Posted on: April 16, 2011 5:36 am
Edited on: April 16, 2011 2:51 pm

Nkemdiche stars at Georgia Nike Camp

Posted by Bryan Fischer

ATHENS, Ga. -- Hundreds of players from all over the Southeast braved an oncoming thunderstorm to showcase their skills at the University of Georgia in the latest edition of the Nike Football Training Camp and Elite 11 Quarterback Competition Friday night.

Once again, Georgia had a strong display of BCS-caliber talent at the camp and the state continues to show why recruiters from across the country are anxious to get a look at the next wave of talent coming out of the Peach State. The class of 2012 is loaded with talent along the defensive line and several of the state's 33 recruits with FBS offers made their way down to the camp.

While many of the highly regarded juniors flashed their skills during drills, it was not hard to see that Grayson (Ga.) sophomore defensive end Robert Nkemdiche was not only the most talented of the group, but easily the top player at the camp.

"They called me out and I did it," Nkemdiche said matter of factly. "It felt good."

His home state might end up sending close to 50 players to an FBS school from the defensive line come February but you'd be hard pressed to find someone who looks as good as Nkemdiche does at first glance. The 6-foot-4, 265 pound end was a physical specimen, showing up fit and ready to dominate older competition.

On top of a quick initial burst, he displayed several polished pass rush moves that even much older college players don't have. Making the most of a lightning quick spin move or just relying on a straight speed rush, Nkemdiche was impossible to stop in one-on-ones all night long. Thought he will continue to grow and mature at the position, the gifted pass rusher is already thinking ahead at what he wants to work on the rest of the summer.

"I want to work on my speed," Nkemdiche said. "I real fast right now, like a 4.5 (40 yard dash) but I want to drop my time. I want to be the best I can be and the coaches want that too."

Nkemdiche's high school coaches also want to win, which is why he'll also try his hand at running back next season for Grayson. As terrifying as it might be to some opposing players to see someone of his size and skill running at them, Nkemdiche is equally excited at getting the chance to run over (and past) a few defenders to reach the end zone on offense.

"I can't wait," he said. "It's going to be great."

In spite of having almost two years before inking his signature on a letter of intent, the talented sophomore is already sitting on multiple scholarship offers. Given his unique blend of size, speed and pass rushing ability, it's easy to see why some schools feel the need to extend an offer early in hopes of making Nkemdiche's recruitment a quick one.

"Auburn was the last offer I got, maybe late January or early February," he said. "I don't know how many but I have over ten.

"Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and that's all I know off the top of my head right now."

Several programs' annual Spring Game is Saturday and Nkemdiche was planning on going to Alabama's "A-Day" but will instead catch most of the day's action at home. He'll continue to exploit offensive linemen on Sunday however, when he'll head to the Atlanta Under Armour Camp.

Utilizing his unique skill set is something Nkemdiche will continue to do throughout the summer and has already planned out a few unofficial visits and camp stops between now and the end of July.

"In the summer I'm going to go to a couple schools," he said. "LSU, Alabama and Auburn's camps. Just (visit) as many schools as I can."

Nkemdiche was one of only two sophomore to walk off the field as a position MVP but based on his performance Friday night, he might as well have been holding the title of top recruit in the Southeast for 2013.

And you'd find few who would be willing to argue if he snagged it either.

Alexander, Eligwe share the spotlight

Just as impressive as the defensive line group, the linebackers in attendance received their share of publicity and right fully so. With eight players holding multiple BCS offers, there might not have been a better position group all year. In fact, many of the camp instructors had a hard time thinking of a better group of linebackers in the decade long history of the Nike Camps.

Fittingly, the position MVP award was one of the toughest decisions of the night so the coaches ended up making Oxford (Ala.) stud Kwon Alexander and Stone Mountain (Ga.) linebacker Ukeme Eligwe co-MVPs.

"I feel like I did great and showcased my talent," Eligwe said. "There was a lot of great players out here today."

"I really just wanted to do my best and learn from everybody," said Alexander.

