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April 24, 2013

RCS Cincinnati: Five things we learned

MORE: Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour

WEST CHESTER, Ohio -- The Cincinnati area marked the 11th stop of the Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour. Midwest recruiting analyst Josh Helmholdt takes a look back at the five things we learned on Saturday.

Kentucky setting up shop in Ohio

West Chester (Ohio) Lakota West four-star running back Mikel Horton announced his commitment to Kentucky in front of his peers at the conclusion of Saturday's Rivals Camp Series event, giving the Wildcat's their third commitment in the 2014 class - all from the state of Ohio.

The truth is, Horton was almost joined by other state of Ohio prospects in announcing for Kentucky at the Rivals Camp. Leading up to the weekend other prospects in attendance Saturday were also considering announcing their commitments before deciding they needed more time.

New Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops has made recruiting Ohio a priority for his new staff in Lexington, and the emphasis is paying off. In addition to Horton, Kentucky also has a commitment from Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne linebacker Dorian Hendrix, who was one of Saturday's top defensive performers. And the Wildcats have offered six additional class of 2014 Ohio prospects who took part in the event and list UK among their favorites.

Horton protects his house

Before he stepped to the mic to announce his commitment, Rivals250 running back Mikel Horton was handed his trophy for being the offensive skills MVP. With Saturday's camp being held at Horton's school, the four-star made sure to defend his home turf.

Running backs rarely shine above receivers and quarterbacks in camp settings, but then Horton has been shattering stereotypes from the beginning. While college football is on its way to leaving the era of the big back behind it, the 6-foot-1, 230-pound Horton has simply adapted his game to fit the times.

Horton has some of the best feet from any back I have seen this year -- big or small -- and he is also a weapon as a receiver out of the backfield. His route-running was better on this day than almost every wide receiver out there.

The MVP performance was capped when Horton squared up against his future Kentucky teammate - linebacker Dorian Hendrix - and beat him on a rep that was well played by both prospects. After sprinting down the field to complete his "touchdown," Horton stopped, turned around and did a back flip on the 50-yard line to the delight of all in attendance.

Saxton surprises

Elite defensive back after elite defensive back trotted out for one-on-ones Saturday, but the cornerback who took home MVP honors was not the one expected coming into the event.

Each of the highly ranked defensive backs coming into the event fared very well. Four-star safeties Darius West of Lima (Ohio) Central Catholic and Nilijah Ballew of Cincinnati (Ohio) Walnut Hills showed great versatility moving down and covering wide receivers one-on-one. Rivals100 cornerback Damon Webb was in receivers' hip pockets all day, and Clarkston, Mich., cornerback Tim Cason made his second Rivals Camp Series top defensive performers list.

However, at day's end it was three-star Columbus (Ohio) Bishop Hartley cornerback Alonzo Saxton -- who made a commitment to Duke just days earlier -- who walked away with the defensive skill MVP.

We have seen the 5-foot-10, 175-pound Saxton live before, but this was by far his best individual performance. He was physical with receivers at the line of scrimmage and would not let the football get to receivers all day long. David Cutcliffe and his staff are getting themselves a top-notch competitor at the cornerback position.

2015 should be a good year in Ohio

We expected to get our best preview of the state of Ohio's 2015 class at the upcoming Pittsburgh Rivals Camp because a strong collection of the state's top underclassmen reside in northeast Ohio. Saturday's group of Buckeye State sophomores, however, exceeded expectations.

The position that provided some intriguing prospects was linebacker. We saw Toledo (Ohio) Central Catholic's Chris Green dominate the state title game last December but did not expect him to play in space as well as he showed Saturday. Jackson (Ohio) linebacker Reagan Williams is ideally sized at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, and he also showed range and coverage skills.

A true, out-of-nowhere surprise was Columbus (Ohio) Walnut Ridge defensive tackle Joshua Jordan. The 6-foot-3, 300-pounder should blossom into a nice three-technique defensive tackle. He is very light on his feet and has good athleticism for his size.

Trotwood (Ohio) Trotwood-Madison brought several top underclassmen to Saturday's event, but the most notable was sophomore offensive lineman Brice Hinton, who was the No. 4 offensive performer on the day.

Saturday's showings hold promise for the overall talent in the state of Ohio for 2015 after what is a slightly down year for talent in the state in 2014.

Burns pulls no punches

Fairfield, Ohio offensive tackle Danny Burns has racked up more than a dozen scholarship offers. But because his recruitment did not start until after his junior season and this was the first big camp he attended, there were still questions about the big lineman. Few had seen him in-person.

The first question was answered right away when Burns showed up to registration -- he looked every bit of his listed 6-foot-7 and 308 pounds. He carries a little bad weight on his frame, but overall he is tall with long arms and good mass, looking every bit the part of a Division-I offensive tackle prospect.

What was most impressive, however, was the devastating punch Burns displayed. Like a prize fighter in the ring, Burns knocked several opponents to their backside with one quick, powerful extension of his arms. His combination of arm length and a powerful punch are exactly what college coaches look for in offensive tackles.

Burns still has work to do with his technique -- he did get caught lunging a time or two -- but there is no doubt he is a high-BCS talent who will only continue to improve in the coming years.



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