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May 24, 2004

Breaking down the Palo Alto NIKE Camp

PALO ALTO, Calif. - Fishing for blue-chip receivers?

If so, then the Palo Alto NIKE Training Camp Saturday at Stanford was the place to be to reel in the catch of the day. With Rivals100 receivers Austin Usher and DeSean Jackson leading the way, there were plenty of keepers that college coaches wouldn't want to throw away.

Jackson, the talented receiver from Long Beach (Calif.) Poly, ran a 4.43-second 40-yard dash but said he was extremely disappointed with his time. However, he showed in drills and in the one-on-one competition that he's going to be a big fish for somebody right away that he steps on campus.

With offers already from big-time teams like Michigan, USC and LSU, Jackson was electric with the ball in his hands. He ran great routes and his ability to cut after he caught the ball and dodge defenders was sickening.

"My favorite route to run is the slant," Jackson said. "I like that because it's a play you can turn something really short in a play that goes about 90 yards for the touchdown. I like those plays because it allows me to take it to the house."

But honestly it didn't matter what route Jackson runs because he has home-run ability on every play. Speaking of home runs, Jackson admits that baseball will be a factor in his recruitment. Jackson plays centerfield for Poly and he has drawn the attention of major league scouts. Jackson could very easily get drafted for his skills on the diamond in the spring of 2005.

If Jackson is known for his explosive lighting like ability, then it's Usher, the blue-chip pass-catcher from Los Angeles Jefferson, that can lower the boom with his thunderous physical ability.


Usher (6-2, 195) was one of the most physically put together receivers in the camp. With his bulging biceps and great frame, Usher had the size and speed - 4.5 seconds in the 40 - coaches want in today's game. Several college coaches talked openly about how he compares to former Washington Husky receiver Reggie Williams because of his combination of size, strength and speed.

Another receiver that sparked a lot of interest was Jesse Canada of Monrovia, Calif. Canada, who is 6-0 and had 4.6 speed, was fluid in drills and had some amazing hands. Canada hasn't been talked about a lot in recruiting circles, but he already has picked up more than 10 scholarship offers from all over the nation.

Edmond (Okla.) North receiver Marquis Hamilton was also impressive in one-on-one competition, and with an offer on the table from Wyoming, expect more to come if he can work on lowering his 4.7 speed. After impressing at the San Diego NIKE Camp,

Los Alamitos, Calif., receiver Jeremy Childs has been one of the state's best since his sophomore season. He showed on Saturday that he's a smooth pass-catcher with great hands and body control. A few college coaches on hand Saturday commented that he reminded them a lot of former Oregon standout Keenan Howry.

And not to be forgotten was Stockton St. Mary's standout receiver Anthony Crosby. He impressed with a 38-inch vertical leap and some great hands that seemed to snag everything thrown in his direction.

While it was obvious that the receiver position was loaded with talent, it wasn't the only group of players that stood out Saturday. Here is a Rivals100.com breakdown of the rest of the positions.

Quarterbacks
In true California fashion, the quarterback group was loaded with several big-time signal callers.

NorCal was heavily represented with Fresno (Calif.) Edison's Arkelon Hall, Concord (Calif.) De La Salle's Kevin Lopina, Stockton (Calif.) St. Mary's Willie Tuitama and Oakland (Calif.) McClymonds Kyle Reed showing they have the talent to be top 25 quarterbacks in the nation.

Hall came into the camp with a reputation of an athletic quarterback with a big arm, and he didn't disappoint. He's not the tallest quarterback around, but with his mobility and ability to move around in the pocket, he's a deadly weapon to be reckoned with.

Lopina is a great field general that wasn't overly better at one thing compared to another, but he always right with everything he did. It's easy to see why Nebraska coach Bill Callahan and Arizona State coach Dirk Koetter offered him early in the recruiting process. He is a heady quarterback that would be excellent fits in either one of those systems.

Tuitama showcased a very accurate arm and some great moxie in one-on-one drills, proving that his stock the rise in the nation. He is quietly being compared to former NFL great Jim Plunkett and the comparisons are uncanny.

Most observers at the camp said Tuitama was far and away the best quarterback at the camp. The were in awe of his strong arm, which was called the strongest by far, and he impressed with his ability to move around in the pocket gracefully.

Reed is probably the least-talked about quarterback in NorCal, but he showed on Saturday why he might be the best in the bunch. Reed had a great setup, a strong arm and put the ball on the money time after time in the one-on-ones and throughout the drills.

With a bevy of good scholarship offers, including ones from Cal, Washington State and UCLA, look for more national programs to suddenly get involved because he impressed in front of a huge collection of college scouts. And Reed said he's ready to see the attention ramp up.

"I've worked hard to get to this point," he said. "I don't know if I'm the top quarterback in California. I'd like to think that I'm one of the best. I know all that I can control is what I do every day. I'm going to continue to go out there work hard and get better every day. That's all I can do."

Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft signal caller Josh Portis also looked great. His long and lean frame will fill out just as big as his big-time right arm by the time he's finished in college. He has a real shot at being something special, especially if he can continue to fill into his frame and improve his accuracy.

