Scouting the rising senior talent at elite seven-on-seven showcase
HALLANDALE, Fla. -- Few settings nationally feature a higher density of talent than a South Florida Express camp.
The seven-on-seven team has developed a phenomenal track record of attracting the best skill players in the ultimate skill-player region: Broward and Dade counties in Florida.
Last weekend, South Florida Express coach Brett Goetz put together two days of competition to pare down the all-star roster into a manageable number. In the process, the cream of the crop in South Florida came together in a competitive atmosphere that saw some big-time players make some loud statements.
On Monday, 247Sports took a look at
Here is a summary of the top rising seniors at the event, by position:
The workout was not a new experience for Tracy Howard. The cornerback from Miramar High School was a key contributor on last year's South Florida Express team that won the BadgerSports national title. This year, Howard played like the seasoned veteran that he is and showed why he has colleges swarming.
Over the past year, Howard has matured physically, added good weight and is playing with the same aggressiveness and fearlessness that allowed him to be so effective last year against older, elite prospects.
As far as skill set, Howard is long-armed, polished and very instinctive.
While most prospects insist on playing press coverage every rep, Howard mixed up his coverage techniques and showed great diagnostic skills, often reading the offensive route well before the receiver made his break. A strong day on Saturday was followed by a fantastic day on Sunday, during which Howard proved to be the best corner in attendance.
Howard's proficiency in coverage was matched by A.J. Leggett's abilities at the line of scrimmage. Leggett -- an early commit to Florida State -- didn't compete on Sunday but was a dominant player on Saturday.
Leggett showed good size and agility, the ability to play in press coverage with ease and closing speed on the football. With his size, Leggett showed that he could develop into either a big, physical cornerback or a safety with unique coverage ability.
Though Howard and Leggett may have been the class of the event at corner, they were also known commodities. Following the event, some previously unheralded prospects had placed themselves firmly on the radar. One of those prospects was Nequan Phillips.
Phillips hails from Miami (Fla.) Southridge, where he played alongside Louisville signees Gerrod Holliman and Andrew Johnson in 2010. As the spotlight prospect in 2011, expect Phillips to pick up right where his former teammates left off last season. Phillips is a fluid, powerful corner who plays low and plays quick. He will likely be a multiple-offer prospect by the end of the spring.
Similar to Phillips, Hallandale High School's Dashad Tucker stood out as a compact but effective corner. He had a very clean backpedal and showed good body positioning and play-making ability. Already Tucker has been receiving significant interest from Miami and Oregon, though no offers have arrived.
Miami has already offered and received a commitment from Willie Bailey, and it's not hard to find what they see in him. The main separator for Bailey is his size. Bailey is 6-foot-1 and 165 pounds, but actually looks much taller than that because he has such long arms. He spent much of the weekend at cornerback but he could easily project to safety on the next level by adding some good weight to his slender frame.
Bailey will need to get stronger and more explosive out of his breaks, but his feet, change of direction and body control are all very strong. Add that athleticism to his height, and Bailey's upside becomes very evident.
Upside is also the key word when describing Daniel Gray of Boyd Anderson. Gray has good size at 6-0/170, and he has phenomenal speed. He was possibly the fastest player in a very fast camp with 10.4 personal best in the 100 and a third place finish in the state championships in the 100. That speed and size has earned him interest from Florida, Miami and Cincinnati among others.
But Gray is raw. His backpedal and change of direction are well behind his pure speed and athleticism. With development over the next year, though, Gray could be a quick riser on the recruiting trail.
Howard wasn't the only veteran of the event to perform over the weekend. Miami (Fla.) Columbus defensive back Deon Bush also returned after helping lead the South Florida Express to a national championship last season. Bush also has added good weight and continues to be a force in coverage.
With good length, a frame that will add more good weight and great hips and instincts, Bush was one of the top players in attendance at any position. He attacks the football in the air and high-points the ball to perfection. He also looks remarkably comfortable in coverage at cornerback despite having the body of a safety.
Though Bush struggled catching the football at times, expect him to emerge as one of the most highly recruited prospects in Miami. Shortly after the weekend event, that ball got rolling.
LSU commit Avery Johnson, Miami Beach wide receiver Ricardo Louis and 2010 South Florida Express standout Brandon Snell were among the elite group of receivers who were making their share of plays. But among the 2012 prospects, Malcolm Lewis took the crown as the top performer.
