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September 13, 2011

Around the Southeast: Top young stars

MORE AROUND SE: Sept. 6 | Mailbag

Rivals.com analyst Keith Niebuhr goes around his region in the weekly Around the Southeast feature.

Remember these names

A breakdown of game tape on three impressive underclassmen prospects in the Southeast:

RB Jordan Wilkins, Cordova (Tenn.) St. Benedict, 6-1/193, 2013

Wilkins, who boasts early offers from Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Tennessee, is a versatile player who can be a power back when needed but also has all-purpose traits. A physically mature junior, Wilkins looks great in pads, which is a nice starting point. When carrying the football, he combines excellent vision with good instincts, nice speed and terrific overall athleticism. He also has very good control of his body.

Wilkins' cutting is exceptional, and he has the ability to quickly regain his speed after making a move. He uses his body and strength to his advantage, particularly when trying to elude defensive backs. It isn't uncommon for Wilkins to stiff-arm a defender or simply lower his shoulder and attempt to run them over. The only knock is that perhaps he runs upright a little too much at times.

RB Mark Dodson, Memphis (Tenn.) Whitehaven, 5-8/174, 2013

Playing for one of the state's best programs, Dodson has emerged as a top back in the junior class. Already, a handful of schools have offered, including Mississippi State. Dodson is a quick, shifty and instinctual runner who is difficult to tackle. At this stage, Dodson is still a bit raw but his ability is undeniable. He's a strong cutter who changes direction well.

He doesn't reach top-end speed as quickly as you'd like, only because he's sometimes tentative in his decision-making - not because he isn't fast. Dodson perhaps is at his best in space, which is what makes him so dangerous catching the football out of the backfield. Just as he does on rushing attempts, he followers his blockers well and waits for the right moment to take off. Dodson is a solid all-purpose back who can hurt a defense in many ways.

WR Jalen McDaniel, Fayetteville (N.C.) Jack Britt, 6-1/190, 2013

McDaniel is a big, strong, physical receiver who also moves reasonably well. He knows how to take advantage of his size and strength, particularly off the line and when positioning to make a catch. Because of his powerful upper body, he isn't often effectively jammed at the line. He also isn't outmuscled much for the ball once it's in the air. McDaniel runs solid routes and though he doesn't appear to have exceptional speed, he is sneaky fast. Those traits allow him to create regular separation from defensive backs.

After the catch, McDaniel is good, not great. Given his size and athleticism he could be an outside receiver at the next level, but he might be better suited as a middle-of-the-field target because of his build and physicality.

Sleeper of the week

This week's under-the-radar prospect that won't be unknown for long:

QB Kyle Sloter, Atlanta (Ga.) Mt. Pisgah Christian, 6-5/200

At this point, Sloter has no offers, which is kind of shocking to be honest. However, Arkansas and Tulane have started to show interest of late and his fortunes may finally be about to change. Although the level of competition isn't great, that shouldn't be held against Sloter, who has an ideal frame and solid mechanics.

Sloter spins it well with consistency and appears to have better-than-average arm strength, which allows him to make most throws and fit the ball into tight spaces. With time to pass from the pocket, he's very dangerous, and is particularly good on the deep ball. He also uses the pump fake well to help his receivers create added separation. Sloter has the build of a pro-style quarterback, but he also can run pretty well, which gives his game an added dimension. Tulane is expected to check out Sloter in person Friday night. Don't be surprised if offers start trickling in soon.

Weekend Watch

On Friday, Niebuhr will again be in South Georgia, this time making a stop in Kingsland, which is located just north of Jacksonville, Fla. There, he'll watch Camden County, a perennial state power, play host to Savannah Windsor Forest. Here's what Niebuhr will be watching for in that game.

1. The Brice is right

Camden County's junior quarterback, Brice Ramsey, committed to Georgia in July. At the time, he had yet to start a varsity game. Now, the 6-3, 195-pounder has two starts under his belt. Thus far, however, the Wildcats have relied far more on their running game. In fact, Ramsey, though efficient, is only 10 of 16 for 134 yards and two touchdowns. This week, look for Camden County to open things up a bit.

2. Who will emerge?

Every year, Camden County has prospects. Often, it has several of them. Ramsey already is on everyone's radar. But who else will emerge? Speedy cornerback J.J. Green, a junior, is one player we'll be closely watching. Green has impressed early and has two pass breakups through two games. A clip of him in action on Youtube uses the words "The next Greg Reid" to describe him. Reid, of course, is a stud corner for Florida State.

3. Deep Thoughts

Is Ramsey firm to the Bulldogs? What does he think of their 0-2 start? Is he concerned about the future of Georgia coach Mark Richt? And what other programs have continued to pursue him? These are questions we'd like answered by the touted signal caller. To many, his answers are more significant than the action on the field.

Keith Niebuhr can be reached at kneebs01@aol.com. You can follow him on Twitter @KeithRIVALS.



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