May 31, 2009

Houston NIKE Camp unveils stars

HOUSTON - At the Houston NIKE Football Training Camp at Rice University some athletes stood out with great speed, others with great size and some with loads of fanfare and hype. Houston (Texas) Cy-Ridge wide receiver Kevin Johnson was not the biggest player in attendance, nor likely was he the fastest or carry the most hype but Johnson may well have been the best prospect at the event.

After the swine flu scare caused a postponement of the camp from earlier in the spring, the NIKE Football Training Camp staff reconvened to host some of the top prospects in Texas and the surrounding region. Johnson took home the wide receiver MVP award with a day that turned a lot of heads.

"I just wanted to come out here and compete with the best of the best it was very exciting and I learned a lot of things," Johnson said. "It was a great day and I learned a lot."

Over the past two years, Johnson has been playing in the shadows of his quarterback Russell Shepard and running back Hasan Lipscomb. With both offensive threats gone on to LSU and Minnesota respectively, Johnson will be emerging to shoulder the bulk of the offensive burden for his Cy-Ridge team. With good speed, a strong frame and very consistent hands, Johnson quietly showed that he has the ability to take on that responsibility.

This season for Cy-Ridge, Johnson will start out as a wide receiver but will also step into the role of quarterback as well to allow him the maximum potential of making plays for his team.

Though he may not yet have the early hype of his teammates from the 2008 season, that is changing quickly. Johnson's abilities have opened some eyes not only during the season but throughout the spring and he is now up to 16 official scholarship offers. Currently, four schools are standing out to him: Oklahoma State, Minnesota, Arizona and Arkansas.

Though Johnson doesn't yet have his summer plans set in stone, he does plan to attend some camps and take a closer look at some of the schools that have offered him.

Texas-sized arms

While the quarterback group on the day wasn't deep there were some very accomplished and talented passers that led the way. Perhaps the strongest arm of the bunch was Tyler Arndt out of Cuero, Texas. Arndt has a tall frame at about 6-foot-4 that can hold more weight and he has the velocity that you want out of a passer of his size. He also threw the ball with accuracy and poise and showed that he should be in the conversation any time the top quarterbacks in the state of Texas are discussed.

With two quarterbacks from within the state already committed the Texas Longhorns certainly hope that they already have a definitive answer to the top in-state quarterback discussion and both of its future signal-callers were in attendance on Sunday. Connor Wood and Case McCoy both took snaps and had solid afternoons in the Houston heat.

Wood has everything you want from a quarterback in terms of his size and athleticism. He also has a strong arm and has the ability to make any throw on the field. He doesn't spin the ball as consistently as you would like to see but his athleticism, arm strength and size make him a very special pull for the Texas staff.

McCoy had another solid afternoon. He isn't going to wow you with his passing ability but he is effective and gets the job done. McCoy's most unique trait is his athleticism and ability to throw the ball on the run and be creative with passing lanes.

Just as he did at the TCU Nike Camp, Jacob Morgan of Austin (Texas) S.F. Austin had another very strong day. He is a big strong kid that has the arm to go with his size and he continues to show the arm strength and accuracy that shouldn't take long to land him his first scholarship offer.

Perhaps the prettiest deep ball on the day was consistently coming from the arm of Houston (Texas) Bellaire quarterback Adrian Nelson. The tall lefty has very nice touch, a strong arm and spins the ball nicely. As he polishes up his footwork and mechanics, Nelson could see his stock rise quickly.

Underclassmen on top

The NIKE Camps are generally dominated by 2010 prospects both in numbers and in performance but one of Sunday's special performances came at the hands of 2011 running back Deandre Washington of Missouri City (Texas) Fort Bend Marshall.

Washington did a little bit of everything on the day. In the agility drills, Washington started the day off with great feet and change of direction and saw that ability translate in the one-on-one drills. Not only was he nearly impossible to touch in the open field tackling drill but he also showed a toughness and nasty streak as a finisher of blocks in the pass-pro drill.

