Monday, April 15, 2013
B2G Invitational: RN Top 10
By Erik McKinney and Blair Angulo
With 16 of California’s top 7-on-7 teams on hand for the inaugural B2G 7v7 Elite 16 tournament over the weekend, there were dozens of big-time performances turned in, by well-known and previously unknown recruits alike. As always, choosing just 10 standout performances from the weekend was a challenging task, but here are the players, including a bonus selection, who made the cut.
10. London Iakopo
Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei |S| 6-foot, 195 pounds
Iakopo had never played cornerback at any level of competition before Saturday, so naturally he slid into the spot and put together one of the best performances of any player over the weekend. He was terrific on Saturday and saved his best play for Sunday, when he stepped in front of a pass and recorded an interception in the semifinals, helping his Elite760 A team to the championship game.
Elite760 coach Fale Poumele could only shake his head when discussing the fact that it was Iakopo’s first time at cornerback.
“He’s just so athletic; you can put him anywhere on the field and he’ll react,” Poumele said. “He’s quick out of his breaks, so when he makes a decision he’s ready to go on it, and that’s how he got that interception. He’s just a straight football player, has a nose for the ball.”
Wimberly first served notice that he’d be someone to watch during an event two weeks ago, but the wide receiver backed up that notion this weekend. He caught virtually everything thrown his way and practically lived in the end zone on Saturday. Initially, Wimberly caught attention with his bright pink shoes, but he held an audience throughout the weekend with his performance on the field.
“He’s that sleeper prospect,” said Ground Zero coach Anthony Brown. “As we keep going on the circuit, everybody will know about that guy. He reminds me of Marqise Lee. He runs hard routes and he’s open. He’s a special kid that’s catching the ball for us right now.”
Not only does Gordon deserve mention for turning in the best performance on the biggest stage -- at least three touchdown catches in both the semifinals and finals -- he also makes this list based on his nickname alone.
As Gordon strung together catch after catch, it was difficult to get a straight answer on what his name was. The only response his teammate would offer was “R2” -- the button reserved for the juke move on the Playstation controller.
“R2 is what we call him,” said B2G co-founder Ron Allen. “He’s the shake-and-bake joystick player with great speed. He can pretty much burn anybody up top, but underneath he has the shiftiness to break down anybody covering him. He’s crafty. I wouldn’t want to cover him, that’s for sure.”
Like Gordon, Rockett was a nightmare matchup for defensive players over the weekend. The shifty wide receiver didn’t just constantly make the routine first-down grabs, either. Several times on Saturday, Rockett came down with acrobatic touchdown grabs in the back of the end zone.
“He’s a crafty route-runner,” Allen said. “He gets in and out of his breaks and he’s just a clutch guy when it comes to making a big play. He has great hands and it’s obvious he and his quarterback have chemistry going on because they’re just playing pitch and catch out there.”
Gardenhire played on both sides of the ball this weekend and logged several big plays both as a safety and receiver. He had a big interception to help keep his Snoop Dogg All-Stars team undefeated through Saturday, then came back and was a big part of a run to the semifinals on Sunday.
"He's a great returner on special teams and breaks well on the ball,” assistant coach Karif Byrd said. “He has a go-getter mentality, and that's going to be big for him at the next level. If somebody pulls the trigger on him, they'll be very happy."
Gardenhire holds an offer from Colorado, but will attend camps at Fresno State, UCLA and Washington this summer and said coaching staffs from those programs want to size him up in person before deciding on an offer.
The twins sneak in as a two-for-one at No. 5, as both players earned a spot on the list, leading Elite760 A to the finals of the tournament and nearly a comeback win in that game.
Alijah paced the defense with several interceptions and Mikah served as an outside threat for the offense and put together one of the best catches of the event -- though he was ruled out of bounds -- when he went over a defender with one hand to bring in a deep ball.
“Alijah is lengthy with long arms,” Poumele said. “He’s good at man and Cover 2. He knows how to communicate with the rest of his team, so he’s vocal on top of all his talent. He can get up with the best of them with his long wingspan.”
“Mikah, he’s raw too, like Alijah, but what he does on the field is amazing. His big thing is he’s so lengthy. He can go up and win a jump ball every time. He has solid hands and will go across the middle and he’s great in and out of his breaks.”
The Holders hold offers from Arizona, Idaho and San Jose State at this time, but several other Pac-12 programs are showing interest.
4. Erik Brown Fontana (Calif.) Summit |WR| 6-2, 170
Another tournament, another outstanding showing for Brown, who has already established himself as one of the most dangerous offensive threats at any 7-on-7 event he attends. Brown put together several more highlight-reel plays, specifically several where he had to muscle the ball away from defensive backs in the end zone for touchdowns.
“He’s been unstoppable all offseason, with inside and outside routes,” Brown said. He’s a ball hawk. That’s one kid I’ve learned to love as far as his work ethic on and off the field. He seems like he just gets better and better. He’s a special type of kid.”
Brown’s recruitment picked up recently when he added an offer from UCLA to go with previous offers from Houston, Nevada, Oregon State, San Diego State and Washington. The offer from the Bruins is unlikely to be the last one Brown sees.
The guy they call Dae Dae is never one to hide his emotions when it comes to football. A constant entertainer, Williams spent the entire weekend doing one of three things: loudly cheering on his fellow B2G teams, dancing to the tournament’s background music, or making big plays to help his team to the tournament title. Williams recorded a handful of interceptions and was a solidifying force for the defense of the B2G Five Star team.
Williams holds offers from Hawaii and Idaho, but Pac-12 programs such as Arizona State, California, UCLA, Washington and Washington State are showing interest.
“He’s a two-way guy and he can really get offered on both sides of the ball, but I think safety is his future,” Allen said. “He’s a great athlete that can move and has deceptive speed. He doesn’t look like he’s moving fast, but he covers ground with every step better than most. He’s so long and rangy, he can go up and jump with the best of them and get to the sideline from the hash with his quickness.”
Johnson falls to the No. 2 spot solely because his Snoop Dogg All-Stars team was knocked out in the semifinal round. Otherwise, Johnson would have likely come away with the top spot overall because he was dominant on both sides of the ball. Offensively, Johnson was a playmaker, especially with the ball in his hands, which can be a tough task in touch football. But it was on defense where Johnson really shone.
And while he probably owes some thanks to cornerback Naijiel Hale (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), who shut down one side of the field and forced offenses to attack the other side, it was Johnson who came up with deflection after deflection.
"He continues to get better and better, and impresses me every day,” Byrd said. “He has great hands and a lot of tenacity. He's going to be a great player. Washington is getting a steal. He's highly underrated."
On offense or defense, when B2G Five Star needed a big play to be made this weekend, more than likely it was Lasley who stepped up and delivered. It was virtually impossible to count the number of touchdowns Lasley accounted for over the weekend as he simply outraced his opposing cornerback for deep balls and one-play, 40-yard scores on a number of occasions.
His consistency throughout both days netted him the top spot overall, and camp performances this summer like this one could lead to programs joining San Diego State with offers for the two-way athlete.
“Jordan stepped up big time,” Allen said. “He has that basketball player type of athleticism where he can really shake and bake. He has good speed, he’s really elusive and a really versatile guy who can go on both sides of the ball. He stepped up big when we needed him to on defense and it was because of his athleticism. He plays smart, but he’s such a good athlete that he doesn’t need to think a lot out there. He can just go.”