- Billy Tucker, Scouts, Football Recruiting
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PALO ALTO, Calif. -- Despite rainy, windy and even hail conditions at times, there were a number of top performances from the skill prospects in attendance at the Stanford NFTC. Here is a look at some of the best.
Tee Shepard, CB (Fresno, Calif./Central)
College: Notre Dame
Shepard impressed as an overall athlete with his great blend of speed, quickness, and footwork on his 6-foot, 180-pound frame. He looked very crisp and agile through drills, while his lateral change-of-direction and overall movement skills were impressive mirroring receivers tightly off the line during one-on-ones. The ESPNU 150 Watch List prospect was very controlled and balanced stemming over routes and flipped his hips without much wasted motion, turning to run vertically. The Notre Dame commit does need to be conscious of rising out of his pedal when transitioning, but he has great recovery quickness and burst out of his breaks to get back in position. Shepard also showed his great ball skills, athleticism and vertical acceleration taking reps at wide out and hauling in a couple of nice go routes. While he looked natural at receiver, Shepard has all the corner tools coveted on the perimeter at the next level.
Shaq Thompson, S (Sacramento, Calif./Grant)
Thompson is one of the better looking safeties in the country on the hoof. He's tall, well-built and long which hints that a possible outside linebacker or safety hybrid-type position could be in his future with continued physical development. After watching him move though, there is no doubt he could remain at safety and we would not be surprised if he even gets reps at corner during his career -- potentially in red zone packages -- thanks to his great frame, strength, athleticism and ball skills that are needed to match up with today's taller college receivers in jump-ball situations. Thompson broke well on the ball in coverage, showing very good range getting on top of routes and plant-and-drive burst breaking underneath. He did show a bit of tightness at times changing direction and his ability to play with consistent hip sink may be the one area he can improve. The scheme-versatile defensive prospect who also took reps at receiver like Shepard and flashed his total skill set.
Robert Lewis, RB (Lutheran, Calif./Southeast)
One of 2012's biggest sleepers is starting to pick up more BCS offers and that list should continue to grow with the skill set he displayed in Palo Alto. The SMU commit's slight stature is concerning but he is ultra quick, sudden and poses serious matchup problems when he gets out in space. He showed outstanding change-of-direction skill and very loose hips in one-on-one tackling drills; proving impossible to mirror and break down. A sharp cutter with excellent body control and balance to excel in zone schemes and with continued polish as a pass catcher, Lewis could develop into a real weapon. He coughed up the ball up once on contact and his ability to take a hit at the major college level and run inside are the biggest red flags with the electric ESPNU 150 Watch List back.
Jaydon Mickens, ATH (Los Angeles, Calif./Dorsey)
He doesn't look like much from a physical standpoint, but he can really move. Mickens showed great suddenness and balanced burst in and out of his breaks and at the top of his stem; he consistently got DBs flat-footed and over extended. He also showed the ability to shift gears to separate and is a very good space player, which are attributes that could be valuable as a slot receiver in USC's offense.
Davonte Neal, ATH (Chaparral, Ariz./Scottsdale)
One of the more versatile athletes in the country, the deceptively strong and well-built Neal took most of his reps at receiver and took home the MVP award in a strong group of prospects. His crisp footwork, decisive bursts in and out of his cuts and breaks as well as great acceleration off the line made it difficult for defensive backs to stick with him tightly. Neal's body control and balance are also in an upper-tier category aided by his lower center of gravity. He is very sudden in his movements, yet balanced and controlled. The ESPNU 150 Watch List athlete showed great hands all day snatching the ball away from his frame and excellent explosion upfield after the catch.
Other notable skill performers
Johnny Johnson, CB (Fresno, Calif./ San Joaquin Memorial)
He is a promising 2013 prospect who displayed great quickness, change-of-direction and balance. Johnson transitioned smoothly and showed great burst when closing separation. The young corner mirrored Neal tightly during one rep of one-on-ones and showed the swagger and competitive nature that the good corners possess.
Deontay Greenberry, WR (Fresno, Calif./ Washington Union)
The tall, rangy and fluid receiver made some great grabs on the day, including a few that showcased his wide catching radius, great concentration, hands and body control. He was a vertical threat with his length and extension away from his frame.
Marcus Rios, CB (Elk Grove, Calif./Cosumnes Oaks)
College: Boise State
He had some of the better footwork out of a great group of DBs. He was tight and controlled in his pedal and lateral movements. Rios also showed good recovery speed, quickness and sound anticipation skills breaking on the football. A very natural looking corner with BCS-level skills and talent.
Billy Tucker is a recruiting coordinator for ESPN Recruiting and has close to a decade of coaching experience at the college and high school levels.
DBs Tee Shepard, Shaq Thompson stand out among skill players at a loaded Stanford NFTC, writes Billy Tucker.