|New Jersey safety Sheldon Royster|
Last night I attended the Chesapeake Bowl in Towson, Maryland (just outside Baltimore). The Chesapeake Bowl is a post-season all-star game between players from Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey (the North) and players from Virginia, West Virginia, the District of Columbia, and Maryland (the South). Not only was it a game studded with high school stars being recruited by Michigan and other Big Ten teams, but one of my high school program's players was involved, too.
North Team players of interest were Damiere Byrd, Kyshoen Jarrett, Dondi Kirby, Sheldon Royster, Desimon Green, Bill Belton, Armstead Williams, Ben Kline, Deion Barnes, Paul Gaughan, and Jack Tabb.
South Team players of interest were Vincent Croce, Darius Jennings, Malcolm Crockett, Kevin McReynolds, and Darian Cooper.
I went to Towson on my way home after travelling to Michigan for a holiday visit, so I was slightly unprepared for watching the game. I would have jotted down some notes, but I didn't have a note pad or a pen . . . and frankly, the cold and my lack of gloves would have prevented me from using a pen effectively, anyway. So I'm operating purely on mental notes.
The North team seemed like the more impressive roster, and they showed it by jumping out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. The South offense moved backward consistently in the first quarter until backup QB Perces Goings came in and gave the offense a little spark. He was replaced after a series or two, but the offense had found a rhythm by then. The South cut the lead to 14-7 only to watch the North go back up by a score of 21-7.
After that, though, it was pretty much all the South. They scored 23 unanswered points to take a 30-21 lead. The North made one last push with a touchdown pass in the corner, which was caught by Michigan target Jack Tabb. But the onside kick went out of bounds with 1:43 remaining in the game, and the South ran out the clock.
Deion Barnes, DE (North): He was on the roster, but I didn't notice him on the field.
Bill Belton, WR (North): Did not play due to injury. It looked like he had a cast on his right hand.
Damiere Byrd, WR (North): He was on the roster, but I never saw him. Committed to South Carolina.
Darian Cooper, DT (South): Cooper started alongside Kevin McReynolds at defensive tackle, which makes a very imposing interior defensive line for a high school game. Cooper really didn't seem that impressive, but it's hard to take much from these all-star games, where teams only have a few practices to prepare and most of these kids haven't played football since mid- to late November. I sat next to Cooper's family, but I didn't want to be a tool and start talking up Michigan or anything. From sitting next to his family, though, they seemed to be very congenial, friendly, intelligent people. They cheered enthusiastically throughout the game, but they weren't obnoxious like a certain recruit's family that sat behind me. If Cooper follows in his family's footsteps, then I can only assume that he would be a high quality kid to add to the Wolverine program.
Vincent Croce, LB/DE (South): He started the game at middle linebacker and played some defensive end in passing situations. I'm sure Croce will end up on the defensive line in college, but he did a decent job as a linebacker. He has a bit of a strange body. His legs are kind of short and then he has a thick upper body. He also seemed to be very involved with his teammates and a bit of an emotional leader. Committed to Virginia.
Malcolm Crockett, RB (South): I was excited about seeing Crockett play, but he really didn't do much at all. He started at running back for the South and played most of the game, but neither team really ran the ball very well. Both teams seemed committed to the pass, even though it was freezing and the receivers dropped a number of passes. However, one thing I noticed was that Crockett was constantly running on the sideline, pantomiming taking handoffs, doing footwork drills, etc. whenever the defense was on the field. He really seemed like he was involved in the game and trying to stay ready, which I think shows good character. Committed to Cincinnati.
Paul Gaughan, OT (North): I didn't watch the line as much as I would have liked, but I believe he started and played most of the game. Committed to Boston College.
Desimon Green, WR/DE (North): Michigan recruited Green to play DE, but Green played nearly the entire game at WR for the North - and he played it well. At 6'5" and 225 lbs., he caught several leaping passes, including a touchdown reception in the corner of the endzone, and ran fairly well after the catch. There was also a very interesting play where a pass over the middle bounced off Green's hands, got intercepted by the trailing defensive back, got fumbled by the DB before he hit the ground, was picked up by Green, and was run for another 30 yards or so before Green got tackled inside the 10-yard line. Green was perhaps the most impressive player on the field. He played well at WR and got a couple snaps at DE.
