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October 4, 2007

Rivals.com's staff of recruiting analysts offer thoughts on things they learned while on the road scouting some of the nations top prospects in this week's edition of From the Road. Here is a closer look at some of the sights, storylines and recruiting scoop from the big weekend in high school football.

From the Road Gallery

Mike Farrell, Rivals.com Recruiting Analyst
Whaley stars: Three-star athlete Marcus Davis, who plays quarterback for Virginia Beach (Va.) Ocean Lakes, took on Eastern Region division champ Salem on Friday night in Virginia Beach. Davis struggled in the contest completing only 9 of 27 attempts for 131 yards and one touchdown. He also struggled mightily trying to run the ball, finishing with just 13 yards on the ground. Davis did do a good job making decisions, especially with guys hanging off of him as he could have turned the ball over numerous times with poor judgement. He threw some nice, deep touch passes including the touchdown which was on a fourth and goal. The game didn't exactly show off his speed though as the Salem defense kept him in check most of the game.

Virginia Tech linebacker commit Lyndell Gibson played well in the contest for Salem. Gibson was all over the field for Salem, playing fullback in goal line situations, running full speed on kickoffs and playing his usual spot at linebacker. Much of the game he spied on Davis and dropped into coverage, but on running plays he wasn't afraid to throw his body around. With Davis' woes passing, it was clear that Gibson performed well and if the ball was near him he was making a play on it.

Clearly the star of the game was three-star running back Kevin Whaley. South Hampton Roads all-time leading rusher and scorer added to his totals rushing 14 times for 134 yards and three touchdowns. Whether it was outside or inside, Whaley ran with power and purpose. He didn't dance around one bit, instead just hitting the hole immediately, bowling players over in front of him. Whaley didn't just use his strength though as his speed and vision were also on display particularly when he broke open a 42-yarder late in the third quarter and dodged a couple players during cutbacks.

Jersey DE one to watch: Neptune, N.J. defensive end Roderick Tillery was on display this past weekend in a 34-14 loss to Freehold (N.J.) Boro. The 2009 prospect, who plays standing up for the most part, will be heavily recruited next year due to his size and quickness.

Tillery has a good frame with room to grow and got a lot of attention from the offense in the game. He was double-teamed most of the game and was run away from. Tillery over-ran the play at times when he did get free and he seems like more of a natural fit with his hand down.

Barton Simmons, Rivals.com Recruiting Analyst
Hargrave Military Academy vs. Tennessee JV

Tennessee got a free unofficial visit from some of the top post-grad prospects in the nation last Thursday when Hargrave Military Acadmey traveled to Neyland Stadium to play the Tennessee junior varsity. With 27 of the top 50 prep school prospects in the country on its roster, on paper, Hargrave may have been closer to an SEC team talent-wise than the Vols, whose roster consisted primarily of non-scholarship players. However, Tennessee showed what a difference a year makes in a college program as Hargrave struggled against the stronger and fresher JV team. But there was still plenty of opportunity to evaluate some of the country's top prospects in the 37-20 Tennessee win.

Quarterbacks: Cannon Smith ran the Hargrave offense and struggled at times finding his weapons. He is undersized at only about 5'10" and his accuracy was erratic, especially outside of the pocket where he spent much of the night due to a dominating Tennessee defensive front.

Wide Receivers: Deangelo Benton standing at about 6-2.5 or 6-3 was Smith's sure thing at receiver. He didn't do anything spectacular but showed soft hands and a knack for finding the holes in coverage. Dwight Jones looked good at 6-4 but wasn't able to get the ball in his hands. Smith missed him on a couple occasions, particularly one play in which he had beaten his corner on a deep ball. The top catch of the night came on a pretty throw from Smith on a 25-yard touchdown grab by Kendrick Pressley.

Offensive/Defensive line: This was the area that Tennessee was the most impressive. The Vols in the trenches were stronger up front than Bulldogs, who may have still been recovering from a game played only four days earlier. Physically it's a good looking bunch. Kerry Murphy is an imposing figure who spent most of the night on the offensive end at left tackle. He had a couple of snaps at defensive tackle as well and really looks more at home getting after the ball. Kyle Linney was another player who looked the part for Hargrave but he never was able to get the push on the defensive side of the ball to disrupt the Tennessee offense. Tennessee freshman defensive end Ben Martin was the best player on the field and was both overpowering at the point of attack and athletic in pursuit.

Linebackers: Quillie Odom and Zach Brown both looked good as sideline-to-sideline LBs. They are not overpowering but have a good burst in the blitz game. On Tennessee's opening offensive play, Odom sliced into the backfield to cause a fumble by Tennessee quarterback Nick Stephens and Brown recovered it for a touchdown.

