On Saturday, prospects from all across Mississippi came to Tupelo to show what they could do in Steve Robertson's annual Southern Select combine. The 2014, 2015 and even 2016 classes were represented Saturday morning at the event.
In camp settings the skill position players are usually the ones that impress and Saturday was no different. While there was a good crop of linebackers in attendance, it was the receivers and defensive backs that were must see.
It all started with the biggest prospect in attendance and consensus 4-star prospect, Jamoral Graham. Graham was nearly unstoppable in 1-on1s as a wide receiver. Then he decided to switch over and play corner. It was then that he truly put on a show. Graham, a Mississippi State commitment and Decatur, MS(Newton County High School) native, showed why I have always thought of him as a cornerback on the next level. He is has a strong upper body and made it hard for receivers to even get off the line of scrimmage, and when they did, he ran step for step with them as if he knew their route. Graham will likely get his first crack at slot receiver when he arrives in Starkville, but I will be surprised if he doesn't become a star on the defensive side of the ball.
When Graham wasn't taking reps, it was Marcus Green of Ecru, MS (North Pontotoc High School) that wowed everyone with his speed. He ran three times in the 4.4 range in the 40-yard dash. His best was a 4.43. While Green plays defensive back for North Pontotoc and is projected to do the same at the next level, it was receiver that he decided to try his hand at Saturday. He did not disappoint, getting the better of most of the defensive backs in attendance with speed and the ability to catch most everything thrown his way. His route running left a bit to be desired, but remember, he's a corner. He did show that, in time, he could be a slot receiver on the next level. He is built very similar to Graham.
While Graham and Green were the two most impressive performers at the camp, the most physically impressive and best looking player just as far as measurables are concerned, Willie Hibbler was unmatched. Hibbler, a 2015 athlete from Sardis, MS (North Panola High School), already holds an offer from Ole Miss and heavy interest from Mississippi State. Hibbler looked to be around 6-4 210 pounds. He ran with the receivers and was probably the best receiver present. Hibbler cold end up at wide receiver or tight end or even at defensive end or linebacker on the next level. The only thing that is for sure is that he is going to be a star.
My top 10 performers from the camp
1. Jamoral Graham - Newton County High School - Decatur, MS - 5-11 165 (MSU commit) - 2014 - WR/DB
What Graham was able to show at the camp has already been talked about it. There's no doubt, he's a stud, and he could see some movement in my top 10 in my updated rankings is he continues to show out at camps this summer.
2. Marcus Green - North Ponotoc High School - Ecru, MS - 5-10 165 - 2014 - WR/DB
For Green, this camp was a coming out party. He has been lightly recruited so far by the big three in Mississippi. He will almost certainly see his ranking and interest go up. He showed elite speed and versatility to play offense or defense at the next level. If Green is able to have some camp performances like that this summer, he could end up earning a coveted SEC offer.
3. Curtis Akins - Byhalia High School - Byhalia, MS - 6-1 210 - 2014 - LB
Often times it is tough for a linebacker to show well in camps, but Akins made his hay in 7-on7s as he showed good covers skills and he moves well laterally. Akins is a guy that holds a Southern Miss offer and is still looking to add the in-state SEC offers. Like Green, those could come with more good camp performances.
4. Willie Hibbler - North Panola High School - Sardis, MS - 6-4 210 - 2015 - ATH
Hibbler showed excellent speed, good route running, physicality, and tons of athleticism. At his size, this kid could play anything you need him to at the next level. He plays QB, S, WR, TE and just about everything in high school and I like him as a tight end at the next level. His recruitment has already started and he won't be able to sign until February of 2015.
5. Genard Avery - Grenada High School - Grenada, MS - 6-1 230 - 2014 - LB
Avery is a big, strong linebacker. He is one of the better linebacker prospects in the linebacker-laden 2014 class in the state. Avery looks almost like a defensive tackle manning the middle of the second level of defenses. He was easily the biggest linebacker at the combine and didn't take a back seat to anyone when it comes to speed. Much of the same here, good camp performances this summer should earn him the in-state SEC offers.
