HOOVER, Ala. -- Day 2 of the National Select 7-on-7 Championships brought about the conclusion of pool play and the beginning of the championship brackets. The weather was still hot, but despite the temperature the competition remained fierce. While the notable talent on hand continued to impress, more talent began to emerge.
Big men with skill
Griffin High School has been strong at times in tournament play thus far, thanks in large part to its two jumbo athletes -- Xzavier Dickson and Tye Turner (Griffin, Ga./Griffin). Both players have been nearly impossible to cover and shut down thanks to their blend of superior size, strength and athleticism. Each have soft hands as well and came down with a lot of difficult grabs on the day. Dickson, an ESPNU 150 defensive end, was very adept and natural at creating space underneath when lined up as a flexed tight end. His jump-ball skills and concentration for a prospect with his bulk were impressive.
Turner played more of an H-back position for Griffin and that could be his role at the next level. He only holds an offer from South Florida and that could be due to his tweener status. Turner lacks the height and route-running skills of a true tight end, but we see more athleticism than just a pure fullback, which is the position the Bulls are recruiting him at. We feel he can bring some versatility to an offensive backfield by flexing or motioning out and lining up at a few different positions to create mismatches. He's a potentially valuable asset and a prospect whose stock could rise down the road.
Recent Auburn commit Jaylon Denson (Birmingham, Ala./Hoover) is a sleeper on the recruiting trail and a potential weapon for the Tigers. While he has experience as an inline blocker, he has taken most of his reps at wideout in the tournament, which allowed us to evaluate his potential at that position in college. He has prototypical receiver size with his tall, lengthy frame and wingspan. He is fluid for having a 6-foot-3 frame, and displayed smooth footwork and movement skills. His hands and his ability to extend away from his body to pluck the ball may be his best attribute. Denson also has the stride to stretch the field vertically and get corners on their toes, but we do question his top-end speed and ability to separate at the next level. His route running needs some polish, as well. His upper body is well built, but he's narrow through his hips and lower body, making a full-time move to tight end unlikely, at least to start his career. Regardless, Denson's combination of size and athleticism is very impressive. He has all the tools to develop into a versatile H-back type, if used creatively in Gus Malzahn's offense.
Linebackers Henry Dickinson and Landon Finney (Memphis, Tenn./Memphis University) have been playing extremely well for Memphis University, showing the skill set and intangibles that may have these two teammates falling under the radar as college prospects. Dickinson only holds an Illinois offer, which is surprising considering he has a long, well-defined, 6-4 frame with plenty of room for physical development. What stood out with Dickinson was his underneath range and ability to play in space. He uses his body and length to his advantage, jamming routes and sealing off the inside. Dickinson is a potentially scheme-versatile defender at the next level, as he could play strongside linebacker, inside linebacker or even put his hand down and rush the passer, if he continues to add bulk.
Finney is hearing from only Southern Miss, but we feel he could see his stock rise during his senior season. We have him listed as an athlete and he will likely get recruited on either side of the ball in college. He showed excellent hands and coordination as a pass-catcher working out of the slot. He consistently found space and caught every ball thrown in his vicinity. Finney is a savvy athlete who reads the field well and that attribute, combined with his good range and ball skills, makes safety a possible spot at the next level, as well.
Plenty of options
C.J. Uzomah (Suwanee, Ga./North Gwinnett) is the No. 29-ranked athlete in the nation and he has shown why here at the 7-on-7 tournament. The high three-star prospect has great height and a long, lean frame to develop and you could see him settling into a few positions at the college level. He has taken reps at quarterback and done a good job surveying the field and finding open receivers, but will need to develop some mechanically as a passer if he stays at that position. He has also taken reps as a receiver and has looked promising as a pass-catcher. He moves well, plus his size, good hands and ability to go up and high point the ball make him a tough matchup and a nightmare in the red zone. Uzomah could develop as a quarterback, but after watching him on film and in person we are not so sure that wide receiver or more likely flex tight end won't be his best fit in college. He holds several offers, but says Auburn, LSU and Florida are standing out to him at this point. Of the three, he said only LSU is looking at him strictly as a quarterback.
One to watch
Cornerback Chris Humes (Birmingham, Ala./Spain Park) grabbed our attention by stepping up to the huge challenge of covering ESPNU's No. 1 rated wide receiver Charone Peake (Reobuck, S.C./Dorman) and doing very well in an early round tournament game. Humes is a prospect with a very muscular frame and good height. In addition to looking the part, he also displays very quick feet and fluid hips. He even stuck to the hip of Peake on several occasions coming out of his breaks. Humes, a 2012 prospect, showed very good awareness skills and savviness for a younger player at a difficult position. In zone schemes, he soundly anticipated the pass and closed the cushion fast. When asked about covering the premier wide receiver in 2011 he said he just wanted to play comfortable, confident, and not try to do too much, which shows good maturity for a rising junior. Humes told us he has a few early offers, including Kentucky.
• Cornerback E.J. May (Mobile, Ala./McGill-Toolen) has been taking reps at safety thus far and we have not been able to get a good read on his skills as a perimeter defender. However, he has flashed good ability to open up, transition and break on the ball from the safety position. May has an offer from Kentucky as well as offers from a few other schools, but says that the Wildcats and Auburn, which has not offered at this time, are near the top for him.
• Promising 2013 wide receiver prospect Jason Smith (Mobile, Ala./McGill-Toolen) has solid length and should continue to grow some. He displayed quick and soft hands and ran routes well.
• ESPNU 150 safety Damian Swann (Atlanta, Ga./Grady) continued to impress with his ball skills on offense, making several great grabs on precise intermediate-to-deep routes.
• Three-star receiver Collins Moore (Madison, Ala./Bob Jones) looks like he has really improved his quickness and explosiveness off the line, as well as his route running. He utilized his wide catching radius to snatch several difficult balls away from his frame and overall looks a lot smoother in his movement skills than on junior game tape. Moore said he holds offers from LSU, Louisville, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Tulane and Ole Miss.
• Moore's teammate, Reggie Ragland (Madison, Ala./Bob Jones), is a prospect to watch in the 2012 class. He played linebacker during the tournament and showed flashes of good mobility for his thick frame. He does need to develop his upper body, but his huge feet hint of major physical upside and potentially a move to defensive end.
Craig Haubert is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. and has more than a decade of coaching experience. 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.