July 27, 2011

Norman Plays Host to Some Young Stars

Every year Oklahoma works to bring in the nation's top talent with hopes of building a rapport with some of the country's top juniors however it's rare when all the work is done for them.

But that's exactly what happened with the third straight National UnderClassmen 'Ultimate 100' that was held in Norman over the weekend. Though the list of rising seniors is always an intriguing thing to watch more often than not it's the rising juniors and sophomores that end up grabbing the most attention and this camp was no different.

A few years ago names like Matt Hegarty, Avery Walls, and James Ross put their name in front of recruiting fans everywhere thanks to big performances in Norman and in the summer of 2011 it seems there will be many more new names to know.

Two of the stars of the camp were already become well known in most recruiting circles; Louisville (Ky.) Trinity defensive end Jason Hatcher and Celina, Texas jack-of-all-trades Jake Raulerson. And while Raulerson has long been known as an Oklahoma target, particularly since he was offered following the Sooners camp, it seems that Hatcher hasn't been far behind as far as Oklahoma interest goes.

The Sooners have had plenty of contact and it seems are anxious to see what kind of growth he puts onto his 6-foot-2, 235-pound frame over the next six months. While he may still be hoping to grow a bit himself there is no denying that Hatcher, who holds offers from Arkansas, Cincinnati, Illinois, Kentucky, and Louisville, has some explosive skills of his own. Hatcher showed off great shoulder lean and has the look of a natural pass-rusher. His first step is still under construction but as he learns to get up field in one motion, it will only continue to improve.

Raulerson on the other hand continued to look like the impressive player everyone at SoonerScoop.com raved about during his one-day workout at the Sooner camp in early June. Raulerson continues to bulk up yet the same strengths and areas for improvement exist from last month.

While the 6-foot-5, 250-pound prospect mentioned being recruited at six positions during the NUC camp it's clear that many schools see him as an offensive tackle, where he worked out at on Sunday. Throughout Raulerson was clearly the most athletic lineman on hand due to his ability to move laterally and general comfort blocking on the perimeter, however against some stronger pass rushers he did show a problem with basing his feet and truly standing up an end. Interestingly it seems as his strength lessens a bit there will be a direct correlation with the emergence of the perceived shortcoming. Simply put, as he gets bigger he won't move quite as well but will be able to better stand up to the bullish pass-rushers he'll face in the college game.

While Hatcher and Raulerson were two of the stars of the show they were far that was all that was on display for 2013, particularly at the receiver and defensive back positions the camp was loaded with future names to know.

None made any bigger impression than Memphis (Tenn.) Whitehaven star Mark Dodson. The 5-foot-8, 174-pound prospect originally made his name at running back but on Sunday spent his time shutting down one helpless receiver after another. Though he isn't the biggest corner around playing for a program like Whitehaven has provided him with some early offers. Look for his attention to pick up as he shows a lot of ability as a natural cover corner.

Joining him as standouts in the defensive backfield were Dubois Ross of Bangor (Penn.) Pius X and Orange (Texas) West Orange-Stark's standout Travon Blanchard.

Ross is a player who possess good speed and has a sturdy frame that is somewhat reminiscent of former Sooner Dominique Franks. Meanwhile Blanchard is an even bigger defensive back who could eventually develop into a in the box safety and perhaps even an outside linebacker.

So many of these prospects hail from areas that might not otherwise produce Sooner unofficial visitors but one player that not only is from familiar turf but walks hallways familiar to the Sooner coaching staff is Mesquite, Texas' Dameon Gamblin.

The 5-foot-10, 160-pound prospect is friends with former Sooner, and reportedly future North Texas Mean Green defensive back, Marcus Trice and after showing off great quickness and ability to work into space he may end up as a future Sooner target as well.

Star of the Show

While many of the players were aware of each other and as they say 'real recognize real' - so it's not surprise that E.J. Levenberry was one of the talk of the Sooner intramural fields.

"Yeah, that big guy over there, they say that dude has offers from everywhere," said one prospect from Arizona.

The 6-foot-3, 230-pound prospect did nothing to hurt his reputation as one of the biggest names at the camp.

In fact among all the young talent there is no player more firmly entrenched on Oklahoma's recruiting conscience than Woodbridge (Va.) C.D. Hylton's star linebacker. Perhaps as interesting as anything else about the 6-foot-3, 230-pound prospect is that while he is listed as an outside linebacker he looks more natural on the inside and could be a strong future target as a middle linebacker in a 4-3 system.

Though obviously it's always hard to know how a middle linebacker will handle the most important aspect of his job - stopping the run game - but for a big young linebacker he was surprisingly comfortable in his drops and didn't look nearly as lost in space as one might expect.

NOTES:

*Another interesting name to follow moving forward is Cameron Stapleton who could emerge as one of the nation's top tight ends in the class of 2013. At 6-foot-4 and 210-pounds he is a natural receiver who is great in the air and has the big soft hands that could make him some quarterback's security blanket moving forward.

*Sooner state 2014 quarterbacks Justice Hansen and Coleman Key both earned strong reviews although, at least in Hansen's case, there were some struggles on the day as so often is the case in 7-on-7 communication and comfort between quarterbacks and receivers is impossible to manufacture in a two-day span.

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