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March 3, 2012

What to watch: NLA Elite 7v7

MORE: New Level/Badger Sports events

ATLANTA - The New Level Athletics Elite 7v7 takes place Saturday and Sunday in the metro-Atlanta area at Roswell Centennial High, and will include dozens of top prospects. Rivals.com Southeast analyst Keith Niebuhr will attend the event and previews five things he is looking forward to seeing.

1. Back attack: Team Georgia has a backfield that most colleges would be envious of. The headliner is Alabama commit Tyren Jones, a Rivals250 prospect from Marietta (Ga.) Walton. He rushed for over 2,000 yards in 2011 and is a player who combines good power with excellent vision and nice speed. One of his teammates this weekend, Keyante Green of McDonough, (Ga.) Eagle's Landing Christian, recently committed to UCLA. Another, Kamani Thomas of Dallas (Ga.) East Paulding, has a handful of offers from programs in major conferences. Playing in seven-on-seven events such as this should be beneficial to each as they look to become more complete backs. In high school, they typically only get the ball on rush attempts. But this format makes them work on their receiving skills.

2. Secondary Schooling: The event features several high-quality defensive backs, and two of them will be playing for Team Georgia. That would be cornerbacks Darius Curry of Flowery Branch (Ga.) and Shaquille Wiggins of Tyrone (Ga.) Sandy Creek. Curry is a big, physical defender who checks in at 6 feet 1, 182 pounds. Right now, he holds offers from teams in five different conferences. Wiggins, a Georgia commit, is one of the most compelling prospects in the Peach State. Because he weighs approximately 160 pounds, Wiggins must gain weight and add strength moving forward. What he doesn't lack, though, are instincts. This is a corner who always seems to be where he needs to be.

The team dubbed the Goon Squad has two pretty good defensive backs of its own. Brendan Langley is a strong, long and quick 6-foot-1, 185-pound cornerback from Marietta (Ga.) Kell. His stocks has soared in recent weeks as schools such as Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt have all offered. The 'Dawgs appear to be his leader at the moment. Meanwhile, class-of-2014 safety Edward Paris of Mansfield (Texas) Timberview already claims offers from LSU and SMU. He's 6-feet, 188 pounds and is said to have excellent speed. Having two difference-makers in the secondary on the same team is never a bad thing.

3. South Florida skill: Defensive end/linebacker Isaac McDonald of Hialeah (Fla.) Champagnat Catholic, who is on the list of attendees, will be one of the most heavily recruited prospects on hand. He holds offers from several schools, including Clemson, Louisville, North Carolina, South Carolina, Stanford and West Virginia. The 6-6, 205-pound McDonald is extremely athletic, and he will have to be in this format, where he'll be used solely in coverage. Given his size, it will be interesting to see how well he drops and turns.

4. The Arms Race: In 11-man football, a team can win without great quarterback play. Not so in seven on seven, which is all about the passing game and so much falls on the signal caller's shoulders. In this event, the most well-known of the quarterbacks is Marietta (Ga.) Lassiter junior Eddie Printz, a UCLA commit that has good size and reads defenses quite well. Printz also is a veteran of the seven-on-seven circuit, so he understands the value of spreading the ball around and can recognize when he needs to bail on a deeper route and settle for the underneath stuff. Oshay Carter of Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian is another of the quarterbacks to watch. He's a 6-3, 235-pound dual-threat guy who has an offer from Rice.

5. Crabcakes and football: The state of Maryland will be well-represented, and one of its top prospects, receiver Taivon Jacobs of District Heights (Md.) Suitland, will be competing. Jacobs, who did well at the recent U.S. Army National Combine, has early offers from East Carolina, Hawaii, Maryland, North Carolina, North Carolina State and West Virginia. At 5-10, 165 pounds, Jacobs is a little thin, but he does possess excellent speed. As a junior, he accounted for 930 receiving yards and nearly the same amount on returns. Because of his jets, he is a true homerun threat that is capable of scoring any time he touches the football. Linebacker Marvin Gross of Baltimore Dunbar is another strong player from Maryland. Rutgers is among the schools that have offered.

Keith Niebuhr can be reached at Keithrivals@yahoo.com. You can follow him on Twitter @KeithRIVALS.



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