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May 8, 2004

Southeast's best star at Atlanta NIKE Camp

ATLANTA - There were more blue-chip prospects at Saturday's NIKE Training Camp at Georgia Tech than there are Waffle Houses in Georgia. And as everybody knows, there are a lot of Waffle Houses in Georgia, so that tells you how loaded the collection of around 500 players was.

With arguably the nation's top running back, Maurice Wells, and most of the Peach State's top prospects on hand, the camp might go down as the best NIKE Camp ever.

Norcross (Ga.) Greater Atlanta Christian linebacker Eric Shultz finished with the top SPARQ ranking of a remarkable 96.8. SPARQ - which means speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness - is the first-ever system designed to capture the overall athleticism of any football player, and Schultz tested off the charts.

Schultz was 5-foot-10 and 205 pounds and finished with a 40-yard dash time of 4.62 seconds, put 31 repetitions of 185 pounds, had a 35.5-inch vertical leap and a 4.25-second time in the shuttle. The score was one of the better of the seven NIKE Camp stops so far in 2005.

However, it was really the blue-chip prospects that stole the show Saturday - especially Wells and several other talented running back prospects.

Wells, ranked as the No. 1 running back in the nation in the Rivals100 pre-evaluation list, measured in at 5-foot-9 and 177 pounds. He clocked in with a 4.4 time in the 40-yard dash. Wells, who said he consistently times in the 4.3 range, said he was disappointed with his time because he wanted to beat fellow Florida running back Antone Smith, who clocked a 4.25-second time at the Miami NIKE Camp.

So is Wells the nation's top running back?

"I don't know," he said after the camp. "I'll let you guys at Rivals decide that. I can't be worried about where I'm ranked. I came out here today at the NIKE Camp to make myself a better player and see how I stack up against everybody else."

Wells, however, knows that he's special and he proved it Saturday in everything that he did.

In the position drills, Wells excelled showing electric cut-back ability, a sudden burst of extra speed and the ability to change directions without any hesitation. With Smith impressing at the Miami Camp and North Hollywood, Calif., standout Marlon Lucky impressing at the San Diego Camp, it was going to be hard to measure up to either of them. Yet, Wells did more than that and demonstrated why he's earned scholarship offers from almost every major program in the nation.

While Wells was the headliner at running back, several other prospects showed that they're worthy of the high-level of attention they are receiving.

The Natural State of Arkansas is one of the most underappreciated states in the nation when it comes to Division I players, but North Little Rock (Ark.) Oak Grove running back Darren McFadden showed why he's been called the state's top prospect with a sparkling performance Saturday.

Measuring in at 6-foot and 198 pounds, McFadden ripped off a 4.38 40 and then followed it up with a 4.4 minutes later. McFadden showed great hands in the position drills, ability to make sudden changes of direction and could hardly be covered in one-on-one drills.

With his long and lean frame, there were whispers amongst the more than 100 college coaches on hand that he might even project as a blue-chip safety prospect. Either way, McFadden looks like has all of the good of a player that could be a national top 50 prospect and one heck of a grab for the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Tennessee commitment LaMarcus Coker of Antioch, Tenn., looked impressive with his 5-10, 185-pound frame and 4.3-second time in the 40. Wearing electric blue gloves, Coker was electric on the field.

He could easily be an all-purpose back with his soft hands and ability to cut out of the backfield. He was put together very well and his explosiveness is hard to describe. Coker said he remains a Volunteer commitment, but there is heavy pressure being applied on him from Alabama.

Marietta (Ga.) Wheeler running back Richie Rich blew up at the camp. Already possessing an impressive list of offers, including a recent offer from national-power Oklahoma, Rich measured in at 5-9, 177 pounds and with a 4.4-second time in the 40. Rich threw down the gauntlet and took a major step toward being named the top running back in the state of Georgia for the Class of 2005.

All of the positions were loaded Saturday with countless Division I recruits, but at the quarterback position, several players took even more steps toward a high national ranking with notable performances.

All of the positions were loaded Saturday with countless Division I recruits, but at the quarterback position, several players took even more steps toward a high national ranking with notable performances.

All weekend long, including at Friday's Elite 11 Regional quarterback workout inside Bobby Dodd Stadium, the focus seemed to be on Waynesville (N.C.) Tuscola quarterback Jonathan Crompton. Despite all of the pressure and attention, Crompton delivered.

Crompton showed remarkable poise in the pocket and make great decisions in the one-on-one drills. He was one of the few quarterbacks that were able to drill the 18-yard out on a frozen rope consistently and his footwork was unmatched at the camp.

Tennessee continues to be the strong leader for Crompton and from everything he showed on Friday and Saturday he could be an impressive fit in the Volunteers offense or in any team's scheme honestly.

Joe Cox of Charlotte (N.C.) Independence, Joey Elliot of Evansville (Ind.) Harrison, Cameron Sexton of Laurinburg (N.C.) Scotland, Brandon Jones of Marietta, Ga., and Eric Ward of Decatur (Ga.) Southwest DeKalb were others that looked good at the quarterback position. Cox especially impressive and if college coaches can overlook that he measured in at 6-feet, then they might find a heck of a steal in him.

Carlton Hill of Monticello (Fla.) Jefferson County had a solid camp, too, and with his 6-foot-2 1/2 , 206-pound frame and 4.7-second time in the 40-yard dash he will make a very fine high-level Division I prospect. However, watch for some college coaches to recruit him as a jumbo athlete because of his athletic ability and rough around the edges passing ability.

