Eager group arrives for Gridiron Kings
Safety Shaq Thompson of West team doesn't make trip because of injury
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Sixty-four of the nation's top skill-position players checked in Friday at ESPN's Wide World of Sports for the third annual ESPN RISE Games Gridiron Kings event.
The top quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties are brought together for three days, and divided into teams based on region: West, Southwest, Southeast and Midwest.
The Southeast team won the seven-on-seven championship the first two years. This year's Southeast team is led by safety Travis Blanks (Tallahassee, Fla./North Florida Christian), ranked No. 11 overall in the ESPNU 150. Blanks is a Clemson commitment.
The Southwest team counters with the top wide receiver in attendance, Texas commitment Cayleb Jones (Austin, Texas/S.F. Austin). He's ranked No. 2 at his position and No. 21 overall.
The West team will be without safety Shaq Thompson (Sacramento, Calif./Grant), who ESPN Rise has been told is out because of an injury. But wide receiver Bryce Treggs (Inglewood, Calif./St. John Bosco), MVP at The Opening event in Beaverton, Ore., is slated to be here.
What follows is a blog/notebook that was compiled throughout the day as players arrived.
Big TE trims to three
6:05 p.m. ET -- Big tight end Ron Thompson (Eastpointe, Mich./East Detroit) is closing in on his decision. Thompson, 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, is down to a trio of schools.
"I like Michigan, Syracuse and Maryland," Thompson said. "I will plan on committing sometime before the season.
"I love the energetic staff of Michigan. It's close to home, and I feel pretty good about them. It's the same thing with Maryland. They are young and trying to get back on the map. I love the coaching staff at Syracuse. I feel like I can see myself there."
Thompson, the No. 18-rated tight end in the nation, knows what he's looking for in his school choice.
"I want to play somewhere I feel most comfortable and know where I can spend my time for a few years," he said.
Clemson leads for 2013 QB
5:58 p.m. -- Riley Ferguson (Matthews, N.C./Butler) is one of the top quarterback prospects in the class of 2013. According to Ferguson, he has four scholarship offers and one leader at this time.
"Clemson is at the top of my list, and they have offered," Ferguson said. "LSU, Virginia Tech and Michigan have also offered. Those are the schools that are really looking at me very hard. There is something special about Clemson. There's just something about them. I have a great feeling when I go there. I feel like that college is my home."
Ferguson, 6-2 and 190 pounds, is one of two rising junior quarterbacks here at Gridiron Kings. The other is Shane Morris, who has committed to Michigan.
Morgan names three he wants to visit
5:41 p.m. -- Defensive back Wayne Morgan (Brooklyn, N.Y./Erasmus Hall) is nowhere near a decision, but this four-star prospect knows three official visits he would like to make this fall.
"More schools are involved," Morgan said. "I have not cut down schools and I am open to any schools that offer me. I am serious about South Carolina, Rutgers, UConn and some others. I would like to officially visit South Carolina, Alabama and Miami. Those are the three I want to see."
Morgan, 5-11 and 184 pounds, is the No. 11-ranked cornerback in the nation.
5:25 p.m. -- A year ago, linebacker Ukeme Eligwe was watching the Gridiron Kings from his home in Stone Mountain, Ga. Now he can't believe he's here at Disney World as a participant.
"I am really proud, and this is going to be an amazing experience," Eligwe said. "I saw some of it on TV last year and I wondered what I would have to do to get there. Well, I am here and God gets the glory. I am so glad to be a part of it."
Eligwe, 6-2 and 208 pounds, is an ESPNU 150 member and the No. 3 inside linebacker prospect in the nation. He has committed to FSU and can't believe the talent Jimbo Fisher and the Seminoles are collecting.
"The coaches are doing a great job," Eligwe said. "That's one of the reasons I committed to them because you have to play with a great team. The guys they are getting together are really good. I can't wait to hit the field and see what we can do."
Rippy looks to narrow list
4:59 p.m. -- Linebacker Deaysean Rippy (McKees Rock, Pa./Sto-Rox) is nowhere close to a decision. This 6-2, 210-pound four-star recruit is hoping to narrow things down sometime next month.
"My family and I are discussing what schools I want to look at and visit," Rippy said. "I am hoping to know in about two weeks and have a good idea where I want to go visit and get it down to a top seven or a top five. LSU, USC, Alabama, Florida, UCLA and a whole bunch of schools out there have offered me. I have to choose which one is the best for me."