Lewis is not cut from the same slender mold that many Miami receivers seem to have. He is a powerfully built 6-0, 190 pounds. He has great strength off the line of scrimmage and in traffic and he is a fantastic route-runner. When the ball gets there, Lewis shows natural reliable hands.
One area where Lewis fits the South Florida stereotype well is speed. In positional fastest man races, Lewis proved that he was one of the fastest prospects at the entire event. Claiming offers from LSU, South Carolina, Alabama, Florida and West Virginia, Lewis will continue to be one of the top prospects in Southern Florida.
If Lewis was the top 2012 prospect at the receiver position, several others were close behind him. Johnson's long, wiry frame and elite speed were tough to handle as always. Snell continues to prove that he is one of the top route-runners in Florida, using craftiness, great feet and terrific hands to abuse defenders. Louis was the most physically imposing receiver at the event -- though he did seem a little bit stiff at his size.
One prospect who came to the event without much hype left the event with quite a buzz. MacGarrett Kings out of Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) University School is built like a running back at around 5-11, 185 pounds, but he made plays over the entire weekend. He showed really good vertical speed and good ball tracking skills. He also ran good routes, getting open and making plays around the middle of the field to the sideline. He just looked the part of a very complete receiver with speed, hands and polish.
Kings' confidence and big-play ability should help to grow his offer list exponentially over the course of the spring.
There were plenty of eyes on Duke Johnson this weekend, and the back didn't disappoint. His quickness and explosiveness at running back are evident. He adds high-level ball skills to that skill set and he showed that he can be a real versatile threat on the next level.
Though he is strikingly small, Johnson has the rare athleticism that allows size to be negated. He can get in and out of cuts with ease, catch the ball naturally and then do something with it after the catch.
Defensively, size is the strength of Eric Kinsey -- who stood out as one of the top linebackers on the afternoon. Kinsey is a big backer, reminiscent of 2011 prospect Kent Turene. Similar to Turene, Kinsey has very good mobility at that size.
Kinsey did find himself on the ground more than once after getting tangled up in the legs of the receiver, but what was more important was his ability to change directions and get on the hip of running backs as they got vertical on him. The Miami Northwestern standout is an intriguing prospect who should only see his game improve with the pads on.
Representatives of both of the major All-American games were in attendance at the workouts, and both saw enough to walk away with new roster members. The Under Armour Game saw enough athleticism to add a running back to its roster in Duke Johnson. The Miami commit continues a strong trend of Florida players staying in state to play in the ESPN televised game.
The US Army Bowl went defensive in inviting Tracy Howard to follow the footsteps of 2010 South Florida Express Army All-Americans Gerrod Holliman and Wayne Lyons.
Howard went out and earned his invitation -- it came immediately following a dominating Sunday performance that saw him breaking up nearly everything that was thrown his way.
• Daniel Braverman is not blessed with great size, but that didn't seem to bother him over the weekend. The sawed-off receiver was difficult to handle with great routes, quickness and feet. He fits the ever-popular Wes Welker comparison that is so often used.
• Ghierry Vanderkuyp was a multipurpose threat for Hialeah during the 2010 season. He played both quarterback and wide receiver this fall but excelled strictly at wide receiver over the weekend. A tall, slim target, Vanderkuyp is a smooth route-runner, shows a big catch zone and has soft hands. Though he has some limited interest now, Vanderkuyp could see his recruitment steadily pick up throughout the spring.
• Amid the big names and long offer lists in the defensive backfield over the weekend, DeShawn Lindsay stood out as a prospect to watch. Lindsay first stands out because of his long arms and strong upper body, but he added great burst and quickness as well. In DB drills, he showed fluidity and solid hands. This time last year, players like Nick North (Illinois signee), Andrew Johnson (Louisville signee) and Robenson Therezie (Auburn signee) were making similar impressions during drill work.
• Snell may not have elite speed, but he is a productive receiver -- and Rutgers has taken notice. Currently, Snell holds a verbal offer from Rutgers with more likely to come this spring.
• There weren't many elite quarterbacks in attendance, but two that were on hand were Tayler Cameron and Gunnar Holcombe. Cameron has a host of offers and Holcombe has added offers from Wisconsin, USF and Rutgers.
• Florida State and West Virginia are the first schools to verbally offer Devonte Mathis, an athlete out of the talented Miramar program.
• Diminutive St. Thomas Aquinas cornerback Joseph McClary picked up his first offer over the weekend and it came from Texas Tech. His former high school defensive backs coach Otis Mounds was hired onto the Red Raider staff this fall and clearly has already had an impact on recruiting.