September 25, 2007

Smith suffers stunning loss

As four-star athlete Brandon Smith of New Brunswick, N.J., prepared to take his first official visit last weekend to Michigan, he had one more piece of business to take care of at home.

Smith and his teammates had a game against Colonia, N.J., a team led by three-star Rutgers commit Eric LeGrand. What many thought would be an easy victory for New Brunswick, instead turned into a stunning 20-19 defeat.

Despite taking a 13-6 lead into the locker room, New Brunswick was far from crisp. It was a play or two away from breaking the game open. Instead, the Zebras seemed to sleepwalk through the majority of the second half. They took a 19-6 lead after a fumble recovery gave them the ball at the Colonia 13-yard line. What resulted after the third quarter touchdown was something that nobody expected.

LeGrand, who dominated the game on both sides of the ball, rushed for two touchdowns in the final five minutes of the game and finished with 135 yards on 18 carries. After he punched it in from the 2-yard line with 1:25 remaining, the Patriots held off a last ditch effort by New Brunswick.

Smith's pass to Marquise Hamm was batted away as the whistle sounded. It was a stunning defeat for a New Brunswick team which had not lost to a conference opponent since its current coach, John Quinn, took over in 2002.

Smith - a Rivals100 selection - showed the promise expected, but his teammates seemed to lack the energy they needed on the field. Being the playmaker that he is, Smith still finished the game with a touchdown pass, a touchdown run, an interception and a fumble recovery. However, when the game really mattered in the fourth quarter he misfired on several opportunities.

As a quarterback, Smith could play in certain systems because he's very athletic, fast and can throw the ball. On the flip side, he's not polished and would need at least two years to learn the position at the next level.

As a safety or linebacker his upside is tremendous. As a potential safety, his likely position, he is a long strider who gets in position quickly and has the instincts to seemingly always be around the ball. He has long arms, closes well and isn't afraid of contact. He's not on the same level as Will Hill from Jersey City (N.J.) St. Peter's and not quite as physical, but he could be a special defensive player in college with the right coaching.

Smith is considering Michigan, Rutgers, Wisconsin, South Carolina, and a host of other schools.

Smith wasn't the only Division I prospect in the game, so we'll take a look at a few of the other players who stood out last weekend.


Eric LeGrand: While Smith came into this game receiving most of the hype, it was LeGrand who walked away with the accolades after the victory. At 6 feet 3 and 240 pounds, his runs up the middle softened up New Brunswick's interior line and paved the way for the victory. Even though people will mostly remember his offensive play during this game, he was also the anchor of the Colonia defense. While some have suggested that his future may lie at the defensive tackle position, LeGrand is eager to prove that he has the natural abilities to line up at linebacker at the next level. He proved that despite his hulking size, he does posses the sideline-to-sideline speed and footwork that will give him a chance to succeed as a linebacker. He also plays with a passion that seems to be missing in a lot of players nowadays. LeGrand is committed to Rutgers.

New Brunswick

Defensive end Marquise Hamm: While not as celebrated as Smith, Hamm has all the tools to be a very good college defensive end. At 6 feet 4 and 220 pounds, Hamm plays bigger than his size. It is almost impossible to run to the outside of his end. Colonia's game plan involved running the ball up the middle, which was a good move. Anytime the Patriots tried the outside, Hamm was a tackling machine. Hamm also has upside as a tight end, but he's more special as a defensive lineman. He still has a few academic hurdles to cross, but in the meantime he holds offers from Colorado, Syracuse, Temple, Akron, and Toledo.

Athlete Paul Vigo: Similar to Smith and Hamm in his versatility, Vigo lines up all over the field for the Zebras. While versatility is a good thing, it's still difficult to figure out what position he will play at the next level. He seems to lack the necessary burst as the lead running back, so his future seems to lie at either the safety or linebacker position. For New Brunswick, he mainly lines up as either an outside linebacker or even a defensive end opposite of Hamm. He has a good nose for the ball and shows good pursuit, which also makes it very difficult for the opposition to run to the outside. Vigo currently holds an offer from Colorado, and is receiving interest from Boston College, UConn, Syracuse, and Rutgers.

Linebacker Javar Nail (2009): The junior linebacker has a very fitting last name - he likes to lay the hammer down. Playing between Hamm and Vigo, he gets a number of opportunities and usually makes the most of them. Nail, 6 feet 2 and 200 pounds, still needs to improve his lateral speed and strength but overall he has the talent to make him a player to watch in the junior class.

Offensive/defensive lineman Dante Weaver (2010): At 6 feet 3 and 320 pounds, Weaver is definitely a name to remember - especially since he's only a sophomore. The lineman actually saw action on the varsity level as a freshman, and has progressed nicely since then. He has very good balance and leverage for a player of his size, and is a surprisingly impressive athlete. Weaver does need to work on his quickness out of his set position, but that should be something that improves over time. It's still too early to tell if he'll end up on the offensive or defensive side of the ball, but the potential is definitely there for him to succeed at either.


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