A problem for Rippy is that he's hoping to graduate in December and enroll at his college of choice in January.
"I hope to decide sooner rather later," Rippy said.
No recruiting zone
4:35 p.m. -- Bryson Echols (DeSoto, Texas/DeSoto) is a highly rated Texas commit. The 5-9, 165-pound cornerback is a member of the ESPNU 150 and currently the nation's No. 6-ranked cornerback prospect. The Longhorns nabbed a good one.
"When I went to Texas, the day before junior day, I loved the environment, the coaches and the people," Echols said. "I loved everything about it. I am bringing them coverage skill and leadership."
Many of the prospects, especially ones who commit early, love to wear the recruiter hats for the respective schools. That's not what Echols likes to do.
"I am not a big recruiter," Echols said. "That's Cayleb Jones and the other guys' job. I try to get people now and then but I'm not much of a recruiter."
Speed and brains
4:22 p.m. -- ESPNU 150 athlete Braylon Addison (Missouri City, Texas/Hightower) is part of the Texas A&M 2012 commitment class. Like the others headed to College Station, he's excited about the future of A&M football.
"It was the fact that when I went down there I just fell in love with the people and coaches," Addison said. "And I have friends there. It's also only an hour away from home.
"Coach [Mike] Sherman is turning that program around. This is his fourth season, and ever since he came in, you can see the changes. The 2012 class is wrapping up, and we are helping them recruit. We are becoming a family and keeping it tight. There is a lot of special things happening right now [for Texas A&M]."
That's something you certainly can sense among the A&M commits.
"We do have a bond," Addison said. "We are from Houston and see each other out. A lot of us have known each other for a while. We have a brotherhood and pass that along to the other guys looking at A&M. We try and make it like a family and make them as comfortable as we are."
Addison brings much to the table for the Aggies. He's a super wide receiver prospect. But he's more than just an athlete.
"I feel like before anything, I am a smart player," Addison said. "I love the film room. I am very competitive and love to win. As long as we are winning, that will rub off on my teammates. I am all about the team and winning."
Addison is the No. 19-rated receiver and the No. 135 recruit overall.
Siren call of the SEC
4:14 p.m. -- Cyrus Jones is one of the most coveted prospects in the country regardless of position. This four-star athlete is a dominant player just about wherever he lines up. In high school, he plays in the slot, at running back and at quarterback for the Wildcat formation. Defensively he's a top-notch cornerback.
"I have no preference," Jones said. "I am just a playmaker and try and make the plays to help my team. I do like the ball in my hands but there's nothing wrong with covering guys and stopping them from getting the ball in their hands."
Jones has been wide open with the recruiting process from day one. While he's still looking at 10 schools, two stand out above that crowd.
"My two top schools are Auburn and Alabama," Jones said. "It's kind of ironic they are in same state. I really like both. They both have a great atmosphere and coaches. And it's the highest level of competition, the SEC, and that's what I look forward to."
Jones has a plan and knows what he's looking for when he makes his decision.
"First and foremost are academics," Jones said. "I believe in setting yourself up for life after football. I am looking for great people, great football and great coaches. I want to play for people that push you to your limit. I will make my decision sometime after the season but not necessarily at signing day."
Jones, 5-10 and 180 pounds, is the No. 4-ranked athlete and the No. 35 player overall.
Decision coming soon
3:50 p.m. -- Russell Hansbrough (Arlington, Texas/Bowie) could be close to his decision. Hansbrough, 5-8 and 175 pounds, is one of the top running backs from Texas, and he could make his decision sometime next week.
"Right now it's just Arizona State," Hansbrough said. "I am taking a visit on the 30th, next week. I should be pretty close. It will be my first visit to ASU. I keep in contact with them a lot. That's the only school that really showed a lot of love. That's what I really love. I am probably going to make a decision down there."
Hansbrough is a three-star recruit and the country's No. 42 running back. Like everyone participating at Gridiron Kings this weekend, he's excited to be here.
"It's an honor to be invited to play with these top players," Hansbrough said. "It truly is."
3:28 p.m. -- Shane Morris (Warren, Mich./De La Salle) made a quick decision. This rising junior signal-caller knew all along where he wanted to play his college football. The offer came, and he jumped all over it. It was Michigan, and the Wolverines now have their future quarterback.