6. Shareef White - Grenada High School - Grenada, MS - 6-1 220 - 2014 - LB/S
White is not quite as big as his teammate, but he is definitely a bit faster as he doubles as a safety for Grenada. White held an early offer from Ole Miss, but that offer appears to be soft. However, if White can go run at Ole Miss and MSU camps this summer like he did today, he will be able to choose between the two. He and Avery should make up the best linebacker combination in the state this Fall.
7. Deon Knox - Grenada High School - Grenada, MS - 5-11 175 - CB
Knox was great in coverage against some of the best receivers at the camp. Knox was also one of the more vocal players at the event. He was a personable young man and he has interest from the in-state schools, but could be a guy you see as a priority junior college signee and become a star coming out of the junior college ranks in two years.
8. Jarvis Wilson - Tupelo High School - Tupelo, MS - 6-2 180 - WR/DB - 2015
Wilson is a very physical receiver, and while he is very fast, he uses his hands and strength to beat his defender at the line of scrimmage. He is physically mature, even though he is just a rising junior. He tried his hand at defensive back some, but mostly performed on the offensive side of the ball. He has the physique to play on both sides, but he appears to have the ball skills and the route running ability to stay at wide receiver.
9. Caleb Grant - Byhalia High School - Byhalia, MS - 6-3 230 - DE/LB - 2014
Grant is a guy that hasn't really had any fanfare to date in his recruitment. His size has always looked good on film, but when I got a chance to see him up close on Saturday, you could really see his strength and athleticism. While I'm not sure he earns an offer this summer, he could earn one late in the process from the in-state SEC schools. Grant will be one to watch this Fall and has the calendar turns to 2014 in his recruitment.
10. Devin Hadley - Tupelo High School - Tupelo, MS - 6-5 250 - OT - 2015
Hadley doesn't have a ton of game experience for Tupelo, but he will counted on to anchor their offensive line next season. While he isn't the biggest and the weight room needs to become his friend, he has the frame to add lots of good weight. What he lacks in bulk, he makes up for in athleticism. He could improves his hands and his technique, but his feet are very quick and with added weight, I could see him becoming a hot name in Mississippi for the 2015 class.
More players who stood out and observations
- It was had to come up with just 10 names of guys who performed well at this camp as there were many big time performers at the camp. M
- Antonio and Justin Clifton from Tupelo both impressed at defensive back and linebacker respectively, as well. Antonio is a rising senior, while his brother is just a rising junior. Both are speedy players for the Golden Wave defense and Justin is known as the biggest hitter on the team.
- One of the more surprising speed demons present was Grenada quarterback Nate Evans who ran 4.39. He also finished second or third in the fastest man competition. Then Evans was able to stand back and deliver some accurate passes in the throwing drills. Evans is known as an athletic quarterback, but he showed that he will be able to beat some defenses with his arm this fall as well.
- Byhalia brought a lot of athletes to the combine and most of them performed well. Their QB, Markeise Rodgers, was one of the more impressive at his position, as were Caleb Grant and Curtis Akins. They brought many underclassmen who showed bright futures as well. Then, there is Byhalia star, Chris Rayford, who recently committed to Mississippi State. Rayford was present but sat out on Saturday, but even without performing, he impressed me. He is all of 6-1 and 180 pounds. That is one big cornerback. I learned that Rayford and Akins, both rising seniors, are just 16 years old. Very physically mature guys for their age. I would be shocked if Byhalia isn't one of the better 4A teams in the state come this Fall.
- The last thing that impressed me is the speed of the 2016 class on Saturday. Justin Conner, who ran a 4.45, and Keshon Heard, who ran a 4.46, lead the way. Conner is from Sardis, MS(North Panola High School) and Heard is from Hamilton, MS(Hamilton High School). Many other 2016 prospects ran times in the 4.5s and 4.6s. The 2014 class has proven to be a deep and talented class in Mississippi and the 2015 class has already shown it will be pretty deep, with elite talent at the top, but the 2016 class is already showing it might be one of the faster classes in some time in the Magnolia state.