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May 22, 2006

Clemson NIKE Camp notebook

CLEMSON, S.C. The skill positions dominated the action at the NIKE Camp held in Clemson, S.C. on Sunday, led by star quarterback Willy Korn. Korn, who will be throwing passes for Clemson as early as next season, seemed quite at home connecting with future teammate Xavier Dye on pass patterns, but a strong group of defensive backs wouldn't back down.

Here's the skinny on Korn. He's not super tall (6-foot-2), but that's one of the few criticisms available when talking about the Byrnes stud. Korn has the accuracy, zip on the ball and release of a top national quarterback and his agility and athletic ability put him a shade above some others. The best word to describe Korn as a quarterback is polished.

Dye will be an excellent compliment to Korn at Clemson. The tall, lanky wide receiver fought the ball at times in drills, but when it came time for the one-on-ones he put on a show. Dye was evasive off the line of scrimmage despite his long frame and used his hands well to keep defenders from locking him up. What he lacks in speed he makes up for in frame as he can shield the ball from defenders. He's not nearly college ready, but he has a good ceiling for a raw prospect.

The defensive backs impressed me the most as a group on Sunday. Some of the top guys lacked size, but they were all physical and closed on the ball well. A few names that no one knew before the camp emerged and some players simply blew up. NC State commitment Chris Culliver will be getting a lot of looks following his 4.37-second 40-yard dash time in testing. Clemson and Virginia Tech are still recruiting him and look for some of the SEC schools to get involved before all is said and done. If NC State can keep him, they're getting a top-end prospect.

Cornerback Addison Williams from Georgia is 5-foot-9 and 169 pounds but plays much bigger. He doesn't bite on fakes, has great hips and the leaping ability to break up passes. He also has excellent closing speed and no fear, two important qualities in a smaller corner. The same can be said to a slightly lesser extent of Marquise Coleman, although Coleman's frame is quite narrow and he'll have trouble adding weight. He's very smooth in his backpedal and has natural instincts.

Huge running back Ryan Houston was on hand but the North Carolina prospect didn't work out. He said he weighs around 255 pounds and played at 250 last season. Houston said that Miami, Penn State and Louisville have recently offered and the latter is clearly looking at him as a replacement for Michael Bush.

Defensive tackle Tydreke Powell was as big as expected, looking closer to 6-foot-1 than 6-foot-3, but he can play. He was very good in the one-on-one drills and is agile. He and Clemson commitment Jarvis Jenkins were the best tackles on the day.

The other Josh Oglesby is making a name for himself. The North Carolina running back put up a very good 4.43-second 40-yard dash and is physically solid. His namesake out of Wisconsin is arguably the best offensive tackle in the country and is going to be a Badger, but the ACC will be watching this version.

Kentucky big man James Shepherd has an offer from Purdue and it's easy to see why. At 6-foot-6 and 314 pounds, Shepherd certainly looks the part of a DIA tackle and his technique is impressive.

Keep an eye out for two 2008 prospects. Virginia man-child Vincent Painter already looks like he should be in college and Georgia linebacker Robert Pritchard looks like he'll be heavily recruited next year.

There was a run on big tight ends at the camp led by North Carolina's Wesley Saunders and T.J. Franklin. Both players are in the 6-foot-5 range and over 250 pounds and each has the frame of an offensive tackle. Saunders will likely end up at defensive tackle however. A sleeper at tight end also emerged as Georgia tight end Darryl Overton looked agile for his size and could also grow into an offensive lineman.

Speaking of sleepers, a few at cornerback emerged. Southwest Raleigh's Jeff Henderson showed very good instincts and read receiver routes well. Wendell (N.C.) East Wake corner Dominique Ellis is strong at the line of scrimmage in press coverage and has deceptive speed. And Garner, N.C. cornerback Cedrik Snead, a teammate of Culliver and Oglesby, is quite small but has a lot of ability and plays bigger. He also has the confidence needed to play man-to-man. The same can be said of Southern Durham corner Chris Rivers.

Jackson, Ga. defensive end Neland Ball was on hand for the camp but didn't work out. However, it was quite evident why schools are drooling over him with his frame and long arms. Byrnes linebacker Stanley Hunter was also on hand but didn't work out.

T-Bob Hebert, the son of former New Orleans Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert looked solid. He checked in at 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds and anchors well with good balance.

Wide receiver Sidney Haynes from Georgia has good size and is quick, but he had a lot of trouble getting off the line of scrimmage in press coverage and is raw in his route-running.



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