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January 4, 2002

CaliFlorida Bowl III's Top Performances

The Rivals100.com Recruiting Network knows you want to know who came to play and delivered the goods at the third annual CaliFlorida Bowl. In a game that featured its share of individual plays, but not many stand-out performances, here are the top 20 performers.

The list doesn't necessarily reflect how Noah Stanley would rank the players, but how they looked based upon their performances against other blue-chippers.

  1. Florida DB Devin Hester (No Commitment) - Hands down the most exciting player to watch. His explosive speed (easily the fastest player on the field) came into play on defense and special teams. With countless pass deflections and perfectly timed hits as a safety, Hester also returned a kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown after California's first score. Hester is easily the top game-breaker I've seen this year.

  2. Florida DB Terrell Walden (No Commitment) - After hearing the hype about Walden, I got a chance to see his abilities during practice then at the bowl and Walden is legit. The best cover guy out there ... Very good quickness with the ability to see the ball at all times while in coverage. What surprised me most, was his willingness to come up hard to make stops on the likes of charging 6-foot-6 Marcedes Lewis.

  3. California RB Hershel Dennis (No Commitment) - It took Dennis awhile to get going, but it wasn't his fault. His offensive line was having issues with the speed of Florida's front seven. Despite the slow start, Dennis finished with 71 yards and never tired. During California's comeback attempt, the Golden State squad rode him all the way to the end zone.

  4. California QB Ben Olson (Brigham Young) - Ben Olson is as good as advertised. I'm sure he threw an incomplete pass, but I can't remember one. I would have liked to have seen him test the Florida secondary more (many of his passes were flare or screen passes), but his composure in the pocket and arm was tops Wednesday.

  5. Florida LB Nate Harris (No Commitment) - There's no telling how many tackles Harris made, but I can tell you that if there was a run and Harris was on the field, he was in on the play one way or another. It quickly became obvious that California needed to do something to stop Harris, who came in as a lesser known backer than some of his counterparts.

  6. DB Darnell Bing (No Commitment) - Made the most spectacular play they didn't count for anything, but the crowd loved (an 89-yard fumble recovery that was whistled dead, but the players kept going). Bing also showed great closing speed when he ran across the field to stop a potential Santonio Holmes touchdown. With his speed and size, Bing will be a show-stopper in college for sure.

  7. DL Baraka Atkins (No Commitment) - Did a fantastic job rushing the California passers. Atkins, who was much quicker than his offensive opponents, secured the game with a 4-yard fumble return for a touchdown off of a errant snap.

  8. TE Marcedes Lewis (UCLA) - Certainly one of the top performers Wednesday, Lewis is everything you've ever heard about him and more. Very good speed for a big man, wants to be involved in the offense, willing to block and play special teams. Even as a marked-man, Lewis finished the night with four catches for 35 yards and threw a 44 yard touchdown pass for California's first touchdown.

  9. DB Greg Threat (No Commitment) - It's hard to steal some of the limelight away from Hester and Walden, but California was forced to throw to Threat's side and did he ever deliver. Threat had three of the biggest hits during the game and stuffed the run better than any other corner I've seen this year. Threat also made a couple key special team tackles to stop potential touchdowns.

  10. DL Fred Matua (No Commitment) - The heart and soul of California's front line, Matua showed that he can dominate a line of scrimmage. Florida quickly learned and began running the other way, but Matua made his presence felt often enough.

  11. OL Davin Joseph (No Commitment) - Florida ran behind Joseph all day long and had plenty of success. Good feet and he picks up his intensity 10-fold on the field. Would have liked to see him battle Fred Matua more and not facing Manuel Wright was also disappointing, but Joseph proved his worth.

  12. WR Santonio Holmes (No Commitment) - Every other second it seemed like Santonio had the ball. He ran reverses, tosses and caught a couple passes too. Holmes displayed good speed and quickness, but he did get caught and tossed out of bounds on a reverse by Darnell Bing. Will be a good playmaker at the next level.

  13. WR James Finley (Oregon State) - The leading receiver stat-wise in the game. Finley caught five balls for 73 yards and a touchdown. Certainly not as quick as Florida's cover guys, Finley did show good speed in getting behind Florida's secondary on a couple occasions.

  14. WR Ryan Moore (No Commitment) - Not as fast as Devin Hester, but not far behind either, Moore would have had a bigger night than his two catches for 76 yards if the Florida QBs could have gotten to ball down to him. Moore was the best receiver on the field.

  15. QB Daniel Shula (No Commitment) - Not regarded as a big time recruit, you have to give Shula his due credit. He came in at a time when Florida wasn't moving the ball at all and led them to a couple scores with precise passing. He certainly did not have the strongest arm out there, but the ball got to his target. Shula was unofficially 4-of-7 for only 34 yards, but his ability to lead scoring drives was well noted.

  16. DL Elvis Dumervil (No Commitment) - Elvis had some great battles against the offensive line of California and in the end, I have to say Elvis won. Recognized the run quickly and forget about it when he knows he's going to be rushing the passer.

  17. QB Gavin Dickey (No Commitment) - Had problems with the wet field and got off to a rough start, but showed the composure we're used to seeing in Dickey and finished with a solid performance. Dickey was 6-of-13 for 129 yards and although he had several highlights, his most impressive perfromace may have been leading Florida to a marathon fourth quarter drive that all but assured the victory for the Sunshine state despite not scoring any points.

  18. TE Lonnie Davis (Florida State) - Davis was all over the field in special teams and did a great job all in all (except for the extracurricular stuff on occasion). When I first watched Davis play tight end, I immediately compared him to Aaron Kirkland of Fayettville (N.C.) Jack Britt. First thing I noticed was that although he's listed three inches shorter, Davis is a more imposing player from a size and intensity stand point. Watching him play, it's obvious he's a great athlete, but I'll give the edge to Kirkland in athleticism and catching ability. Who will be the better college player? I think Kirkland has the better focus and dedication, but Davis has a much bigger upside.

  19. RB Robby Dubois (Fresno State) - Had to play behind Hershel Dennis, but Dubois made the most out of his opportunities by rushing for 33 yards on just six carries.

  20. FB James Jackson (No Commitment) - Did an outstanding job playing fullback. Had a couple great lead blocks and scored on two short touchdown runs.

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