Eligwe made the case to be the top linebacker in the state - if he wasn't already - thanks to his size and very good quickness. He opened his hips well and hardly let anything get past him during drills. A top performer in all of the one-one drills, the 6-foot-2, 220 pounder also wouldn't mind an extra rep or two against Alexander to settle who really was the top linebacker at the event.

"That would be nice," Eligwe said with a smile. "He's a good player also so I don't feel different, it's all good. I came out here to have fun and do what I have to do."

The speedy Alexander was quite confident who would eventually prevail and would have loved to see another play to decide top dog.

"Yeah I want another," he said with a grin. "I want to be the best out there."

Both players have seen the amount of offers rolling in slow to a trickle due mostly to the fact that they have a scholarship awaiting from pretty much every major school in the country. Alexander is known for his speed out on the field and is mainly focusing on track this offseason and keeping recruiting in the outside lane for the time being. Despite being 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, Alexander runs an 11.2 second 100 meters and also stars in the 200 meters. All of the time spent on the track working to shave off a few seconds means the bulk of his recruitment will come during the summer and into the fall.

"There's no one standing out right now," he said. "Everybody's still the same. After track season I'm going to do a few unofficial (visits) and then once the season starts I'll do my official visits.

"I'll take all five official visits. I'm going to take one to Oregon, USC, UCLA. I'll take a couple of them down (in Alabama)."

Eligwe isn't as involved with track as Alexander and as a result is able to narrow down his list of suitors somewhat.

"My most recent offer was last week but I can't really remember," he said, adding that they've all blended together a bit. "Florida State's standing out. More than likely I'll be at their Spring Game."

Florida and Georgia are also standing out according Eligwe, who received an early morning phone call Friday from South Carolina's staff on the first day of the May Evaluation Period. With so many schools vying for his attention Eligwe is starting to look a bit closer to home as to where he might attend college.

"More than likely yes but I wouldn't just say I'm going to stay in the area," he said. "Those are just some of my top schools right now"

Alexander also received an early morning phone call Friday and the SEC staff who made it ended up making an impression on the talented linebacker.

"Arkansas called me about six," he said. "It was good because they were the first team that called me. I didn't know that today was there time to call me so that surprised me when they called. They just asked what's up and everything."

The Hogs are not the only school who is in hot pursuit of Alexander, though. Several schools from both the Pac-12 and the SEC are heavily recruiting him.

"Oregon, Auburn, Alabama, USC, LSU," Alexander said. "I don't mind where I go, it's just where it makes me feel a part of a family."

No stranger to campus, Elder looks solid at the camp

There are few players who actually are defensive backs. You have safeties, you have corners and a few times you even find a nickel corner among the bunch. College Park (Ga.) defensive back Chaz Elder however, lives up to the label.

The 6-foot-2, 290 pound Elder played a bit of both Friday during drills and one-on-ones and displayed the speed and agility to excel as either a big corner or a prototypical safety. Even he didn't get caught up in what position he ran out on to the field for, it was all about the reps.

"I actually have no idea, I just play," Elder responded when asked which position he's better at.

It's hard to disagree, especially if you're a college coach. Holding a double-digit offer list, Elder has his pick of the litter and has schools recruiting him at both safety and corner.

"Some colleges say I'll be a good-sized corner,” he said. “Others say I'd be good at safety. It doesn't matter to me. Again, I just want to play."

Elder recently picked up another offer, the latest being from Southern Miss. Even though the offers keep rolling in, the Georgia native is starting to narrow down his list and sees three schools separating from the pack.

"It's between Illinois, Clemson and Georgia," Elder said. "It's mostly Clemson and UGA because I've visited them the most. I came up (to Georgia) for one of the spring practices. At Clemson, it's mainly the coaches and the people (I like)."

Despite his top two being pretty close to home, Elder added that he would have no reservations about heading off aways for school if he found the right fit.


- Position MVPs were McDonough (Ga.) defensive back D.J. White, Florida-bound running back Mike Davis of Stone Mountain (Ga.), Alexander and Eligwe at linebacker, Lithonia (Ga.) offensive lineman Joe Harris and Nkemdiche on the defensive line.