Washington added a nice set of hands to his resume and made certain that he is talked about as yet another running back to add to a growing list of talented 2011 backs in the state of Texas. Maybe the most impressive part of Washington's afternoon was the competitive nature he showed to take it to all of the older players.

Another 2011 prospect in attendance that is already getting loads of attention was Shreveport (La.) Evangel defensive end Jermauria Rasco. Due to the number of defensive linemen at the camp, Rasco didn't get quite as many reps as he would have liked in the one-on-one session but he made the most of every rep he took, showing why he already has multiple verbal offers.

At the end of his day of work, Rasco listed Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M and UCLA all as schools that have already verbally offered him with official letters set to arrive in the fall.

Physically imposing

On the defensive side of the ball there were a few prospects that stood out the second that they walked on the field. Fortunately those prospects performed up to their expectations as well.

The linebacker MVP on the day was Efrem Oliphant out of Houston (Texas) Langham Creek. At 6-2, the Houston commit was one of the bigger linebackers on the field but he moved as well if not better than any of the smaller backers. Oliphant is speedy downhill but also plays very well in space. He has the ability to be an a-gap run-stuffer but also run vertically with backs or tight ends.

In Oliphant, Houston has definitely picked up an early steal and a strong foundation to its recruiting class.

At safety, another prospect stood out physically in Jonathan Anderson. Anderson has great size as a safety and looks almost more like a linebacker from a physical standpoint. However, he stands out even among small corners in his quickness and explosiveness out of his cuts.

Because of his size and frame, it would be easy to project Anderson down to outside linebacker but he showed on Sunday that he has the athleticism to cover at safety. Anderson has one offer currently from Utah but he could see that list grow dramatically. He noted that he would like to look at schools outside of the state of Texas for college and singled out UCLA as a school he would love to hear more from.

At running back, Round Rock (Texas) High School back Jordan Wells had maybe the best frame of all of the backs in attendance. He was a muscular and athletic back at around 5-foot-11 and even though he was one of the bigger performers, he was also one of the best with the ball in his hands.

In the open field tackling drill, Wells had numerous reps that left his defender grasping nothing but air. He runs with good pad leverage and his instincts and change of direction are very impressive. With Wells' frame he also showed that he can take the pounding of being an every-down back even on the college level. Currently with one offer from UTEP, expect to see Wells' offer list grow.

Late to the party

On the pre-camp roster for the Houston event were the names Jeremy Hill and La'el Collins, both 2011 prospects from Baton Rouge (La.) Redemptorist. Both prospects are part of a loaded class of 2011 in the state of Louisiana and both were hoping to use the Nike Camp in Houston as a spring board to separating themselves from the pack.

The two made the five hour drive together up to Houston on Saturday and woke up on Sunday ready to compete. The only problem was that they thought the camp started at 2:00 pm rather than end at 2:00 pm.

Had they been able to compete, it is very possible that they would have been among the best players at the camp. Just walking on the field, there was no doubt that Collins was the best looking offensive lineman from a physical standpoint and his added athleticism would have likely made him one of the top competitors in the one-on-ones.

Hill also is a prospect that will wow you when he walks on the field. He is a legit 6-foot-2 and a powerful 210+ pounds. He has shown on film that he has the speed and quickness at the size to be much more than just a grinder as well.

Already with an offer from Tennessee for each, Hill and Collins will continue to compete this summer in camp settings to showcase their abilities.

D-line dominance

Though the offensive line wasn't among the best groups at the camp, there were more than enough defensive linemen that shined when they had the opportunity. Risean Broussard out of Lake Charles (La.) LaGrange probably created the most buzz during the day due primarily to his pure athleticism.

A Tennessee commit, Broussard showed incredible foot-speed and quickness at his size and a lot of explosives in both his hips and his upper body. Though he is still very raw from a technical standpoint, he will be a high-potential prospect that the Tennessee coaching staff will love to work with.

Along with Broussard, some of the other top defensive line performers included Texas A&M commit Gavin Stansbury and the super athletic Holmes Onwukaife.

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