Rivals.com's staff of recruiting analysts offer thoughts on things they learned while on the road scouting some of the nation's top prospects in this week's edition of From the Road. Brendan Beal and A.J. Harmon are just a couple of prospects who backed up their rankings on the field.
Beal makes statement: Rivals100 linebacker Brendan Beal from Bethlehem (Pa.) Liberty only played a half in his team's 35-0 win over East Stroudsburg (Pa.) South last weekend, but he made the most of it.
Beal, a Florida commitment, was double-teamed often and matched up with his opponents' biggest offensive lineman when he was in a three-point stance, but he still came away making numerous plays. Beal showed excellent hustle and took on blocks well. He has an excellent motor and plays under control.
Beal has excellent instincts and is technically sound. He missed a few early tackles but once he settled in he was in on many plays. He showed some ability to spy the quarterback and run things down from sideline to sideline, but he's best at the point of attack, taking on or avoiding blockers in traffic to make plays.
Beal is a pure inside linebacker and is always around the football. He'll need to get a half-step faster playing down at Florida, but he has the work ethic to do so and a great frame.
Eye on juniors: Paulsboro, N.J. defeated Carneys Point (N.J.) Penns Grove 21-6 last weekend behind 2009 Rivals.com 100 to Watch prospect Gerald Hodges who scored on a three-yard touchdown run and a 20-yard fumble return in the game. On the opposite side of the ball was fellow 2009 standout Aaron Hayward for Penns Grove.
Hodges already has the build of a D-I player at 6 feet 3 and 215 pounds. For Paulsboro, he lines up at quarterback, safety and he returns kicks and punts. On offense, he managed the option offense very well, but seemed to be used as more of decoy in this game although he did manage to score on that three-yard run which put Paulsboro up 7-0. His future is at the safety position, however, where he looks very comfortable either dropping back into coverage or moving close to the line. Also, if there was any question of his speed, during the one play that Hayward was able to break one to the outside, Hodges took a perfect angle and tracked the speedster down after a 40-yard gain.
Hayward first jumped onto the scene at the National Underclassmen Combine, when he won the Overall MVP at a regional event. He proved his talents again at the Ultimate 100 Camp, again at wide receiver. Listed at 6-foot-0 and 185 pounds in the database right now, it looks as though he may have grown an inch since the NUC's. For Penns Grove this season, he is mainly used as a running back, which definitely won't be his position at the next level. Though he playing out of position, he has still managed to gain 1,300 yards and score 18 touchdowns this season basically just using his natural athleticism and speed. They do occasionally put him in the slot, but he didn't see much action there in this game, and didn't have any catches when he was. He is a smooth striding athlete, who has great feet and breakaway speed. This is also proven by the fact that he was one of the top sprinters in New Jersey during last spring as a sophomore.
Barton Simmons, Rivals.com Recruiting Analyst
North Gwinnett, Ga. at Norcross, Ga.
Norcross High School met Gwinnett County rival North Gwinnett on Friday night with a region championship on the line. North Gwinnett came into the game undefeated and Norcross carried just one loss into the season finale. The game lived up to the hype as it was a tightly contested matchup that wasn't decided until the final minutes.
Norcross rode a one-two punch to a 24-14 win behind the rushing of junior D.J. Adams and the receiving of Brice Butler. Throughout the night, North Gwinnett was in a defensive conundrum. Butler had his way with his defender anytime he was in single coverage, but whenever North Gwinnett unloaded the box, Adams would make the Bulldogs pay.
Through the air, Butler was doing all of his work off of the vertical passing game. His first big play came off of a double move down the sideline that he caught on Norcross' second possession for 39 yards. Several plays later, he caught a fade for a touchdown with a defender climbing all over him. In the second quarter he continued to work off the fade making a catch on a deep comeback and on another double move.
Butler clearly came to the game ready to play. He has great hands and ball skills and he is very polished. He finished the game with five catches for 142 yards and two touchdowns. He even put in some work on defense during crunch time. He had a big solo tackle in the closing minutes on a crucial fourth down and he picked off the final pass of the game.
Adams also had a special night on the ground. He rushed for 214 yards out of Norcross' shotgun offense and showed some good tools. He is a sturdy back who has a good shake in the whole. He didn't show elite speed but did have a number of long runs on the night. He rarely was tackled by one defender.
Busy Bolton:Devonta Bolton played nearly every play on the night for the Blue Devils and showed why he is seen as a player that can wear a lot of hats for Norcross as well as at the college level.
