June 7, 2010

West Orange-Stark Takes Over Final Day of First Session

NORMAN, Okla. - Through the past few years perhaps no player residing in Austin has been a bigger thorn in Oklahoma's side than former Longhorn All-American, and now Seattle Seahawks first round draft pick Earl Thomas.

After two straight losses in the Red River Shootout with Thomas roaming the Texas secondary, it seems the Sooners are going with the idea of 'if you can't beat them, recruit a relative' and in Thomas' cousin, Justin Thomas, it seems the Sooners may have found a player with a lot of the same play-making ability.

The 5-foot-8, 160-pound defensive back from Orange (Texas) West Orange-stark may not be the biggest player on the field but impressive athleticism and great footwork make him undoubtedly the top defensive back to have taken the field in Norman for the first three days of Oklahoma's six-day summer camp.

The 2012 prospect may not have had a chance to match-up with Tobias Singleton as many had hoped he might but there was still little doubt when Thomas walked off the field he'd had one of the better performances by a defensive back in several years.

Whether it was showing surprising physicality -even knocking a few receivers over after the pass was broken up- or simply locking down any and all receivers on hand Thomas showed that he and his famous cousin share more than a last name.

While he did make a big impression he wasn't the only Mustang that came to Norman hoping to make his mark.

Among three other WO-S players taking part in the morning camp session in Norman were wide receiver Mark Roberts, quarterback Kenneth Garett, and defensive back DeCarlos Renfro.

Roberts came to Norman fresh off of picking up an Iowa State offer and was hoping to add to his collection of Big 12 scholarships. Through the morning he showed a little bit of everything with nice hands, good body control, and though he is continuing to refine his route-running he does a nice job shielding defenders to create space for his quarterback to throw to open space.

Not surprisingly a quarterback who found nice rhythm through the day with Roberts was his current signal caller, Garrett. The skilled quarterback came in with some thinking he may be as much of an athlete as a quarterback but after watching him through the two-hour workout Garrett has solid mechanics a nice release and throws a very catchable ball.

But even with Garrett's solid performance the player who seemed to improve with each and every practice session was 2013 quarterback Jordan Darling of West Chester (Ohio) Lakota West. The young gunslinger has an arm that most seniors would envy and touch that belies his youth. Most of the obvious flaws in Darling's games are typical young errors and can be worked out. It's quite possible that Darling could emerge as a BCS-level quarterback in the near future and the good news for Josh Heupel and co. is the youngster has been in Norman the past two summers to work with Oklahoma's budding quarterback guru.

The story of the day was certainly Thomas but a pair of other 2012 defensive backs also continue their strong three-day performances.

Wagoner, Okla. cornerback Kevin Peterson continued his strong performance to put himself firmly on the recruiting radar for next season but with so much time to work the chance to break down a few flaws also come to light.

Peterson has worked in a predominantly cover-two scheme at Wagoner and while trying to press in man coverage he still has a lot to learn about proper press principles. For example Peterson often was soft on his inside jam and allowed receivers to easily take their inside release forgetting there is no help to the inside.

Thankfully for him he had few issues with making up for the error due to good feet and long arms, but as he faces better athletes he'll have to refine his skills and become stronger at the snap.

Physical play is not a problem for Plano (Texas) Prestonwood Christian defensive back Anthony Morgan who loves to mix it up with any and all receivers. However he is still learning the fine points of moving in space and has the look of a definite safety moving forward but with his quality ball skills could be a real free safety prospect in 2012.

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