SOUTHLAKE, Texas -- Despite a cold and dreary day, it was a star-studded cast at the Dallas Under Armour combine. Some of the state's top prospects were in attendance, including Texas CB commit and Watch List cornerback Bryson Echols (DeSoto, Texas/DeSoto), who earned an Under Armour All-America Game invitation with his outstanding performance.
Echols showcases premier talent
On film, Echols reminds us of former Under Armour All-American and current FSU standout Greg Reid. Echols has a similar, non-imposing frame and also possesses the same type of savvy and awareness that Reid showcased at the prep level. Echols flashes comparable quickness and footwork and should emerge as one of the top corners in this class. On Sunday, the Texas commit tested very well (4.5 40 and a 4.25 shuttle) on a cold and wet surface and showed great feet, fluid hips and sharp change-of -direction during drills. He shut down opposing receivers during 1-on-1s using a variety of skills. Echols transitions cleanly without any wasted motion, is very balanced in his footwork and pedal, and direct out his breaks with good burst on the ball. There is no questioning his speed either. DeSoto coach Claude Mathis said he clocked his talented corner at a blazing 10.4 split in the 4x100 meter relay on Saturday. Like Reid, Echols' best asset may be his competitiveness. The future Longhorn did not have much to prove, but competed like it was a game situation.
The next star at DeSoto
DeSoto High School produces top prospects in the state each year and could have one of the premier backs in 2013 in Dontre Wilson. He looked very good running through the RB stations and showed the balance and burst that has already landed him a handful of verbal offers, but it was during the passing segment that the speedy back looked like a future ESPN 150 prospect. The rising junior put on a clinic during 1-on-1 passing drills. He was very fluid in and out of his breaks and showed excellent explosion and burst separating to track down vertical throws on wheel routes. His hands and concentration were equally impressive. On tape, he can make defenders miss. He can also get downhill and run with deceptive strength between the tackles. He's still lean but should emerge as one of the best in the state next fall if he can continue to physically develop.
Good battles in the trenches
Defensive end Michael Richardson (DeSoto, Texas/DeSoto) came into the combine committed to Texas A&M and with the label as one of the better 3-4 outside linebackers prospects in the state, and maybe nationally. The tall and rangy athlete definitely showed why with a few effortless swims and inside counters utilizing his great wingspan and quickness off the ball. However, he was challenged by a 2013 prospect with an extremely bright future in Jake Raulerson (Celina, Texas/Celina). Raulerson, 6-foot-4 and 231-pounds, is young but has a huge frame to grow into and is naturally very strong and athletic. When matched up on Richardson, he short-set well to mirror the quick end off the line and also worked him outside the pocket on one occasion, showing good footwork and agility sliding his feet and stalemating the upfield rush. On the final rep between the two, Richardson demonstrated why he is of the better outside rushers in this class and utilized his great speed-to-power bullrushing moves and sending the off-balance Raulerson back into the quarterback. Keep your eye on Raulerson, though. He did not back down during 1-on-1s and could develop into one of the better tackles in the state next year if he can fill out his frame and retain his good agility.
Skyline duo showing off their strength
Receiver Thomas Johnson (Dallas/Skyline) and outside linebacker Peter Jinkens (Dallas/Skyline), both Texas commits, were limited in participation but did show off some great strength during the testing stage. Thomas, an Under Armour All-American, is coming off an injury-plagued junior season that showed flashes of explosive, game-breaking talent. He certainly looked the part on Sunday and appears to have added some size and strength to his wiry frame from last fall. With his teammates chanting, he pushed out 13 reps of 185 pounds on the bench press, which is very good strength for a junior receiver and an asset he'll need at the next level to break the press of bigger college corners. The dynamic Jinkens, who played running back out of necessity for Skyline last year as well as linebacker, the position we feel he'll play in college, also looked great on the hoof and rangier in person than he does in pads. He is muscular with a lot of room to add bulk and also posted and impressive 13 reps on the bench.
More than numbers
Keep your eye on outside linebacker Alex Lyons (DeSoto, Texas/DeSoto) as his recruiting stock should improve during the spring evaluation period. The ESPNU 150 Watch List prospect has good measurables and posted solid testing times, but what really stood out was his coverage skills, range and ability to play in space for a thicker linebacker. He currently holds just one offer (Kansas State), but that should change in the upcoming months.
• Running back Russell Hansbrough (Arlington, Texas/Bowie) looks like a three-star prospect on film but showed four-star hands and receiver skills on Sunday that should allow for good all-purpose production at the major college level.
• Safety Jordon Smith (DeSoto, Texas/DeSoto) appears to have become more fluid through the hips since last fall. He really moved well in coverage and was difficult to create separation on.
• Receiver Kiante Griffin (Carrollton, Texas/Hebron) appears back to full strength and demonstrated the same skill-set we have seen on film. He's a tall, physically imposing wideout without a lot of flash who should produce as a red zone and possession receiver at the next level.
• Running back Devin Rushing (DeSoto, Texas/DeSoto) showed good all-around ability and will likely develop into a complementary and utility back at the mid-major level.
• Receiver Deion Sanders Jr. (Flower Mound, Texas/Marcus) showed some primetime grabs. Overall, he's a smooth athlete with solid speed but lacks great height and overall measurables at this point to attract a lot of major level attention.
• Running back Nicholas Davis (Prosper, Texas) was one of the biggest surprises of the day. The little known back is really slight in stature but posted a 4.5 40 and outstanding 6.9 3-cone drill on a slippery surface. He also displayed great receiving skills during 1-on-1s.
• Receiver Tray Rabon (Dallas/Skyline) has good measurables and a strong overall frame that he utilized well to create positioning. Likely a three-star range prospect who has better intangibles at the position, like finding the soft spots, than true speed.
• Cornerback Shelton Sessions(Dallas/Skyline) broke well in coverage and showed good quickness in portions of testing. He also had a more solid frame than expected.
Billy Tucker is a recruiting coordinator for ESPN Recruiting and has close to a decade of coaching experience at the college and high school levels.