"I just thought it was somewhere I always wanted to go since I was a little kid and it was the only school I was looking to go to," Morris said. "Once they offered me, I knew. So I said why not? So I went for it and committed."
Morris is elated to play for his dream school, now headed by a brand-new regime under Brady Hoke.
"I am just ecstatic," Morris said. "Michigan has outstanding people, and they are so personal. As a coaching staff, they are one of the best and they are getting to know their players. What they are doing with their offense is something I want to do."
Morris, 6-3 and 183 pounds, believes he can help Michigan regain past glory.
"I have a strong arm," Morris said. "I have an accurate arm as well. I can move in the pocket although I am more of a pro-style quarterback that can run a little bit, too. I bring leadership to Michigan and I want to be the best we can be and bring championships to Michigan."
Morris is also active on the recruiting front. He is working social media and other outlets hard.
"I am already working my tail off for [the] 2012 class," Morris said. "I am trying to get the top players in [the] nation to help us win championships. I am hitting up kids every day on Facebook, linemen all across [the] nation. I am looking for the best players and people to come to Michigan."
3:10 p.m. -- ESPNU 150 receiver Thomas Johnson (Dallas/Skyline) came to Disney World and Gridiron Kings for one thing, and that's to win. Along the way, he hopes to have some fun here and there.
"Well, the focus is to have fun first," Jefferson said. "But it's not a vacation for me. I look at it like a business trip but to also have a little fun."
Johnson, the nation's No. 4 receiver, is headed to Texas.
"Texas has a wonderful receiver coach," Johnson said. "I love their environment, players and coaching staff. It kind of felt like home."
Johnson is excited about the future of Texas football, and he likes the new coaches Mack Brown brought in during the offseason.
"All the new coaches seem to have youth about them and they don't seem uptight," Johnson said. "They have fun and know what they are doing. It should be fun to watch the upcoming season. They should do well."
Johnson, 6-0 and 180 pounds, thinks his versatility can help out in Austin.
"I do have a lot of versatility," Johnson said. "I can return kicks and punts, and I can play in the slot or the outside. It doesn't matter. I have speed and can run routes."
Johnson is happy to play with fellow ESPNU 150 receiver Cayleb Jones, although the two haven't talked much about their future at Texas.
"We text now and then to see how we are doing but rarely talk on phone," Johnson said. "I will call him and get together. We have never really had a conversation like that, about playing together."
Johnson is ranked No. 36 overall in the ESPNU 150.
2:50 p.m. -- Four-star athlete Corey Coleman (Richardson, Texas/J.J. Pearce) can't wait to get on the Baylor campus. He also hopes he gets the opportunity to play with Bears signal-caller Robert Griffin.
""I like the coaches at Baylor," Coleman said. "I went there and it felt like home. It was the best feeling. I am hoping I get to play for Robert Griffin for a year. Hopefully.
"It came down to me and how I felt about the colleges. I went to a lot of colleges and I like Baylor the best."
Regardless, the 5-11, 175-pound wideout gets to play in a spread offense at Baylor. That to him is a big positive regardless of who is the future quarterback.
"I am receiver, and that's a spread offense," Coleman said. "Who wouldn't want to play in that and get a lot of balls thrown their way. I can't wait."
Coleman is here at Disney World and part of the Southwest team for Gridiron Kings.
"I am pretty excited, and this is going to be a great experience," Coleman said. "There are a lot of great athletes from across the country, and I came ready to play, to give it 100 percent and give it my all."
2:38 p.m. -- Corey Jones (Pittsburgh/Penn Hills) said he has a dozen offers and that his preference would be to stay somewhere near his hometown.
"The offers are mostly from the Big East," Jones said. "I have a couple from the Big Ten."
Jones, though, does have a dream school.
"I'd go to LSU if they offered," Jones said.
Umm, Corey, you're aware that Baton Rouge is not exactly a down and out route from Pittsburgh, right?
"That's just a school that ever since I was little I've loved," Jones said. "Just watching TV, you can tell it's a great atmosphere."
1:50 p.m. -- ESPNU 150 running back Trey Williams (Houston/Andy Dekaney) can't wait to get to his new home: Texas A&M. This Aggies commit is excited to play for coach Mike Sherman, his staff and his offense.
"It's just a blessing," Williams said. "Every time I have been to A&M, they are warm and welcoming, it's a great atmosphere, and they are always supporting me. It felt like family and a good community.
