NEW ORLEANS — Day 1 of Battle’s 7-on-7 tournament pool play went down in the Crescent City on Saturday with teams from all different parts of the country in Tad Gormley Stadium. Among notable states represented in the 7-on-7 tournament included Louisiana, Florida, Arizona and Texas, among others, with plenty of talent on display.
Here are some takeaways from the first day of the Battle NOLA tournament, including some of the event’s top performers.
XAVIER NWANKPA SHOWS OUT ON OFFENSE
Even at safety, opposing teams elected not to test Iowa’s top-rated prospect Xavier Nwankpa. When Tuscon Turf’s top pass-catcher left pool play with an injury, the Rivals100 safety took advantage of an opening on offense.
The four-stat defensive back didn’t miss a beat. He challenged defenders downfield and flashed his ability to high-point the football and challenge for passes at their highest point, which he’ll do at the next level on defense. Nwankpa provided a full reminder that he’s one of the nation’s best athletes.
Right now, there’s a lot of buzz with the Buckeyes and the elite safety.
JAHEIM SINGLETARY IS AN ISLAND
Like Nwankpa, Jaheim Singletary didn’t see much action his way. In fact, not a single pass was thrown in the direction of the five-star cornerback from Florida.
That opened the door for Singletary to make plays on offense. His speed downfield, his long arms and length make him a difficult cover and equally as dangerous at his natural position on defense. Singletary naturally floated around in his coverage and made some nice breaks on the ball.
KYLER KASPER BRINGING ALONG THE LEGACY
When the 2023 rankings are released later this spring, one name out the West to know is Kyler Kasper. Kasper’s father, Kyle Kasper, played for Iowa from 1997-2000. His son seems be on a similar trajectory.
The younger Kasper was Tuscon Turf’s best pass-catcher throughout pool play. He was dangerous after the catch, stretching the field vertically and challenging for jump-balls in the end zone. At 6-foot-5 and 180 pounds, Kasper already has exceptional length paired with long-striding speed and could grow into a dangerous pass-catcher.
SHAZZ PRESTON FLASHES THE HANDS
One of the constants for the Louisiana Bootleggers was Shazz Preston, the Rivals250 wide receiver who was outstanding during pool play on Saturday. On several occasions, Preston came up with highlight-reel grabs, showing off brilliant hands and some creativity working the middle of the field.
Preston has thrived in the past when working outside the numbers, but flashed the ability to make difficult receptions in contested situations on Saturday. His speed was evident after the catch, too. LSU, Mississippi State, Alabama and Texas A&M are among the SEC teams challenging for the four-star from The Boot.
Bryce Anderson could be touted as one of the best corners or safeties in the country. On Saturday, he played back deep at free safety and finished the day with an interception.
Anderson possesses a unique skill-set to lock receivers up 1-on-1, play aggressively over the top and also slide into the slot and rely on his explosiveness to make plays. Texas, Texas A&M and USC have made the Rivals100 defensive back a top priority while LSU and Michigan continue to build their relationships up. Anderson is in no rush to make a decision and could extend it until visits resume.
AUSTIN AUSBERRY SHOWS VERSATILITY
Like Anderson, four-star Baton Rouge cornerback Austin Ausberry played multiple roles in the secondary for Team Juice. Ausberry was able to shadow receivers up and down the field and flashed his quickness when breaking on balls in the air.
While at safety, Ausberry corralled a huge interception for Team Juice.
Ausberry’s father, Verge Ausberry played linebacker for LSU and the Tigers recently extended an offer to the hometown defensive back. Houston, Purdue, Mississippi State and Virginia are also recruiting Ausberry hard and there’s some buzz that he could be eyeing a fit out-of-state.
SHELTON SAMPSON IS ONE TO KNOW
Shelton Sampson closed out 2020 with a Division I state championship and a playoff run for the ages. He didn’t miss a beat as the season shifted into the offseason and 7-on-7.
The 6-foot-4, 186-pound wide receiver did his best Plaxico Burress impression for Team Juice making highlight-reel receptions in the end zone on a few spectacular plays, including a long touchdown from 2023 quarterback Rickie Collins in which the 2023 standout got up in absurd fashion. Sampson has verified 4.3 speed in a 6-foot-4 frame and an even more impressive vertical jump.
LSU, Florida and Miami are some of the teams he’s eyeing visits to and spoken with recently.
LATERRANCE WELCH SHUTS DOWN THE COMPETITION
Like Sampson, Laterrance Welch is coming off a state championship and has remained in mid-season form into the spring. Welch was challenged — early and often — but the four-star LSU commitment didn’t miss a beat in coverage throughout the afternoon.
Welch is long with noticeable reach and moves fluid in coverage. He’s emerging as one of the best lockdown cornerbacks in the nation.
LANDON IBIETA IS UNDER-THE-RADAR SMOOTH
Another Louisiana wide receiver who impressed was Landon Ibieta playing in his hometown tournament for the Bootleggers. The Mandeville (La.) High three-star blends both speed and quickness and made plays in the short, intermediate and deep passing game on Saturday.
Ibieta has strong hands and finds holes in the defense with ease. He’s a fluid route-runner and consistently gives defenders issues keeping pace. Memphis, Miami and Louisiana Tech are some early offers.