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.