COLLEGE STATION, TX -- Coming off the hand of the undersized Whitehouse quarterback, the ball hung in the air for several long moments, seemingly suspended by the moment's suspense on Saturday afternoon at the Veterans Park and Athletic Complex.
Wide receiver Dylan Cantrell, a 2013 Texas Tech commit, raced down the sidelines towards the football with a cornerback trailing and a safety coming over the top. But it was Cantrell who reached the ball first, bringing it in over his shoulder with sure hands just after crossing the goal line.
It was the final minute in a hard-fought contest and the catch propelled Whitehouse to the victory and punched the school's ticket to make a return trip to College Station in July for the state 7on7 tournament.
For Whitehouse's opponent, Cy Falls, it was a crushing defeat that dealt a serious blow to the school's chances of qualifying, as they will now have to make it out of a more competitive Houston-area SQT to earn a trip to state tourney. The despondent looks on the faces of of the Cy Falls players following the defeat told the tale of just how important these SQTs can be.
On the other field, Rosenberg Terry and Texas A&M wide receiver commit Derrick Griffin pulled out a victory over state power Katy.
Several top prospects were in attendance:
Chris Johnson, 2013 Bryan quarterback: The Baylor commit has a reputation for having issues with his accuracy, and that was the case early in the day, when it seemed as if he didn't know where the ball was going at times. He didn't have many issues in the short passing game, but had difficulty throwing over the middle and his touch was inconsistent on deep throws, often missing the mark by five yards or more.
Without the benefit of more in-depth film review, it's difficult to say if there's a mechanical issue causing the problems for Johnson, though his mechanics looked relatively clean to the naked eye. On the intermediate throws, the most likely issue is proper weight transfer, as locking the front leg and failing to get out over it can cause the rest of the body to drag through the release, which causes throws to go high of the intended target.
Still, there's no question that the tools are there -- Johnson probably has the best frame of any quarterback in a deep in-state class and looked every bit of 6-5 and well over his listed 195 pounds. Throw in long arms and Johnson is a guy who could project favorably at the wide receiver position, among others, depending on how much weight he could gain. In terms of tools, his arm strength is among the best in the class and something that can't be taught.
Two throws in the final game of pool play illustrated his upside and why he will likely stay at quarterback in college for Art Briles. Two long passes showed that he does have moments of good touch, as he threw touchdown passes in a short period of time, one of which traveled roughly 50 yards and hit his receiver deep in stride. It was truly a thing of beauty.
The Bears may have their quarterback of the future in the Johnson, but it will take him some time in college to get there, even working with a renowned quarterback coach like Briles.
Adam Taylor, 2013 Katy running back: No prospect at the event looked better physically in the upper body than Taylor, who clearly used his time off during the fall with a knee injury to work on his strength in that area. Kid is stacked.
In terms of speed, he mostly looked fully healthy and even tried his hand at cornerback against Griffin, though he struggled with his transition ability and had to grab Griffin to avoid giving up a long touchdown. A cornerback he is not.
The potential problem for Taylor regarding all the muscle mass he is carrying in his upper body is that it could make it more difficult for him to change direction, a vital skills for a running back.
Derrick Griffin, 2013 Rosenberg Terry wide receiver: At over 6-6, Griffin stands out among his peers at 7on7 events, just as he does on the basketball court. Early in the day, he struggled dropping passes, failing to secure a would-be touchdown on a leaping grab in the endzone that he failed to control in traffic and letting another getting into his chest by not attacking the football.
At times, it looked like he was going through the motions with his effort level, especially if he didn't think the football was headed in his direction. Still, he showcased his elite ball skills on several plays, extending his long arms over defenders and at other times looking like a post player establishing position on the basketball court before attacking the football.
Though Griffin is not as fast as fellow Texas prospect Ricky Seals-Jones of Sealy, who also stars on the hardwood, Griffin does have the ability to hit an extra gear when necessary and notably ran away from a Katy defensive back on one play. Besides his hands, which were shaky at times, Griffin needs to work on running more precise routes, which is normally difficult for receivers of his size.
Unfortunately, conventional wisdom holds that Griffin will struggle to qualify academically in college. If he does make it to College Station eventually, there's no question that he'll immediately become an excellent redzone target.
Jacorey Warrick, 2013 Cy Falls wide receiver: The Texas commit did not have a huge impact on the day, facing double coverage with a safety rolled over the top early in the day and then getting manhandled by 2014 A&M Consolidated cornerback Kyante Dukes, who drew only one flag, but could have had several more -- it would have been nice to see Warrick fight back by his own hands more to create separation.
Warrick was also limited by a quarterback who struggled to push the ball downfield and by his placement outside as a flanker, which kept him from working the middle of the field on drag routes, a role left to fellow 2013 receiver Jamel Holmes, who had an outstanding day.
However, Warrick did show good hands on the day, rarely dropping passes, and was also the most sudden player among the top prospects in College Station, exploding off the line and coming out of his breaks at a high rate of his speed -- if defenders had to respect the deep pass more, he would have been virtually uncoverable Saturday because of his route-running ability.
His best play of the day was a double move on an out and up that burned the cornerback defending him. It went for a long touchdown when the safety took a poor angle on the football and Warrick caught it behind him.
Physically, Warrick is a high-cut kid with a short torso and long legs, but he has reasonably wide shoulders for a future slot receiver, so there shouldn't be durability concerns with him in college based purely on his frame.
Dylan Cantrell, 2013 Whitehouse wide receiver: A long strider whose biggest strength in pads is his ability to high-point the football, Cantrell didn't have many opportunities to display his aerial skills, but his hands were consistent on the day.
A future inside receiver at Tech, Cantrell will benefit from the match-up problems caused by working close to the offensive line and going against the weaker cornerbacks for an opponent, safeties, or linebackers. As much as his catch at the end, what was most impressive for him was his body control and fluidity, as he was able to drag his feet to make catches along the sideline and was able to twist his body to adjust to the football.
He reported consistent 40 times in the 4.5 range, which were somewhat difficult to gauge because he is every bit of his listed 6-3. As a long strider, Cantrell is not overly sudden, especially running routes like the square ins and outs that Warrick excels at running, but he also showed top-end speed that confirmed his reported times and is excelent for his size.
More importantly, Cantrell created separation on the most important play of the day, tracked the ball well in the air (something that fans watching higher levels of football take for granted, but many high school receivers struggle with), and had the concentration to bring it in despite several defenders in the area and the pressure of the moment (watch it roughly 20 seconds into the video posted below).
Dylan Cantrell 2012 SQT College Station.wmv (via KENNYMOE3)
Christian LaCouture, 2013 A&M Consolidated defensive lineman: It was a surprise to see the 6-5, 265-pound LaCouture out lined up as a tight end on Saturday, but there he was, preparing to play the role situationally this fall for the Tigers.
While it was clearly difficult for a player of his mass to get in and out of breaks, he did evidence solid hands and even did a good job of attacking the football and catching it away from his body. He even showed some strong athleticism for his size leaping (sort of) and catching a touchdown pass while falling.
When the pads come on and A&M Consolidated takes the field in the fall, LaCouture should become a dangerous play-action threat in the redzone and appears capable of finishing those plays on a consistent basis.
Unfortunately, 2014 prospect Darrion Johnson of Brenham was not in attendance on the day.