06 September 2011
Duane and I had a new idea for this fall to add another dimension to this site. Since you’re here and reading this, you already know that Duane is one of the best in the business at breaking down player films and evaluating high school football talent. This fall I plan to be the on-site eyes for this blog. Each week I will go to high school games and try to get a first hand look at some of the top college prospects in the state of Ohio. I am based in NE Ohio so expect some Youngstown/Canton flavor. Week one went pretty well if you ask me, so hopefully you enjoy the information I’d like to pass along as much as I enjoyed gathering it. I actually saw two games in week one, one on Thursday and one on Friday, and was treated to a pleasant surprise in each.
The first game I saw was Poland @ Hubbard. Poland lost receiver Darius Patton to graduation and the Pitt Panthers, so I wasn’t expecting much as far as D1 prospects go. This game was a spurt of the moment decision for me to even go and I am glad I did! The Hubbard Eagles lost the game, but won my attention with a trifecta of underclassmen who already caught my eye as college prospects.
The first is a sophomore WR/CB named Darnell Tate. At 5-11 160, Tate was the fastest player on the field and it wasn’t very close. What impressed me the most was that this kid is what I like to call a football player. He’s not just a great athlete out there. He played man-to-man defense most of the night at corner while Hubbard walked their safety up into the box to stop the run. He didn’t give Poland’s QB Colin Reardon (committed to Miami (OH)) many easy throws to his side. Then on offense he took snaps at running back as well as receiver, where he found the end zone twice through the air, the last on a ball down the left sideline where he showed speed and elusiveness as he juked the safety back to the inside for the score as Hubbard tried to make a comeback. He also returned punts and kicks. His size and speed need to be verified, but he came across as a guy with a ton of potential.
Tate is a young kid, only a sophomore, but the other two that caught my eye one-upped him as freshmen! I’ll start with the center Matt Jones. I actually liked Hubbard’s center last year, but this freshman forced the now senior AJ Pantone to nose tackle because he was simply the better player even at his young age. Standing 6-3 and 295-pounds (it looked legit), Jones is a force on the interior of that line. Several times I saw him turn his man and push him into the neighboring defender , taking out two Bulldogs with one block. He bent at the knees and moved his feet very well. So well that he played the entire second half both ways and was also Hubbard’s most disruptive player on the defensive line, taking up blocks and knifing through for TFL’s. A Hubbard guy near me used the word ‘freak’ early in the game when I asked about him, I cannot say I disagree. Being so big at a young age scares me a bit. He’s the perfect size right now, so I don’t want him to grow unless it’s vertically. I was told he’s a weight room warrior, so I hope that means he’ll keep his body under control. If he does, watch out!
The last guy I want to mention from this game is a freshman tailback named Larry Scott. A few years back I watched a tape of a tailback, looked at the class, and thought it had to be a typo. I later found out it wasn’t and the beast I was watching was Bri’onte Dunn as a freshman at Alliance. When Larry Scott ran through about 8 Poland defenders before cutting back inside and rumbling 83 yards down the middle of the field to pay dirt, I was just as shocked to learn this 6-foot 200-pound back was also just a freshman. He’s naturally big and broad. He might not be his listed 200 pounds, but that might be a good thing because this kid has room to grow. He’s big, strong and has excellent balance. He has moves and by no means is an easy tackle. He’ll have to work on vision and staying between the tackles, but he was so physically impressive for a young kid. From his strength to his burst, this kid is going to be special. Oh yeah, his brother Isaiah is also on the varsity roster as a freshman at receiver and saw some snaps late in the game but didn’t have a catch. Remember those last two are 2015 kids, so certainly take it with a grain of salt. But I’ve seen Big Ten level players live at bother of their positions and I came away highly impressed with their first varsity game.
Next was Friday night’s Division 1 showdown between Austintown Fitch and Warren Harding at Harding. The first guy I got to see this season with a Buckeye offer was Fitch’s OL/DL Billy Price. I was of the opinion that Price is the type of athlete that can play left tackle at the next level. Fitch doesn’t really pass much and almost never from the pocket, so I never got a good look in that regard. He was very good downblocking and a monster when he pulled and led his backs through the hole. He looks like a guard. He looks like an elite, 5 star at a position that doesn’t get 5 stars, type of guard. Thing is, he’s probably better on defense. He did what you would want an elite defensive lineman to do against high school linemen who couldn’t match his size, he went right through and over them. But then when he got bored with that, he beat them off the ball and went right past them with ease before punishing the ball carrier. He’s bigger than you, faster than you, more agile than you, and simply nastier than you, and there’s nothing you can do about it. I wasn’t disappointed in number 54 in white.
Fitch also has a trio of noteworthy seniors. RB/LB Will Mahone, still undecided, had a stellar game on both sides of the ball. He’s probably a better linebacker but at 5-11 206 will be looked at as a running back mostly, which is what he wants to play. He’s so patient for a high school back. He’s actually remarkable in that regard. Good feet, good vision, good hands, good power. A high quality back for the upper tier Big Ten and schools alike. Then you have Pitt Panther commits in twins Demetrious and Chris Davis. Recruited as receivers although Demetrious is the Falcon QB. Both are great athletes with top level speed. Chris had a few tackles and a pick-6 and I actually like him better at corner even though he’s only about 5-7 (Demetrious is 5-8 or 5-9).
