High School Spring Ball: 7-on-7's

High School Spring Ball: 7-on-7's

It's about time that spring ball for the local high schools kicked off. Most teams began practicing last week, but a couple, including Skyline and Eastlake began their practices on Monday and the Spartans hosted a three-team 7-on-7 camp that also included Evergreen (Seattle). Some of the top passing combos in the state were on display. Here's what we saw.

Between the three schools, Evergreen is the one that usually runs out of a pro set while the other two mainly run out of a shotgun/spread set.

Evergreen

Evergreen's Luther Leonard (2008) is a quarterback we've been talking about for a while and just watching him walk around the field and the leadership he shows is impressive. What he lacks is consistency.

On one throw, you'll watch him throw a laser beam to one of his wideouts – last night it was to Vincent Cordova (2008) over the middle in-between three Eastlake defenders – and then you'll watch him drop down and throw an ill-advised pass into double-coverage.

His mechanics are the problem, but it isn't like he doesn't know what he's doing. He's been attending the Barton passing camps since he was an eighth-grader and when he's running drills he looks perfect and sound. However, when he gets into full team or 7-on-7 drills, he gets sloppy and his passes can either flutter or they can sail on him. More than one coach has made this observation to me and it was very evident last night.

He made better decisions than last year at this time, but he still has work to do to really refine his quarterbacking skills and lead Evergreen where they are hoping to go.

It also appears as if head coach Shaun Tarantola wants to use his athleticism on defense as well. Leonard lined up several times at corner and displayed why it's going to be a surprise if no D-1 schools at least give him an offer based on his athletic ability alone.

He ran with several Eastlake and Skyline wideouts and physically overmatched a couple of them as well. It will be interesting to watch what happens with him on the recruiting front this fall.

Cordova is an impressive athlete to watch work out. He's huge and he runs well, but he's a bit stiff in and out of his breaks. His hands are also inconsistent, although, according to his coaches he's really worked on this area and he appears to have improved some during the two years I've seen him play.

As mentioned, he made a great catch of a Leonard pass in traffic and outmuscled an Eastlake defender for a deep pass in the back corner of the endzone. He also is an excellent safety prospect and Tarantola said he's the best hitter on the team.

Johnny Jackson (2008) has the look of a good safety prospect this fall. He made a couple of great decisions in coverage and looks to have bulked up over the offseason.

One Evergreen player that is really impressive but is flying under-the-radar right now is LB Corey Laufasa (2008). He makes all the defensive calls and adjustments – you could hear him audible before every snap – and he showed surprising agility for a stocky player.

His lateral movement was also better than I had seen before. If he was a bit taller, he would likely be a high D-1 recruit, but as it is, he's only seeing limited interest from Pac 10 schools right now. He's a sure tackler and very smart, so it will be interesting to see how many offers he gets with a solid senior campaign.

Eastlake

Eastlake QB Ryan Robertson (2008) isn't the most physically gifted quarterback, but what he lacks in athleticism, he makes up for in football smarts and a very good arm.

His command of the Wolves' offense is impressive. He made quick reads and even quicker decisions. Talking to him briefly, his time at the Elite 11 camp a couple of weeks ago really boosted his confidence. He ended up in the first group and he said he's hoping schools step up and take notice.

He hit his favorite target, Cory Mackay (2008) on a deep post several time on Skyline and Evergreen defenders and then looped one to a streaking Taylor Lappano (2008) who took it to the house.

Robertson doesn't have a cannon for an arm, but his footwork is excellent, allowing him to release the ball faster than many quarterbacks his age and he puts just enough on it to get to the receivers before the defensive backs can break on the pass.

Robertson's backup is Drake Furcini (2009). He's an excellent athlete and, according to head coach Gene Dales, Furcini is the fastest player on the team. He'll be used at wideout this fall and look to replace Robertson after this fall.

Furcini looked a bit indecisive a couple of time and delivered the ball late to what, at one point, were open receivers. He has excellent mechanics and threw tight spirals.

Joey Rosanova (2008) will play tight end for the Wolves this fall and Furcini hit him a couple of times on long passes.

Lappano is a player to keep an eye on this fall. He isn't very big, but he's very strong – recently benching 300 pounds – and the coaching staff from Eastlake expect him to have a breakout season as a tailback this fall.

They'll use him as a receiver out of the backfield, on option plays and as a wide receiver in some sets. He's a very versatile player and college coaches tend to like coaches' sons.

Mackay is an impressive athlete all the way around. He goes 6-4, 215 but he has the frame to easily add 25 to 30 pounds and be an excellent receiving tight end at the next level. He also jumps really well (a reported 36-inch vertical) and, while he's certainly not a burner, he gets good separation in his routes and, when he gets his hands on a pass, he rarely if ever drops it.

I'll have an interview with Mackay up Friday, but he's hearing from a few D-1 schools as well as several 1AA programs as well.

OL Drew Schaefer (2008) was also in attendance to show his support.

Skyline

It seems like he should be a senior right now, but Skyline QB Jake Heaps (2010) is only heading into his sophomore season. He's a quarterback prodigy who's been attending the Barton camps pretty much since he could walk.

Heaps was battling the flu bug that's been going around, but he still managed to take as many reps as possible while rotating with QB Eric Biege (2008).

Heaps has good size (6-1.5, 185) and showed an excellent arm on several throws. For having not faced the speed of the varsity players very long, Heaps showed excellent command of the Spartans' offense and he made very quick reads.

He hit his favorite receiver Gino Simone (2009) with a long pass down the sideline, laying the ball perfectly over the outstretched hand of an Eastlake defender for a touchdown.

Heaps basically just needs reps and to gain the confidence of his teammates, which it appears he is well on his way to doing. He's got all the talent and desire you could ask for in a player. He's just really young.

Biege, for his part, also looked really good. He hit WR Robbie Chavez (2008) with a pass and Chavez went up and got it over Jackson and Cordova for a 15-yard gain.

Biege is also an excellent linebacker and received All-Kingco honors in 2006.

Simone's only problem is he isn't very big, but he runs excellent routes, is super-quick and he's got an extra gear when the ball is in the air to track down an overthrown pass.

If Simone were about two inches taller, we'd probably be talking about a sure-fire D-1 player, but it depends on what teams are looking for in their system to know if he'll fit in to an upper echelon program.

Chavez is very impressive physically. He looks to have added at least 10 pounds of muscle since I saw him last spring. He's huge and just has that look you want in a safety or linebacker prospect. He's also a pretty solid receiver as well.

Just by watching him last night, he could be a solid strong safety or weakside linebacker prospect for a team. We'll have more from him later.

TE Jared Lemke (2009) is going to be a player to watch. He used to be a quarterback, so he understands the nuances of the passing game, but his size and athleticism were impossible for head coach Steve Gervais to keep off the field.

The tight end isn't a featured player in the Skyline system, but they are already figuring out ways to use Lemke's size to their advantage. He's got excellent hands and he's going to be a player to watch the next two years.

That's a quick breakdown of what I saw last night up on the plateau. These three teams, along with several other invited schools, will be participating in these drills throughout the summer and we'll get to as many as we can to watch these young players in action.

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