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May 24, 2010

Best of the 757 prospect watch

It was a big day on the campus of Christopher Newport University as 250 prospective college football players gathered to compete in a series of combine tests (40-yard dash, powerball toss, 5-10-5 shuttle and vertical jump) as well as participating in position-specific drills, and one-on-one and seven-on-seven competitions.

Throughout the day, VirginiaPreps.com staff took in the event in search of the next wave of football prospects.

Two teams stood out as the best represented at the event and there is little coincidence that both are perennial postseason contenders and each is considered a strong candidate to contend for regional (and possibly state) championships.

The Ocean Lakes Dolphins were definitely one of the most well represented teams at the event, and that's even with Division I talent and quarterback Lafonte Thourogood missing the event to attend an Elite 11 event down in Alabama.  At first glance, there are three All-Region candidates for them in the trenches including offensive linemen Josh Mann and Chaz Lowery along with defensive tackle Demetri McGill

Mann, who recently picked up his first offer from ODU, absolutely mauled defensive linemen in the one-on-one battles.  Lowery is looking better and better at each event to the point where, if he thickens up his upper body and adds some more muscle, offers should begin to roll in. 

The one with the highest ceiling of them all is McGill.  While he gets too high on occasion, he has outstanding footwork and his quickness for a defensive tackle gives the sense that the phrase 'impact performer' will be thrown around quite often when talking about him this season.  Both McGill and Lowery also play basketball, so they are more athletic than most probably think. 

In addition, linebacker Lamar Neal drew solid reviews from coaches running the drills throughout the day earning all-camp honors by virtue of his overpowering strength and ability to turn and run with offensive route runners.

The Phoebus Phantoms, winners of back-to-back state titles, should be in a great position for a three-peat.  The program boasts two All-State level players on the defense in defensive end Daquan Romero, a University of North Carolina commit, and linebacker Caleb Taylor, a Division I prospect with multiple BCS offers.  Taylor participated in Saturday's event and showed no ill affects from the knee injury the kept him sidelined most of 2009 after being arguably the team's top defensive performer during their postseason run a year earlier.  He looked very alert, decisive and should strike both intimidation and fear into the hearts of opponents when the Fall rolls around. 

Another standout during drills was Tyree Lee who fits the description of having a knack for the football and really competed well all day.  His contributions were valuable last year, but should be even more significant next season as a player who has that rare ability to force a turnover from the secondary. 

Along the line joining Romero will be Tevin McGougan and Jonathan McLean, a couple of returning starters from the state title team expected to be major ingredients to another title run.  Each performing well on Saturday eanring all-camp honors giving the Phantoms three potentially dominant players in the trenches. 

Newcomer Rodriguez Jones at wide receiver put up big numbers at Denbigh and he was unanimously labeled as the best receiver at the camp hands down - no pun intended.  He was smooth catching the ball and has plenty of confidence to match his size and body control.

While there were many "buzz' names at the event, one that kept being mentioned was running back Jordan Broadnax from Landstown.  Profiled a week ago on VirginiaPreps.com, Broadnax will be featured in the Eagles' offense this season vows Landstown Head Coach Tommy Reamon, who boldly stated that "he will be a big-time player."  After watching him participate, it's hard to disagree as Broadnax was awarded at day's end as one of the All-Camp performers from a loaded running back field that included fellow award winners D'Wayne Windley from Grassfield and Daquan Charity of Hampton as well as Devaul Peterson from Cox.

Of course, when you mention Reamon, attention will always turn to the quarterback position as the veteran coach has mentored some of the best ever from the Hampton Roads area and the Eagles lead man is excited about the potential of Larry Joshua, his rising senior prospect who Reamon believes has all the tools that he has seen in past protégés Michael Vick, Aaron Brooks and others.

Cox High School in Virginia Beach is home to the only player committed to a Division I College Football program at the Best of the 757 Combine in offensive tackle Ross Burbank, who's headed to the University of Virginia and the Class of 2011 prospect more than held his own in a rugged one-on-one pit earning unanimous accolades from the coaches and staff at the event. 

