Rivals.com's staff of recruiting analysts offer thoughts on things they learned while on the road scouting some of the nations top prospects in this week's edition of From the Road. Here is a closer look at some of the sights, storylines and recruiting scoop from the big weekend in high school football.
Five-star QB comes up just short: Virginia Beach (Va.) Bayside five-star quarterback E.J. Manuel had a solid night in a heartbreaking 33-31 loss to undefeated Green Run last Friday night. The 6-foot-4, 201-pounder did most of his damage on the ground. Manuel showed elusiveness in the open field, including a critical touchdown run off the right edge in overtime that set up a potential game-tying score. Bayside took the ball out of Manuel's hands for the two-point conversion and failed. As a passer, Manuel has nice zip on the ball and a quick, tight release, but his accuracy still needs to improve. A couple times he missed relatively open receivers on out patterns, but he also made a couple nice throws that allowed his receivers to make a play after the catch including a big 40-yarder in the first half.
Manuel wasn't the only prospect on display Friday night. His teammate, and fellow 2008 recruit, Marquel Thomas played well. Thomas plays cornerback, wide receiver and special teams for Bayside and is clearly Manuel's top target. He made some nice adjustments to the ball and showed good speed and quickness. He's definitely a player to keep an eye on as February approaches.
A few 2009 prospects were also on hand. Green Run's Patrick Young along with Bayside's William Marable played well. Young, a wide receiver, showed up in the second half. He has good speed and came on late in the game taking a 46-yard touchdown to the house with 17 seconds to go. Marable is a solid cover corner already with above average awareness, good closing speed and someone that isn't afraid to stick a player if necessary. He was beat for a touchdown on a goal line curl in the first half, but showed tremendous closing speed and actually got himself in position to at least tip the ball and make it a difficult reception. He's definitely one to monitor next year.
Massie dominates: On Saturday afternoon, offensive tackle Bobby Massie and Lynchburg (Va.) Liberty Christian played in Chesapeake against Atlantic Shores. The Bulldogs dominated 43-7 in the win, while Massie saw most of his action in just the first quarter playing both tackle positions on offense and defense. On offense, he stayed incredibly low for his 6-foot-8, 335-pound frame. His strength was on display too as light pushes were enough to knock some defenders to the ground.
Massie played well on defense and while he didn't come up with any sacks, he provided pressure on a couple plays, bursting through two defenders and getting his paws in the quarterbacks face. It was a short day, but Massie played well in the victory.
Two to watch: Highland Park, N.J. defeated Dunellen 21-6 this past weekend and two underclassmen to watch were on display. 2009 athlete Bryant Fitzgerald will be a top running back recruit next year. He has 1,053 yards on 70 carries so far this season for a 15.04 yards-per-carry average and 14 touchdowns.
He was joined by 2010 linebacker/tight end Nate Smith. Smith is the younger brother of former Rutgers star and current Philadelphia Eagle L.J. Smith and has a lot of upside. He is 6-foot and 200 pounds now, but everyone expects him to continue to grow.
Barry Every, Rivals.com Recruiting Analyst
Florida commit excels in the rain: Citizens Field in Gainesville, Fla., was besieged by a rainstorm prior the Fleming Island-Gainesville matchup, leaving the playing surface a quagmire. It was obvious this would be a game decided by turnovers caused by the slick footballs.
"Whichever team has a mudder will come out on top," Gainesville coach Eddie Moore said prior to kickoff.
On the first drive by Gainesville, a fumble on an errant pitch turned into three points for the Fleming Island Golden Eagles. The rest of the first half would be played between the thirty-yard lines in the constant rain. Earl Okine of Gainesville applied pressure on the Golden Eagle quarterback throughout the first half. Okine struggled getting off the double teams, but was relentless with his pursuit of plays run away from his side.
Fleming Island scored two touchdowns off of Hurricane fumbles in the second half, but both extra points were muffed because the holder could not corral the wet ball.
Okine ended the game with eight tackles and two TFLs and coach Moore's premonition would come true. Ryan Aplin was the mudder, scoring two rushing touchdowns for Fleming Island in the 15-0 win. The teams combined for nine fumbles with Fleming Island recovering seven.