"They are talking about running me in a pro [offense] and the I [formation]. I like Sherman. He's more of an old-school coach who has been in the NFL. I took that in mind as well. I am bringing them versatility. I can catch, run and find the holes. Any offense works for me, and I will take advantage of what they give me."
Williams is one of many higher-profile recruits headed to College Station. Texas A&M is off to a great start in 2012, with 20 commitments thus far and a current team ranking of No. 8 nationally by ESPN.
"We have been out recruiting. I helped get Braylon [Addison]. A lot of us have known each other since we were little. We have to recruit and we have to get that five-star status," Williams said.
Williams, a four-star running back prospect, is ranked No. 9 at his position and No. 132 overall.
At home in Austin
1:35 p.m. -- Texas commit Timothy Cole (Brenham, Texas/Brenham) is ready for the transition from high school football in Brenham to Austin. He's also ready for the new Longhorns staff on the defensive side of the ball.
"What sold me on Texas was the family feel," Cole said. "I'm at home there, and it's where I wanted to be for five years. I want to help the team out and win a championship. I met [new Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz], and he's a real cool guy with high energy. He's going to come in and help the defense out a lot."
Cole, 6-2 and 215 pounds, says he's part of the new breed of linebacker that's headed to Austin.
"That's right," Cole said. "My strengths are the ability to tackle, cover and I have sideline-to-sideline quickness."
Cole is a four-star recruit and the No. 25-ranked OLB in the country.
1:22 p.m. -- You can tell cornerback Devante Harris (Mesquite, Texas/Horn) is excited to be an Oklahoma Sooner. He was decked out in a new OU haircut (OU shaved in his hair) and Sooners hat.
"They recruited me the hardest, and it was the best fit," Harris said. "I just want to go there and make an impact and do my thing."
One of the big reasons Harris picked Oklahoma was Sooners coach Bob Stoops.
"Stoops is a legend," Harris said. "I can't wait to go out and play for him. Playing in his system will be a great experience. After meeting him, I know he's a cool guy and very down to earth."
Harris, a four-star corner, has had a busy summer, participating at The Opening earlier this month and now at Gridiron Kings.
"I am very excited," Harris said. "It's a great chance to compete against the best. It's been a very fun summer. It's a blessing to come here to compete. There are some great players across the country. It's the best against the best."
12:55 p.m. -- ESPNU 150 safety P.J. Williams (Ocala, Fla./Vanguard) is excited. He's excited to be a part of the Southeast team at Gridiron Kings and excited to be a Florida State Seminole.
"I am anxious and can't wait," Williams said. "I think we can win it."
Williams has been a longtime commit to FSU. It's his dream to play for the Garnet and Gold.
"That's been my school ever since I was little," Williams said. "I couldn't wait for an offer. I camped last summer. They gave me an offer, and I committed on the spot. It's a good program and a rising program. Everything is going well."
Williams also knows Jimbo Fisher and the Florida State staff have been recruiting on another level.
"It's very exciting, and everything is going great there," Williams said. "Hopefully we can win a national championship in the next two years and get an ACC championship this year for sure."
Williams, 6-0 and 180 pounds, is the No. 6-rated safety in the country and No. 112 overall.
"I bring a lot -- fast, can cover any receiver, have good footwork, and come down and make the tackle," Williams said. "I do it all back there in the secondary."
Jones on Texas trail
12:35 p.m -- ESPNU 150 wide receiver Cayleb Jones has been a longtime commitment to the University of Texas. Jones, the nation's No. 2-rated receiver, has been active on the recruiting front for Mack Brown and the Longhorns.
Who's on his target list?
Jones is a 6-foot-2, 195-pound wideout who committed to Texas in February. It wasn't a hard decision.
"Texas is just a place where everyone is successful," he said.
Jones will be playing wide receiver for the Southwest team at Gridiron Kings.
12:05 p.m. -- Rayshawn Jenkins (St. Petersburgh, Fla./Admiral Farragut), a South Florida commitment, was the first player to arrive. He is one of four Bulls commitments scheduled to take part here.
"I played with Sean Price at the seven-on-seven at South Florida," Jenkins said of one of his future teammates who also is here. "He's a big-bodied tight end."
Jenkins said he's excited about the direction of the Bulls under Skip Holtz.
"It's a rising program, and the coaches are good people," Jenkins said.
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