LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- On Saturday, 65 of the best high school football players in the country took to the fields at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports for pool play to set the field for the Gridiron Kings tournament Sunday. The prospects have been working under the tutelage of 12 former college and NFL standouts, and there were several who impressed the coaching staff on Day 1.
Former quarterback D.J. Shockley, who led the University of Georgia to the SEC Championship in 2005 before spending four years with the Atlanta Falcons, is the offensive coordinator for the Southeast team. He started off by talking about a future Bulldog.
"I have to start with my quarterback Brice Ramsey (Kingsland, Ga./Camden County)," Shockley said. "He is really making some strides. The first game he started off kind of slow, but he maintained his confidence and bounced back. It shows a lot about where his head is."
Ramsey has had no shortage of weapons to throw to for the Southeast team, and Shockley singled out a couple who have helped his squad tack on the wins in pool play.
A quarterback on another team also caught the eye of the former All-SEC selection.
"Shane Morris (Warren, Mich./De La Salle) throws a really good ball and fires it downfield really well," Shockley said. "He is a guy that I saw make a lot of plays, and he is a big catch for Michigan."
Bucky Brooks was a standout wide receiver at North Carolina before spending five years in the NFL, primarily as a kick returner. The offensive coordinator for the Midwest squad, Brooks said several players stood out on Saturday.
"I think Taquan Mizzell (Virginia Beach, Va./Bayside) has done a great job catching passes out of the backfield," Brooks said. "Laquon Treadwell (Crete, Ill./Crete-Monee) obviously is very talented and has made a lot of plays. One player that I have been pleasantly surprised with is Travis Johnson (Tampa, Fla./Jesuit), who has caught the ball really well over the middle. Shane Morris has shown the ability to be a big-time quarterback when he is patient and makes his reads."
Former linebacker Chris Gizzi starred at Air Force Academy and spent two seasons with the Green Bay Packers. One of his players was asked to play out of position but still was able to make a positive impression on the Midwest team defensive coordinator.
"I am impressed with Holland Fisher (Midlothian, Va./Manchester) as an athlete," Gizzi said. "I have him as a linebacker, but he is really a safety. I am asking him to do a lot of things and he has to process them on the run. He is a good natural athlete with instincts and that will serve him well at the next level."
Being vocal on the field is a trait that Gizzi feels is important for defensive players, and one prospect displayed it on Saturday.
"Kendall Fuller (Olney, Md./Our Lady of Mercy) has been really talkative, and he will impress whatever coaching staff gets him next year," Gizzi said. "It will definitely win the favor of his teammates because even as a young guy you are communicating on the field. He might start out as a nickel guy, but one who can help out his teammates like that will be big."
Fuller intends to commit during Sunday's telecast.
Another prospect was mentioned because of an impressive play he made against Fuller.
"When Levonte Whitfield (Orlando, Fla./Jones) made that triple-pump slant and took it 80 yards, that was pretty freaky because Kendall Fuller was right on his heels and he can motor," Gizzi said. "It was crazy."
Former Portland State wide receiver Matt James mentioned three standouts.
"Troy Williams (Harbor City, Calif./Narbonne) has done a really good job reading the defenses, getting rid of the ball and putting some points on the board," James said. "Tahaan Goodman (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./Rancho Cucamonga) has been all over the field. We have asked him to play all over the field because we have some guys hurt. Tre' Bell (Jersey City, N.J./St. Peter's Prep) has done a great job for us on defense as well."
Ex-Colorado Buffaloes quarterback Cody Hawkins is the offensive coordinator for the West team, and he also singled out Williams among his standouts.
"Troy Williams is a stud with a good feel for how to throw the ball versus different coverages," Hawkins said. "He is a competitive kid that truly wants to be successful. Darren Carrington (San Diego/Horizon) and Jermaine Kelly (Los Angeles/Salesian) can both play with anyone on the field. We are actually playing Kelly at receiver, and he is a great athlete that can run and is a great kid."
Former Atlanta Falcons cornerback Ray Buchanan and nine-year NFL veteran safety Donovin Darius were impressed by five-star cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III (Tampa, Fla./Wharton), who committed to Florida on Thursday.
"I think Vernon is doing an outstanding job," Darius said. "For one, he's coming with the talent and ability. He's just like a guy ... in pajamas, it really doesn't matter what you do out here until you put the pads on. But what he's done out here, against this type caliber of talent is great. He's always where he needs to be. He's been very well coached and he's very coachable. He's applying what he's learned. He's shining out here."
Said Buchanan: "Vernon Hargreaves has really great range and he is playing safety for us. He has really impressed me today. Another player that has impressed me today was Shaq Wiggins (Tyrone, Ga./Sandy Creek). He has really good instincts, great ball skills and he jumps the ball really well. As long as you can go out there and play, being a talker like Shaq is a great thing. He is not negative in his trash-talking, and it motivates everyone on the field.
"Ryan Green (St. Petersburg, Fla./St. Petersburg Catholic) has done a great job, and Laquon Treadwell is a natural freak."