The defensive line group was also dripping with astonishing talent all across the board. After impressive days, three players took major steps toward being pushed into the freak category.

Even though he didn't run the fastest 40-yard dash time with a 4.9, Fort Valley (Ga.) Peach County defensive end Larry Cox (6-5, 240) was incredible through position drills and in one-on-one competition. His long and still very lean frame will continue to fill in and his first step is quick enough to make him a very good strongside defensive end prospect.

Warner Robins (Ga.) Houston County defensive end Kyle Moore has more offers than he can handle already and he showcased his quarterback-killing mentality with a very solid workout Saturday. Measuring in at a hair taller than Moore, he was a one-man wrecking crew and proved that he will be one of the nation's elite defensive linemen.

With more and more scholarships coming in, Louisville Central two-way player James McKinney worked out with the defensive linemen on Saturday and continued to show why he's been tabbed as the top player in the state of Kentucky. With an average time of 5.0 in the 40, McKinney measured in at 6-3 and 276 pounds.

However it was in the drills and competition part of the camp where he really stood out above the rest. It's easy to see why Michigan offered him early after Saturday, and it's also easy to see why other teams from across the nation have recently extended offers.

With more and more offers coming in, including from USC and Miami, it should be interesting to see if the Wolverines can hang on to a soft oral commitment from McKinney that was made early in the recruiting process.

Heading into the camp, Clifford Respress of Barnesville (Ga.) Lamar County was a relative unknown on the national recruiting scene, but with several scholarships already in his pocket and a very solid performance on Saturday, watch for the 6-foot-4 defensive end's stock to skyrocket.

With all of the talent at quarterback, running back and defensive line it would be easy to overlook the receivers. But the college coaches on hand were drooling over several high-level prospects and one player that saw his stock turn into high-level blue-chip on Saturday.

That player was Carlos Thomas of College Park (Ga.) Banneker. Even though he already has a good list of colleges pursuing him, Thomas had an amazing workout in the drills and in the one-on-one portion Saturday. He couldn't be covered and was able to beat defenders off the line-of-scrimmage with solid upper-body strength and a quick burst of speed that allowed him to excel into the open field.

At least five college coaches after the camp, conceded that Thomas was their pick for the top receiver in the camp, but there were a few others that have solid cases for that honor.

Charlotte (N.C.) Independence receiver Mohamed Massaquoi illustrated why he's considered to be one of the top five players in North Carolina. He measured in at 6-2 and clocked in with a 4.43 40. Massaquoi had very good hands, was able to use his tall frame to go up and get the ball in one-on-one situations and ran very precise routes.

Huntsville, Ala., receiver/tight end Careg Bonner also impressed. Bonner, who is 6-3 and 223 pounds, ran a very solid time of 4.6 seconds and was tough to match up with in passing drills because of his physical nature. It's no surprise that Alabama and LSU offered him a scholarship and why he'll be one of the better players in a down year in the state of Alabama.

There had been a big debate amongst high school and college coaches in South Carolina as to where Bennettsville (S.C.) Malboro County standout receiver Rendrick Taylor stands in the Palmetto State. Some schools love him and others didn't think he was worthy of top five consideration.

Yet after an impressive workout on Saturday, those that tab him as one of the state and Southeast's best receivers look to be right. Even though he clocked a 4.61-second time in the 40, Taylor was exactly the physical type receiver college coaches are looking for today. With more muscles than some linebackers at the camp, Taylor easily got off the line, had very soft hands and caught almost everything throw in his direction.

Nick Kyles of Milldgevile (Ga.) Baldwin showed why he has several impressive scholarship offers with a great outing. He clocked in with a 4.58-second 40 and a 4.31 shuttle, which isn't spectacular, but he did impress throughout the day with great precision routes, very good hands and the ability to use his long frame to go up and get the ball. Kyles already has offers from Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Miami, Mississippi State and Tennessee and would be a steal for either one of those programs.

Brandon King of Houston County, Greg McClendon of Columbus (Ga.) Carver, R.J. Webb of Pickens, S.C. and T.J. Williams of Tallahassee (Fla.) Leon were the other attention grabbers at the position.

The offensive line was highlighted by several high-level prospects, including Atlanta North Springs standout Andre Barbour and Dallas (Ga.) East Paulding tackle Paul Duncan.

Barbour, who is 6-6 and 252 pounds, ran a slow 5.6 seconds in the 40 but showed great footwork and impressive agility throughout the camp. Duncan, who is 6-6 and 282 pounds, ran a 5.4 but when it came to the pass-protection drills, he kept the quarterback protected with great technique and the ability to move his feet quite well.

"I'm a better pass blocker than run blocker," Duncan, who has offers from Duke, Florida and Vanderbilt, said. "We mainly run the ball at my high school, but I'm a better pass blocker. I like allowing the guys to come to you and then using your body and arms to keep them away from the quarterback."

Joe Birdsong of Nashville (Tenn.) Montgomery Bell Academy looked very good also and said he really likes Tennessee and Ole Miss, along with several others. Marlon Davis of Columbus (Ga.) Carver, Thomas Hutton of Wichita (Kan.) Wichita Collegiate and Trevor Scott of Peach County also had very good camps.

Maybe the top defensive back/linebacker at the camp was Marcus Ball of Stone Mountain (Ga.) Stephenson. Ball, the younger brother of Georgia Tech quarterback Reggie Ball, is just going to be a junior, but he looked like he could step out on the field today and his game is also at a very high level with a muscled up physical frame and solid speed.

He could easily be one of the nation's top safety or outside linebacker prospects in the Class of 2006.

For expanded coverage of the Atlanta 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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