Defensive back: Josh Pleasant played with a lot of intensity for Hargrave. He had two interceptions, with one negated by penalty, and he returned one punt for a good gain. He has no offers but played as if the game was a showcase for him.

Maryville (Tenn.) vs. William Blount (Tenn.)

Friday night was the battle for Blount County in East Tennessee. 4A power, Maryville High School brought a 49-game winning street into a matchup with its county neighbor, William Blount High School, one of the top teams in Tennessee's 5A classification. The game was good enough to conjure images of the Boise State-Oklahoma Fiesta Bowl, right up to the game-winning hook-and-ladder. In a thrilling finish, Maryville edged William Blount 20-19 to keep the streak alive thanks to some big plays by its top prospects.

The top prospect on the field and one of the top prospects in the state was Maryville tight end Aaron Douglas. The Tennessee commit was a man among boys on the field. The Rebels move him all over to get him the ball, whether he is in a three-point stance as a true tight end, lined up in the tight slot or as a 6-foot-6 split end.

He showed a versatile skill set in the pass game as well. He worked the middle of the field and the flats and showed some athleticism with the ball after the catch. One of Maryville's favorite go-to plays is a fade route to Douglas, giving him the opportunity to go make a play against smaller cornerbacks.

Douglas isn't as dominating in the blocking game as his size may suggest, but he may have a credible excuse. Douglas has been playing his senior season with a torn labrum, something that really affects his strength in the trenches. Though the injury will require surgery, Douglas has decided to hold off on any further actions until he is able to see his team through to a fourth consecutive state championship.

Maryville gem: Maryville has a nice prospect in quarterback Brent Burnette. The senior obviously knows how to win, as evidenced by the current Maryville win-streak, but he also showed he can make big plays in a big game.

With more than 14,000 in attendance, Burnette made throw after throw down the stretch to seal the win. He really warmed up after hitting Chris Jordan for an 82-yard touchdown strike down the sideline to put his team up 13-6 in the third quarter. After that, he was simply on point. Making clutch throws down the stretch and avoiding those crucial mistakes.

Burnette has interest from Kentucky, Louisville, North Carolina and Middle Tennessee State. He has already visited North Carolina once this season and has plans to see both Kentucky and Louisville at some point. He finished the day 19 of 36 for 270 yards.

Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy vs. Westside (S.C.)

Brentwood Academy hosted an interstate showdown on Saturday afternoon when Westside (S.C.) traveled to Brentwood, Tenn. for a game between two of the best from their respective states. Both teams are big and strong but four-star prospect Chris Jordan and Brentwood Academy's defensive line proved to be the biggest and the strongest in a 21-0 win.

Jordan, a 6-2, 210-pound running back, pounded away at the Westside Rams finishing the day with 190 yards on 20 carries. Though he may be better suited on the defensive side of the ball at the next level, the game was Jordan's third of the year with more than 180 yards rushing.

On the other side of the ball, Brentwood Academy's defensive line absolutely controlled the line of scrimmage. Try this front on for size: 6-5, 220-pound DE, Thad McHaney will be a serious name to watch for the class of 2009. He is joined on the line by two fellow juniors, 6-1, 270-pound DT Barry Dabney and 6-1, 286-pound DT, Ryan Carrethers. Rounding out the group of talented underclassmen is a 6-1 247-pound sophomore, Ishmael Lewis.

The group wouldn't budge all afternoon and held the Rams to 129 yards of total offense, including a mere 37 yards rushing on 25 carries.

Jeremy Crabtree, Rivals.com Recruiting Editor
Shawnee (Kan.) Shawnee Mission Northwest quarterback Alex Carder has his team in uncharted territory. Even though he was 7 of 17 for 80 yards with two interceptions this past Friday night, Carder marched his team down the field to score the game-winning touchdown in the biggest game in Kansas City on Friday night.

The 23-21 victory over Olathe South put SM Northwest at 5-0, a mark they've not been in a long, long time. After winning only four games each of the past two seasons, SM Northwest's victory was a huge and goes a long way toward proving it's one of the Sunflower State's best teams.

And despite what was likely his worst game of the season statistically, Carder showed great leadership skills and played a huge role in leading the Cougars on the game-winning drive. He started the drive off with a 20-yard strike to senior Bryce Murray, and he handled the clock perfectly down the stretch.

"This was such an emotional victory for us," Carder, who is 6-foot-2 and 188 pounds, said. "Both of us were ranked really high, and it was the game of the week in the city. We just knew we had a job to do. For me, I don't like victories like that. It scares me and lowers how long I have to live. I would much rather have a double-digit victory."