Kyshoen Jarrett, CB (North): Let me put it this way - Jarrett reminded me a lot of Boubacar Cissoko a couple years ago, when Cissoko would wave his hands demonstrably after every play, even mediocre ones. An early 15-yard penalty for taunting curbed his enthusiasm a bit, but the refs probably missed at least one more 15-yard-worthy action of Jarrett. Jarrett did have the talent to back it up (2 interceptions and at least 1 pass breakup), but I'd like to see him talk a little less. Committed to Virginia Tech.
Darius Jennings, WR (South): Jennings was probably the best all-around player on the field. He ran the ball, caught the ball, and completed both passes he attempted, each of which came on end around plays; he would take the handoff from the quarterback and then drop back. Jennings hit the QB on one pass for a good gain and then threw a TD pass to a WR. He also scored on an end around early in the game, which set up those trick plays.
Dondi Kirby, S (North): He tore his ACL prior to his senior season and did not play, but seemed to be emotionally involved with his teammates and was a cheerleader on the sidelines. Committed to Illinois.
Ben Kline, LB (North): Had some big hits (and got blasted once) from his linebacker position. He was heavily involved in the defense and looked physically ready to contribute at the college level. Committed to Penn State.
Kevin McReynolds, DT (South): McReynolds is huge. He's listed at 6'3.5" and 300 lbs., but he was a very solid 300 pounds, unlike a lot of high schoolers you see. Not only big, he looked extremely powerful. And he played like it, too. He's one of the reasons that the North couldn't run the ball consistently, and he got a good push up the middle of the pocket, too.
Sheldon Royster, S (North): Royster started the game at safety and showed some good makeup speed in the passing game and on special teams. I've held out on judging Royster because I've seen very little film on him, but after seeing him in person, he's definitely someone I'd like to see wearing the Maize and Blue. On a slightly funny play, Royster walked up to the line of scrimmage, seemingly to cover a slot receiver; then he blitzed off the edge and absolutely crushed the quarterback. Unfortunately, the rule for the Chesapeake Bowl (much like most all-star games) is that defenses may not blitz. But instead of handing out a 15-yard penalty for the first offense, the North team was given a warning.
Jack Tabb, TE (North): Tabb didn't really stand out one way or the other. He was in on virtually every offensive snap, either at TE or lined up as a slot receiver. But even on pass plays, he was used mostly as a blocker. He did catch two passes; one was an emergency dump-off that he bobbled a bit before getting tackle for about a 1-yard loss; the other was a very nice leaping catch over a defensive back in the corner of the endzone that put the score at 27-30 with less than two minutes left. Tabb was an adequate blocker, but for whatever reason, he didn't seem to be moving at 100% speed. I don't know if he was affected by the cold or what, but he just seemed to be going 90% for much of the game. It's not that he was being lazy - it just looked like he was stiff from the cold or something. He also dropped a pass.
Armstead Williams, LB (North): He was on the roster, but I didn't notice him on the field.
OTHER KIDS OF INTEREST
Daquan Cooper, WR (North): Cooper returned kicks, got the ball on end arounds, etc. He was a slightly less effective version of the South's Darius Jennings, but he was a very impressive athlete. You got the impression that he might turn any play into a big play. No relation to Darian, as far as I know (they play at different high schools in different states). Committed to Temple.
Patrick Skov, LB (North): Skov sliced through the offensive line for several tackles on the day. I heard his name repeatedly, and he was a very solid hitter. Committed to Stanford.
Matt Zanellato, WR (South): He's a tall, skinny kid committed to Penn State. He's very good at going up and getting the ball at its highest point, as evidenced by his one touchdown catch. He also has a little bit of speed to him, getting behind the defense on a deep pass (and a perfectly thrown ball) by quarterback Kevin Hogan.