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  • John Macon Gillespie

Fortius Project Top Performers (4/30/16)



STRONGER AWARD

D’Jordan Strong - ATH - South Panola

Just like his last name, South Panola rising junior D’jordan Strong’s performance at the third Fortius Project on Saturday was just that. From the get-go, he set himself apart. After the testing was completed, he was a candidate for the Stronger award. Then came the competitive portion where he showed that he can be elite on both sides. His coverage was freaky and a source of frustration for receivers. The ball simply did not get by him. The few times he found himself out of position are the times he made highlight reel catches due to impressive recovery skills. On top of it all, he had perhaps the best set of hands of anyone who competed. This might not be the last MVP award he takes home, as he is sure to be a key contributor in helping the Tigers return to the top of 6A.

All-Combine Team

Onias Parks - LB - Northwest Rankin

Saturday was a very impressive day for the Northwest Rankin linebacker. Mostly due to the improvement that was made by Parks since his showing at the April 2nd Fortius Project at MRA. He was instinctual in coverage, which made for a dominant day in that area. He tested better with each rep, a continuation of what he showed at MRA. Then in the competitive portion he appeared to be a man on a mission, swatting away or intercepting nearly every pass that came his direction. He came in determined to take home a medal, and he did just that. It clear when watching this young man perform that he possess a rare work ethic.

O’Bryan Goodson - DL - South Panola

Goodson was perhaps the smoothest athlete in attendance on Saturday, which might surprise since he’s an interior defensive lineman. When going through agility drills he made it clear why numerous division one schools covet his signature. Once matched up against others in one-on-one drills, he showed another gear. His quickness and strength were simply too much for his peers. How showed just how strong his lower body is during tug-o-war. And by my judgement, Goodson had the best hair style of any competitor at the camp.

Eriq Kitchens - DL - South Panola

This Fall Kitchens is likely to be unstoppable, as he was a terror in one-on-ones at Fortius. He and Goodson will be one of Mississippi’s best defensive line duos this Fall. Similar to Goodson, Kitchens just has a knack for getting around offensive linement. Whatever move it took on Saturday, the long, edge rusher seemed to have it in his arsenal. He is long enough to engage and leverage himself around the blocker, but quick and explosive enough to get around a man untouched.

Jamaul Lofton - OL - South Panola

There was no player in attendance on Saturday that could compare to Lofton as far as size. There was a wow factor about him as soon as he arrived. Then after seeing his athleticism and body control combine to make his size even more of a weapon, it easy to see that this guy is the real deal. Obviously Strong takes home the MVP, but there was an argument to be made for each of the Tigers on this list. Lofton, Kitchens, Goodson and Strong are very talented, confident and close. All of the USP guys were close. It’s scary to think about how good South Panola can be in 2016 with so many talented players fixated on one goal. Then you add in their depth of talent on defense and a quarterback like Patrick Shegog. The Tigers will be strong contenders to take back 6A this Fall. Lofton is developing into one of the best offensive linemen in Mississippi and I believe he will begin to be recognized as so next season.

Amani Johnson - DL - Lafayette

There is no question that the Commodore defensive end was one of the all-around most impressive young men in attendance. Sure, he showed why he’s been a productive player on Friday nights. He’s lightning quick, long and stronger than most of his opponents realize. However, recently he recorded a 29 on the ACT and that is what really sets him apart. He’s focused on the game and his studies. His intelligence bleeds into his play, as he posses a high football IQ.

Clayton Knight - QB - West Point

No one connected with receivers downfield better than Clayton Knight on Saturday at ICC. He was also able to put zip on some of the intermediate passes to fit them into tight spaces. It was an impressive showing for the newest addition to the West Point offense, that already features star quality with Marcus Murphy, Chris Calvert, DeMarrio Edwards and others. Knight is known for his elusiveness in the pocket and ability to extend plays on Friday nights. At Fortius he showed that he is even more dangerous throwing the rock when he’s able to set and deliver, which is an impressive feat considering how accurate he is on the run.

