The first annual Nike 7ON national passing tournament took place this past weekend at the Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., bringing together eight of the elite football programs in the country.
The talent on the field was very impressive, and several players already high on our radar took their games to another level. It's always great to see the top players perform during the Nike combines and camps in the spring and summer. But there is nothing like seeing what happens in a team environment. Every big play is magnified under pressure.
Here's our look at the top 10 rising senior prospects from the event:
The top two
Matt Barkley, 6-3, 220
QB, Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei
Aaron Murray, 6-1, 200
QB, Tampa (Fla.) Plant
We won't talk too much about Barkley and Murray; Tom Luginbill did an extensive breakdown of the two future college stars. One thing we can say is it's tough to imagine two better college prospects at the quarterback position in this year's class.
Both Barkley and Murray are physically-gifted, highly-competitive kids with a great work ethic off the field and natural leadership on it. You could make a strong argument for either player being the No. 1 signal-caller this year; both athletes should make an early impact at the college level.
The next eight
Terry Hawthorne, 6-0, 165
ATH East St. Louis (Ill.)
Hawthorne made the all-tournament team on defense but may have also been the top receiver in the camp. He was the top two-way player at the event and has the ability to be an impact player at receiver or safety at the college level.
For now, it appears Hawthorne will start out on defense. His athleticism is off the charts and has clearly surpassed his more highly-touted teammate Kraig Appleton as a college prospect in our eyes. Whenever East St. Louis needed a big play, the ball went to Hawthorne. He has plus speed, great leaping ability and his timing on jump-ball situations is off the charts. He's a tough, physical player with great instincts and is always around the ball. In big situations, he wants to be the guy making the play. That can't be said about every top player we've seen this year.
Dorian Bell, 6-0, 230
LB, Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway
Bell shows up very well on film, dominated the NIKE camp at Penn State and had another strong performance in Oregon. He's a high-motor player who plays sideline to sideline and showed very good cover skills at the event.
Bell runs well, has good field awareness and can close on the ball. His last few steps are explosive; it's scary to think what he might have done to some players in this event with the pads on. We always knew Bell was very good coming forward and attacking the line of scrimmage, but his ability to drop back and turn and run with an opposing running back was also solid. He even surprised a bit lining up at receiver and made some big catches down the field. If Bell continues to work hard and truly commits himself to the game, he'll be as good as he wants to be.
Jamal Patterson, 6-2, 195
ATH, Atlanta (Ga.) Henry County
Patterson is one of the more intriguing players we've seen this year. There were some games during which he was the best player on the field and other games during which he completely disappeared. He's an incredible, raw talent with as much upside as just about anyone we saw last week.
Patterson is known primarily as a receiver but made a major impact playing corner. After a horrendous run through pool play during which it appeared most of the team's players quit, Henry County made a big run through the championship bracket before losing in the final to Plant. Patterson was a big reason for that and the swagger and energy he played with carried over to the rest of his team.
With his size, long arms and athletic ability, Patterson is an extremely tough cover. He knows how to get separation and really uses his body well. He looked like a Michael Irvin clone a few times, using a well timed shoulder or elbow nudge to gain space from the defender. Patterson has the ability to be a No. 1 receiver at the college level with Sunday potential.
Corey Brown, 6-1, 180
ATH, Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway
Gateway went 3-0 in pool play and Brown was the team's dominant player. He showed lock-down corner skills but was even more impressive at receiver. Brown made big catches in every game and could truly play on either side of the ball in college with equal effectiveness.
Defensively, Brown brings a lot to the table -- corner is probably his best college position. He has good size for a corner, a solid frame he can grow in to and long arms. He's smooth in his backpedal, has good makeup speed, strong hands and is very aggressive when the ball is in the air. Brown wasn't tested much in this tournament and actually made all-tourney at receiver.
Like we said earlier, Brown may be best suited for corner but his ball skills on offense were very impressive as well. He showed the ability to catch the ball in traffic and take a hit (yes, hitting does take place at times in 7-on-7 play). Brown has a nice burst, can get off the line and runs well after the catch. He came in to this tournament with a big rep and did a nice job living up to it.
Greg Timmons, 6-3, 195
WR, Houston Eisenhower
Eisenhower competed hard in every game and Timmons was the player who really shined. He's a big-play receiver who may lack blazing speed but makes up for it in so many other ways.
For starters, Timmons has great size and knows how to use it on the football field. He was almost automatic in jump ball situations and has a college frame right now. Along with his superior size, Timmons also has excellent leaping ability and timing making him a huge threat in the red zone.
We mentioned Timmons doesn't have blazing speed, but he's far from slow and was able to get behind the defense countless times in Oregon. He has huge hands and didn't drop a single ball while we were watching. We also love how hard Timmons competes on the field, and Texas fans should be excited about their future Longhorn.
Justin Bright, 6-1, 175
DB, Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes
Bright is one of those players you have to watch multiple times to really appreciate. He won't blow you away with his physical tools but is just a football player who knows how to play the game.
Bright was among the interception leaders at the tournament. He has solid cover skills for a safety and is very aggressive in pass defense. Bright has excellent timing and knows when to go for the pick and when to just swat the ball away.
He has good speed and ran down multiple receivers from behind. He's a tough, hard-nosed kid and plays with a bit of an edge to him. He's not afraid to mix it up, is a great leader on the field and has a chance to be a solid player for Florida State at the next level.
Orson Charles, 6-3, 220
ATH, Tampa (Fla.) Plant
A lot of scouts are divided on Charles and there are good reasons for that. The term 'tweener fits him pretty well and the question is, is he fast enough for receiver or big enough to play tight end? Plant split him out wide most of the tournament. But at the next level, we don't think he has the quickness to play wideout in college.
So the question is, can he play a tight end or h-back roles? He's very developed physically right now, and when you see that in a high school player, you wonder if that player has peaked already in terms of being able to get much bigger down the line. Charles is very strong and was a huge weapon in the red zone all tourney long.
He showed solid hands and caught the ball well in traffic. He won't get you much after the catch but because he's so wide and physically strong, he's able to box out smaller defenders or just over power them when the ball is in the air. Charles actually might be a fit at fullback at which his physical strength and hands out of the backfield would be an ideal fit.
Stanjarivus McKay, 6-0, 180
DB, Long Beach Poly (Calif.)
We're going out on a limb a bit with putting McKay on this list; he didn't even start a game last season. There is a good reason for that; the two starting safeties for the Jackrabbits a year ago both signed at the high Division I level -- Herman Davidson (North Carolina) and Vaughn Telemaque (Miami).
Much like Davidson and Telemaque were under the radar at the same time a year ago, we expect McKay to blow up like they did. He had a great week in Oregon and just missed making the all-tourney team.
McKay flies around the secondary and can cover a ton of ground. He closes well on the ball, has great leaping ability and is very aggressive going after the ball in the air. He was forced to play a lot of receiver for Poly as the team was missing three of their top wide outs and looked a bit fatigued by the end of the tournament, but McKay definitely showed he belonged and can compete with the elite talent around the country. Our guess is by week three or four of the season, the safety will be sitting on a handful of offers from schools all over the region.
A few other players we like a lot but who just missed the cut include Kraig Appleton, 6-3, 200-pound WR (East St. Louis, Ill.), Quan Jones, 5-11, 175 ATH (McDonough, Ga./Henry County) and Ricco Sanders, 5-11, 175 WR (Duncan, S.C./Byrnes).