May 22, 2011

The Future of the Sooner State

TULSA - Every year the NUC Tulsa combine provides new names that find their way to the recruiting forefront. Names like Jake Love, Trent Martin, Blake Belcher, and Cayman Bundage all went from obscurity to division one college prospects following the same combine in years past. And while one can certainly excuse those players being little known following their sophomore and freshman years one player that just has to be seen as a poor oversight is the younger brother of one of the all-time greats in Oklahoma high school football.

That's the title Edmond Santa Fe cornerback Trevan Smith has had to live with as the younger brother of former Wolf, Sooner, and current San Francisco 49ers cornerback Reggie Smith. And while they share the same position, high school, and impressive talent at defensive back that isn't to say it's wise to expect a mirror image of one another.

While the elder Smith was a larger corner that many felt was best suited to safety his younger brother makes up for lacking a bit of size with as natural coverage skills as any player in the state of Oklahoma over the last few years.

Whether it was a speedy receiver that Smith was forced to run with or a physical pass-catcher who he bodied up and beat to the ball it was a day of near perfection for the 5-foot-8, 170-pound corner from North Oklahoma City.

However, one other thing the young brother shares is a quiet dealing with the media and though Smith accepts praise and commentary with remarkable humility it's clear to see that he'd rather let his play on the field do the talking.

But that doesn't mean that coaches and opposing players at the camp were hesitant to do his talking for him, particularly when he made one of the finest interceptions most had seen, regardless of setting. Whether by design or a simple mistake the opposing quarterback threw the ball short of his receiver -an understandable choice as Smith was stride for stride with the receiver- and Smith stopped on a dime elevated to a point in the air few could match and came down with a two-handed catch that seemingly should have pulled any of two dozen muscles.

Not surprisingly Smith took home position and overall MVP awards along with the combine king after a blistering trio of 40-yard dashes that were unanimously just above or below 4.5-seconds.

It was a solid group of defensive backs from top to bottom but another 2013 prospect who made a positive impression was Booker T. Washington's Carsie Jones.

The group of receivers were a strong unit that each flashed real potential without any one player truly stealing the show. Among those most notable were Guthrie's Richard Brothers, Booker T. Washington's James Caligone, and Hunter Atyia of Tulsa Union, who took home the position's MVP award.

Talent in the Trenches

Almost undoubtedly the field's most entertaining battles took place with the offensive and defensive linemen.

Leading the charge were 2013 defensive linemen Novis Cullom and Dalton Rodriguez.

Meanwhile the offensive line wasn't a large or group that amazed with any one trait but was a collection of scrappers that managed to fight off a pretty talented group of defensive linemen. One exception to that assessment was Edmond North's Heath Newland who came in at 6-foot-2, and 302-pounds and looked every bit the part of the state's next quality center prospect.

"Man, he sits in that rocking chair and just let's his punch do the rest of the work," one on-looking coaching said.

Newland is another 2013 prospect and is already a two year starter for the Huskies and has been talked about as the school's first division one line prospect since the Barresi brothers, Joe and Ben.

He plays a physical style of play but understands that as a center defensive lineman will be funneled to him and does a good job of being patient and allowing things to develop rather than lunging and getting himself off balance. Basically, if you're going to beat Newland, he isn't going to help you with the job.

At times he had a few struggles with a few smaller defensive tackles who relied on pure agility but as he continues to learn the position and his athleticism continues to catch up with his frame, he should start to see those problems remedy themselves somewhat naturally.

Not surprisingly, Newland was the camp's offensive line MVP.

His counterpart as an award winner was Union's Rodriguez who impressed SoonerScoop.com at a Redskins practice late last week but took his performance up another notch when not going against so many familiar faces. He quickly earned the nickname 'El Gigante' from his position coach and was shortly being referred to similarly by fellow players and most of the coaches.

Not surprisingly for the always well-coached Redskin prospects Rodriguez had an array of moves and used them all near-flawlessly. He'll need to continue to get after the weight room as he is right now bigger in frame than he is in bulk but he uses his hands well and listening to him encouraging fellow players, making suggestions to his fellow defensive lineman, and most notably keeping inventory of how each offensive lineman liked to attack his opponent there is no doubt he'll be a favorite of college coaches for his mind as well as his skillset.

Similarly Cullom showed a mind like a sponge for coaching as he continues to dry and build off a raw skill that will have college coaches flocking to Tulsa Memorial. Cullom needs to find consistency but as a young player who took up wrestling last season and drove all the way to fifth in one of the country's best wrestling states it seems unlikely that work ethic is a real problem for him.

Now while he needs to find some consistency with his pad level and first step, when he does go, Cullom can be a terror for just about anyone. At just under 6-foot-3, and 290-pounds Cullom physically overwhelmed several opponents and when he learns how to separate from a blocker that mixture of power and quickness could make him a real terror in the college game.

NOTES:

*Undoubtedly the biggest name coming into the camp was Union running back
Kendall Holmes and the skilled back did nothing to disappoint showing great feet and the quick burst that may remind some of former Sooner James Allen. Holmes is still a long and lean back and needs to start filling out his frame but that should come at least somewhat naturally in the next few years.

*Another year, and another strong performance from Sallisaw quarterback Ben Oberste. The stout young signal caller always tests off the charts and was nearly 'combine king' if not for Smith's amazing performance. However, he is still working on cleaning up his throwing motion but looked leaps better than working out last year as a rising sophomore. With two years of high school left he is definitely another talented member of the standout 2013 class.

*The other quarterback that had folks talking was Ty Story of Charleston, Ark. Though just entering his sophomore season he made a huge impression on several onlookers including one who thought Story was easily the best of a solid group of quarterbacks. Keep his name on file moving forward.

*A fairly unknown name that really made a strong impression through the workout was Okemah athlete Michael Davis. Early in the morning Davis ran 40-yard dashes in the mid 4.5-second range and followed it up with one of the day's best verticals of 31.5-inches. However he wasn't just a workout warrior looking solid going through drills, not surprisingly like many young athletes with top speed he looked a little upright and will need to work on his overall flexibility but he shows real promise.

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