Bullard, Roland among early Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas standouts
SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Practice began on Monday for the 2011 Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas, an All-Star event between the top high school players in North and South Carolina. And while a pair of defensive linemen and a fast-rising running back highlighted the first day for the former state, wide receivers were the story for the latter.
Here's a look at the top five performers from each team.
One of the nation's top uncommitted prospects, Bullard turned in a dominant showing during the morning session. He handled any blocker that attempted to stunt him, displaying a dynamic first step and terrific feet and balance. It was only practice, but his upside was clear: Several times, the nimble 6-foot-5, 260-pounder almost single-handedly blew up plays in the backfield. Bullard is currently leaning Clemson over Florida and South Carolina, and could announce his decision as early as next Wednesday.
Watkins served as a defensive end and defensive tackle (the position he projects best at in college), and the 6-foot-4, 260-pounder excelled at both. He possesses excellent quickness and athleticism, and has the potential to be a multi-purpose threat at the next level. Watkins committed to Clemson on Oct. 14.
Gurley had a sensational senior season, leading Tarboro to a Class 2A championship by rushing for 242 yards and four touchdowns in the final. His college stock has since skyrocketed. Though he missed Monday's afternoon session, he looked every bit a major D-I recruit during the morning. He showed quick feet and excellent field vision, and perhaps most surprising, the size (6-1, 195) and tenacity to thrive as a linebacker. Gurley is currently favoring UNC over Georgia and Clemson, among others.
After watching him stand up in space on Monday, Marcus' outside linebacker potential fully surfaced. He has ideal size and (6-2, 225) and athleticism for a pass-rusher, and deftly handled lateral movement in the open field. Then there's his speed: He runs a 4.6 40. Florida, Ohio State and East Carolina remain in the running for his services.
Hopper was electric at Berry Academy, leading the Cardinals to a 7-4 record as a senior. He lived up to his big-play reputation on Monday. Blessed with breakaway speed, Hopper also displayed trusted hands, a combination that could prove deadly at Clemson. He committed to the Tigers on April 1.
South Carolina's newly christened Mr. Football, Roland reeled in everything in his vicinity during pass-catching drills. He showed off explosiveness and athleticism, and should be targeted early and often during Saturday's game. The nation's 40th-ranked prospect, Roland committed to Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks on July 9.
Davis consistently ranks among the Palmetto State's premier wideouts, and it's easy to see why. He has an imposing 6-foot-4 frame, freakish athleticism and tremendous hands. His recruitment has been somewhat of a mystery, however, as he doesn't boast the list of scholarships that other elite prospects do. Wake Forest remains the front-runner -- and the Demon Deacons could be stealing an under-the-radar player with All-ACC upside.
Gladney's football ability is unmistakable, as he hauled in at least 11 touchdowns during his junior and senior seasons. He is extremely elusive after the catch, a talent he brandished during Monday's sessions. If he can steady his sometimes shaky academics, expect Gladney to make an immediate impact in Tuscaloosa. He committed to Alabama on June 10.
A big-bodied target (6-4, 200) with excellent hands, Smith is perhaps the thickest of the team's high-flying receiving corps. He's equally as talented as the aforementioned three. Smith was fluid in his route running, caught nearly everything in sight and created downfield separation during Monday's workouts. Like Roland, he committed to South Carolina in July.
The only non-wide receiver to make the list, Destefano was relentless during training. He simply outworked other linemen, driving them back with 6-foot-5, 285-pound frame. Given his athleticism, strength and textbook footwork, he likely has the highest ceiling on the interior. The hometown product -- he's originally from Spartanburg -- committed to Clemson on May 23.