On the year, Carder is completing 50 percent of his passes and he's also thrown for more than 500 yards. He's thrown for four touchdowns, and he's rushed for an additional four scores and 229 yards on the ground. And it's that dual-threat ability that Carder says has made him more of a hot target with the college coaches.

"That was the main thing I worked a lot on in the off-season," he said. "I really wanted to maintain and upgrade my speed. I wanted to turn myself into a dual-threat quarterback. And I'm now a lot faster and more athletic than I ever was in the past. Dual-threat quarterbacks are so dangerous. You can be a true triple-threat because of that running ability."

After taking an official visit to Western Michigan last weekend, Carder said he made a commitment to play for the Broncos. But he's also still a hot target with teams like Kansas and Iowa, both of which are calling him on a weekly basis and indicating that he could get an offer some time here in the near future.

Carder said he's also not totally turned off by the idea of playing either for the Jayhawks or Hawkeyes if they were to offer.

"While I'm committed to Western Michigan, I don't think it hurts anything that I continue my conversations with other schools," Carder said. "It's kind of like smoke and mirrors with those schools. A lot of schools like to say a little something that makes you want to believe they're going to offer, but then they never do. It's not been real straight forward so far, so it's kind of tough to tell where you really sit with those schools."

Barry Every, Rivals.com Recruiting Analyst
Rivals250 prospects clash in Crawfordville

It's not on every night that you have the opportunity to see three Rivals250 players in the same game. The Panhandle of Florida was the sight of just such a clash this past Friday as five-star linebacker Nigel Bradham and four-star standout C.J. Holton of Wakulla High School in Crawfordville, Fla., played host to four-star linebacker Ryan Baker and the Blountstown Tigers.

The Wakulla War Eagles were looking to pitch their second straight shutout and their star defenders would play a key role in shutting down Blountstown in the first half. Bradham and Holton ran sideline to sideline all game long, showing why they rank among the nation's best.

Baker would counter that with his exceptional speed and athleticism, shutting down the War Eagles' rushing attack. Only a 40-yard touchdown grab by junior receiver Kendrick Hall would prevent the first quarter score from being knotted at zeros.

Hall found the endzone again in the second quarter with an interception he returned for a 70-yard touchdown.

Linebacking clinic: Baker made three consecutive tackles on one Wakulla possession in the third quarter, stopping the drive.

Baker finished the game with 15 tackles, four TFL's and one sack. Bradham recorded 15 tackles with three TFL's on the way to a 16-0 win for Wakulla.

Holton had four tackles for the War Eagles and the Florida State commit had a message for the Seminole fans.

"Just tell them we are coming," Holton said. "I can't wait to get there. I think Seminole fans should be very excited."

The game had to be the 5-foot-8, 160-pound Hall, who scored both touchdowns. The Class of 2009 cornerback is already hearing from several schools.

"Clemson, Virginia, Mississippi State and Rutgers," he said in response to what schools he was hearing from, and added that he hoped to hear from Florida State soon.

Wakulla defensive end Tim Dawson is a prospect that might be getting overlooked at this point. The 6-foot-1, 252 pounder needs to work hard on his academics, but his motor is exceptional.

Chad Simmons, Recruiting Analyst
One to watch for in 2010: Blake Sims is only a sophomore, but he plays like a veteran. He leads Cartersville (Ga.) Cass from the quarterback position and helped them beat rival Cartersville last week. He has a nice arm, his decision making is outstanding and his legs may be his biggest strength. His athleticism and frame (6-0, 170) will give him many college options in a couple of years.

Making a case for fifth star: The most outstanding player I have seen this year to date has to be four-star athlete Richard Samuel. Samuel is now up to 6 feet 2 and he weighs close to 210 pounds. He had 10 tackles and 156 rushing yards last week in Cass' biggest game to date. Samuel is an elite athlete that can do it on both sides of the ball and he is making a push for that fifth star this fall.
( Cass vs. Cartersville highlights)

Smooth Junior to watch: Samuel was the best player on the field, but right behind him was Cartersville Class of 2009 athlete Donavan Tate. Tate has long legs, a long body and a lot of talent. He is a 6-foot-2, 185-pound quarterback in high school, but looks like he will be a major safety and/or wide receiver target next fall. He is a gifted athlete that makes things look easy.

Two 2009 OLs stood out: While traveling last week, I stopped in and put an eye on two good looking junior offensive tackle prospects. Darius McKeller (6-6, 280) of Jonesboro, Ga., and Justin Kitchens (6-5, 260) of Warner Robins (Ga.) Houston County both pass the eyeball test. Both are getting early attention from schools and they will be heard from next spring once the camp circuit begins.

From the Road Gallery

Previous From the Road: Sept. 6 | Sept. 13 | Sept. 20 | Sept. 27

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