- Gainesville (Ga.) wide receiver C.J. Curry was looking forward to going up against Tallahassee (Fla.) defensive back Travis Blanks and the two did not disappoint, waging several good battles during one-on-ones.

"I'm not going to make any excuses, he got me," Curry said. "He had a good day and worked hard to get the W today."

A Georgia commit, Curry also didn't mind bringing up the Bulldogs to a few of more well known recruits at the camp.

"It's always fun," Curry said. "I was trying to talk to Blanks (about Georgia). Other than going against him, I didn't really see him though."

With Georgia's class of 2011 nicknaming themselves the “Dream Team,” Curry said he was working on a nickname for the class of 2012.

- It was not a particularly strong group of quarterbacks for either the Nike Camp or the Elite 11 and the howling winds and light rain didn't help things either. Orlando (Fla.) quarterback Nick Patti showed off his arm again and continues to impress on the camp circuit. If it were not for his height (5-foot-10) he'd be getting offers from a lot of BCS programs. Cleveland (Tenn.) signal caller Chad Voytik also impressed with his accuracy and was probably the top guy at the event but did not participate in the Nike Camp portion. The finals of the Elite 11 were cut off due to inclement weather.

- Buford (Ga.) offensive tackle Vadal Alexander, who has offers from just about everybody, was one of several recruits to get a 6 A.M. phone call from the USC coaching staff. Alexander said he spoke to Ed Orgeron and James Cregg for several minutes and was surprised by the call. At this point, he has already been to LSU, Alabama and Auburn but says all schools are in the race to land his services.

- If you were looking for Louisville commit Larry Jefferson, you wouldn't find him catching passes Friday night. Although he is being recruited at tight end, Jefferson made the trip to Athens to learn a few new tricks for his other position.

"I'm a tight end but I went to defensive end because I play D-end in high school too," he said. "I just wanted to learn more stuff about the position."

When asked why he wants to play on offense in college, Jefferson was quite honest with his answer.

"I love getting the ball," he said with a nice laugh. "I like scoring touchdowns and everything. I'm committed and done, stress is off my shoulders."

- A few others who impressed were linebacker Dillon Lee out of Buford (Ga.), Powder Springs (Ga.) offensive tackle Kofi Amichia, Dublin (Ga.) 2013 linebacker Johnny O'Neal, Stepheson (Ga.) linebacker Raphael Kirby, Norcross (Ga.) receiver Jason Croom, 2013 defensive end Reginald Carter out of Stephenson (Ga.), Hillgrove (Ga.) athlete Kenyan Drake, 2013 Autauga (Ala.) tight end O'Terrius Howard and Charlotte (N.C.) linebacker Nick Dawson among others.

Posted on: April 11, 2011 12:43 am
Edited on: April 11, 2011 12:47 am

Texas' best shines at TCU Nike Camp

Posted by Bryan Fischer

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Well over 500 of Texas and the Southwest's finest football players came out for the annual Nike Football Training Camp on the campus of TCU Sunday afternoon. Although perhaps not as deep in terms of talent at some position groups than years past, the camp was nevertheless a destination for several of the top committed and uncommitted players in the area.

Dallas (Texas) linebacker and Texas commit Peter Jinkens was one of the top linebackers at event and it showed at the end when he was awarded the position MVP. He was explosive all day and seemed to ratchet up his game as the competition grew more intense.

"It's an honor and a blessing because there was a lot of good linebackers out here," Jinkens said. "To know that I'm the best one is a source of pride for me."

The 6-foot-1, 210 linebacker had several particularly good match ups with Allen (Texas) running back Jonathan Williams. The two had a few one-on-ones in the pass rush drill with Williams winning the first by getting physical against Jinkens' rush. The next play Jinkens made quick rush and got to the ball after making a move. The third rep could be considered a tie after Jinkens made a move and appeared to have Williams beat before he recovered to block Jinkens just long enough before reaching the ball.

"It was real fun," Jinkens said. "I went against him a lot in the pass rushing drill. I was kind of shocked myself. Today when we were doing pairs, I started crying. I don't know why but I just felt the passion of the game right there. I went in to competition mode and turned it up."

