Posted by Bryan Fischer
SEATTLE – The 13th and final stop on the annual Nike Training Camp schedule made it's way back to the Northwest, and plenty of elite talent came out to Husky Stadium to compete. While these events are typically a time for the skill-position players to impress, the offensive linemen were actually the ones who stole the show.
Puyallup (Wash.) offensive tackle Joshua Garnett showed why he was a Top 100 prospect by flat-out dominating the opposition.
"I'm just happy to be out here, glad to get the MVP today,” Garnett said. “Definitely glad I didn't lose any one-on-ones, the only lineman that didn't lose any. Went over to the defensive side of the ball and won three of the four reps on defensive line, felt pretty good about that. Definitely showed my athleticism on both sides of the ball."
Garnett wasn't the only top offensive lineman in attendance. One of his good friends, Top 100 tackle Zach Banner, also participated. While the two play the same position and therefore didn't really go head-to-head, Garnett had no problem mentioning that he won the MVP award.
“Oh yeah, it felt good,” Garnett said. “He likes to talk a lot, he's a little louder than I am if you guys didn't notice. I'm definitely a little more calm, more mellow. I think it's good to come out and show people my talent. Just because I'm not 6-9, 350, I can still play and do the same exact stuff.
"When we go out in public, people say, 'Jeez, is that Zach Banner?' then we'll come out here in the drills and they'll see my athleticism. I'm not saying he's not, but he did allow some guys to go inside. Definitely I think it's good to come out here and show the difference."
The pair are so close that as recruiting has taken off, they've been able to talk and bounce ideas off each other. One idea many observers have floated is that the two are a package deal, and Garnett does not shy away from the fact that the two might end up at the same school.
“We're definitely going to be looking at the same schools, we're good friends,” he said. “We're going to look at the same schools just because of that chemistry we have together.
“Looking at Zach's list, there's going to be a couple schools that aren't going to be on (my list), probably about three or four of them. Me and Zach have different goals going to college. I'm really big into the football, don't get me wrong I want to play football, but I'm going to be looking into medical school and looking more at a pre-med program than I am a football power. I know I can can go to Florida or Miami or any SEC school, but I want to look at my life past if I played in the NFL.”
The 6-foot-5, 300-pounder is ranked 43rd in the country for the class of 2012 by MaxPreps. The four-star prospect is focused on life off the field as much as he is on it when it comes to recruiting. The biggest thing he's looking for is a program that allows him to succeed on the field while also preparing him for a career in medicine. Coincidentally, there was a top school across the street from where he was performing Sunday.
“U-Dub, obviously they have a great medical school,” Garnett said. “No. 1 medical school in the nation, so I'll definitely talk to some of the biology teachers and stuff. I'm definitely looking at U-Dub hard, and it helps them an awful lot having this medical school right next to it.
“Next week me and my dad are planning on going down to Stanford and Cal. My uncle lives close to Pasadena, in Upland, so we're going to go to UCLA and 'SC just to see those schools.”
Garnett holds more than 30 scholarship offers from powerhouses across the country, but at least two West Coast programs are sticking out as recruiting him the hardest.
“SC is coming after me hard, and so is Cal-Berkley, probably the hardest,” Garnett said.
Banner narrows list, impresses at Nike Camp
While Garnett is the athletic tackle that coaches look for, Lakewood (Wash.) offensive tackle Zach Banner is the mammoth left tackle prototype that has coaches drooling over his 6-foot-8, 320-pound frame. He performed well Sunday and left no doubts that he was an elite college recruit.
“I feel like I did good, I came out here and worked my tail off,” Banner said. “I got invited to The Opening and it's all a blessing. Me and Josh are going to go down there together. We've been working our tails off this whole spring and summer, and it's paying off for us. I know it's paying off for me, and coaches are seeing it.”
Like his good friend Garnett, Banner enjoys some healthy competition and felt the camp setting brought out the best in the both of them, even if he wasn't the one taking home the MVP award.
“Definitely. Even though we play the same position, we both come out to prove that we're the best,” Banner said. “It's always friendly competition, and we'll go back and laugh at it.”
On a strong year for West Coast linemen, Banner stands out literally and figuratively. Ranked 12th overall in the class of 2012, he has no problem answering who is the top offensive lineman in the state, much less the country.
“Yes, yes I do,” he said, confirming he was the state's top dog. “You think about it, me and Josh, we're best friends. If they were a defensive end or someone who played across from me, then it would be pure battle. Not only do we play the same position, but we work out together, we're good friends, we're getting recruited by the same person.
“We care about getting better, and I know, for sure, both of us got better today.”
On the recruiting front, Banner holds offers from just about every school in the country and has started the process of narrowing things down.
“I gave out my top nine earlier this week and in no particular order, it's U-Dub, Oregon, Notre Dame, Michigan, Alabama, USC, LSU, Florida State and Oklahoma,” he said. “I'm just narrowing it down as we go. I'm about to go into my senior year, so you have to do it sooner rather than later and I just felt like the nine, I'm not cutting anybody off.
“I'm going to narrow it down to a top five in December. I'll take all five of my official visits. No unofficials scheduled, but I do have two officials scheduled ... Michigan on Sept. 10 for the Notre Dame game and I'll be there all weekend for those two days. Then Notre Dame on Oct. 21 and 22 for the USC game. They're both good, and Michigan's game is the first night game there ever and the Notre Dame game will be the first night game in like 25 years. ”
Husky commits have friendly competition
Banner and Garnett were not the only players who had a healthy competition going. The two quarterbacks committed to the University of Washington, Denver signal caller Cyler Miles and Mercer Island (Wash.) quarterback Jeff Lindquist, both threw well this weekend as a preview of what's to come over the next four or five years for the Huskies.