Bolton is physically impressive and well-put-together. Despite one drop on the night, he shows that he has very sure hands and is a good, instinctual pass catcher.
Defensively, Bolton spent most of the night at safety, lining up over the slot receiver. Despite being in on almost every snap, Bolton didn't find the ball very often. He has the size and athleticism to be a great linebacker but he didn't show the headhunter's mentality that you look for out of a defender in the front seven. He also looked a little stiff as a defensive back. As a tight end is where he may bring the most unique skill set.
Tucker, Ga. vs. Cedar Grove, Ga.
On Saturday afternoon, the Tucker Tigers were trying to complete a perfect regular season against a talented team in Cedar Grove that was simply trying to put a positive ending on an up-and-down year. After dominating early, Tucker scored two late touchdowns to pull out a 38-8 win and remain unbeaten.
Tucker talent: Tucker is a disciplined, highly talented team that institutes a rushing offense that gets the ball in the hands of multiple weapons. The most impressive runner on the afternoon was junior Drayton Calhoun. Calhoun has good height at 6'0'' but a skinny frame that he should grow into nicely. He has great speed and can really accelerate. He had the best run of the night on a 55-yard scamper that included some creative moves.
The leading rusher on the season for the Tigers is Derrick Harris, an undersized but explosive athlete that also had a strong game at cornerback. Harris has been hearing from East Carolina.
Undersized but explosive can aptly describe two other players for Tucker. Tristan Carter and Jonathan Davis were all over the field. Carter is a linebacker at only about 5 feet 9 and may not have the size to play anything other than fullback at the next level, but he can run and hit. Davis, only a junior, is also a major striker. Despite his size, at only 5 feet 10, he's got unique playmaking ability.
Slaughter has great speed, making up for his limited height. However, it wasn't one of his better nights as he dropped two interceptions and looked a little tight in the hips working as a two-deep safety.
A disappointing end: Coming out for warm-ups, Joshua Jarboe for Cedar Grove looks like an NFL wide receiver. He is big, fluid, he catches the ball well and just looks to have the complete package. Unfortunately, Jarboe had a night to forget in his final high school football game. He dropped several passes, including first down and touchdown opportunities. He had several battles at the goal line with Neiko Lipscomb manned up in coverage and wasn't ever able to get the best of him.
Despite his struggles, Jarboe plays with a lot of emotion and is a competitor. With the tools he has, he has the potential to be a big-time player in the right situation.
Cedar Grove's other star, UGA commit Xavier Henry was very steady for the Saints. He has good size and athleticism and made some nice plays with the ball out of the running back position. He plays both sides of the ball on almost every snap and looks to be a steadying force for his team.
Barry Every, Rivals.com Recruiting Analyst
Clemson, Georgia commits do battle: On a beautiful 60-degree night, Louisville (Ga.) Jefferson Co. made the trip north to take on Augusta (Ga.) Westside for the final game of the regular season.
The visiting Jefferson Co. Warriors were lead by Clemson commit A.J. Harmon. The mammoth 6-foot-4, 330-pound Harmon was the vocal leader throughout warm-ups, pumping his fellow teammates up and keeping them focused on the task at hand - beating Westside. Westside was lead by senior athlete Sanders Commings, who had committed to Georgia one week earlier. Commings was only playing in his third game of the year due to a stress fracture in his right leg.
On Westside's first possession, Commings was able to show some of his skills converting a key third down catch, and following that up with a nine yard reception. Offensively, Commings finished the game with four catches for 36 yards and a touchdown
On the Warriors' first offensive possession, Harmon showed why he is the No. 1 ranked offensive guard prospect by Rivals.com. Harmon, playing right tackle, pulled right on a sweep and locked onto a Westside defender, driving him eight yards to the boundary. On the following play, he pulled left and leveled the first defender that was in his path.
Jefferson Co. sophomore quarterback Barry Bostic completed 9 of 15 passes for 159 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing 17 times for 140 yards and one touchdown.
Commings finished the game with 11 solo tackles, one assist, and one TFL for Westside, but it wasn't near enough as they fell 40-12.
Another player from Jefferson Co. to keep an eye will be junior defensive end Chris Crenshaw. Crenshaw finished with six tackles, two tackles for loss and three quarterback hurries. The Warriors victory clinched home field advantage for next Friday's playoff game against Blakely (Ga.) Early Co.