After getting on a plane and having a five-hour layover in Chicago I finally arrived in Cleveland where I was transported down to Massillon by Midwest/East Recruiting Analyst Bob Lichtenfels to watch Massillon take on Solon. It was a definite game of interest as Massillon features one of the most highly rated running backs in Devoe Torrence and a highly touted junior defensive back in J.T. Turner.
Torrence, who has made a commitment to attend Ohio State, did not play his best game, and the team struggled due to the fact they could not establish the run. Solon went on to win a hard fought defensive battle. Most of the times he touched the ball three or four defenders were drilling him before even had the chance to get out of the backfield. It was also interesting to note that Torrence did not play one snap on defense despite the fact he may have been one of the best linebackers in the state a year ago when he played for Canton South.
Turner was an exciting prospect. At 6-foot-2, 190-pounds, he was a real weapon and was used on offense, defense, and special teams. He lined up at corner for Massillon, but with his size he will most likely be a ball hawking safety on the collegiate level. Solon did not really test his pass coverage skills to often, but he showed great ability to make tackles against the run.
Saturday: Herbstreit Challenge
After a long day on Friday it was another early start on Saturday, but there was still an air of excitement as we knew that we were going to get a chance to see and talk to some of the best talents in the country.
Grove City Vs. Buford-
Coming in to this game most of the experts thought that Buford would come in and take care of business, and they were not mistaken.
Leading the team was defensive tackle Omar Hunter. Hunter was lightning quick off of the ball and strong as an ox. It was not surprising to sometimes see him driving his man 10 yards into the backfield, blowing up the quarterback.
Hunter got it done up front, but the core of the Buford defense was the linebacking core led by Georgia Tech commitment T.J. Pridemore (Right). Pridemore was a hard hitter and also played well in pass coverage. The physical skills were all there, but the thing that may have stood out the most about him was the fact he never quit on a play. He gave 100 percent effort on every snap. Jay Tee Swanson and Tyler King were also very effective. Like Pridemore they were warriors and went as hard as he could go on every snap. Neither players were listing a division one scholarship offer at this time, but there is no doubt that both could play on that level.
Glenville Vs. Long Beach Poly-
Long Beach Poly came to Ohio and defeated one of the state's most hyped programs in the Glenville Tarblooders. This match-up clearly featured an amazing collection of talent.
Poly got off to an early lead behind the blocking of their center Douglas Spacht. He blew people off of the ball when Poly ran and was a rock in pass protection. He also seemed to be the commander along the offensive line and you could hear him calling out assignments way up in the press box. He has some minor offers, but do not be shocked to see him add BCS offers soon.
You could spend all day talking about the talents on Poly, but the core of the team in this game was the hard hitting safeties: Vaughn Telemaque and Herman Davidson. Telemague was tremendous in pass coverage and was like a great centerfielder, as he tracked down everything.
Davidson was an absolute monster, and was drawing oohs and ahhs from the crowd as he completely obliterated ball carriers, and struck fear in to receivers who attempted to catch the ball over the middle. On one play he smacked one Glenville receiver so hard in the endzone that it appeared he was knocked out cold before he even hit the ground. His presence may have saved the game for Poly as Glenville receiver Cordale Scott dropped a pass on similar pattern that could have potentially tied the game. Could he hear the footsteps?
Glenville junior offensive lineman Marcus Hall is going to be a national recruit. He has the size and frame to be a potential top 100 type of player, and if his game continues to progress as it has over the last year, then there is probably no doubt.
One player who really surprised me was William Lowe. With all of the talent at Glenville not many people talk about Lowe, but that will assuredly change throughout the year. At 5-foot-10, 165 pounds, he is as good or better than many players that have come through the program who have inked with Big 10 programs.
Gateway Vs. Cardinal Mooney-
This game was poised to be a classic, but Mooney's Michael Zordich put the team on his back and helped pave the way to a 27-6 victory. Zordich starred on both sides of the ball and had two of the key plays that put the nail in Gateway's coffin. He had an amazing touchdown run where he broke tackle after tackle and even mowed down five-star defensive end Shayne Hale on his way to the end zone. Later on a very controversial play, Zordich made an athletic play to pick off a Gateway pass along the sidelines to set up another Cardinal score.
Taylor Hill (Left) is another player that helped change the game early on. He got a ton of pressure on the Gateway quarterback off of the edge. The Gators just never could get it going offensively due to the fact they could not establish a passing attack, and Hill played a huge role in the disruption.
2009 prospect Johnny Simon is an absolute monster along the defensive line. He is one of the most physically impressive prospects that you will ever see. He has muscles on muscles, but just being a physical presence does not make you a good football player. Simon has the skills to be special. He uses his hands well and plays with real passion. Double teaming him did not even really slow him at all.
For Gateway the player that really stood out to me initially was Cameron Saddler. It is definitely not hard to notice a player with his speed. He suffered a minor injury and that really hurt the chances of a Gateway comeback.
2009 recruit Dorian Bell looks the part, and has a tremendous frame. He moves very well. The Mooney offense was moving the ball with great consistency, but Bell was the main cog in Gateway's defensive wheel.