Even though not a lot was known about him heading into the camp, Glendora, Calif., quarterback Jacob Crook was the talk of the college coaches that observed the camp. He might not have the credentials that Portis, Tuitama and Hall, but Crook wowed the coaches with one of the more complete performances at the camp.

Running backs
The running back group wasn't the strongest, but there were a few names that haven't been talked about nationally that opened up a few eyes.

El Paso (Texas) Montwood athlete Edward Britton represented the Lone Star State with a solid-all-around day. Running a personal best 10.7-second 100 meters, Britton slipped on the wet grass and was only able to clock a 4.5-second 40-yard dash. Still that's an impressive time on a slower track, and he more than bounced back with a 4.09-second shuttle and a great performance in the drills portion of the camp.

Even though he's just a junior, Las Vegas Bishop Gorman running back DeMarco Murray showed why he's picked up early oral scholarship offers from Oklahoma and Wisconsin. Murray definitely threw down the gauntlet in the battle for the top back honors in the nation for the Class of 2006 with a solid all-around workout on Saturday. He clocked a 4.49 in the 40 and jumped 32 inches in the vertical.

Lompac (Calif.) Cabrillo is home to one of the top sleeper running backs in the state and he took a big step toward waking up for the college recruiters on Saturday. Lydell Sargeant, 5-10 and 180, impressed throughout the drills and looked like he could easily play on the defensive side of the ball if things don't work out at running back. Yet, he was electric with the ball in his hands.

It was easy to see why he rushed for 630 yards and also had 427 yards receiving as a junior. He is what you call a true all-purpose back.

Vancouver (Wash.) Evergreen' running back Taylor Rank also put on a nice show. And Bellevue, Wash., running back J.R. Hasty showed he has a chance to be a solid player, especially when you consider that he is the son of former NFL corner, James Hasty.

Tight ends
With the receivers taking most of the attention at the pass-catching position, there were still a few tight ends that looked very good.

Peninsula, Calif., tight end Erik Lorig led the way and showed why he's one of the nation's top tight ends.

With offers from most of the Pac 10, along with Michigan and Notre Dame, Lorig proved to be a tough match-up for running backs that attempted to handle him in one-on-one situations.

Kansas City (Mo.) Park Hill tight end Ben Ladner came all the way across the country and showed why he's quietly being talked about as one of the top tight ends in the Midlands Region.

Ladner has a extremely solid frame and moved quite well for a guy that was easily over 250 pounds. With offers from Wyoming and Stanford, expect even more to come.

Others that also stood out were Ryan Moya (6-2, 225) of El Dorado (Calif.) Oak Ridge and Jason Pulu of Hayward, Calif.

Offensive linemen
Daniel Borg out of Tucson (Ariz.) Ironwood Ridge and Jacob Hickman from Bakersfield (Calif.) Centennial were two standouts from the offensive line group.

Borg had a great frame, great feet and showed that he is a great student of the game. With a 4.0 grade-point average, Borg absorbed everything that was thrown his way. If you corrected him on a little technique point, he gobbled it up and didn't make the same mistake twice. Hickman wasn't the biggest prospect in the offensive line group, but his footwork was astonishing. He was one of the best linemen this year on the NIKE Camp tour to run through the rope and change-of-direction drills.

Fresno (Calif.) Bullard offensive tackle Nick Howell took another step up the charts with a strong showing Saturday. By dominating the USC offensive line camp a few weeks back, Howell was already making a big name for himself, but he impressed once again with more than 100 college coaches in attendance, including Pete Carroll, Pat Hill and Bill Doba.

"I started playing football in seventh grade, and I was always the lightest and skinniest offensive lineman," Howell said. "This is my first year not playing volleyball, and I decided not to play so that I could put on weight for football."

It's move that has paid off.

Just like the move made by Edmond (Okla.) North twin offensive linemen Ben and Joe Barresi. The Barresi brothers made the trip to the Bay Area to get some more recognition in front of the numerous college coaches and got an opportunity to shine. Other Midlands players missed out when the College Station NIKE Camp was rained out, but the Barresi brothers decided to hop a plan to California and prove they are worth of a scholarship offer.

They both impressed going through the footwork drills and even though they are twins they are a little different. Ben is the more nimble prospect with better footwork and Joe brings more weight and muscle mass to the table.

Ian Brinker, 6-6, 280 pounds from Tucson (Ariz.) Salpointe Catholic were also impressive and should be mentioned among the top linemen in the West region.

Defensive linemen
Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral defensive tackle Ekom Udofia was the class of the defensive linemen.

Udofia, who is 6-foot-1 and 288 pounds, finished with a 5.09-second 40, 48 repetitions in the bench press.

He was also impressive in pass-rushing drills and throughout the one-on-one competition.

In fact, most offensive linemen tried to hold him during the drills, including several that almost ripped his shirt off while attempting to block him in a futile effort.

Even though he has talked about playing some defensive end in college, Udofia looked like the perfect three-technique defensive tackle that many coaches are searching for.

