Photo by Derrick Mahone / The Dutchtown rising junior is one of those who showed breakthrough potential during summer workouts.
Summer 7-on-7 passing leagues and tournaments offensive/defensive linemen camps have become such a staple in high school football summer conditioning, that it's almost as common now as players taking to the weight room.
And while some coaches bristle at the long term effectiveness of the summer time simulations, others believe the drills can provide a bit of a prophetic glance at which skill position players might emerge.
We take a look at several players, in no particular order, whom we believe have flashed enough ability during the summer to be potential difference makers in the fall.
Malik Barkley (Dutchtown)
The rising junior has dedicated much time in the weight room to adding bulk to his 5-foot-10 frame without losing any speed or quickness. A broadening of his shoulders is a good thing, because there may not be a player in the Southern Crescent wgi will be asked to carry a larger load for his football team this fall than Barkley. As a sophomore, Barkley accumulated 620 all-purpose yards — 339 rushing and 281 receiving — in a very Donavahn Jones-Will Smith based offense. Both Jones and Smith have graduated, and K’lin Epps, a rising sophomore is likely to win the top job behind center. That means new coach Kevin Jones will be asking Barkley to shoulder the load offensively for the Bulldogs. Barkley said he wants a breakout season in 2013, and he’ll likely have plenty of opportunities to carve one out as Dutchtown’s feature back.
Greg Taylor (Riverdale)
Before you witness him take one snap or launch a single pass, you can see that Taylor looks like a quarterback. The 6-foot-3, 210 pound rising senior started the first half of the 2012 season before Asania Aderhold took over the starting job. Aderhold transferred and now Taylor is back solidly at the controls of a retooled offense. The Raiders will employ a spread attack that gives Taylor loads of options, not the least of them, a pair of 6-foot-4 wideouts in Appalachian State commitment Rashad Canty and Gerrard Gober. Taylor looked impressive slinging the ball around this summer against the likes Lovejoy and Stockbridge defensive backs. He definitely passes the eye test.
Maetron Thomas (Stockbridge)
The latest school starting to warm up to the 5-foot-10 speedster should give you a clue as to what kind of potential Thomas has. In addition to offers from Georgia State, Furman, Charlotte and Hampton, West Virginia is starting to show interest. The Mountaineers, with its shotgun spread option offense, has a recent history of utilizing speedy scatback types like Noel Divine, Jahvid Best and Steve Slaton. Thomas totaled a perfect offensive balance last season — 450 rushing and receiving yards each — with 16 total touchdowns. Consistently clocked at 4.4-seconds on the 40 yard dash, he has game-breaking speed, and is the perfect compliment to fellow Tigers tailback Malik Bryant. Thomas has regularly displayed his breakaway ability during the summer sessions.
Jonesboro running backs
As talented as the Cardinals were on the edges last year with graduated skill players Cameron Sutton, Taurean Ferguson and Patrick Petty, coach Tim Floyd expects his offensive backfield to be just as potent. Jonesboro will look to employ a three-headed monster of rising senior Kenneth Hillman, junior Artemus Mithcell and sophomore Montrailious Mosley. All three have shown some exciting moves and quickness, and the ability to make tacklers miss. They possess abilities that can make them instant scoring threats, whether operating out of traditional running formations, or being spread out as slot receivers or catching balls out of the backfield. They are your typical one-cut-and go kind of speed backs.
K’lin Epps (Dutchtown)
Impressing new Dutchtown coach Kevin Jones is not always the easiest thing to do. But Epps has managed to do so at quarterback. The 6-foot, 175 pound rising sophomore has the unenviable task of filling the shoes of Donavahn Jones, now entering his freshman season as a Big Ten quarterback at Minnesota. Passing league drills are often regarded as the ultimate get-to-know-you soiree for evaluating a quarterback’s potential, and though Epps is clearly untested and unseasoned, he showed impressive poise and form while making throws during the Lovejoy summer sessions. Granted, there were no defensive ends screaming around the edge at him, and any linebacker on the field was in pass coverage, instead of blitzing. But Jones is impressed with Epps’ zeal for knowledge of the game and his overall decision-making at such a young point in his career.