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February 7, 2010BadgerSports Elite Lineman Challenge: First look at 2011 stars
PISCATAWAY, N.J. - While the Mid-Atlantic region was bombarded with snow ranging from 30 inches in Maryland to roughly 8 inches at Rutgers University in Piscataway, N.J., the high school prospect evaluation business didn't take a break. And while the weather kept some away, the first day of the BadgerSports Elite Lineman Challenge presented by New Level Athletics rolled on with many big names in attendance. Perhaps no one was more intriguing than Fort Piece (Fla.) Fort Pierce Central defensive end/offensive tackle Giorgio Newberry on Saturday.
Newberry, a 6-foot-5, 257-pounder wasn't the biggest name expected to attend heading into the event but the versatile big man certainly stood out more than anyone else. Newberry easily passed the eyeball test upon arrival, looked smooth and athletic in drills and was hard to contain in one-on-ones on the defensive side of the ball. And when he flipped over to take a few reps on the offensive side of things, he was dominant there as well.
Newberry, who has early offers from Florida, LSU, Tennessee, Clemson, Rutgers, South Carolina, North Carolina, Boston College, Virginia, West Virginia and others, has a terrific frame, long arms and quick feet. On defense he has an excellent swim move, a quick first step and uses misdirection to fool opponents. On offensive, he is quick out of his stance, uses his long arms to keep opponents off balance and keeps his feet moving.
In addition to Newberry, the most impressive defensive prospect on the day was Thomasville (Ga.) Thomas County Central defensive end Ray Drew. Drew is tall and lean at 6 feet 5 and 236 pounds with very long arms and excellent speed to the outside. He was too much for most linemen to handle when he used his speed rush and when he mixed things up and changed direction, he left them grasping at air. Drew won all but a few one-on-one battles and was excellent in drills, showing good agility and excellent footwork. One of the highlights of the first day was when Drew went against Newberry when the latter switched over to offense. Newberry got the better of the battle on Saturday.
Drew has offers from Florida State, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee, Notre Dame and many others early in the process. While he claims no leaders, many feel that the Seminoles are the team to beat. His school sent two players to FSU back in 2008 when defensive tackle Anthony McCloud and running back Debrale Smiley signed. Former FSU great Charlie Ward also hails from the school.
Others who stood out on defense included fellow defensive ends Kevin Miller and Chase Hounshell and defensive tackles Daryl Stephenson and Monte Golden. Miller, from Delran (N.J.) Holy Cross, has good size at 6-4 and 230 pounds and won most of his one-on-one battles. Hounshell, from Kirtland (Ohio) Lake Catholic, has even better size at 6-5 and 245 pounds and was one of the better bull rushers at the event. Stephenson, a 6-foot-3, 270-pounder from Parlin (N.J.) Sayreville War Memorial, showed off excellent quickness and agility for a big man while Golden, a 6-foot-1, 280-pounder, displayed a lot of power and natural leverage as a defensive and offensive lineman.
While the defensive linemen were impressive, the offensive line group was much deeper. And the battle to be the best in the group was a competitive one.
Making a case for the top spot on Saturday was offensive guard Anthony Zettel from West Branch (Mich.) Ogemaw Heights. The 6-foot-4, 255-pounder has plenty of room to fill out his frame and was the most active and energetic of the linemen in drills. And in the one-on-ones, Zettel showed a great combination of power, leverage and foot speed to win almost all of his reps. Zettel recently received offers from Michigan and Michigan State and will be at Notre Dame's junior day soon. He grew up a Wolverine fan but is keeping his options open.
Vero Beach, Fla., offensive guard Marcus Jackson was also impressive, showing off quick feet and good balance for a 6-foot-3, 280-pounder. Jackson, an early commitment to Miami over offers from South Carolina and Florida, flashed good footwork in drills and anchored very well in one-on-ones.
Port St. Lucie (Fla.) Treasure Coast offensive guard Mike Romano was also impressive in one-on-ones as was fellow Floridian Garrett Clark from Daytona Beach (Fla.) Mainland. Romano, a 6-foot-3, 275-pounder, adjusted well to misdirection, played with good leverage and didn't lunge while Clark, a 6-foot-4, 278-pounder, showed a mean streak, was physical and aggressive and kept his feet moving. Both prospects did a good job of riding their opponents to the outside.
Lynchburg (Va.) Liberty Christian Academy offensive tackle Grant Jones got better as the first day progressed. After struggling a bit early in drills, Jones became more and more comfortable and peaked at the one-on-ones where he beat Newberry in his last rep before being forced to retire for the day due to a nasty cut over his eye. Jones has very good size and uses his long arms well and has sneaky agility for a massive lineman.
Scottsdale (Ariz.) Saguaro offensive guard Cyrus Hobbi, a 6-foot-3, 285-pounder, was arguably the best technician in drills, showing great feet and excellent form, although he struggled a bit in one-on-ones. He has an early offer from Arizona State.
And the biggest prospect of the day was Sioux Falls (S.D.) Washington tackle Derek Farniok who checked in at 6-8 and 315 pounds. While Farniok struggled with quick outside pass rushers, he showed a strong work ethic, adequate agility for a huge tackle and was effective when he extended his arms. Farniok has an early offer from Minnesota.
Two of the top offensive linemen at the event came from a state not known for producing talent. Dover, Del., tackle/guard Trip Thurman and Wilmington (Del.) Salesianum School guard Evan Mulrooney were both impressive in different aspects on Saturday.
Thurman, a 6-foot-5, 295-pounder, showed off the best feet on the day in drills and has excellent instincts. He has a great build with a powerful upper body and thick legs and he is very explosive and sudden. He struggled a bit in one-on-ones mainly because he was lunging, but with a slight adjustment he has the potential to be dominant.
Mulrooney, slightly smaller at 6-4 and 275 pounds, didn't stand out as much in drills but was better in the one-on-ones, showing off an aggressive, tenacious style and competing to the whistle each time. Mulrooney got out of his stance quickly and was hard to beat to the outside.
Thurman has early offers from Boston College, Rutgers, Maryland, UConn, Wisconsin and others and is hearing from Tennessee, Penn State, Florida State and Oregon. Thurman's parents grew up in Knoxville, Tenn. and his mom went to Tennessee so an offer from the Vols would be special. However, Thurman said it will not factor in his decision.
Mulrooney doesn't have any offers just yet but is hearing from Rutgers, UConn, Maryland, Boston College, Virginia and others. He grew up a Penn State fan.
There were a few standout 2012 prospects on day one as well. On the offensive side of things, guard Ryan Brodie from Long Branch, N.J., was exceptional and even beat Newberry on the last one-on-one of the day. Brodie, a 6-foot-4, 265-pounder, still needs to fill out his frame but his footwork, smarts and technique make his upside excellent. With another full year before recruiting heats up, he's one to watch for sure.
And on defense, tackle Eddie Goldman, who also plays offensive guard, was outstanding as well. Goldman, a 6-foot-3, 290-pounder from Washington (D.C.) Friendship Collegiate Academy, showed off a fierce bull rush and a quick first step in one-on-ones and he was solid in drills as well. Goldman already has verbal offers from Maryland and New Mexico.