April 19, 2014

VTO Atlanta: Linemen shine

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ATLANTA -- The weather was less than ideal with torrential downpours throughout the evening, but that did not dampen the spirit of the 80 or so athletes at Friday's VTO Elite 100 camp in Atlanta. With the lights of Lakewood Stadium beaming down, several under the radar linemen shined while the skill position players struggled to hold onto the football due to the poor weather.

The most impressive performance of the night came from 2015 defensive end Brandon Varner from Atlanta (Ga.) KIPP Atlanta Collegiate. The unknown lineman won almost every rep of the day often making his opponents look silly with his violent hands and quick feet.

"I thought I did a good job and I hope more schools will start looking at me," Varner said. "Right now I am hearing from a few schools like Georgia State, but I am just now getting into recruiting."

Mallard Creek (N.C.) defensive tackle De'Jour Simpson dominated the inside during drills while sophomore defensive end Justin Long from Columbus (Ga.) Brookstone provided some additional edge rush and explosiveness despite only being 15 years-old.

"It was a lot of fun and I really wanted to keep going when they ended things. I was ready for some more one-on-ones with the offensive linemen," Simpson said. "I'd go play some cornerback if they would let me. I just like competing."

On the skill position side, the quarterback position was loaded with young talent, but wet footballs and constant rain made it tough for anyone to shine. Covington (Ga.) Alcovy sophomore quarterback Ar'mon Hickson took home the top quarterback honors by performing the most consistently during drills and seven-on-seven competition.

A trio of sophomores, Roswell's Davis Kelly, Lawrenceville (Ga.) Archer's Will Bearden and Newnan's Chancellor Johnson made strong cases for the top quarterback honors. Marietta (Ga.) Lassiter sophomore quarterback Cooper Cross shared his fellow signal callers' frustration.

"It was so cold and wet out here," Cross said. "You just have to fight through and keep going just like you would in a game."

The top skill position players were Martin Luther King (Ga.) Jonathan Mathis at running back, Northview (Ga.) Ricci Nuckles at wide receiver and North Paulding's Dylan Autenrieth at tight end.

Upfront, 2016 linemen Timothy Coleman from Lithonia (Ga.) Arabia Mountain and Greenville (S.C.) J.L. Mann's Tyler Miller had standout performances. Lilburn (Ga.) Parkview lineman Jake Cooper also had a strong showing.

Sophomore Christopher Harris from Savannah (Ga.) Benedictine Military School took home the top linebacker honors after a great performance in the one-on-one drills against the running backs. A.J. Sweat from Lawrenceville (Ga.) Archer was another strong performer in one-on-one and seven-on-seven drills at linebacker.

Roswell (Ga.) athlete Mechane Slade took home the top athlete award playing on both sides of the ball Friday. The senior shined mostly at receiver and some at defensive back during drills. Slade was one of the few upperclassmen to shine at the event.

In the secondary, Sandy Creek sophomore Tariq Muhammad took home the top defensive back award after snatching four interceptions in drills.

The Sleeper Award went to 2017 Knightdale (N.C.) lineman Koree Lee who took more snaps at guard and center than any other offensive lineman did at the camp. The compact lineman kept a smile on his face as he tried to slow down a group of talented defensive linemen.

The biggest award of the evening went to a linebacker. Suwanee (Ga.) Peachtree Ridge 2017 linebacker Breon Dixon earned a trip to Jacksonville for the Rivals Underclassmen Challenge at EverBank Field. Dixon was thrilled when the VTO staff informed him of the honor at the end of the day.

"It is a real honor to get invited to the Rivals Underclassmen Challenge," he said. "I just try to work hard and I feel blessed."

VTO Sports Elite 100 Schedule
Saturday, March 1 South Atlanta, GA Saturday, April 19 North Atlanta
Sunday, March 2 Birmingham, AL Saturday, April 26 Shreveport, LA
Saturday, March 8 Columbia, SC Sunday, April 27 Dallas, TX
Sunday, March 9 Charlotte, NC Saturday, May 10 Teaneck, NJ
Sunday, March 30 Richmond, VA Sunday, May 11 Baltimore, MD
Saturday, April 5 Tampa, FL Sunday, May 25 Chicago, IL
Sunday, April 13 Rock Hill, SC

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