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December 2, 2012

Adidas Showcase: What we learned

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Rivals.com Midwest analyst Josh Helmholdt was at the Pontiac Silverdome in Michigan on Saturday for the Adidas Showcase. Here is what he learned from the first camp of the off-season.

Webb establishing himself as top DB

The 2013 defensive back class is deep in the Midwest, but the region's 2014 class is noticeably lighter at the position when it comes to top-end talent. Detroit Cass Tech cornerback Damon Webb is one of the few national-level defensive back recruits in the Midwest in 2014, and he continued to put distance between himself and the next-closest defensive back prospects with his play on Saturday.

A week before Saturday's showcase, Webb tallied four solo tackles, picked off a pass and forced a fumble that he recovered in Cass Tech's Division I state final win over Detroit Catholic Central. He added two catches for 53 yards in that game.

Webb was one of two position MVP's at defensive back out of the Adidas Showcase, and he likely would have won overall MVP at the event were it awarded. His father says Damon is 6-foot and 175 pounds, but he looks even bigger than that. He has definitely put on good muscle mass since we first saw him at this event a year ago.

What separated Webb from the other players at the event, and has separated him from the other defensive backs in the Midwest, are his ball skills and playmaking ability. He used his length and speed to step in front of pass after pass in one-on-one play Saturday. Even though there was solid wide receiver talent at the event, no one could provide a challenge to the four-star cornerback.

As a cornerback, Cleveland (Ohio) Glenville's Marshon Lattimore could be considered in Webb's territory, but Lattimore is technically an athlete prospect and could end up at wide receiver in college. When you put together his size, length, speed, instincts, ball skills and playmaking ability, Webb has more than justified his ranking as the Midwest's top defensive back.

Detroit-area juniors rallying

Two prospects in attendance Saturday who are seeing some post-junior movement with their recruitments are Southfield, Mich., defensive end Lawrence Marshall and Clarkston, Mich., defensive back Timothy Cason.

The 6-foot-4, 205-pound Marshall is up to eight scholarship offers after adding Michigan, Pittsburgh and Syracuse last week. Marshall called the Michigan offer his biggest to date because he grew up following the Wolverines. He has connections to Syracuse through former Southfield and current Orange tight end Ron Thompson. Marshall said that Syracuse assistant Tyrone Wheatley has been recruiting him as long as any college coach.

Cason has offers from Bowling Green and Toledo. There was talk that Michigan State had offered him, but I have heard the Spartans have said at this time that an offer is forthcoming and it is not official yet. Cason plans to visit Michigan State for a bowl practice this week, and he is trying to make it to Indiana and Nebraska for visits this month. He cited Nebraska as the school that has picked up its recruitment of him most in recent weeks.

Young linemen developing

One of the more encouraging developments from Saturday's showcase was the development of several young linemen whom we had not seen since the off-season. Tops among them was Alma, Mich., junior offensive tackle Curtis Doyle. We last saw Doyle in May at the Michigan Elite Camp and he showed promise, but the 6-foot-6, 310-pounder has stepped up his game since. His footwork was much improved, and he dominated every defensive lineman he faced in one-on-ones.

Yale, Mich., junior offensive guard Derek Brown is another we were very familiar with coming into Saturday's event, and he fared well in the one-on-one segment also. The 6-foot-4, 295-pound Brown is a guard prospect at the college level. He lined up mostly at tackle during one-on-ones, and some of the speedier defensive ends got by him on occasion, but for the most part, Brown handled opposing pass rushers with ease despite playing out of position.

On the defensive side of the football, Detroit Cass Tech sophomore Joshua Alabi is starting to realize just how talented he can be. There was a lot of progression from the 6-foot-4, 245-pound defender during the course of his sophomore season, and on Saturday he was playing fast and physical at the point of attack. Alabi is pretty raw, but he has the skill set to be a high Division I talent.

If there was an unknown prospect who emerged as a player to watch among the defensive linemen, it was 6-foot-5, 220-pound class of 2015 defensive end Jacob Miller out of Detroit Northwestern. Miller tallied seven sacks as a varsity starter this fall and has the length to be a factor on the edge. He will need some seasoning, but he showed flashes and ran a 4.95 40-yard dash in testing.

Weber builds on title success

With starter Gary Hosey limited by an injury, sophomore Mikey Weber stepped in at running back for Detroit Cass Tech in its state title game on Nov. 24 and responded with 186 yards on 20 carries to help lead the Technicians to their second straight state title.

Weber's performance was not unexpected. He had seen his touches in a backup role increase throughout the year and was being touted as a future high Division I talent. The 5-foot-10, 195-pound Weber is a compact, muscular, low-center-of-gravity ball carrier with great agility and the ability to run defenders over when needed.

One question we got answered about Weber on Saturday was about the sophomore's speed. It was a fast track inside the Pontiac Silverdome, but Weber's 40-yard dash times of 4.45 and 4.47 were still among the best on the day. Running backs are limited in what they can show in a camp setting, but we saw Weber catch a few passes as he showed a nice pair of hands to complement his running skill.



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