“A little bit I guess,” Miles said when asked about the competition. “He's a cool guy, and I've got a lot of respect for him. He's a great quarterback, and I like him a lot. It's going to be fun. We're going to make each other better and wherever you go, there's going to be quarterbacks so it will be a good competition.”
“I met him today, so it was nice to get that relationship started,” Lindquist said. “In terms of competition, it was more of a friendly competition and trying to make each other better. There was no dirty mouthing or anything like that.”
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Miles enjoyed meeting Lindquist and several other future Washington teammates, who he ended up throwing to on a few occasions once he was warmed up.
“I felt I did all right, I was a little rusty at first,” he said. “It was good to interact with all the guys, a couple of whom have already committed just like me, so it was good to just hang with them. It was nice to see where I'm going to be at the next four years.”
The overcast skies forced the organizers to turn on the lights at Husky Stadium which was fine by Miles. The experience of playing on the turf and throwing into the end zone with big Washington lettering was a nice experience for him.
“It was nice, big old stadium with about 75,000 ...,” Miles trailed off, thinking about playing on the field in a few years. “It's great, though, to picture myself here next year and the year after that. It's exciting and something to look forward too.”
Miles pulled the trigger on a commitment to Washington just a few weeks ago in large part because of the relationship he developed with the coaching staff there.
“I just love the relationships the coaches have with the players,” he said. “It's a good fit for me because of the offense. I love the Pac-12 and the coaches, they were the ones most sincere with me, my mom and dad. I just felt like this fit me best.”
With two quarterbacks in the fold for 2012, both are continuing to spread the gospel about the Pac-12 program and trying to recruit a few others for the upcoming class.
“I'm trying to get Garrnett and Banner,” Miles said. “I'm just talking to them a little bit, at the end it's their choice. I'd love for all of them to come here and help build this program as it's rising up.”
“We'll probably get that coordinated,” Lindquist said of the two tackles. “We'll chip in here and there. I don't want to annoy them, but we'll get in a word here and there.”
Neal impresses once again
Scottsdale (Ariz.) athlete Davonte Neal is no stranger to the camp circuit. He's performed at both the LA and Stanford Nike Camps among others, and he surprisingly showed up in Seattle, hungry to improve his game.
"I felt I did good, but there's still some things I could work on,” Neal said. “I'm never satisfied, I'm always hungry and try and stay humble and keep working."
Neal's father, who handles all of his recruiting, showed up to watch his son in a UCLA sweatshirt on the chilly day. The younger Neal made sure to remind everybody that his dad was just trying to adjust to the weather, which was just a little bit different from the triple-digit heat at home.
"No, no, no, no indication at all, it's just to keep warm, that's all,” he said. “That's why he's wearing that and I'm wearing it and I have a Nike sweater on."
The 5-foot-9, 170-pound athlete showed off his athleticism all day and played at a high level at both receiver and corner. Schools are recruiting him at both, but Neal has no preference where he'll play at the next level.
"I feel comfortable at both positions," he said. "If they want to put me at receiver, I'll play receiver; if they put me at corner, I'll play corner. It doesn't matter, I just want to get on the field. Either/or, it doesn't matter to me. They're recruiting me as both. Some as receiver, some as corner. It just depends on where they want me to play."
Neal holds offers from more than 25 schools but plans on pushing all his official visits and a decision until after the football season.
"There is no list," he said. "There's only undecided. A lot of people are recruiting me heavily. They're all really pushing hard, but I just let my dad handle the recruiting and I just play football.
"I'm just relaxing until after my senior season. ... I'll take all five officials, but I'm just going to do them all after the season when I have a lot of free time."
Led by quarterback and Texas commit Connor Brewer, Neal is focused on helping Chaparral High, ranked No. 24 in the country by Maxpreps, to success yet again in his senior season.
"We're going to be good. Hopefully we'll get that three-peat,” Neal said. “That's going to be on our shirts."
-- One of the players who Neal frequently battled against -- on both sides of the ball -- was Lakewood (Wash.) athlete Cedric Dozier. The two would have one rep where Neal was the receiver and Dozier playing the press corner, and then they'd flip around. Their match-up was pretty even, and Dozier felt it helped him improve his all-around game.
“I did all right for the most part,” Dozier said. “I competed with a lot of good players from all over, and it really forced me to step up. There's competition and you've got to play. I didn't come here just to play no nobodies. You've got to come out here to play. There's people from all over that's really good, and that means you have to step up.”
Dozier said he's completely open as to what school he'll attend, but Cal and Washington are recruiting him the hardest. He'll likely make a decision after the season.
-- Washington commit Michael Rector made his pledge public just a few days before the camp and, it turns out, there was a reason for making a commitment earlier than he had originally planned.
“At first my parents and I wanted to wait until July or after school,” he said. “With a new receiver (Dwayne Washington) committing too, they were only going to take two, so we thought about it the day before school was out and thought it wasn't too soon to make the decision.”
Rector tried to hook up with the two Husky quarterbacks as much as he could while at the camp in order to start developing timing before any of them even stepped on campus for college.
“It was fun,” he said. “We got together whenever we could and ran routes and stuff. We like it a lot, and we're looking forward to it.”
The most impressive quarterback at the event was not the pair of commitments to Washington but rising junior Max Browne. He impressed earlier this year at the Stanford Elite 11 and recently picked up an offer from Clemson. He grabbed the MVP award and displayed a very strong arm, fluid motion and was able to make all the throws. Lefty Matt Morin, also a regular on the camp circuit, also impressed.
-- Everett (Wash.) running back Keivarae Russell took home running back MVP honors and showed the ability to get into and out of breaks very quickly. Seattle cornerback Jayshawn Jordan won the defensive back award and performed well, playing his man and the ball closely.