September 18, 2006

Herbstreit Challenge Hot 11

[rl]The Kirk Herbstreit Ohio vs. USA Classic was a chance to see many of the nation's top players in action during their senior season. The event featured five-star players Ryan Mallett, Willy Korn and several sleepers that moved their way up the charts. Here's a look at 11 players that made a big impression at the event. The players are listed in alphabetical order.

Brady Amack, LB, Concord (Calif.) De La Salle

It was tough to leave De La Salle quarterback Mike MacGillivray off the list, but he's going to have to be recruited more as an athlete than a quarterback because of his 5-foot-10, 185-pound frame. But Amack has the size and is one heck of a player. He hardly leaves the field for De La Salle and his toughness was on display Saturday night when he walked off the field with blood dripping off his ear. He was all over the field harassing Cincinnati Elder ball carriers. And to top it off, he even was the guy kicking the ball off after scores. MacGillivray is definitely a name to keep an eye on, but Amack might be the more heavily recruited junior from De La Salle.

Eugene Clifford, S, Cincinnati Colerain

Is ranked as the top player in Ohio, and after seeing him in person as a senior, there's no reason to move him from that spot. He's a lot stronger physically than what he was as a junior and his frame and build have got him in position to be an early impact type prospect wherever he ends up at. Dubbed "The One" by his teammates, it's easy to see why Clifford is one of the nation's elite prospects. Clifford is excellent in run support and is nearly impossible to beat in the open field because of great athletic ability. In coverage, he turns and runs with the best of them and plays the ball well. His ball skills are displayed more often on offense as a wide receiver where the ball can simply be floated in the air and he'll come down with it.

Brian Gamble, S, Massillon (Ohio) Washington

Gamble, a two star prospect that's on the verge of moving up the rankings already, showed why he's one of the best in Ohio. Gamble got it done against Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton by rushing the football, catching it and also making plenty of big hits on defense at safety. Turned the game around late in the second quarter, when he took a pass in near the sidelines and instead of going out of bounds to stop the clock, he turned up field and raced into the end zone.

Randall Hawkins, WR, Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes

Simply put, Hawkins will be one of the nation's elite receivers in the class of 2008. Hawkins was named the game's most valuable player after he blitzed the Moeller secondary in the second half. He finished the game with seven receptions for 186 yards, including a 51-yard long bomb that put the Rebels at the Moeller 4-yard line. Hawkins was able to get open on almost any type route imaginable. He also connected with Korn on a 50-yard strike in the third quarter.
Greg Jones, LB, Cincinnati, Archbishop Moeller

Jones is an absolute beast at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds. Jones was all over the field against Byrnes showing his physical nature, rushing the passer, intercepting a pass and blocking a field goal. Jones has offers from Cincinnati, West Virginia and Minnesota, but interest will grow. This was the type of game for a player that will put you on a national map. It'll also help you get a higher ranking from Rivals. The kid's just a player and will be a monster steal for somebody. Offer this kid now, coaches.

Willy Korn, QB, Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes

The nation's No. 2 quarterback looked good despite getting blitzed and hammered on almost every single play. When the heat was on, Korn stayed in the pocket and made several big throws, including a 51-yard long bomb late in the game that helped Byrnes come away with a 21-20 victory. He could have wilted under the pressure but he didn't. Clemson is also getting a great leader. Korn helped rally his troops when they easily could have folded up their tent and gone home.
Ryan Mallett, QB, Texarkana (Texas) Texas High

Mallett the five-star quarterback showed he's one of the nation's best. He had 330 yards passing, helping Texas High shred Findlay 44-21 in a game that was not as close as the score looked in the end. He finished with four touchdown passes and showed his dazzling arm strength play after play. He even showed he can move around in the pocket some with some end runs and sweeps around the edge. Michigan's getting a big-time passer here, which everybody already knew.
Nate Oliver, S, Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward

Up in Massillon, Ohio, it was the Nate Oliver show. Oliver waited until the second quarter to make his presence known. The Ohio State bound defensive back got a rise out of the crowd when he returned the first punt he touched 46 yards for the touchdown. The following series Oliver showed his defensive skills stepping in front of the Springdale pass and took it back for a 25 yard touchdown. Oliver was not done because in the very next series he got his second opportunity to return a punt and took it back 55 yards and was brought down inside the 5-yard line.
Jamar Taylor, RB, Lakeland (Fla.)

Teammate Chris Rainey gets a lot of the headlines, and for good reasons, but it was Taylor that Lakeland turned to when it needed a big, tough inside run. Taylor looks like he's a prototypical fit for fullback in college or needs to be used as a tough inside runner, because he couldn't be stopped pounding the ball up the middle or on inside trap plays. He's also a fierce blocker and was very durable. It was his tough running that helped give Lakeland the momentum in the second half.
Justin Trattou, DE, Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco Prep

Was all over the field for Bosco in the second half against an overmatched Centerville, Ohio, squad. He would still cause damage play after play when he would beat double teams, and when he was getting heavily blocked, it allowed the door to open for teammate Dan Marcoux. But still Trattou was able to showcase his high end motor and ability to take on double teams. He will still need to add some strength, but his motor is always on go, go, go.
Steve Wilks, S, Lakeland (Fla.)

Wilks won the game for Lakeland when he intercepted a St. Xavier pass on its first play in over time. The interception gave Lakeland a 25-22 victory and set off a celebration usually seen after state championship games. Wilks was solid all day long and was consistently around the football. But his big play to end the game was the type of heroics that drew scholarship offers from Iowa, South Florida and Florida International before he committed to play for the Gators.

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