Natrone Brooks - DB - Starkville

The buzz from most receivers on Saturday was that the rising junior was the best cover man on the defensive side. Brooks blanketed pass catchers and dared the quarterback to throw it his way. He got a hand on every pas that came his way, it seemed. He posses good size, but his timing and leaping ability make him play much taller than he actually is. The Starkville defense is loaded with talent that will play at the next level and Brooks is no execption.

DT Thompson - LB - Oxford

I asked Thompson on Saturday if he was a safety, he laughed and said, “everyone says that.” He replied, “I’m a linebacker.” However, the Oxford High defender’s play did not back up his words. He seemed comfortable in coverage from sideline-to-sideline against an impressive group of skill guys. Thompson will be an impact player next season for a Charger defensive unit that just keeps getting better year after year. Thompson and Quentin Wilfawn could prove to be 5A’s best linebacker tandem.

Kegan Huddleston - RB - Shannon

Even after an impressive performance at the very first Fortius Project back on March 5th at Petal that earned him a medal, Huddleston was on a different level on Saturday. He looked so comfortable catching passes, displaying his balance. He timed a 4.42 in the 40-yard dash, an impressive time that far surpassed his first Fortius showing. He displayed what the Fortius camps are about at the core, being better than your last rep. Continuing with the theme, he also appeared to be bigger than he was nearly two months ago in Petal. A breakout season appears to be right there in the reach of Huddleston, which is good news for his new team, the Shannon High Red Raiders.

Vincent McIntosh - ATH - Shannon

Though Vincent McIntosh’s size lends one to believe he will be a dominant defensive tackle in the near future, make no mistakes, Huddleston is coming into McIntosh’s backfield. He was a bruiser last Fall and will compliment his new backfield mate well. On Saturday it was clear that McIntosh has the skillset to be unstoppable in the trenches. His focus could shift to that spot this fall due to it’s likelihood in his future. His strength and his hands serve him well, as do his instincts when he executes his moves.

Jon Burt - ATH - Hernando

Until Kegan Huddleston and Jalen May reeled off 40-yard dash times in the 4.4s, Jon Burt had the fastest time with a 4.6. That set the tone for his day, as he just performed well in each and every area. He was one of the best in the testing period and more than held his own in the competitive portion, as well. Burt has the look of a playmaker and that will certainly benefit Hernando this Fall. Also impressive was his endurance as he never seemed to lose a step all day, while consistently giving max effort.

Cooper Knight - OL - Pontotoc

As with Jamaul Lofton is with Cooper Knight. Those two just seemed like bigger guys than their competition and it showed in their performances. For Knight not only was he able to hold up firm against anyone who opposed him in the trenches, but he was silky smooth with his footwork in agility drills. One of the most humble players in attendance, he was fierce when the compeit

Mitchell Tharp - QB - Mooreville

Saturday was a positive day for the Mooreville football program, because quarterback Mitchell Tharp showed that he will be a star in new head coach John Keith’s offense. Once the rising junior gets a full grasp on the offensive system he’s likely to take the Troopers to another level. He showed solid touch on deep passes Saturday, while making sound, quick decisions on shorter passes.

Jeremy Tate - WR - New Hope

New Hope receiver Jeremy Tate stood out in a big way on Saturday. For a tall, rangy and lanky guy he showed excellent body control. When there was a jump ball, he came down with it. His concentration and hand-eye coordination also appeared to be a cut above most competitors in attendance. His size makes him a serious mismatch, because he can go up and get it, he can run past a defender and he catches everything thrown his way. Tate should develop into one of the state’s best playmakers over the next two seasons.

Jalen May - DB - Houston

The Houston Hilltopper defense is likely to be very stout in 2016. Everyone knows about Tanner Bullock and Johnta Walker, but rising sophomore Jalen May has the look of a potential superstar. His 4.40 40-yard was the fastest of the day, and that was just the beginning of his sensational showing. He seemed comfortable in coverage and had the look of a player who is capable of making plays at any spot on the field. He was one of the most athletic competitors on hand this weekend. It will be exciting watching his development over the seasons to come.


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