Commentary

Defensive line prospects steal the show

Jeffcoat, Uto, Powell dominate on Day 1 of star-studded USC Rising Stars Camp

Updated: June 25, 2009, 4:32 PM ET
By Craig Haubert | Scouts Inc.

LOS ANGELES -- With the arrival of summer, college programs across the country are holding camps. While thousands of college hopefuls flock to the events nationwide, few camps create the buzz or draw the talent that the USC Rising Stars Camp does. A two-day, no pads camp held on the Trojans practice fields, it is an intense and competitive atmosphere that attracts not only local players but top recruits from across the nation. There were a few no-shows from an impressive list of expected participants, but all-in-all it was an excellent group of prospects on the field for Day 1.

Top Offensive Prospect

[+] EnlargeJesse Scroggins
Davide DePas for ESPN.comJesse Scroggins might be the best uncommitted quarterback in the Class of 2009.
QB Jesse Scroggins
(Lakewood, Calif./Lakewood)

Overall, the quarterback talent at the camp was not deep, with a trio of quarterbacks separating themselves from the pack, but there was little doubt that Scroggins was the best of the bunch. At 6-foot-2, he has solid height, but he won't impress anyone with his physical build. What is impressive, however, is his arm strength. Scroggins displayed the ability to release the ball quickly and get it to the target in a hurry. He never looked to be forcing the ball or trying to throw it hard. He looked natural in his drop and release, and showed the confidence as a passer that he showed on film. He possesses good athleticism, and displayed it facing a fierce group of defensive linemen. He displayed the ability to sit in the pocket and deliver the ball, and the ability to avoid the rush and create second chances. This Under Armour All-American is one of a few uncommitted, highly-graded quarterback prospects in his class, and might be the best.

Top Defensive Prospects

[+] EnlargeJackson Jeffcoat
Davide DePas for ESPN.comPlenty was expected from DE Jackson Jeffcoat, and he managed to exceed those high expectations.
DE Jackson Jeffcoat
(Plano, Texas/West)

One of the elite prospects in this year's class, it was good to see Jeffcoat competing at camp. He looked much leaner in person and not as physically imposing as the player we've seen on tape, but some of that lack of bulk could be contributed to his participation in basketball in the offseason. He certainly displayed the frame to add size. While he didn't wow the coaches with a muscular build, he did impress with his pass rushing skills. Jeffcoat is one of the best pass rushers to come out high school in the last couple years. The son of a former Dallas Cowboys' player and current University of Houston defensive line coach, Jim Jeffcoat, Jackson displays the ability to combine technique with ability on film. In one-on-one drills Wednesday, he showed live what he showed on film: the ability to terrorize quarterbacks. He is quick off the ball, attacks blockers by getting to the shoulder and is active with his hands. He is constantly using his hands to rip by or knock down blockers hands. He was not unstoppable, but was close. He also displayed a great motor in team drills, and did not disappoint with his performance on Day 1.

[+] EnlargeGeorge Uko
Davide DePas for ESPN.comWill George Uko be able to match Torrian Wilson's strength?
DT George Uko
(Chino, Calif./Don Antonio Lugo)

Jeffcoat was the top defensive performer, but Uko was a close second. The defensive tackle had an impressive performance, and his efforts produced a scholarship offer from the Trojans at the end of the day. He is a big kid (6-4, 299 pounds) with a bit of an odd build. He has good bulk, but carries most of it in his upper body. On film, he impressed with his high-energy style, but raised some concerns with some inconsistent and, at times, wild play. In person, he displayed all the good seen from him on film. In one-on-one drills he was extremely tough to handle. He exploded off the ball, and was violent with his weapons. He displayed the ability to club and rip by blockers, and showed good power. It was an impressive performance that may cause us to bump up an already good grade.

Stock Up

RB Dontae Williams (Houston, Texas/Aldine)
Williams was hardly a penny stock heading into the USC camp, but he did have an impressive showing and established that bigger things could soon be on the horizon. Heading into Wednesday, Williams looked good on film, but was a bit of a sleeper. He did miss some time in 2008 due to injury, but his offer list does not seem to match his ability. On a fairly big stage, he showed that more offers could be rolling in soon. He is a physically impressive player (5-11, 198 pounds) with a muscular upper body and good sized lower body. He displayed the ability to run between the tackles and the quickness to bounce plays to the perimeter. As was seen on film, he ran with a good base and body control, and displayed the ability to dart through initial traffic. While it was a non-padded event, he did have most of the better runs of the day. Williams had stars shaved into his hair, but he did not need those to convince people he has ability and is one of the stars of the 2010 running-back class.

Day 1 Notes

• The defensive line was an impressive group. In addition to Jeffcoat and Uko, there were several good prospects, led by Ronald Powell (Moreno Valley, Calif./Rancho Verde). Physically, Powell (6-4, 224 pounds) impressed with a lean and muscular build. He was tough in one-on-one drills, and had great success getting to the blockers shoulder quickly, sinking in a rip move and turning the corner. In the afternoon session he ran with the linebackers and actually fit in well. He is an athletic player, and while end will likely be his home in college, his versatility was an impressive sight.

• Two other players who impressed in the morning at defensive end, but also played linebacker in the afternoon, were Josh Shirley (Fontana, Calif./Henry J. Kaiser) and Justin Maclin (Memphis, Tenn. / Ridgeway). Maclin did well rushing the passer at end, and played well at linebacker. He could offer great versatility to a defense. Shirley has a slender build at 6-3, 210 pounds, but with his quickness, he could rush the passer some off the edge in college, but is likely best suited to outside linebacker.

• A kid who certainly passed the eyeball test was Joshua Shaw (Palmdale, Calif./Palmdale). He has a tall, lean, muscular build, and faired well running with the corners. He used his size to be physical with receivers, and did a good job in secondary.

Dak Smith (Los Angeles, Calif./Westchester), a USC commit, was the easiest kid to spot. You couldn't miss him at 6-7, 354 pounds. He looks close to being assigned his own zip code by the post office. The future Trojan was with the defensive line on Wednesday, but proved to not be a great fit there. He will likely need to play guard in college. He can be powerful presence that can collapse the pocket, but lacks the movement and quickness for the defensive line.

• Wide receiver DeMarco Cobbs (Tulsa, Okla./Central) stood out among a average group of 2010 receiver prospects. Physically, he is an impressive kid with good height (6-2), solid build and a great wing span. When supplied with catchable passes, he caught the ball well, snatching it out of the air with his hands.

• USC commit Dillon Baxter (San Diego, Calif./Mission Bay) had a fine day taking reps at both running back and wide receiver. He had a good showing at last year's camp, and performed just as well this year. He is a versatile offensive weapon.

• While the quarterbacks were not a deep group, but one player to watch is Tyler Bray (Kingsburg, Calif./Kingsburg). At 6-6, 189 pounds, he is a tall and lean kid who needs to fill out his frame, but Bray showed flashes throughout the day. He needs to keep developing his game, but with the premium on quarterbacks, he is a kid to keep an eye on as the year unfolds.

• One interesting moment occurred during team drills in the morning session. At one point, Jeffcoat was lined up on one end of the defensive line and Powell was at the other end with Uko and Ricky Heimuli (Salt Lake City, Utah/Brighton), who also had fine day, in the middle at the defensive tackle position. Looking at those four, you could not help but think that there were plenty of college teams out there that would love to line up with that group in 2009. It was glimpse at the excellent depth of defensive line talent at the camp.

Craig Haubert is the recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. and has more than a decade of coaching experience.

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