The Rising Stars Camp at USC has become one of the most prestigious for high school football players who feel they are deserving of scholarship offers from prominent college programs.
The elite players in California as well as some from around the country make it point to put their talents on display during the two-day workout on Howard Jones Field. This year was no different.
Encouraged by Pete Carroll’s opening remarks to always "complete" and play their hardest, the rising stars took to the field to show Carroll and his staff just what they could do.
This year's camp was marked by one of the best defensive crop of players in years. The defensive line had such promising players as Jackson Jeffcoat and George Uko.
Jackson Jeffcoat from Texas, is one of the finest high school pass rushers in the nation. He was looking fast and trim after playing a lot of basketball during the off-season. Jeffcoat showed quickness off the ball and the ability to get under a lineman's shoulder and drive him back into the passer.
George Uko from Don Lugo High School was extremely impressive in the morning drills on Day 1. He was so impressive that he was seen walking off the field with Jethro Franklin, USC’s defensive line coach. Later, when Uko phoned Franklin, he was offered a scholarship. Uko intends to make a decision after the season.
Ronald Powell was another impressive pass rusher. He was practically unstoppable during one-on-ones, where he showed a good variety of pass rush skills. A 2011 prospect, Troy Niklas from Arizona, was the only offensive linemen to stop Powell. But Powell made sure it didn’t happen again.
On the Day 2, Powell showed his versatility by switching over to linebacker, reminiscent of Clay Matthews, Junior, now with the Green Bay Packers. Niklas also made the switch to the other side of the ball, taking a few reps at rushing the passer.
Other defensive linemen of note included USC commits Ricky Heimuli, Josh Shirley, and Dak Smith as well as 2011 prospect, Jalen Grimble.
Grimble is particularly interesting because he showed considerable promise on the interior and his cousin, Xavier Grimble, a tight end from Bishop Gorman, is a 2010 Trojan commit. Jalen is more than likely to receive an offer in the hopes that he will follow his cousin to USC.
Greg Townsend, Junior is another solid 2011 prospect on the defensive line. If that name sounds familiar to Raiders' fans, it should. Greg, Senior, is his dad.
Justin Maclin, an LSU commit from Tennessee (I wonder if Lane Kiffin will let this kid get away), is another exceptional athlete on the defensive side of the ball. Like Jeffcoat and Uko, he shows quickness off the ball. A little on the light side for the defensive line, Maclin has a large 6’4" frame that would make him a promising pass rusher from a linebacking position.
Speaking of linebackers, this camp was a bit weak at that spot. However, one of the best in California did show off his skills. Victor Burnett a standout inside linebacker from Culver City, showed why he is one of the hottest prospects on the west coast.
Along with the defensive line, the defensive backfield at this camp was exceptional. The safeties especially had some strong scholarship candidates, namely Dion Bailey, Anthony Jefferson, Tony Jefferson, Dietrich Riley and Joshua Shaw.
Dietrich Riley was back at strong safety on Day 1 after trying running back at other camps. Dion Bailey played opposite Riley at free safety. On Day 2, Riley switched to cornerback, but I thought he was more impressive at strong safety.
Speaking of impressive, Joshua Shaw at 6’1", 190 pounds looked like he was already set to step up to the college level. No wonder he has six offers already from some top Division 1 colleges including USC, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
On the offensive side, the quarterbacking corps wasn’t as huge as in previous years. But Jesse Scroggins was by far the cream of the crop, and Pete Carroll wasted little time in letting him know it. Carroll spent a good part of the day coaching Scroggins. Then at the mid-way point on Day 2, Scroggins walked off the field with quarterback coach, Jeremy Bates, and received a scholarship offer.
While Tyler Bray and Chase Rettig both showed good skills under center, Jeremy Cannon from North Carolina was the second best quarterback after Scroggins.
Among the wide receivers, Kenneth Scott from Colony High School looked very good, and Mater Dei’s Victor Blackwell could be a collegiate gamebreaker some day. But for my money, if I had any, my pick is Trojan commit Dillon Baxter, a 6 feet, 205-pound running back from Mission Bay High School.
I know some fans have questioned why USC has already offered three running backs. Well, this kid could play running back as well as slot back or wide receiver . He has terrific hands. He is a solid pass catcher and doesn’t take his eyes off the ball even when closely defended. Also he has great running back cuts to create separation with a pass defender and 4.5 speed.
In addition to his talents at running back and wide receiver, Baxter has added another position to his offensive repertoire. He is currently playing quarterback for Mission Bay.
At running back Dontae Williams from Houston, Texas. Aldine broke his first run during the Trojan team ball formations for a thirty-yard touchdown. To show it wasn’t a mere fluke, William broke another long run a few minutes later.
Another USC running back commit, Trajuan Briggs from Lake Balboa, also took some snaps at fullback. If Stanley Havili opts for the NFL Draft after this season, that will leave only one fullback, D. J. Shoemate. Of course, it is a roll that Briggs at 6-0 and only 205 pounds would definitely have to grow into.
One of the standout wide receivers who was missing from the camp on Day 1 was George Farmer from Junipero Serra High School in Gardena. His father got a call that night from the USC staff, and he told his son to get over to Howard Jones Field the next morning and observe the workouts.
When Farmer arrived he was greeted by an enthusiastic huddle of USC coaches. Before the morning workouts ended, Farmer had a scholarship offer.
So, if you’re keeping track, USC extended three offers at the camp – Jesse Scroggins, quarterback, George Uko, defensive line, and George Farmer, wide receiver. That is now twenty-eight offers, up from twenty-five, with eight commits.