"It's competition all day," Williams said. "Me and Jenkins kept going up against each other in one-on-ones, they wanted us to go every time. It was a good competition."

One of the top linebackers in the state, much less at the Nike Camp, Jinkens was just one of several Longhorn commitments in attendance.

"Yeah, Hassan (Ridgeway), Curtis Riser, Thomas Johnson and I are all real good friends," he said.

The group was also at the camp doing a bit of recruiting and spreading the word about the Longhorns.

"Oh yes, we're trying to get a few more," Jinkens said with a smile before mentioning Johnathan Gray.

Gray is the nation's number one running back and has Texas as one of three schools he is considering.

Allen duo shines

Williams did not come home with the running back MVP award but he was one of the best looking backs competing. He had a slight injury issue that limited him most of the afternoon but showed flashes when he was out on the field.

"I think I did pretty well, I tweaked my groin a little bit so I didn't do all of the drills," Williams said. "I came out here to compete in one-on-ones and I felt I did real good.

"I just wanted to come out here and compete against the best players in the state of Texas. That's the main thing I was looking for."

Ranked 91st in Tom Lemming's Top 100 for 2012, Williams has emerged as one of the top players in a deep year at running back in the state of Texas. He recently reached the double-digit scholarship offer mark and has several out of state programs recruiting him heavily.

"I'm up to ten now," Williams said. "Michigan State just offered me for my tenth offer. It's all pretty close right now, I like Missouri right now though."

The 6-foot, 200 pound running back is aiming to commit to a school before the season and possibly even after completing spring football. Although the exact date of a commitment is up in the air, Williams is planning a few unofficial visits to become more familiar with schools.

"I'm going to try and go to Arkansas over the summer," he said. "I know I'm going to Missouri's Spring Game next Saturday. That should be fun. They're recruiting me pretty hard and I like them academically because I want to major in sports broadcasting. They have a real good journalism school."

Williams' teammate, quarterback Alec Morris also performed well at the camp, taking home Quarterback MVP honors after displaying good accuracy and arm strength throughout the day.

"It's a good surprise, I wasn't too sure coming in because this is one of the few camps I've done," Morris said. "I felt like I did well and I'm happy to hear that I was MVP."

The interest in the 6-foot-3, 220 pound quarterback has continued to pick up steam. With several quarterbacks in attendance who held multiple offers, Morris came out to the camp to prove that his skills were right there with them.

"I've actually been working with (former Texas A&M quarterback) Kevin Murray," Morris said. "He was running me through the paces and help me out at this camp. I wasn't really coming to work on anything because I really just came to show I can play at the next level."

Though Morris doesn't hold any offers at the moment, several schools are showing interest in the big signal caller.

"No offers yet but there's a bunch of schools coming down this spring (for the May Evaluation period)," he said. "Oklahoma State, Arkansas, West Virginia, Utah and a few others.

"We'll see how it goes this summer, see what schools come down and figure things out once spring ball is over."

Starts is the offensive line star

A week after several offensive linemen performed well in Los Angeles, the stop in Fort Worth was expected to equal it in terms of star power. Texas commit Curtis Riser didn't participate and Texas A&M pledge Kimo Tipoti didn't show up. In the end it didn't matter because that allowed Waco (Texas) lineman Michael Starts to perform well as both an offensive and defensive lineman.

"I like playing both sides of the ball," Starts said. "I think it's best for me to stay tuned up and in shape."

Starts was best suited as an offensive tackle, displaying a quick drop step and good frame at 6-foot-4 and 285 pounds. He also took a few reps at defensive tackle and though he definitely has the size, still appeared a bit raw at the position.

"I'd love to play defense but if coaches wants me on offense or wherever they need me, that's where I'll play," he said. "They've said they might move me back and forth."

Starts has been on the radar for awhile mostly as an offensive lineman and holds offers from every major school in the state. He is, however, seeing several out of state schools get into the mix for his recruitment but he appears a bit skittish on going to far from home.

