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April 26, 2008

Plenty of talent hits Fort Worth NIKE Camp

FORT WORTH, Texas - The Lone Star State is home to talented prospects each and every year. So when this year's NIKE Training Camp at Texas Christian University had several of those prospects from both inside the state and a great crop from outside the borders on hand this year, it wasn't a huge surprise.

That talent wasn't limited to just one position either as several players at a variety of different spots caught the eye of the position coaches and those on hand. However, the talk of the day was certainly the heated one-on-one competition between a very athletic group of both defensive backs and wide receivers.

There were certainly several players on both sides that stuck out, but at wide receiver South Grand Prairie (Texas) prospect Dewayne Peace walked away with the MVP award while it was an underclassman, the only 2010 prospect to pick up the honor, DeSoto, Texas's junior-to-be Adrian White.

"I think Adrian White, he made a lot of good plays during the one-on-ones, going against several of the good receivers here," defensive backs coach Eugene Jackson said. "He wasn't scared to step as underclassmen, and that's why we voted him the MVP because he made a lot of good plays."

Staying at defensive back, despite being bothered by a hamstring injury, Rivals100 cornerback Gabe Lynn felt like he still had to get out and compete. Lynn, the four-star prospect, made his way to Fort Worth even with a boatload of offers in hand, including a recent one from Southern Cal.

While backing up his lofty ranking, especially early on in agility work, Lynn said he was trying to be smart not to reinjure his hamstring, but couldn't help that competitive nature coming out.

"I knew I wanted to come and get out here so everybody could see me," Lynn said. "It was good. As soon as I got here, you're adrenaline gets going and you want to go against people. There was a lot of talent out here."

In a fairly deep and interesting collection of defensive backs, in all shapes and sizes, other guys that are looking to make a name for themselves were Mesquite, Texas cornerback Marcus Trice and safety Anthony Moore out of Converse Judson.

Trice while only at around 5-8, 170 pounds, says he's hoping his performance, especially several big plays in one-on-ones, will help get his name out.

"I'm hoping something comes from it," Trice said. "Zero offers. I don't know what it is. With my performance, hopefully word gets around that I can ball. Whoever is interested in me, I'm interested in them."

Other defensive backs that were noticed by those on hand and coach Jackson included Oklahoma commit Javon Harris, Lancaster, Texas safety Kerry Lewis, Texas Tech commit D.J. Johnson, and Edmond (Okla.) Santa Fe's Steven Sumpter. Other guys to watch include Waco (Texas) University's Rikko Harris, Dallas (Texas) Adamson's Roderick Goodlow, Garland (Texas) Naaman Forest's Terrance Bullitt.

At wide receiver, there was plenty of competition for the defensive backs on the campus of TCU.

Peace, the MVP at his position from South Grand Prairie, will be one to watch. His ability to make the tough catch despite going against a very aggressive group of DB's was impressive. With just two offers in hand from Kansas and SMU, things should continue to grow in the recruiting arena.

Texas commit Greg Timmons was a guy that showed well in one-on-one competition along with Austin, Texas' Emory Blake who looks solid in his route running. It's also easy to see Blake is focusing on producing after the catch. Keller (Texas) Central's Jarrod Darden, who has picked up early offers from the likes of North Carolina, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech, looks the part of a big wide receiver. With toughness, he could also be a tight end who could stretch the field with added weight.

Other big receivers on hand that had some nice showing included Houston (Texas) Lamar's Josh Gordon, who showed somewhat deceptive speed at times and a big frame.

As for the tight ends, it was hard to miss Texas A&M commit Hutson Prioleau who looks all of his listed 6-foot-5, 230-plus pound frame. Though he's a big guy, he showed good hands in a group that had several sleek hybrid type tight ends.

One guy to keep an eye on is Dallas South Oak Cliff's James Phillips. He didn't see a lot of action as a junior, but he's a guy that looks the part coming in looking well over 6-foot-3 and adding to an impressive frame. He's the pass-catching type tight end programs are looking for to develop. His stock should rise after Saturday.

At the running back position, there were certainly several bright spots.

Mansfield (Texas) Timberview running back Eric Stephens, though only at around the 5-foot-9 mark, showed why he had a big season last year rushing for 1,906 yards with a gaudy 9.4 yards per carry. Stephens picked up the MVP award after showing well in really all portions of the drills.

Other prospects who showed why they have early offers included Sherman, Texas' Waymon James who only at a little under 5-foot-8, is put together at 190 pounds and has the burst you look for. Plano, Texas' Rex Burkhead also showed why he has picked up countless amounts of offers from all over the country.

