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July 1, 2012

NLA 7-on-7: Top defensive performers

MORE: NLA 7-on-7: Tops on offense

The annual New Level Athletics Elite 7-on-7 National Championship has hit Brooklyn, N.Y., and here were Saturday's top performers on defense.

NLA 7-on-7: Top Defensive Performers
DB Quin Blanding, Virginia Beach (Va.) Bayside (2014)
Blanding continued his strong play from last weekend's Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge, recording three interceptions in his team's first two games of pool play. At 6-foot-2 and 196 pounds, Blanding is big for a safety, yet he shows the speed and man coverage ability to play cornerback if called upon to do so. Blanding's instincts for the position are exceptional, and he can read a quarterback and jump a route with the best of them. Blanding has solidified himself as one of the top safeties in the country, regardless of class.

DB Edward Paris, Mansfield (Tex.) Timberview (2014)
Like Blanding, Paris is big for a safety, yet shows the coverage skills to play cornerback. In fact, Paris played exclusively at cornerback on Saturday and locked down his side of the field while doing so. Listed at 6-foot-2, Paris appears right around 200 pounds. His frame could project him as an outside linebacker, but his speed and coverage skills will keep him in the defensive backfield. For as big as he is, Paris was one of the fastest players on the field, and his closing speed sets him apart.

DB Harry Randall, Pittsburgh (Pa.) Woodland Hills (2014)
Despite attending a school that has produced numerous Division I players over the years, Randall has not garnered near the attention players such as Paris and Blanding have. Yet, Randall was near their territory in terms of his play on Saturday. At 6-foot and 185 pounds he has a great build for a safety, and possesses outstanding athleticism and ball skills. His most impressive plays actually came on offense where, as a wide receiver, he showed off his explosiveness with several impressive catches over the middle of the field.

CB Jahmere Irvin-Sills, Elkton (Md.) Eastern Christian Academy
The only class of 2013 member on this list, Irvin-Sills represented well for the rising seniors group. He looks like he has filled out since his last recorded measurement of 5-foot-10 and 173 pounds, and he proved he could play press coverage and be physical with bigger receivers. The recovery speed is certainly there if Irvin-Sills gambles and misses at the line of scrimmage; but he plays such a disciplined brand of football, there were few times he was caught out of position on Saturday.

DB Tony Brown, Beaumont (Tex.) Ozen (2014)
Brown is also coming off a strong performance at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge in Atlanta last weekend and had another strong outing on Saturday. The 6-foot, 180-pound Brown has good size for a cornerback, but what really catches your eye is his speed. Brown showed he can stay with any wide receiver at the event, and his ability to close on a thrown ball allowed him to break up several passes Saturday.

DB Brandon Simmons, Mansfield (Tex.) Timberview (2014)
Not as big as his teammate Paris, Simmons is still an outstanding cover safety. The 6-foot, 170-pounder rotated between checking slot receivers at the line of scrimmage and dropping back into centerfield as a free safety. In both cases, he showed outstanding range and speed. The ability to stay with slot receivers in the open field attests to Simmons agility and quickness. He showed great timing breaking up several passes from his free safety spot on Saturday.

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