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July 27, 2011
What we learned: Gridiron Kings
Rivals.com analyst Chris Nee is coming off a busy week in which he toured the state of Florida with stops at events in Tallahassee, Gainesville and Orlando. Here are the five things that stick out from his final stop, the Gridiron Kings camp near Orlando.
1. Davis proves he's a QB
Houston (Texas) Klein Forest quarterback Matt Davis came into the Gridiron Kings event as Rivals.com's No. 3 dual-threat quarterback, but not everybody was convinced that he was a true signal-caller, and not simply a talented athlete. Those doubts were removed by a great two-day performance from the Texas A&M commitment.
Davis is a great athlete, but first and foremost he is a quarterback. The 6-foot-2, 202-pound prospect showed the ability to make a variety of throws and displayed great touch as he led the Southwest to an easy victory over the Midwest in the Gridiron Kings Championship. He earned praise from his teammates and competitors for an outstanding performance. For his play, Davis took home offensive MVP honors, but most of all he silenced his doubters by being the best quarterback at the all-star event.
2. Lone Star State talent is abundant
Davis wasn't the only talented prospect from Texas. The Lone Star State was represented by 12 prospects on the Southwest squad and a number of them had standout performances. Mesquite (Texas) Horn cornerback DeVante Harris took home defensive MVP honors at the event. The Oklahoma commitment did an outstanding job in coverage throughout the event. He was part of a standout secondary that included Richardson (Texas) Pearce athlete Corey Coleman, along with DeSoto (Texas) cornerback Bryson Echols, and Missouri City (Texas) Elkins safety Corey Thompson.
Along with Davis, the offense was led by Dallas (Texas) Skyline wide receiver Thomas Johnson, Spring (Texas) Dekaney running back Trey Williams and Austin (Texas) Lake Travis tight end Griffin Gilbert. All three prospects were regular targets for Davis and picked apart opposing defenses. Johnson is still developing into a full-time wide receiver but knows how to get open and make plays with the ball in his hands. Williams is a dynamo out of the backfield who is an excellent receiving back. Gilbert is a great vertical threat who does an outstanding job catching the ball no matter where it is placed and has very good body control. He will add weight to his frame when he arrives at TCU to round out at his position.
One Texas prospect who was knocked out of competition early was Austin (Texas) wide receiver Cayleb Jones. The 6-foot-3, 198-pound wide receiver was dominant in his short stint of action. The Southwest would have been nearly unstoppable with the dynamic weapon on the field had he not suffered an injury. Jones suffered an injury to his left hand, a finger, where he suffered a couple of chip fractures and possible ligament damage.
3. Southeast team tumbles
During the existence of Gridiron Kings, it has regularly been the Southeast team - and then everybody else. That wasn't the case in 2011 as the Southeast team experienced two days of up-and-down games before being knocked off by the Midwest squad in the semifinals.
The Southeast wasn't lacking talent compared to their competitors, especially with players such as Miami (Fla.) Norland running back Randy Johnson, Citra (Fla.) North Marion tight end Sean Price, Fairburn (Ga.) Creekside defensive back Joshua Holsey, Tallahassee (Fla.) North Florida Christian defensive back Travis Blanks and Tampa Berkeley Prep athlete Nelson Agholor. While on an even playing field with their competitors from a talent standpoint, the team lacked the loaded roster it has had in past seasons. On defense, it lacked a playmaker such as Hasean Clinton-Dix, Karlos Williams or Matt Elam of past years.
The Southeast's quarterback was Matthews (N.C.) Butler dual-threat quarterback Riley Ferguson who showed his potential in spurts, but struggled to show any consistency during the event. Ferguson, who will be just a junior this season, will likely head back to North Carolina viewing Gridiron Kings as a learning experience.
4. Talent at linebacker
In the 7-on-7 format, it is generally tough for linebackers to make an impression. While that was generally the case at Gridiron Kings, a few linebackers rose to the occasion and made a significant impact.
Norfolk (Va.) Norfolk Christian School inside linebacker Kwontie Moore did a great job throughout the event of getting into passing lanes. He recorded multiple interceptions, including one for a touchdown. Moore was part of the Midwest squad.
For the Southeast, Miami (Fla.) Norland linebacker Keith Brown had a strong showing over both days. While he didn't make any spectacular highlight plays like Moore, he did an excellent job of playing his role and making a play when the ball came his way. The same can be said for the Southwest's Michael Rose, from Kansas City (Mo.) Rockhurst, and Lamar Louis, from Breaux Bridge (La.).
5. Big plays from small players
So often, size is the first thing that draws people to a prospect. If a young man is a monstrosity, but can move, he draws many onlookers. While bigger tends to be better in college football circles, a few standouts at Gridiron Kings prove that talent comes in all sizes.
Mesquite (Texas) Horn cornerback DeVante Harris is rail thin, at just 160 pounds, but he made play after play, flashed great quickness, an ability to read the quarterback and break on the ball. The Oklahoma commitment earned MVP honors on defense with his performance.
One of the key weapons that helped take the Midwest to the championship game was Chesapeake (Va.) Oscar Smith all-purpose back J.C. Coleman. The 5-foot-7, 169-pounder was a threat out of the backfield and showed another gear when he turned upfield after the catch.
South Gate (Calif.) South East running back Robert Lewis looks like a twig at 5-foot-9, 155 pounds but he made plays catching the ball out of the backfield and going deep. He was one of the few consistent bright spots for a West squad that struggled.
For the Southeast, Miami (Fla.) Norland running back Randy Johnson was electric. The 5-foot-9, 170-pound back made some spectacular catches out of the backfield. His ability to quickly change direction, dig his foot into the ground and accelerate is a blast to watch in this setting.