McCray makes the best of some bad weather: The next night the rain was not as bad for Lerentee McCray and the Dunnellon Tigers' visit to take on the Williston Red Devils.
McCray showed incredible lateral movement, chasing the ball all over the field en route to a 27-0 win for Dunnellon.
McCray lined up at tailback on Dunnellon's first possession of the second half and his first carry went for 32 yards around left end. He would have scored if wasn't for a touchdown-saving tackle by Williston super sophomore Diante Welch.
McCray finished with 12 tackles and 41 yards rushing in the Dunnellon victory.
Surprising the competition: Two schools in Florida not know for their football prowess are having great seasons.
Nature Coast Technical School of Brooksville, Fla. is 4-1 in only its fifth year of varsity competition. They are lead by sophomore running back Tevin Drake who has 664 yards and seven touchdowns on 81 carries.
Deltona (Fla.) High School has had only one winning season in the school's 20-year history, but they are off to a 6-0 start this season. Coach Todd Sisco credits this great start to three seniors - fullback Tommy Fleming, athlete Nick Rosamonda and offensive lineman Clayton Berry.
This trio has accounted for 1469 yards on the ground and 23 touchdowns. The Sharks also have a sensational sophomore in 6-foot, 160-pound athlete Shane Lewis. Lewis is tied for the team lead in tackles and interceptions. Coach Sisco compared him to 13-year NFL veteran Dale Carter.
Chad Simmons, Recruiting Analyst
Rivals100 DE has two visits set: Georgia commitment Toby Jackson has set visits with Auburn (November) and Miami (December).
"I am still committed to Georgia, but I am still leaving the door open for other schools," he said at Griffin High School last week.
He went on to say that Georgia, Alabama, Miami, LSU and Auburn were his top schools in that order. The 6-foot-4, 255-pound rush end will likely take all five official visits before making his final decision.
Georgia is definitely the team to beat, but Alabama and Miami are a definite threat. Jackson is having a very good senior campaign and he just jumped into the Rivals100 this week at No. 77.
Sophomore to watch: Forest Park, Ga., receiverXavier Keller played well against Jonesboro last week. He showed he was not scared of contact as he laid out some good blocks for his backs to run behind. He had a couple of grabs as well in the loss and he showed potential. He does not have a lot of talent around him, but he will be one to watch over the next couple of years.
Avery commits, but he is no lock: Ellenwood (Ga.) Cedar Grove athlete Xavier Avery gave a commitment to the University of Georgia about a week and a half ago, but official visits to other schools are not out of the question.
"I may visit Stanford, LSU and a few others schools. My parents would like for me to so I am sure of my decision," Avery said.
Avery switching his commitment to another school is not likely because he and his family like the idea of him playing close to home. With that said, he is no lock to UGA. The Major League Baseball draft is in June and he is being talked about as a potential draft pick in the first five rounds. The big money could keep him away from any college campus.
Jarboe postpones visits: Rivals250 wide receiver Joshua Jarboe was supposed to begin his official visits last weekend, but he has put those off a while.
He was expected in Norman to visit the Oklahoma Sooners, but he has pushed that back to December. He will likely visit Oklahoma, LSU and Tennessee. Visits four and five are still up in the air.
McKeller has potential: Junior offensive tackle Darius McKeller is showing potential. He is a 6-foot-5, 280-pound junior out of Jonesboro, Ga., and he has only been playing football for a couple of years, but he has the tools.
Basketball is his first love and you can see the feet, coordination and athleticism right away. He needs to find that attitude or nasty streak when he hits the field, but he will get his share of looks this fall and next. He is strong in the classroom and he is already hearing from schools like Georgia Tech, Alabama, Clemson, Duke, LSU and others.
A senior to keep an eye on:Latravis Montgomery just gained his eligibility two weeks ago after transferring to Griffin, Ga., from Upson Lee. He started with a bang by running for more than 100 yards in each of his first two games.
He is a smaller athlete that plays a lot of running back now, but the 5-9, 165-pound speedster will likely end up at corner on the next level. Not many schools know about him yet, but the calls will likely start coming soon.