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January 2, 2006ANAHEIM, Calif. - Coming into Saturday's Air 7 CaliFlorida Bowl at Cal-State Fullerton there were players that more than lived up to their billing as elite prospects.
Names like Allen Bradford, C.J. Spiller and C.J. Gable showed why they are ranked near the top of the Rivals.com lists. But like any all-star game setting there are a group of players that exploded onto the scene with a solid week and proved they are also special prospects.
Rivals.com recruiting analysts Jeremy Crabtree and John Talman break down five prospects from both the California and Florida squad that surprised and could see a rankings boost.
Defensive tackle Charles Deas of Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) Dillard
Talk about playing like a man possessed, the three-star defensive tackle showed up late to practice and still looked like the most dominant player on the field. Questions flew around because the 6-foot-4, 315-pound prospect didn't even play organized football as a senior. Apparently, it didn't affect him much.
Though he uses his hands well, he's strong enough at this level to bull rush his opponent into the ground and proved that against the talented offensive lineman that he was going up against at the Florida practices.
With more coaching, Deas could be one of the top d-lineman in the country going into his freshman year of college. Simply put, Deas is purely a dominant player and has worked hard during his down time to get ready to play at the next level. Expect his rating to skyrocket.
Offensive center Brandon Davis of South Miami
Davis brings all the skills as a dominant offensive center. The offensive line struggled early in the week, but along with Daron Rose, the 6-foot-2, 290-pound Miami lineman looked very solid.
He also held his own against bigger defensive lineman during one-on-one competition and has excellent balance. Davis should make an early impact and did a lot for his stock this week during practice.
Davis is heading to Florida State and it looks like the Noles got themselves a good one.
Cornerback Chavez Grant of Miami Booker T. Washington
Another two-star prospect that went out to make a point. Grant looked very solid at cornerback and showed outstanding cover skills. Known as a lock down corner, he had great anticipation for the pass and made it a tough task for Tim Tebow to fit the ball into the small space he allowed all week in practices.
Grant's speed is also legit as he went up against some very fast wide receivers like Georgia commitment Tony Wilson.
The Miami fans said they don't take two-star cornerbacks, and they were right. Grant proved all week long that his current ranking is a mistake.
Receiver Zach Charles of Winter Haven, Fla.
The biggest sleeper to step foot at the annual all-star game was Charles, who made some outstanding catches and really performed solidly all week.
Some leaping grabs were made and he looked solid out on the field with this very high tempo offense.
Even some overthrown balls were snatched with ease by Charles, who should see his offer count go from zero on up in a hurry after this week.
Defensive tackle Doug Thacker of Sanford (Fla.) Seminole
Thacker was robbed when he wasn't named the game's most valuable player. It was easy to give the award to quarterback Billy Lowe, because he had a very good game, but in a shutout, how could you not give the award to a guy on the defensive side of the ball?
That guy should have been Thacker.
Not only did Thacker have a good week of practice, he dominated in the game.
The 6-foot-2, 245-pounder couldn't be blocked the entire game and easily had the best personal performance of anybody out there on both sides of the ball. During one stretch in the third quarter, Thacker recorded a tackle for a loss, a sack and another sack on three consecutive plays.
"It felt good to come out here and do this," Thacker said.
"I had a good week of practice, and I knew that could be a good opportunity to prove to people that I'm a good player. I took it as a challenge to help get myself better prepared for when I head up to Virginia Tech.
Running back Kenny Ashley of Venice, Calif.
Gable and California's other stable of running backs came into the game with all the hype, but Ashley, who is committed to Mississippi State, looked great all week in practices.
A strong between the tackle rusher, he didn't get to show his best stuff in the game because of the weather, but every time he touched the ball in practice big things happened.
Ashley also had the hit of the week for the California squad. He took a draw play in Thursday's practice near the 10-yard line and broke into the open where he found blue-chip safety Darian Hagan waiting for him. Instead of trying to go around him, Ashley ran right over him, drawing loud cheers from his teammates.
Linebacker Travis Goethel of Vista, Calif.
Goethel also didn't get to show his true stuff in the game, but he did show flashes of brilliance on special teams and on a few running plays with big hits. However, it was all week in practice where Goethel showed he might be the most under-ranked player on the California squad.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound linebacker does have good Pac 10 offers, but his play every single day showed he has the talent to be a national recruit. He was so intense in practice that he drew rave reviews from all of his teammates.
He also had the best nickname on the California squad. Because of his long blond hair, he was called "Sunshine" by his teammates. The reference was to "Remember the Titans", where a long blond haired transfer player from California proves to be one of the team's best players.
Defensive tackle Darius Savage of San Diego Morse
On a trim and lean California team, Savage, a UCLA commitment, stood out because of his 6-foot-4, 340-pound frame. But he also stood out with his strong play from the defensive tackle spot.
Early in the game on Saturday, Savage was one of the few players that were able to put pressure on the Florida quarterbacks. He couldn't be blocked with a strong bull rush and he showed surprising quickness when he ran Tebow down once in the open field.
He also looked good in spot duty in the fullback spot for California.
Some were predicting by the end of drills this week that Savage - if he trims down - could be an immediate impact type player for UCLA.
We wouldn't disagree.
Defensive end Ryan Hurtado of Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei
Coming into the week, Hurtado had a long official visit set up with Northeastern. After this week, he should draw enough attention to end up with a decent amount of attention from Mountain West or Big West programs.
His 6-foot-2, 235-pound frame is sturdy enough to play big-time college football, and his drive and motor was unmatched by anybody else on the California roster. This kid flew all over the field in practices and did everything you ask from a well coached kid.
Look for his stock to soar. Somebody will get a heck of a player.
Linebacker Ben Terry of Mission Viejo (Calif.) Capistrano Valley
Grades might keep Terry from playing Division I football next year, and it's a shame.
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound outside linebacker had a great week of practices and was one of the hardest hitters on the California squad.
His name has virtually fallen off the recruiting radar screen because he still is not academically qualified, but somebody probably should take a chance on Terry and see if he can make it grade wise.
He has been working hard in the classroom and he believes he can now make it after two years of hard work, but if he doesn't look for him to be one of the most highly recruited junior college players in two years.