The Falcons are also home to a potential breakout player in the Eastern region or, at worst, one who certainly got his name talked about on Saturday in Max Owens.  His 4.25 forty-yard dash was the best of the day and his 36.9-inch vertical leap put him in the top two for explosiveness.  Last season, the defensive back recorded 21 tackles, four pass breakups and two interceptions.  Expect those numbers to rise a little bit in 2010, and perhaps the Falcons, one of the top teams in the region when it comes to the special teams department, will put his speed to use in the return game.

Deveron Lucas-Jeter could be a versatile piece of the Western Branch defense as they look to have a bounce back season from their 4-6 mark in 2009.  Lucas-Jeter caught the eye of a few onlookers and Bruins head coach Scott Johnson may have the luxury of  moving him from the secondary (safety) to defensive end as a pass rushing threat since they feel rather confident in their secondary, led by rising senior prospect Travis Hawkins.

Another player from Western Branch who definitely appears to be a prospect down the road is Class of 2012 offensive lineman Jordan Veal.  Last season, Veal lined up at right tackle and started every game for the Bruins, but , this year, he will make the move to left tackle, and while offenses aren't necessarily built around one lineman, Veal is a player with all-district potential.  He has great feet, long arms, and though he can improve on his strength some, still has superb technique.  Maryland and Virginia Tech have reportedly expressed early interest, and his offer could be only months away.

A sleeper team this season may be the Tallwood Lions from the competitive Beach District.  With the brother combo of quarterback Robert Brown and wide receiver Eric Brown, the Lions ought to have good chemistry. 

The signal caller was the most fluid quarterback at times and found all-camp wide receiver William Penn throughout the day as the speedy wideout showed quickness and showed promise in the drills session.  Along with Brown and Salem transfer Zachary Sessoms, coach Thad Harold should see a significant upgrade at the receiver position which can certainly help improve their offensive productivity.  Harold wants to see his field general be more mobile this season, too, and he looks to have more poise and comfort heading into his senior season knowing the job behind center is his. 

All linemen that started a year ago up front return with the exception of one and they'll be led in the trenches by Myles Robinson (about 6-4, 314), a player Harold thinks has a shot to develop into a I-AA level prospect.

While it wasn't an overly deep or talented group of quarterbacks, one for the future to keep an eye on is Temuchin Hodges (aka "Bucky") from Salem.  At 6-foot-4, approaching 6-foot-5 by the time the Fall comes, he's got great height to be a next-level prospect.  Like most young quarterbacks, he needs work on his mechanics, throwing motion and where he holds the ball, but his delivery is solid and, two years from now with added strength and maturity, he'll probably be among the state's most sought after by the colleges at his position.  However, it is worth pointing out that he is a pretty good basketball player, too, so if he grows a couple more inches and continues to progress in that sport, his future may be on the hardwood instead.

Charles Clark of Kings Fork High School is a Class of 2013 player who will be picking up a lot of recruiting attention over the course of the next three seasons as he was physical in one-on-one drills from corner spot, used his hands extremely well and with his long and lean build, could develop into a prototypical college-ready secondary player by the time his senior season rolls around.

Darius Jennings of Oscar Smith, a returning starter in the Tigers secondary, showed outstanding recovery ability, never quit on any play in the one-on-one and seven-on-seven competitions and did a great job or re-routing receivers.  In addition, he posted the top vertical jump of the day with a 41-inch explosion.

Another potential on the rise prospect resides at Kecoughtan High School in Hampton.  Aaron Matthews had limited touches a season ago, used mostly as a backup running back, on screen passes and in the return game on special teams but, if Saturday's combine was any indication, his chances to be a playmaker for new Head Coach Scott Woodlief are very good.  The Class of 2011 Warrior had the top overall NIKE SPARQ score from Hampton Roads prospects at 97.02 and showed enough athletic ability to be an impact player at running back, wide receiver (probably in the slot), in the defensive backfield or returning kicks and punts.

One sleeper candidate to keep an eye on is Bethel's Kendel Montgomery who connected on a couple of deep balls.  If the Bruins are to continue making noise in the Peninsula District and hoping to make deep playoff runs, the development of a playmaker under center could make a huge impact on the program's success.

DeQuan Turner of Matoaca ran aggressively throughout the day and gives the Warriors a go-to guy returning in the backfield and that is a program who will use their tailback as evidenced by his 35-carry, 170-plus yard effort in the program's win over Dinwiddie last season.

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