If you watch a lot of high school all-star football games, you know that the biggest-name prospects rarely live up to the hype.
There are many reasons for that: Maybe the 5-star was so good that the other team focused on “neutralizing” him in order to make other players beat them? Maybe the elite player wasn’t really part of his own team’s game plan? And maybe, just maybe, he was vastly overrated?
Derrick Brown, the 4-star defensive tackle from Lanier High School, certainly lived up to the hype at the RisingSeniors.com all-star game, which featured many of the state’s top juniors.
He’s the AJC’s MVP for the RisingSeniors.com game, which was played in frigid temperatures on Tuesday night.
Brown is rated as the state’s No. 4 overall prospect for 2016, but he earned the right to be considered for the top spot after his dominating performance this week.
It was a good all-around week for Brown, beginning at check-in. He had a little growth spurt, measuring at 6-foot-4 and 309 pounds. He terrorized his team’s offensive linemen during practice reps, and he finished Tuesday’s game with a team-high 9 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, and a forced fumble.
The RisingSeniors game had an elite group of defensive linemen which I would put up against the groups playing in this year’s Under Armour and Army All-America games (for seniors) – and that’s because many of them will be playing in those games next year. And Brown, who maintained his focus and intensity since the first practice, was simply at another level.
Best defensive end: Charles Wiley, 6-2.5, 235, Stockbridge High School: This pick is going to surprise some people, considering the other elite players in the game at the same position. I first heard about Wiley from WSB’s Zach Klein, who had never before called to tell me about a kid. But he watched Wiley in the state playoffs, and was blown away. Everybody else is, too, after watching Wiley this week. He’s a high-motor player who make plays. In Tuesday’s game, he finished second on his team in tackles with 7, and had 3.5 tackles for losses. Even when he didn’t register a stat on a play, he was creating problems – forcing the quarterback out of the pocket or forcing running backs to go in a different direction. Here’s 247sports.com’s Rusty Mansell: “You know, you look at him. He’s the first guy you send off the bus with the way he’s built. He’s 6-foot-2.5 inches and 235 pounds. He’s barrel-chested. He has got big arms. He’s physically ready for college as a junior in high school. He has such a good motor. He just plays so hard. I think he’s a mix between Carl Lawson and Bryson Allen-Williams. Those guys play extremely fast and extremely hard. The question: Where does he fit in a defense? Is he going to be a 4-3 defensive end like Carl or is he going to stand up and play linebacker like Bryson did at South Carolina? Regardless of that, that guy is going to be a high-level recruit.”
Best defensive tackle: Tyler Clark, 6-3.5, 290, Americus Sumter: Every year at RisingSeniors, there are unknown players who arrive at the game with no offers … and their lives are forever changed. Clark may be that guy from the 2014 game. He had coaches, players and scouts asking all week “Who is that guy? What’s his name? Where is he from again?” Clark replicated his stellar play in the game, finishing with 8 tackles, 2.5 tackles for losses, 2 sacks, 1 pass breakup and 1 quarterback hurry. Clark could have his first big offer by the time … you finish reading this sentence.
Best linebacker: Tre Lamar, 6-4, 250, Roswell High School: Lamar had a quiet game, but he was probably the most-talked-about player from practices. Many scouts thought Lamar was too big to play middle linebacker in college because you’ve got to have someone fast and quick at the position nowadays due to all of the spread offenses. But Lamar proved that he’s a “freak” at practices, showing off plenty of athleticism and agility against elite competition, despite being much bigger than your average linebacker. He has around 20 early offers, including Alabama, Clemson and Georgia Tech.
Best wide receiver: Kyle Davis, 6-2, 219, Archer High School: Davis dropped a sure touchdown pass and fumbled on another play in the game, but he also made an acrobatic catch for a touchdown in between two defenders on an underthrown ball. He also may have had the best play in the game by hawking speedy defensive back Khalil Ladler (rated as state’s No. 11 prospect) from far behind the play after a teammate fumbled. It saved a touchdown. Said Mansell: “I know he dropped a couple of balls. One thing he showed me tonight on the play he chased down Ladler from behind after a fumble – Kyle Davis has a different kind of explosion. He has got to get more consistent catching the ball. I’m sure Kyle will tell you that himself. But he is a different dude. You don’t find guys who can run like him at 6-foot-2 and 219 pounds. He runs like a 180-pound running back. When he gets more consistent with catching the ball, he is going to move up as an elite player in this class.” Davis is committed to South Carolina, but recently earned an offer from UGA.
Best defensive back: Nigel Warrior, 6-foot, 175, Westlake High School: I really wanted to go with Grady’s Marlon Character (6-1, 170) because he has the size, length and speed that colleges value so highly. But I just couldn’t ignore Warrior after his big week. He controls the middle of the field. He plays defensive back like he’s a wide receiver, fighting for every pass like it was intended for him. He had two interceptions in the game, including one he finished with a dazzling 64-yard return. He’s the son of former NFL Pro Bowler Dale Carter, and he has a dozen offers, including Tennessee (his father’s alma mater), Ohio State and UGA. Said Mansell: “He has ball skills, he will hit you and he’s physical. (ESPN3 commentator) DJ Shockley said it best: He gives you that ‘Ed Reed vibe’ about him.” The close runner-up was Peachtree Ridge’s Chad Clay, son of former Georgia Tech star Willie Clay. He also had two picks. Said Mansell: “Chad Clay was better than I thought he was. He’s a legit 6-foot guy. He’s going to continue to be heavily recruited.” Overall, the amount of top-level D1 prospects at both defensive back and defensive line out of Georgia for 2016 is ridiculous.
Best quarterback: Jawon Pass, 6-4, 212, Carver-Columbus: He’s the most physically impressive QB I’ve seen out of Georgia since Cam Newton. I think every college in the nation should offer Pass simply based on his pure athletic ability. He’s got some work to do on his mechanics and footwork to be an elite quarterback, but it’s not anything that’s not fixable. Pass left the game shortly after throwing a 56-yard touchdown pass with a knee injury. He’s not sure about the extent of the injury but was walking on his own after the game. He will have the knee examined later this week. He has a top five of Alabama, Auburn, Louisville (where his brother is committed), Virginia Tech and North Carolina.
Best running back: Elijah Holyfield, 5-10.5, 200, Woodward Academy: Holyfield may be the state’s top running back, followed by Charlton County’s Andrew Lee (who wasn’t invited to either junior all-star game). Overall, the state’s 2016 class of running backs is unusually weak after those two but maybe some others will evolve by the spring. Holyfield is a tough kid who seems to get better as the game goes along. He had 26 carries for 100 yards and three touchdowns in the game. He has around 25 early offers, including Michigan, Ohio State and UGA.
Best offensive lineman: Ben Cleveland, 6-7, 322, Stephens County High School: This was probably the toughest award to pick, but I’ll go with the safe pick, Cleveland. He had his ups and downs during the week, but his ceiling of potential is still off the charts. Cleveland is committed to UGA and projects to play offensive guard in college.
Note: Heights and weights are from official measurements that were taken at check-in by 247sports.com’s Rusty Mansell. I’ve gotten a lot of questions (and complaints) about other players in the game. The thing is, there was so much high-level D1 talent in this game that I couldn’t get to everybody. But we will be discussing other kids from the game in the coming weeks.