There is little doubt that Udofia has a great shot at being named a national top five prospect when Rivals.com releases it national player rankings and he should be an easy lock for a five-star ranking.

"I'm just aggressive, and I come off the ball really hard," Udofia said.

"I also use my hands really well and then let my strength come through inside with my moves to get past the blockers to the quarterback.

"I had a great time out here. I came last year and was out to make a name for myself. But this year, I just wanted to compete to see where I stood with all the other great players in the region."

The next Jeff Schweiger might have been uncovered on Saturday.

San Mateo (Calif.) Serra defensive end Will Powers put on a show and proved that he's one of the nation's elite defensive end prospects.

With scholarship offers from Arizona, Arizona State, California, Colorado, Oregon, Stanford, Nebraska, Notre Dame, UCLA and several others, Powers exhibited great fast-twitch reflexes and a blinding first step off the ball.

With a long and still very lean frame, he was a Schweiger clone and if he continues to work hard this summer there is little doubt he has a shot at being one of the nation's highest recruited defensive ends.

With all the talk about Udofia, it was hard to overlook some other standout defensive lineman but there was a huge buzz about how good Matt Kopa of Elk Grove, Calif., looked.

Several college coaches said they loved the way Kopa shot off the ball and one coach even went as far as to call the Stanford commitment the best defensive lineman at the camp. Kopa still has a long and lean frame and will be able to fill into it quite nicely, and it looks like the Cardinal got a heck of a steal in this case.

Linebackers
This is where the Ryan Reynolds show took over. Reynolds, the amazing linebacker from Las Vegas Bishop Gorman, dominated on Saturday.

A new feature at the NIKE Camps this year is that each player was ranked on a SPARQ rating scale. SPARQ - which means speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness - is the first-ever system designed to capture the overall athleticism of any football player. The previous high of 101.7 was held by Florida linebacker Spencer Atkins. Reynolds blew that away with a 108.7, which included a jaw-dropping 47-rep bench-press, a very solid 4.7-second time in the 40-yard dash, a 4.38 shuttle and 30-inch vertical leap.

In the position drills and then in the one-on-one competition Reynolds excelled in everything he did. He was a blur coming off the edge in blitz-technique drills, and he more than held his own in coverage situations against a talented group of running backs. Without question, Reynolds is the prototype weakside linebacker at the next level, and when you throw in all of his physical attributes it's hard to think there are too many players better than him in America.

Eureka, Calif., linebacker Rey Maualuga was disappointed with his 4.7-second time in the 40-yard dash and said it was relatively slow because of a pulled hamstring he suffered earlier this week. But it still doesn't matter because Maualuga is special. He put up 37 reps in the bench and was the most physically put together player not named Ryan Reynolds.

Simply put, Maualuga looks like a college player now and with his great instincts for the football, he should be able to step on the field right away and play quickly next season.

Overshadowed by Maualuga and Reynolds, Bellevue, Wash., linebacker E.J. Savannah had a very good day. With impressive offers from Arizona State, Oregon, Washington, Washington State and Oregon State, Savannah has all the tools be a successful outside linebacker. In fact, his mobility and agility was good enough that he could also be a very good new-wave strong safety because of his ability to defend the pass and support the run with his nose for the football.

Defensive backs
Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco Prep cornerback Michael Ray Garvin came all the way from the East Coast to test his mettle and he passed the exam with flying colors.

Widely regarded as one of the best in the East, Garvin wanted to see how he matched up against the best of the best in the West, and he dominated the defensive backs and proved to be the lock-down cover corner you want in one-on-one drills.

"If there is a better cornerback in the nation, I've not seen him," one college coach said while watching Garvin run through the position drills.

Garvin also tested quite well, running a 4.28-second 40 and then following that up a few minutes later with a 4.31.

The California junior the year, Sacramento (Calif.) Grant cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson showed once again why he's one of the nation's top 100 prospects.

Thompson, who looks like he's gotten added even more muscle mass than on his junior film, was extremely fluid in coverage situations and his ability to change directions was inspiring.

Some schools have talked to Thompson about playing on offense, but he showed Saturday that cornerback is where he belongs.

"I prefer defense, that's where I think my best college position will be," he said. "I think my size and speed translate best at corner so that's where I see my future at."

Las Vegas Desert Pines cornerback Jeromy Jones looked great with a great frame and good hips. He wasn't a burner like Thompson and Garvin, but he made up for it with his rough and physical play. Fresno (Calif.) Edison cornerback Robert Peele also showed why he's one of California's best cover men with a very good ability to break on the ball when it's in the air.

Laranzo Bursey of Long Beach (Calif.) Poly, Marcus Ezeff of Santa Rosa (Calif.) Montgomery and Kevin Ellison of Redondo Union, Calif., also looked good at the defensive back position.

For expanded coverage of the Stanford NIKE Training Camp, you should check out StudentSports.com. Access to StudentSports.com requires an additional membership. Coming Soon! The best is getting better. The Rivals.com Recruiting Database will include all authentic data from this summer's NIKE Training Camp schedule.


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