April 12, 2010

Running backs lead the way at TCU Nike

FORT WORTH, Texas - The talk is rampant in recruiting circles about the level of talent at the running back position in the state of Texas' 2011 class. There may not be a state in the country that has more talent at a single position than Texas at running back. Fittingly, when the Nike Football Training Camp circuit hit the state of Texas on the campus of TCU, the running backs were without a doubt one of the most talented groups in attendance.

The group consisted of big names such as Herschel Sims, Texas Tech commit Kenny Williams, Oklahoma commit Danzel Williams, Kansas commit Darrian Miller and several more highly-recruited prospects.

"Overall we had a very strong group," said Nike RB coach and former Air Force running back Jake Campbell. "Typically when we come here down at TCU we have a strong group but today was very strong."

The big name prospects did not disappoint and there wasn't a bigger name than Sims. With offers from around the country, Sims comes into every game and every event with a target on his back and a spotlight on his play due to the expectations that he has created for himself. On Sunday he lived up to those expectations.

"He's got great speed," Campbell said of Sims. "He's a tough little brick. He's solid. The more and more I watched him, he's a really good athlete. He's able to have the spatial awareness that I like to see out of a running back. He knows where he's at on the field. He knows how to control his body and create just enough separation to get it done."

If anyone had an excuse to sit out the event it was Sims. The 5-foot-10, 190-pounder has plenty of offers to choose from, a state championship under his belt and little else to prove. However, he jumped at the chance to get out and compete.

"It's just the fact that I love competing," Sims said. "I'm a competitive guy and I just want to show people who's the best. There's a lot of talk that people have different opinions on who's the best and I'm just letting people know that I'm all about football and I'm all about business."

Sims was not alone in living up to they hype. Two other committed prospects stood out to the Nike coaches in Miller and Williams.

"Miller stood out," Campbell said. "He had an excellent day. He's committed to Kansas and there's definitely a reason for that. He did well all day today…Kenny Williams, he was another one right there in that top group. He's another one with tremendous body control and he can really get it done in space."

However, even with all the headliners in attendance, the MVP award for the running back position went to a relative unknown in Gilmer's Gus Johnson who has yet to pick up his first scholarship offer.

"First off all he's got great size," Campbell said of Johnson. "He passes that look test but he was just fluid all day today. In the Sparq drills he was fluid with nice cuts and he runs low which is an important quality for a running back."

Johnson is a very physical back at 5-foot-10 and over 200 pounds and he also excelled at the pass protection drill. His complete body of work on the day is what ultimately gave him the edge for the MVP award. In a group as deep as the running back group was though, it was almost a shame to limit the MVP to one player. Several other prospects had good days including Deandre Washington, Kenneth Farrow, Tommie Robins and Jarrell Oliver.

WR vs DB

If the running backs were the most talented group as a whole at the event, the wide receivers and defensive backs were not far behind. Both groups were loaded with talent but both groups had some unlikely names emerge as the best.

Tulsa knows about Lancaster wide receiver Cedric Gilbert as his only official offer but it won't take long before numerous other programs begin to catch his scent. Gilbert had a fantastic day as a physical receiver with great size, fluid, natural route-running and the ability to make spectacular catches. Though he may not have elite speed, he certainly is a physical mismatch and has all the other tools you want in a wide receiver.

The MVP of the wide receiver group was TCU commit Cameron White. White has continued to add height and weight over the last year and he also showed a complete package at wide receiver with size, hands and the ability to create separation.

Adding to the trend of big receivers, there aren't many wideouts that have a more encouraging body structure than Jonathan Lee at Allen. Lee has good height, good strength and the frame that looks like it can easily add weight without losing athleticism. Lee had a standard effortless day at wide receiver.

Other standouts at the position included Kyle Coleman out of Pine Bluff (Ark.) Watson Chapel who looked very strong and explosive in and out of his routes, JaCorey Shepherd of Mesquite (Texas) Horn who was continuously on the receiving end of big plays, and one player that fits the sleeper mold in Jordan Nubine out of Blue Springs, Mo.

Nubine at 6-foot-4 has the look of a player that can grow into a tight end. He runs very good routes, has soft hands and seems to have a good feel for finding the soft spot in a defense.

Other notables that were in attendance at wide receiver were Oklahoma commit Kameel Jackson, Marquis Jackson, Christian Jones and Jacob Bennett.

Lining up across from the receivers was an accomplished group of defensive backs led by the likes of Franklin Shannon, Josh Turner, the MVP of the day Jaylon Finner and Lyndell Johnson.

