April 22, 2007

Defensive backs stand out in Athens

ATHENS, Ga. - The 2007 Athens NIKE Camp featured many of the Southeast's better prospects and quite a few players who saw their stock rise as a result of a strong showing. There were outstanding performances by players from throughout the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic that highlighted the day. Though there were plenty of individual showings at all positions, the defensive backs stole the overall position spotlight.

Indeed the defensive backs were outstanding Saturday on the campus of the University of Georgia, so much so that the camp coaching staff had to award two Most Valuable Player awards. UGA commit Brandon Boykin and Clinton (La.) standout Prentiss Wagner both were honored after the event.

What Boykin lacks in size, he makes up for in quickness, speed and instincts. He showed off his quick footwork during agility drills and was solid during the one-on-one portion of the camp. The Bulldogs have made a living over the years with shorter cornerbacks with huge hearts and great speed and Boykin has the potential to continue that tradition.

Wagner is a bigger cornerback with good athleticism. The 6-foot-2, 175-pounder has been on the recruiting radar since posting a 37-inch vertical leap during testing at the Baton Rouge NIKE Combine in January. Saturday, he was good during multiple portions of the camp. On the recruiting front, Wagner is getting looks from a number of programs, including LSU and Florida.

It's obvious that Roswell (Ga.) safety Garrett Embry has been training hard during this offseason. The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder showed good closing speed during Saturday's drills and should earn a more scholarship offers in the near future. Baylor has already stepped forward with a full ride for Embry and Central Florida, California and some other schools are giving him a look.

Though he's not very big (5-9, 160), Irmo (S.C.) cornerback Yari King has the speed and hips to be a Division I-A cornerback. King was solid during all of the drills Saturday. He's waiting on his first scholarship offer, but is getting interest from Virginia, South Carolina, East Carolina and others.

Stockbridge (Ga.) safety Vance King passes the eyeball test at safety. He's got a good build and can move well. King, who also plays running back at the high school level, showed an advanced understanding of the position during drills and was solid during other portions of the camp. North Carolina already has offered King a scholarship, but South Carolina and others appear to be highly-interested.

Tony Morgan of Garner (N.C.) is a versatile athlete who can play running back or defensive back. Saturday, he worked out at defensive back and was solid during the agility drills. Morgan's speed and athletic ability make him a sure-fire Division I-A prospect.

Stone Mountain (Ga.) Stephenson's Amed Shakoor put in a solid day's work. He projects best at safety in college, but is versatile enough to be serviceable at corner depending on a team's needs. Shakoor's quickness stood out Saturday.


There's a reason that so many college programs, including Florida and Miami (Fla.), have come to the small South Carolina town of Loris to offer a scholarship to standout linebacker Jonathan Willard.

It doesn't take long to notice Willard's athleticism when he walks onto the field. He has size, speed and moves well laterally. He displayed excellent footwork in the drills and was solid during one-on-ones. He has long arms, which will be useful when reaching for ball carriers, and looks very strong.

This is another Palmetto State prospect that Clemson has been on hard from the start (one of his relatives played for the Tigers) and Clemson holds a commanding lead here over the other programs.

Norcross (Ga.) Greater Atlanta Christian's Christian Robinson is a lot like pre-evaluation Rivals100 linebacker Jordan Futch of Hollywood (Fla.) Chaminade-Madonna. He's 6-3, 230, can run and moves well. Robinson was named the camp MVP at linebacker after a great day's work.

On the recruiting front, Georgia and South Carolina have offered. Robinson's father played for the Gamecocks.

Garner (N.C.) linebacker Reggie Bowens is tall and athletic. He moves well for a prospect with his height and plays strong. East Carolina, North Carolina and South Carolina all have offered Bowens and it would not be a surprise to see more offers come his way after Saturday's showing.

Oklahoma commit Daniel Franklin of Mount Airy (Ga.) Habersham Central was solid during drills.

Defensive line

Gainesville (Ga.) defensive end Keith Wells has an excellent frame, good quickness and athleticism. He was impressive during the agility drills, proving that he can move well. During the one-on-one portion of the camp, Wells' size became an issue against bigger offensive linemen (he has weight to gain to be a defensive end at the collegiate level), but that's something that isn't going to be a problem when you project him 2-3 years down the road.

Simply put, it's not surprising that a slew of programs, including North Carolina, South Carolina and Boston College, have offered Wells in recent weeks. Georgia Tech, which was the first school to offer, appears to be in the driver's seat for now.

Class of 2009 defensive end Chris Bonds of Columbia (S.C.) Richland Northeast showed why he could be the best overall prospect in the Palmetto State during the next recruiting cycle. He was polished and skilled when going against many of the older offensive line prospects in the drills. During his freshman season, many who watched Richland Northeast believed that Bonds outplayed Michigan's Adam Patterson, who was a senior at the time.

