Monday, March 25, 2013
Finding the Future: Gamebreaker Classic
By Erik McKinney and Blair Angulo
NEWBURY PARK, Calif. -- It didn’t take long to find the future during this weekend’s Gamebreaker Classic, The event was loaded with standout underclassmen to keep an eye on, and limiting a list of the event's top players to just five was nearly impossible. In fact, the top five underclassmen became a top six for this event, because the group was so difficult to limit.
A long-held sentiment was verified this weekend: Skill-position talent in California is not on the decline.
Nathan Tilford isn’t just an eighth-grader. He’s an eighth-grader who checks in at 6-foot-2 and 192 pounds and is already receiving recruiting whispers. Tilford took an unofficial visit to USC last week and had the Trojans’ coaches buzzing.
He is still getting accustomed to playing at this level, but it won’t take long for him to make a statement, according to Body By Tra coach Mike Esquivel, who coached against Tilford in Pop Warner.
“He’s very explosive as a wide receiver, but the biggest thing that separates him from his peers is his play-making ability,” Esquivel said. “At his age, he can actually go one-on-one against some elite varsity seniors. He’s the type of kid that comes around maybe once in four years. But he’s a very humble kid and very coachable. That’s the biggest thing for him.”
5. 2015 RB Darick Holmes (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian)
Holmes played both ways for his Gamebreakers team and showed why UCLA offered him a scholarship as a freshman. The 5-6 playmaker was dynamic as a receiver out of the backfield and was a big part of the offense all weekend.
“He plays like a vet out there and he’s only a sophomore,” said Chris Claiborne, an Oaks Christian assistant coach and Holmes’ 7-on-7 coach. “Ultimately, nobody can handle him. He played excellent, not only on offense, but he played great on defense too. I’m looking forward to watching him at Oaks.”
Hawkins made several acrobatic catches throughout the weekend, including an impressive one-handed touchdown grab.
"He's a good receiver and could probably play a little bit on the other side of the ball as well," said Karif Byrd, an assistant coach for Snoop Dogg All-Stars who has helped Hawkins train. "He's real smart and has great instincts. He has good ball skills and will only continue to get better in the next few years. He will be one of the top receivers in the Class of 2015."
Still a sophomore, Marshall is a household name in recruiting circles at this point, as the 6-1, 186-pound defensive back known as Biggie already holds offers from Oregon State, UCLA, Washington and Washington State. Marshall plays safety for the B2G 5-Star team and did more than that this weekend.
“He grew up today,” said Henry Bell, co-founder of B2G Sports. “He took a leadership role today. He overheard Ron [Allen] say that he’s used to the safeties making the play calls, and Biggie got word of that and started stepping up and making the right play calls. A lot of the defense toward the end fell on Biggie’s shoulders and I think he figured out that he has to be the guy back there. The crazy thing is that he still has two more years of high school.”
Hillinski guided Body by Tra to the championship round, where he showed well against a defensive backfield that included 2014 standouts Naijiel Hale and Jaleel Wadood.
"I used to come out to all of these events with my older brother [Kelly], so it's helped me a lot," Hillisnki said. "I wouldn't play, but I'd come out and look at the reads. It has helped me so much."
He got things rolling Saturday when he stepped up and delivered his first pass for a 40-yard touchdown. It was a sign of things to come for the 6-3 quarterback.
1. 2015 QB Josh Rosen (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco)
Rosen is in charge of a potent offense at St. John Bosco and that carries over to the 7-on-7 circuit as well, where he has a trio of standout receivers at his disposal: Shay Fields Jr. (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), Rahshead Johnson (Long Beach, Calif./Wilson) and Jeremy McNichols (Lakewood, Calif./Lakewood).
"He's a tall kid with a strong arm," Byrd said. "He's very, very intelligent. The biggest thing for me are his grades. He's willing to work and he's going to get better. He's playing in a great offense over at St. John Bosco. As far as being successful at the next level, there shouldn't be a problem. His decision making is very good. For a lot of quarterbacks, the thing that's missing is not understanding how to read coverages, but I know Josh is going to be real good at that."