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Sunday, March 24, 2013
Lessons Learned: Baton Rouge NUC

By Gary Laney

ZACHARY, La. -- Sione Palelei's name is as fun to say as the 2014 running back is to watch.

The Utah transplant who stars for East Ascension High in Gonzales, La., was named the Most Valuable Player of the National Underclassman 5-star camp at Zachary High on Sunday.

Here is what we learned at the invitation-only event that drew players from southeast Texas to the Florida panhandle.

New Iberia pride

While there were some talented lineman and mid-skill prospects at the camp, the best talent was at the speed positions.

Particularly impressive was a duo of wide receivers from New Ibiera, La. Gabe Fuselier (New Iberia, La./Catholic) continued an outstanding spring by being named co-wide receiver MVP after constantly getting open against good defensive backs. Bryson Bourque (New Iberia HS), an unknown 2014 receiver, constantly got open against bigger-named defensive backs, earning him co-MVP at the position with Fuselier.

Familiar name at DB

A player who stood out at defensive back was Deshawn Raymond (Kenner, La./East Jefferson), the younger brother of LSU defensive back Derrick Raymond.

Like his brother, Deshawn Raymond has safety size but showed the ability to turn and run with wide receivers.

Another defensive back who stood out was Yoseff Banks, a class of 2014 product of Baton Rouge's McKinley High who was named DB MVP. Another impressive prospect was 2015 cornerback Xavier Lewis (LaPlace, La./East St. John), who didn't have a great day Sunday but is considered one of Louisiana's best defensive backs.

Smart guys

There were a lot of bright stars at the camp, but few were brighter than quarterback Brandon Harris (Bossier City, La./Parkway) and offensive lineman Jerry Tillery (Shreveport, La./Evangel).

Harris displayed not only a strong and accurate arm, but the personable demeanor, quick wit and confidence of a player looking to play a demanding position.

Tillery, is not only a hulking 6-foot-7, 300-pound behemoth who earned offensive line MVP at the camp, he also has made straight A's since his eighth grade year. He told the story of visiting a school for junior day and being told that some schools will get him to medical school, but the school he was visiting would get him to the NFL.

"I want a school that will do both," said Tillery, who aspires to be a doctor.

He said he looks forward to hearing from schools with strong academic and football reputations.

Palelei earns his title

Palelei earned a reputation as a speed back with a stellar junior year at East Ascension, but he didn't look like only a speed guy Sunday.

The 5-foot-9 senior weighed in at 197 pounds, which he said was three pounds off his high, weight he's trying to keep off for track season. Despite the added bulk, he continued to look like a handful with his speed, easily getting open in 2-on-2 drills, often beating linebackers by more than a step for easy receptions.

Valuable Players

Other players who were honored included quarterbacks Colby Tuthill of Fort Walton Beach, Fla. Navarre (Leadership Award) and Jarrod Hayes of Baton Rouge, La. Central (co-MVP at QB along with Harris), running back Devoraie Martin (Biloxi, Miss), freshman lineman Collin Fountain (Lake Charles, La./Barbe), freshman cornerback Malik Antoine (Baton Rouge/University), defensive end La'Allan Clark (Central, La.), linebackers Arthur McGinnis (New Orleans/Warren Easton) and Jaevon Walton (New Orleans/Karr) and Ole Miss commit tight end Sammie Epps (Greenwood, Miss.).