"I have Auburn, Notre Dame and Michigan (offers)," he said. "They're all kind of far from home so I really don't know if I'm able to do that. There's a chance that I might but I don't know until I make my decision. We have (official visits) planned."

The big tackle has already taken several unofficial visits the past few months. Though recruiting is picking up among the local schools, Starts has all of the in-state schools on a level playing playing field.

"Unofficially, Baylor, Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M and TCU," he said. "I like them all the same. It's pretty even. I just want to fit in and be around people who accept me for who I am and stuff like that."


- LSU commit Toshiro Davis was one of several players from the state of Louisiana to make the trip north to attend the camp. He said he was solid with LSU and likes that he'll be playing in a hybrid linebacker roll with the Tigers. Davis exploded off the ball and was never really challenged in one-on-ones which is not quite what he wanted after doing much the same his junior year.

"I really came here for the competition," Davis said. "Some of the games I played last year, I really feel like the competition wasn't all that high. I want to expand my game."

- Defensive line MVP was Mansfield (Texas) defensive end Hassan Ridgeway. Offensive line MVP was Duncanville (Texas) tackle Adam Butler. Arlington (Texas) running back Tavarreon Dickerson took home position group MVP as well.

- Austin (Texas) wide receiver Cayleb Jones, Tom Lemming's number three overall recruit, showed up at the camp but did not participate. The Texas commit said he rolled his ankle two weeks ago and was being precautions.

- One of the many scat back types that made an impression was North Little Rock (Ark.) running back Altee Tenpenny. The sophomore was a bit on the lean side but was very quick and very fast. He had the top SPARQ rating at the Nike combine on Saturday and managed to run a 4.52 40-yard dash and a 37-inch vertical jump.

Posted on: April 4, 2011 2:07 am
Edited on: April 4, 2011 2:19 am

Los Angeles Nike Camp Recap

Posted by Bryan Fischer

LOS ANGELES -- Some of the best players on the West Coast descended upon the campus of USC for the annual Los Angeles Nike Football Training Camp Sunday afternoon. Although there were several hundred skill position players that came out to leave their mark, it was Defensive Line MVP Aziz Shittu that literally and figuratively stood out from the crowd.

"I did pretty well, I just came out here to get better," Shittu said with a smile. "I keep trying to work on my speed and quickness on my get off."

The Atwater (Calif.) defensive tackle has seen his stock soar as of late. He recently picked up a scholarship offer from Utah to give him one from a majority of the Pac-12 schools and should be in line for a few more nationally based on his performance during the camp.

The barrel-chested Shittu was one of the most physically imposing defenders to participate in drills and displayed good speed and quickness off the line. Though many considered Monrovia (Calif.) defensive tackle Ellis McCarthy to be the favorite for the MVP award, there was little doubt that Shittu proved himself against the best of the best.

"It means a lot, there's great competition out here in Southern California so to come out and do well, it means a lot," Shittu said. "It shows I can play."

Encino (Calif.) tackle Jordan Simmons was named Offensive lineman MVP and was one of the biggest players at the camp. Though it took him awhile to get warmed up, the 6-foot-5, 320 pounder easily stood out as the best at the camp.

"I started off a little sluggish but I picked it up at the end," Simmons said. "I just came out here to compete against everybody else. It's great competition out here and I just wanted to go against it."

The highlight of the camp featured the two MVP's facing off against each other in one of the last reps of the day. Though the play lasted just three seconds, it was well worth the wait after Shittu used a very quick swim move to get around Simmons and sack the tackling dummy.

"I just read what he was doing," Shittu said. "I got a few hints from my teammates about what he was doing since they were on the O-line. So I tried to get a feel for what was going on."

The very humble Simmons, who played at both tackle and guard during the camp, had no problem giving credit where credit was due either.

"Yeah, he actually got me," Simmons admitted. "He gave me a swim move that was pretty good."

The Nike Camp offered a chance for many of the West's elite to compete against each other and test players who are almost always the best on the field wherever they go. The focus on competition at the camp also allowed players to improve their skils just as much as their stock among those that follow recruiting closely.

