwork in the positional drills. Appearing to be right at 6-3 and right at 215 pounds, Harris is as good a linebacker as anybody in the Southeast and there is no wonder why everybody is offering him this year.

Ben Jones
The other Alabama product who was simply dominant was a player everyone was asking why nobody is offering him this year -- Ben Jones. Jones, a center from Bibb County in Centreville, Ala., could quickly become a major prospect based on his play on the day. Besting every player he was matched up against, from Toby Jackson to A.J. Harmon, Jones showed the college coaches in attendance that he is a player to watch very closely. Watch his offer list to expand quite a bit from the current list of Air Force and Troy.

A.J. Harmon
Harmon and Jackson both had solid showings on the day, with Jackson looking to be about a solid ten pounds heavier than when we last saw him in February at the Kennedy/CES combine in Atlanta. He had good moved and was able to get by nearly everybody except Jones. Corey Liuget worked out with tight ends at the Combine in Miami two months ago, but after blowing up since the event as a defensive end, he decided to show his talent as a defensive end. Liuget certainly did not disappoint with a wide array of moves and a quick jump off the ball. There is no question he is one of the top prospects in the state of Florida this year.

One of the most talked-about players on hand did not even work out. Due to a recent injury during spring practice, Keith Wells stood in street clothes but that did not keep him out of the action as he stuck around watching the defensive ends and even helping to coach a little bit. Standing in right at 6-foot-4 and about 225 pounds, the college coaches on hand still made sure to themselves within range so Wells would be able to see them.

On the other side of the ball, several offensive linemen stood out along with Ben Jones, including blue chipper Greg Shaw who made the trip up from Monsignor Pace in Miami, Fla., James McIver from nearby Riverwood High in Atlanta, and big John Michael Boswell, an Alabama commitment from Tuscaloosa County in Northport, Ala. One of the biggest splashes came from a player who had to leave early as Nick McRae looked very nimble through the positional workouts and then committed to the hosting Yellow Jackets during an unofficial visit after leaving the camp.

Ebele Okakpu
The cast of linebackers on Saturday certainly did not disappoint in star power with three Southeast 150 commitments with Tennessee verbal Austin Johnson out of Hickory, N.C., Mississippi pledge Bernard Smith from Mays in Atlanta, and Oklahoma commitment Daniel Franklin coming down from Habersham Central in Mount Airy, Ga. Franklin and Johnson both looked very good for their size in the one-on-one drills and commanded attention in the seven-on-seven period while Smith looked like he picked up some speed since we saw him at the Kennedy/CES combine in February. However, the player that left college coaches talking was Ebele Okakpu out of Roswell, who was already blowing up in recruiting over the last month.

Another Butler High player had an exceptional day in quarterback Jacob Charest, who already made a huge jump into the Southeast 150 two weeks ago. With a huge arm and perfect release point, Charest is able to make all the throws without having to overthrow by much. On his last throw of the day, in the seven-on-seven period, Charest checked down to his last read and slung the ball fifty yards with little effort into the arms of a receiver racing into the end zone. Charest is as cool a customer as you could find on the day.

Braden Hanson
Charest was not the only passer to impress on the day as fellow Charlotte native Braden Hanson showed as much touch as anybody on the day while still able to hit just about every route thrown at him. Tyler Bass, from Stockbridge, Ga., is a very athletic quarterback but pushed Charest for the strongest arm of the day. He spun the ball as well as any player and had a great base from which to throw the ball. Jaybo Shaw from Flowery Branch and Clemson commitment Jon Richt out of Price Avenue Christian both also had great days placing the ball, especially inside of twenty yards and making reads in the seven-on-seven period.

Big receivers ruled the day amongst the wide outs with Georgia players Jarmon Fortson out of Carver in Columbus, Georgia Tech commitment Chris Jackson out of Henry County, Tim Baker from Cartersville, Xzavian Brandon out of Northview, and the Tennessee duo of Rod Wilkes from Smyrna and Marcus Rucker out of Whitehaven. The tight ends got plenty of looks from the quarterbacks in the seven-on-seven period over the middle, and two stood out with fearless catches in Bryce Ros from Kennesaw Mountain who made a solid claim as one of the top players at his position in the country, and Ben Kopacka from Blessed Trinity who entered the event with just one offer from Air Force.

Dontavius Jackson
The running backs always have a little trouble stealing the spotlight in these events, but a few really impressed during the individual workouts and footwork drills, including big-timer Dontavius Jackson from Heard County, Alex Daniel from Roswell, and speedy Jeff Demps from Southlake in Groveland, Fla.

Overall, while it was the first of its kind there was not question there was plenty of talent to watch for four hours, a great day of football, and the college coaches in attendance certainly left with a lot to talk about in their meetings next week.

Stay tuned to as we continue to evaluate and cover the first annual Elite Camp over the next two weeks.

Miller Safrit is the Southeast regional recruiting editor for and may be reached by email at

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