Shayne Hale has made the move to defensive end, and you can tell that it is an adjustment for him. He played very tentatively and it looked almost like he was nursing a nagging leg injury. He may be making an adjustment to the position, but there is no doubting his talent. Despite looking slowed, he showed real flashes of athleticism and pure speed.
Union Vs. McKinley-
Union rolled over McKinley, who was missing their top player sophomore Jewone Snow, who suffered an ACL injury and will miss five weeks.
The brightest star on the field was 2009 running back Jeremy Smith, who was almost unstoppable when giving a running lane to work with. He has tremendous feet and balance. He is a shifty back who just makes people miss. It would not be surprising to see him as a potential four-star recruit when rankings are assigned next spring.
The Union victory was much aided by kicker Tress Way, who has made a commitment to play at Oklahoma. Way boomed every kick-off in to the end zone and every punt put the McKinley offense at a disadvantage. It is not often you talk about the presence of a kicker in high school ball, but Way's play helped keep the Bulldogs pinned deep in their own territory all night. That was a key as McKinley was never able to establish a passing attack or move the ball consistently.
Sunday: Herbstreit Challenge
After an nineteen hour day on Saturday Lichtenfels drove us down to Columbus for a three hour pit stop. It was also the halfway point for the drive down I-71 to Cincinnati. We did not want to be late setting up for the much anticipated match-up between DeMatha and St. Xavier. Little did we know the nightcap game between Trotwood and Highlands was going to be the most interesting battle of the day.
DeMatha Vs. St. Xavier-
St. X's best player, Darius Ashley, was sidelined with an ankle injury, so there was never really just one player who stood out for St. X. It was very much a team effort. The linebackers and defensive line pretty much controlled the game, shutting down the DeMatha running game and controlling the superstar athletes at receiver. Stanford commit Fred Craig (Right) was the most highly recruited player on the field for X, but for the most part the play was wrapped up before Craig had the chance to get involved.
DeMatha superstar Kenny Tate was kept pretty quiet, but the two most notable times he got his hands on the ball and made a move you could tell that he had the moves and the speed of an elite recruit. He was fast and shifty, but just watching him on those instances made you want to see what he could do with more touches.
The one player that really made an impression on me was Virginia commit Rodney McLeod. McLeod was a solid wide receiver and the presence of Tate definitely opens up some offensive opportunity for him, but I was almost equally impressed with him on the defensive side of the ball. He was good in coverage, and was the most ferocious tackler on the squad.
Pittsburgh Central Catholic Vs. Northmont-
PCC had little trouble with Northmont, and it had much to do with the play of Dan Vaughan. He was an unstoppable force on defense and offense. He scored two touchdowns on offense and was terrorizing the Northmont quarterback all day long.
While Quentin Williams has received a plethora of offers it was an underclassman who really solidified himself as the second best player on the field for PCC on this day. David Meyers, a 5-foot-10, 180-pound defensive back will no doubt be one of the best players in the class of 2010. Vaughan was an absolute stud on both sides of the ball, but if I had to take one defender off of the team it would be Meyers, whose play could be synonymous with the word headhunter.
Northmont's Zebrie Sanders played a marvelous game in the losing effort. He went as far as to say in a post game interview that he played the best game of his career, and I would agree. He pancaked man after man early on and was almost invincible in pass protection. He should probably be considered as one of the best pass-pro tackles in the entire nation. His footwork and hands are amazing, and it he plays so effortlessly that it seems he is not even trying.
Highlands Vs. Trotwood-
Highlands defeated Trotwood because they performed well as a unit. The defense was not really that good on either team, but they got out to an early lead and were able to hold off the Rams after completing a long touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter. The player of the game was probably junior Josh Connor who was consistently solid all day long and rushed for well over 100 yards.
Despite losing the game Trotwood still put up some impressive offensive numbers. Michael Shaw (Left) exploded on to the recruiting scene earlier this year when his highlight film went national after it appeared on Scout.com. It was not like people did not notice him while he led Alter a state championship in 2006, but the move to the "Wood" guaranteed that schools could no longer delay in making him know that he was at the top of their priority list. He was considered by many to be a "system" back, but this game should quiet those critics. He is an explosive player that is multi-faceted. His hands are amazing, he has a feel for the defenders, he has good feet, and he is undoubtedly one of he fastest players in the Midwest.
Domonick Britt put up some good numbers and if you were to see the highlights of him from the game you would probably be impressed with what you saw, but at the same time he had some iffy throws and reads. The thing I love about Britt is his potential for growth. He is a playmaker and brings a quality of excitement to every snap. You just never know when he is going to do something exhilarating.
The player that personally impressed me the most is Roy Roundtree. He has really evolved as a receiver over the last year. He burst on the scene as a junior and made some amazing catches, and that allowed him to build confidence in his abilities. He is absolutely fearless coming over the middle to catch the ball. He may not run a 4.4 forty, but of the games that I saw he most likely had best hands of any receiver that took the field.