Burkhead, a hard worker on and off the field, showed his quickness in several position drills. The humble player showed why he was productive for his team this past season as a do-it-all athlete.

Of course it was hard not to notice the fast-rising junior-to-be, 2010 Temple, Texas prospect Lache Seastrunk. Seastrunk, who's film has made its way around the internet already, showed how dynamic of a running back he can be with the ball in his hands. He should have no problem already building on the already big attention he's receiving. Also Tulsa (Okla.) Union runner Jeremy Smith, an Oklahoma State commit, looks to be another good pickup in-state for the Cowboys.

On the two lines, several players drew praise but probably none more than Alex Okafor who truly has added a lot to his frame since hitting camps and combines last summer. The Texas commit was the first guy mentioned by defensive line coach Marty Spaulding when asked who stood out.

"Well, he's just unbelievably athletic and as fast, and quick as anybody I've seen in a couple of years," Spaulding said. "His upside is tremendous because he's a guy, that his frame is so big, he's so tall that if he wanted to gain 40 pounds, there is no limit to what this guy can do."

Other guys that impressed Spaulding included North Little Rock (Ark.) High School end Anthony Rogers and Stanley Maponga from Carrollton (Texas) Hebron. Also at defensive end Randall Dent and Nosa Eguae showed flashes and looked the part of a pair of DFW area guys with more than one offer in hand. Eguae is likely to be a defensive end on the next level and has a lot of natural ability while Dent is a strongside guy but could move inside with that impressive frame.

In terms of interior defensive lineman, Spaulding among others commented on the abilities seen in South Grand Prairie's Joey Searcy and Albert Sparks. Texas A&M defensive tackle Chris Henderson also drew some notice with his lean frame that could stand to add weight and quickness, despite there not being a lot of film circulating around out there on him.

On the offensive line, there was no missing the 6-foot-6, 340-pound plus North Mesquite's Josh Aladenoye who claims on offer in hand from Oklahoma State, but he's also expecting Texas Tech to come by the school during the evaluation period. While Aladenoye picked up the MVP award, two other players drew notice such as Aurora, Neb., 2010 product Andrew Rodriguez and Keller, Texas' offensive guard Nick Ash.

Though Rodriguez was only working out for the first 20 minutes or so before being sidelined with a minor injury, he impressed right up to that point. Coming in well over 6-foot-5 and 291 pounds along with being built, his feet impressed as well during the early portion of agility work. He will certainly be one to watch over the course of the next two years at the high school level.

At the linebacker position, it was again the same story: Plenty of talent in all shapes and sizes.

It was hard not to notice Texas commit, big inside linebacker prospect Tariq Allen when he walked in a little later during the early portion of the camp. Linebackers coach Chris Gizzy saw what he called a very football-smart, efficient group of players in his group on Saturday - including MVP winner Austin Jones from Dallas Lake Highlands.

"Honorable mention-wise, we might have a really long list from this camp," Gizzy said. "Jones just made big plays all day, dominated every drill, did great in one-on-ones - I don't know if we've ever had a guy get two interceptions in one, one-on-one period. He did fantastic."

Allen, along with Huldon Tharp from Mulvane, Kan., along with 2010 prospects Kurt Killens from Round Rock (Texas) McNeil and Trayvon Henry from Oklahoma City Millwood.

"The underclassmen I really want to note, I hope we get a chance to coach him next year is Killens," Gizzy said. "He's athletic, smooth, and I think as he gets more confident, his upper body will loosen up a bit. He's going to have a fine career. Tharp is a very athletic kid; Allen did very well, he ran out of steam a little bit at the end, but he's moving a big body around that whole time. He did a great job in our matchup drill with the running backs, blitzing, and also in sideline tackling.

"He's going to be a force."

Last but certainly not least was the quarterback position, which was populated with many of the signal callers that came to compete at the Elite 11 event the day before.

Much in the same way he shined on Friday, Andrew Maxwell, a Michigan State commit, impressed.

"Very sound mechanics on his drop, he knows how to measure up his steps and anticipate routes," said former NFL quarterback Tee Martin. "He's very, very accurate. He also has a maturity about himself that I think will translate to the next level."

Other guys that drew Martin's eye was Mesquite, Texas senior-to-be Luke Halpin, Bryce Petty from Midlothian, Texas, and Drew Hollingshead from Rockwall Heath. Petty and Hollingshead, like Maxwell, drew praise for consistency and upside at the Elite 11 workout and that continued in the eyes of those on hand for both events.

Spring Branch (Texas) Smithson Valley wide receiver Cody Matthews won the SPARQ MVP award for his a very solid set of times at a NIKE combine this year. That included a 4.43-second 40-yard dash and a 4.03 shuttle.


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