"It was fun and really intense, I liked a lot of the work we did today," McCarthy said. "Today I really wanted to learn some new stuff to take back to my school so I can work on it and get better. Today I wanted to get lower and really get off the ball."

Several other defensive linemen looked good on Sunday, including Riverside (Calif.) tackle A.J. Fanene and Fresno (Calif.) sophomore end Jaylen Ruiz. The offensive line also had plenty of standouts, including Anaheim (Calif.) guard Travis Averill, Las Vegas (Nev.) tackle Ronnie Stanley, Orange (Calif.) tackle John Lopez and Compton (Calif.) guard Dejon Allen.

Marks pulls in everything but MVP Award

Just a few weeks are impressing observers at the Las Vegas Badger Sports 7-on-7 tournament, Los Angeles(Calif.) wide receiver Gabriel Marks once again put on a show in the afternoon sun. Usually lining up against the top defensive backs, Marks pulled in impressive catch after impressive catch all day and was not afraid to be vocal about it either.

"Whenever you come to the the LA Nike Camp, you're going to get the best of the best," Marks said. "When you come out here, everybody is going to be here. All of the cameras will be out and if you mess up, everyone will see."

In a slight upset, Marks did not pull in the position MVP, which went to Long Beach (Calif.) wide out Randall Goforth. Marks won the award last year and though he didn't end up making it two MVPs in a row, he did end up making himself better.

"I just came out to hit it hard and learn stuff from some really great coaches," Marks said. "I felt I did alright. I had some things that I felt I could have done a little better on my releases but I caught a couple of deep balls."

"I really wanted to work on my speed. You can always work on your routes because you will never be perfect at running your routes. I want to get better so it's always something I'm working on."

Marks holds offers from SMU and Idaho and recently picked up one from Utah. In addition to Goforth and Marks, Bellflower (Calif.) wide out Bryce Treggs, Los Angeles (Calif.) receiver Kodi Whitfield, Lakewood (Calif.) receivers Darius Powe and Malik Gilmore and Inglewood (Calif.) receiver Derrick Woods all stood out at the position. San Diego (Calif.) tight end Taylor McNamara was tops at his position and solidified his status as the best at the position on the West Coast.

Morin grabs top quarterback honor

The Los Angeles Nike Camp in particular has always been known for it's quarterback play and was the launching pad for several highly recruited players such as USC's Matt Barkley and Boston College's Chase Rettig. Though the group this year was not as strong as in the past, it still had several good players able throw the ball with precision and Temecula (Calif.) quarterback Matt Morin ended up as position MVP after displaying a strong arm.

"I think it's such an honor," Morin said. "I didn't think I was going to get it but I guess I proved myself to the coaches with what I was able to do today. I'm really proud of myself and hopefully recruiting starts picking up in the next couple of months. I'm just honored to have this award right now."

Morin does not hold any offers yet but after impressing at the Nike Camp for the second straight year, the 6-foot-2 signal caller is starting to see the interest level from schools pick up.

"Right now, USC and Washington and Notre Dame are showing interest," he said. "Those are the top three right now and that's pretty solid. I took an unofficial visit to Notre Dame in November and fell in love with the school. My family is a bunch of Notre Dame fans so I know it's an awesome school. I don't know where else I'm going to visit but I'll figure it out in the next few months."

Scottsdale (Ariz.) quarterback and Texas commit Connor Brewer, Shane Dillon of El Cajon (Calif.) and San Clemente (Calif.) quarterback Travis Wilson also stood out as the top players at the most important position on the field. For Morin however, it was an adjustment to his mental game that allowed him to preform just a tad bit better than the others on the day.

"I was a little bit shy going into camps last year," he said. "I wanted to come out here and show everybody who I really am. You have to have confidence. That's what I'm working on and I think I honestly proved that today. My footwork can always get better and everything else too but being a quarterback, it's the mental part of the game you have to have work at."

Underclassman Hayden Rettig out of Los Angeles (Calif.) Cathedral High also impressed and looked a lot like his older brother, Chase, throwing the ball around.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com