Stone Mountain (Ga.) Redan defensive end Jovontay Williams was the defensive line MVP of the camp. The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder showed tremendous quickness and was very aggressive during the one-on-one portion of the camp, blowing past many offensive line prospects attempting to block him.


Wide receivers

There rarely is a shortage of wide receivers at the Athens camp (A.J. Green and Israel Troupe both shined at the camp last year) and Saturday was no exception.

The state of Georgia's top overall receiver prospect in the Class of 2008, Tavarres King of Mount Airy Habersham Central, stood out.

The wiry, speedy King runs excellent routes and has good speed to beat defensive backs deep. Georgia, Clemson, Notre Dame and Florida appear to be the strongest with him right now on the recruiting front.

Clemson commit Marquan Jones of Blythewood (S.C.) has excellent size and is a smooth route runner with excellent hands and good speed. He is advanced in terms of his knowledge about the position, which means he will be a candidate to avoid a redshirt season and play his freshman year.

Kennesaw (Ga.) Harrison's Darvin Adams showed some explosiveness Saturday. He gets off the line in a hurry and uses his athleticism to make plays. Adams was named the MVP of the camp at his position.

Chesapeake (Va.) Oscar Smith wide receiver Todd Harrelson used his size to get the best of several defensive backs during one-on-one drills.

Speaking of size, Columbus (Ga.) prospect Jamon Fortson is huge for a receiver. Many felt like he would move to tight end at the next level. The possibilities that exist for him if he stays at receiver are very intriguing.
Other receivers who impressed include Christopher O'Neil of Atlanta Douglass and Brandon Ford of Hanahan (S.C.), a pair of plus-sized sleepers, Duluth (Ga.) Northview's Xzavian Brandon and Georgia Tech commit Chris Jackson.

Offensive line

Miami Pace offensive tackle Greg Shaw was the top offensive line prospect at the event. Shaw has an excellent wingspan and is a lean 280 pounds right now. He was excellent during the one-on-one portion of the camp and during all of the agility drills.

One the recruiting front, Shaw made unofficial visits to Georgia Tech and Georgia during his time in the Peach State during the weekend. He remains wide-open with regards to his college decision and continues to get increased interest. Saturday's showing is only going to help his stock rise.

Riverdale (Ga.) offensive tackle Cordy Glenn is huge and was excellent during the one-on-one portion of the camp. Many noted his great size, balance and ability to recover if he got thrown off balance. He and Shaw were clearly the best two offensive line prospects at the event. Glenn has offers from Georgia and Virginia and is expected to receive more.

Concord (NC) Robinson tackle prospect R.J. Mattes also was impressive. He's not a prospect who is going to step in and play right away as he needs to gain weight, but it's what he's going to be after two years of development at the college level that is what needs to be considered. Virginia, where his father played, Clemson and North Carolina are the strongest with the 6-foot-7, 260-pounder. Sources say the Tigers have made huge strides in recent weeks.

Columbia (SC) AC Flora guard Kenneth Page and Chamblee (Ga.) prospect Omegerie Uzzi were two of the more impressive prospects among the interior offensive lineman. Uzzi has emerged as one of the best offensive linemen in Georgia while Page is closing in on 40 scholarship offers.

Page's high school teammate, Larry Patterson also was impressive. The 6-foot-6, 270-pounder has a great frame and big upside. He will be a steal for whoever ultimately gets him on campus.

Other offensive linemen who impressed include Lithonia (Ga.) Martin Luther King guard A.J. Hawkins and Class of 2009 lineman Andre Harris.


Summerville (SC) signal caller Reid McCollum was named the MVP at quarterback. He was solid in the one-on-one drills. McCollum has a quick release and makes quick decisions about where to go with the ball.

Wake Forest and South Carolina currently are recruiting McCollum the hardest.

Braden Hanson of Charlotte (N.C.) Latin will need a good line in front of him to have success at the college level, but he's more than solid when he can sit back and find open receivers. His mobility will be the big question mark when he gets to college, but his arm and fluidity in his mechanics are unquestioned.

Flowery Branch (GA) quareterback Jaybo Shaw also turned a lot of heads during the event. Air Force is all over him and has the dual threat star high on its board. Marshall, Alabama and others also have been in touch. Shaw is a great athlete, a coach's son and has been the starting signal caller at his school since the ninth grade. No matter where he ends up, he will make an impact.

Other quarterbacks who had good moments include, Kingsport (Tenn.) Sullivan South's Curt Phillips, Johnston (S.C.) Strom Thurmond's Aramis Hillary and Maryville (Tenn.) prospect Brent Burnette.

Running back

University of Georgia running back commit Martin Ward was clearly the top prospect at that position Saturday. Ward has good balance, vision and cutting ability and it's clear why the Bulldogs and many other programs in the Southeast want him.

Khiry Battle of Dacula (Ga.) also was impressive during the event. He holds multiple offers, but it would not be a shock to see him pick up several more after his showing.

Rivals.com's Mike Farrell contributed to this article


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