On the Harding side of things, Jalyn Powell (6-1 190) was a straight up baller. Duane has mentioned he likes him at receiver as well as safety, but he didn’t play much offense at all outside of some wildcat QB. What he did do is make tackles, a bunch of them, on his side and chasing things down from the backside. He made plays near and behind the line of scrimmage. As I mentioned before, Fitch rarely throws so he wasn’t given many opportunities to make plays in the passing game, but he also didn’t leave anyone open in the Falcons few pass attempts. He also helps in returns. He is an elite athlete and I wouldn’t argue one bit if we saw a Buckeye offer.
Lastly, I have my pleasant surprise from this game. Harding had a transfer in just before the season from former Raider and Buckeye OG LaShun Daniel’s son who also goes by LaShun Daniels. The newest version is not an offensive lineman but a 6-foot 208-pound running back who had 180 yards and the lone touchdown in Harding’s 28-7 loss. He’s got power, balance, vision and speed, probably in that order. He’s got a frame to carry 225-230 comfortably as a power back at a major university. Also showed some hands on a catch downfield that was ruled out of bounds, which was not the only ball thrown his way (but the Harding QB’s had some accuracy issues). Immediately I feel comfortable with tossing him straight into the top-5 for RB’s in the 2013 class in Ohio, if not higher. My gut tells me that I already like him more than cross-town back DeVeon Smith from Howland, and I’m a bigger fan of Smith’s than most (at least more than Duane), but I’ll wait to see another game or two to form a more concrete opinion. For what it's worth, I've heard Smith is tearing it up this year and looks faster, which was one of his few knocks, so I'm going to try to see him again sometime this season.
Now I had some troubles logging in here on the DLR so I'm going to have to lump the first two weeks together.
In week two I headed South from Youngstown and ended up in Steubenville where the Big Red took on the Akron Buchtel Griffins. Steubenville’s Harding Stadium, known as Death Valley has an amazing atmosphere for high school football and I recommend the trip for anyone within reasonable driving distance.
Now to the athletes. It was the game of the safeties as Steubenville features Buckeye commit Najee Murray, and Buchtel has Michigan commit Jarrod Wilson. The Griffins also have a starting tailback who played for Firestone last year named Darren McGinnis, who I see as more of an athlete than a running back. I’ll start with the senior, McGinnis. An above average high school back, McGinnis has a nice blend of size and explosiveness at about 6-foot 200-pounds. He excels with the ball in his hands in high school because of his athletic superiority. Catches it well out of the backfield as well. But he runs very upright and his between-the-tackles vision and cutback are below par. He’s just a really good athlete out there. Something that could project well at, for instance, the safety position. This is where I would project him in college.
The guy who did play safety for Buchtel was the 6-2 190-pound Jarrod Wilson. Wilson is a centerfield type. He came up with a pick on a ball intended for Murray down the left sideline, but one that was poorly thrown. He’s definitely a great athlete out there and can cover some ground. Steubenville is a team that likes to run the football most of the time, and I did not see Jarrod Wilson involved in this part of the game very much. I like a safety that can hit and make plays in the run game and 24 certainly left something to be desired in that regard. To be fair, this was not a game that was set up to Wilson’s strengths and every recruit has weaknesses. You can still tell you were looking at a Big Ten athlete. I guess it wasn’t the best week to evaluate Wilson.
Lastly I have the first future Buckeye (at least that is committed) of the season in Najee Murray. He was noticeably smaller than Wilson and McGinnis, as his listed 5-11 185 would indicate, but is clearly the most physical. Murray is an explosive tackler who loves to come up and take a guys feet out from under him, think Antoine Winfield. As is often the case with trying to evaluate DB’s, poor QB play on the other side limits the opportunity. Buchtel’s throws were to the flats and down the sidelines where they could get one on one’s with the Big Red corners. Didn’t see one ball over the middle where Murray roams, which in itself says something about the respect he demands from other teams. On offense Murray had a couple sweeps coming in motion from the slot, including a big gainer down the right sideline before being dragged out of bounds for one of Jarrod Wilson’s few tackles. Murray can definitely scoot. Definitely looks fast enough to play corner, which makes sense with a reported 4.41 forty time. If that’s where he lines up for the Buckeyes then if nothing else, they’ve got one of the best tackling corners you’ll find.
As a side note, when I made it home from Steubenville, the Youngstown Cardinal Mooney game was being televised locally. Mooney has a pair of juniors of note in WR/S Marcus McWilson and LB Courtney Love. McWilson is a tremendous athlete who is probably the fastest guy I’ve seen this year. He has a really nice body at a legitimate 6-0 195 and has good hands that he won’t be able to show off much in the 90%-run Mooney offense. Still, receiver is where I like him the most. He’s not a hitter and takes too many bad angles at safety. He looks like a Big Ten athlete for sure, though. Then the 6-1 225-pound Love is a Big Ten level athlete as he already holds a Nebraska offer from Mooney alum Bo Pelini. Love is big, mean, physical and can run. This will not be his only Big Ten offer, I promise you. He missed the Glenville scrimmage that I saw with a shoulder injury so I was anxious to see him and I wasn’t disappointed. This is one to keep on your Buckeye radar.
Now that the kinks have been worked out, this should become a weekly thing. I know I'm excited about where I'm headed for week three, but I'll save that for later.
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