The Pigskin Preview held at Carter-Finley Stadium on August 17 showcased many of North Carolina's top prospects. The round-robin format featured 16 teams, with four teams participating in each two-hour session. Here's a look at how several of the state's best players fared.
Early on it appeared that Southeast Raleigh's star OL and NC State verbal Yomi Ojo would be a no-show. The mammoth lineman sat out most of the first two scrimmages. However, when he finally entered the scrimmage it became clear why the Pack coaches love his potential. Ojo appeared to be in much better shape than when he attended the Nike camp held at UNC earlier this year. Finding Ojo on the field wasn't difficult either as he alternated between left and right tackle, depending on where the Bulldogs wanted to run the play. He was very sound in pass blocking- doing a good job of getting his hands on the defender and moving his feet well. It should also be noted that he did an outstanding job of staying with his man and riding him out of the play until after the whistle had blown. Southeast routinely ran behind Ojo and on one play in particular, he pancaked a defender at the line of scrimmage, opening a gaping hole for the RB, then stayed with the play- knocking down two defenders at once who tried to pursue from the backside. The running play netted about 25 yards. On running plays, Ojo routinely drove his man several yards downfield, displaying much more quickness than was evident at the Nike Camp. It's clear that a football player, particularly an offensive lineman, can't be judged in shorts and a T-shirt running 40-yard dashes.
If an award went out to the most athletic player in attendance, it certainly would have been given to WR Mike Mason of Rocky Mount (NC) High School. Mason simply has another gear when it comes to blazing across the football field and watching him run his routes is entertaining in itself. His cuts are crisp and his running stride is effortless. On the second play of the scrimmage, he took a handoff and blasted around left end. When he reached the corner it appeared a defender had a bead on him but Mason just hit another gear and jetted down the sideline- untouched. On a similar play later in the scrimmage, Mason took the handoff and once again headed for the left end. The defense looked as though they had him contained so he pulled up and calmly tossed a 25-yard touchdown pass. Throughout the rest of the scrimmage Mason hauled in at least two other TD passes and on this night, it was clear there wasn't a defensive back equal to covering him.
There were several top-notch QB's in attendance but one that will obviously be of interest to Pack fans next year is junior QB Daniel Evans of Broughton High School and son of former NC State QB Johnny Evans. Evans, judged from a distance, looked to stand about 6-1 and weigh in the 165-170 pound range. He looks to have grown about an inch or so from last year but is still razor thin and will need to put on weight to make it to the next level. However, from a fundamentals and mechanics level, Evans was clearly the best QB The Wolfpacker saw at the Pigskin Preview. Every pass from Evans was a tight spiral and looked to be thrown on a rope. His throws have very little arc to them. His footwork was adequate but he is clearly a pocket-passer. One aspect that may definitely help him at the division one level is the fact that Broughton employs a wide-open passing attack that spreads receivers all over the field, not to mention a no-huddle offense that requires the QB to make quick, smart decisions. Evans had great touch on short and intermediate throws and made one of the prettiest throws of the night when he lofted a beautiful spiral 25-yards down the right sideline for a touchdown. He caught the receiver in full stride and the pass was dead on the money. On the night, he unofficially completed 14 of 24 passes for 116 yards. It should be noted that four of Evans' passes were dropped.
Another QB that was extremely impressive and hugely under-rated is Pierre Parker of Beddingfield High School. The ECU-verbal displayed very good mobility, taking off on several impressive runs. However, his strong suit is throwing the football and he tossed several perfectly thrown spirals. His accuracy was uncanny. He also had a great handle on throwing short passes and seemed to always make very good decisions when picking his receiver. No question, the Pirates landed a diamond in the rough with Parker and look for him to put up huge stats this year.
QB Cory Holt of Lexington (NC) High School is a tall, solidly-built signal-caller and it was clear what all the hubbub has been about after watching him in person. While his arm has garnered most of the attention, and deservedly so, what was not expected was his escapeability in the pocket and the ability to take a busted play and turn it into a 25-yard gain. Defenders had trouble corralling him all night and even when they did; he still managed to get the pass off. One of his best was a 35-yard beauty down the left sideline that was hauled in for a touchdown. On another, he escaped what looked to be a sure sack, turned and fired another 35-yard scoring strike. On yet another play he rumbled around left end, avoided several defenders, and scored from 25 yards out. As a whole, Holt's passes were not as crisp as Parker's or Evans', but he got the ball where it needed to go. He also threw a couple of passes up for grabs where the receiver bailed him out but other than that his performance was impressive and won Lexington the scrimmage trophy. Holt will benefit greatly from having OL Virgil Black protect his left side, with OL Bryan Terry guarding the right. Black is a huge prospect who played outstanding early in the scrimmage. No defender could get by him and he opened up some gaping holes on running plays. However, he doubles as a DL on defense and the double-duty, plus 90 degree weather seemed to wear him down as the scrimmage wore on. Terry seemed somewhat smallish but very effective on the defensive side of the ball. He made several nice tackles and seemed to be in a little better shape that Black. His height could be a factor with D-1 recruiters however.
One of the top defenders going into the scrimmage was East Wake's DL Terry Hunter. Physically, he was one of the most developed players at the scrimmage. He has great quickness and actually plays FB on offense. On this night however, Hunter was largely ineffective on defense. He plays somewhat out of position at DT but did not register any sacks or tackles from what was observed. It is possible that he may have been slowed somewhat by a slight injury or illness.
One prospect that has not received a lot of fanfare, but should, is DT Azu Alaribe of Millbrook. How this prospect has operated under the radar of recruiting gurus is a mystery. He is a mammoth prospect who actually looked down on Pack verbal Yomi Ojo. In fact, on one pass play, he blasted into Ojo and knocked him three yards into the backfield. He did a fabulous job of stuffing the middle of the line and penetrated into the opposing team's backfield on several occasions. He displayed a tenacious attitude on the defensive line and looked to be going 100% on every play that The Wolfpacker observed. Little is known about Alaribe at this point but it would be surprising if he doesn't end up on a division one roster next fall.