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July 25, 2012

What We Learned: Top Gun

MORE TOP GUN: McKenzie | Snoop's son | Overall top performers

Rivals.com 's Josh Helmholdt discusses what we learned from the Top Gun Camp in Virginia that took place from July 19-21.

Notre Dame's line class looks outstanding

Two of Notre Dame's five offensive line commitments in the class of 2013 were in attendance for the Top Gun Camp last week and they finished 1-2 in the overall top performers list from the event. Midland (Mich.) offensive tackle Steve Elmer and Everett (Mass.) offensive guard John Montelus had not met each other in person before they arrived in Virginia, but became fast friends and also proved that Notre Dame will have strength at the offensive line position in future years.

Elmer and Montelus are two very different offensive line prospects, but they both have great size for their positions. Elmer looks all of a 6-foot-6 and 305 pounds and he has good length to handle the left tackle position. The 6-foot-5, 295-pound Montelus is a thick, barrel-chested kid with outstanding power to handle interior defensive linemen from the guard spot. They both also bring some nice intangibles to the table. Elmer has proven to be one of the hardest workers in the country this offseason, while Montelus can flip the switch once he steps onto the field and play with a mean streak.

Emergence of 2015 prospects from unlikely places

College coaches are already starting to identify rising sophomore prospects in Florida, Texas and California that are traditional recruiting hotbeds, but players in non-traditional recruiting territories have to get a little more creative to generate early interest. Two prospects who look to have bright recruiting futures ahead utilized the Top Gun Camp to raise awareness of their abilities.

Offensive tackle Tristen Hoge comes from Highland High School in the southeast corner of Idaho - midway between Yellowstone Park and the Great Salt Lake. At 6-5 and 265 pounds he has the ideal frame to grow into a left tackle prospect, and is already starting to show the physical tools to be an elite lineman. Meanwhile, defensive lineman Kahlil McKenzie comes from football-crazy Green Bay, Wisc., but even though the local NFL team is among the game's most storied traditions, the area does not produce much college football talent. At 6-3 and 266 pounds, though, McKenzie proved in Virginia last week he will certainly be one to watch in the 2015 class.

Levrone makes strong case

Olney (Md.) Good Counsel wide receiver Andre Levrone stated at the beginning of the Top Gun camp that he was there to make a case for a four-star ranking, and the Virginia commit certainly did nothing to hurt his chances. At 6-2 and 197 pounds, Levrone was the most physically impressive wide receiver among a strong group of prospects at the position. He then went out and added substance to his size by being one of the hardest covers in one-on-one and 7-on-7 play.

Defensive backs were hesitant to check Levrone at the line of scrimmage because he is a big, strong-looking kid, but getting off the line was the one area of his game that appeared to still need some work. Once he got beyond that, however, Levrone ran crisp routes, showed good downfield speed, always caught the football with his hands away from his body and had the body control to bring down jump balls. We may wait to see him in the fall before making a big move on his ranking, but his stock is definitely moving in a positive direction.

Trio of 2014 DBs compete

We nearly had a four-pack of the nation's top defensive backs in the 2014 class going head-to-head at the Top Gun camp last week, but Virginia Beach (Va.) Bayside safety Quin Blanding had to attend a team 7-on-7 Friday and did not return Saturday after appearing for the brief walkthrough practice on Thursday night. Still, Top Gun provided a chance to see three of the most highly pursued defensive back prospects in the 2014 class - Knoxville (Tenn.) Webb School's Todd Kelly, Beaumont (Texas) Ozen's Tony Brown and Atlanta (Ga.) St. Pius X School's Nick Glass - did go head-to-head in Virginia.

All three bring safety size to the position, but they may not all end up there. The 6-1, 185-pound Brown showed he is much better in press man coverage than he is giving cushion, and is starting to make people believe cornerback is his best position in college. Listed at 6-foot-1 and 196 pounds, Glass looked to be the biggest of the trio. He is a very solidly built strong safety prospect who should be outstanding in run support, but showed he still needed some work with the coverage aspects of his game. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Kelly was a combination of the two. He is a thickly built kid who also showed great range in coverage.

Mitchell brings versatility

USC is bringing in Mission Hills (Calif.) Bishop Alemany wide receiver Steven Mitchell to play the slot position in the offense, but the 5-10, 175-pound prospect proved again at the Top Gun Camp that he could help the Trojans at several spots if the situation called for it in the future.

Mitchell has the measurements of a slot receiver, but he has the strength and speed to also line up at the X and he plays taller than his 5-foot-10 listing. Mitchell has such a powerful stride, and his speed holds up downfield. He can create separation from cornerbacks just as well as he can catch a short pass and turn it into a long gainer.

But Mitchell also showed us another side of his game last week not often seen in the past. After doing his thing on offense, Mitchell switched over to cornerback for a good portion of the camp's second half and was nearly as good as the guys being recruited to play that position in college. Not surprisingly, Mitchell had a great break on the football and the speed to hang with wide receivers. His technique was a little raw, but that was to be expected with cornerback not being his natural position. If the situation ever called for it, though, Mitchell does appear to have the physical tools to step on the other side of the line of scrimmage in college.



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