Through the eyes of most of the Rivals.com personnel in attendance, two defensive backs really separated themselves in Charles Jackson of Klein Collins and Tevin Mitchel of Mansfield Legacy. Both cornerbacks have lock-down potential with loads of talent.

Mitchel picked up his first offer three weeks ago from Arkansas and since then has added Tulsa, Washington State and Purdue. Don't expect the offers to stop. He is a long corner at 6-foot-0 with long arms but he is also explosive. He plays with the quickness of someone much smaller and can get in and out of his backpedal with ease. Mitchel is wiry strong with a natural fluidity to his game.

Jackson is similar in that he has good size at corner, pushing 5-foot-11 but he is more of a physical quick twitch athlete. All of his movements are powerfully quick, he has great reactionary skills and he has the strength and frame to be an impact in the run game as well.

Another defensive back that deserves mention is Texas A&M commit Josh Stewart. Stewart does not have ideal defensive back height but he does have great instincts, is extremely natural out of the bail technique and out of his backpedal and he was as effective as anyone on the day in locking down opposing receivers.

The trenches

At last year's TCU Nike Camp, the offensive line stole the show with numerous prospects that looked like the prototype of an all-conference offensive tackle. The 2010 edition may not have had the future left tackles but had some great interior lineman that look to have some bright futures.

The MVP award fittingly went to Tony Morales out of Arlington (Texas) Sam Houston who just edged out his brother Alfredo Morales for the award. The Morales brothers both have strikingly good feet, hip flexibility and balance in working against the defensive linemen. They show a nasty physicality on film as run blockers but looked like seasoned veterans at pass protection on Sunday. Tony gets the edge between the two with slightly better size but both look like they have the ability to be starters for several years on a college offensive line.

Another interior offensive lineman that looked sharp was Andrew Ness. He has the ability to play center and with his size and feet, he looks like he could be a great one. He handled some very good pass rushers in the one-on-ones.

Jake Brendel out of Plano East and Bobby Thompson of Midland (Texas) Christian were among the most effective tackle prospects to compete.

On the defensive side, a lot of the talent was also on the interior, led by Monroe (La.) West Monroe defensive tackle Chuck Hunter. Hunter is somewhat underwhelming on the hoof with less than ideal height and some bad weight but he is very explosive, is a high energy, high effort player and he looks to have a nasty streak that you look for in a defensive tackle.

Defensive tackle MVP James Twins, defensive end MVP Jalen Williams, defensive end Tylond Robertson, Baylor commit Trevor Valdez and defensive tackle Connor Myers all had standout performances on the defensive line as well.

Worth the trip

At linebacker, Dallas Skyline's Anthony Wallace worked out, as did Texas Tech commit Devon Hocutt as well as a host of other talented in-state prospects. However, the standout on the day was MVP Aaron Wallace Jr. who made the trip all the way from San Diego, Calif.

Wallace Jr. was probably the best looking linebacker on the hoof, measuring in at around 6-foot-4 and over 200 pounds. He also looked the part on the field. He used is length to show great range but was still able to play low, have good change of direction and good explosiveness.

Wallace Jr. comes from good stock. His father, Aaron Wallace Jr. is the all-time sack leader at TCU. The younger Wallace has been hearing from UCLA, Cal, Stanford and Texas A&M but has yet to pick up an offer.

2012 and beyond

The strong showing for talent didn't end with the junior class in Fort Worth. Some standout sophomores and even a few freshmen served notice that they will be names to watch in the fall of 2010.

Two 2012 prospects that were tough to miss were running backs Zac Brooks and Trey Williams. Brooks, out of Jonesboro, Ark. is a long lean back that looks like he could project at a number of positions but he had great burst, good lean, quick feet and strength. He is nothing if not intriguing and looks to have a ton of upside. Already the in-state Razorbacks have recognized that upside, issuing an early verbal offer.

Williams looks more like a prototypical back without great height but with a strong stocky frame. What jumps out about Williams is his ability in the open field. He was as good as any back, regardless of class, in making defenders miss and in changing directions on a dime.

Dakota Austin, a 2013 cornerback out of Lancaster, Texas, 2012 wide receiver Cayleb Jones, wide receiver/tight end Griffin Gilbert and Thomas Johnson of Dallas Skyline each had flashes of their own as names to watch for the future.

The quarterbacks

Saturday was the showcase day for the quarterbacks and many of them competed for a second day in a row on Sunday and many of the same names stood out. The MVP for the group was Kiehl Frazier and he was a deserving recipient. Despite strong showings by J.W. Walsh, Michael Brewer and several other talented passers, no one shows the tools that Frazier does with good size, a cannon of an arm and the ability to put touch on the ball when needed. If Frazier can speed up his release, he has the potential to be a phenomenal college talent.

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