Mini-camp a big success

More than 300 athletes, including many of the top prospects in the Southeast, crowded Bryant-Denny Stadium at Alabama's main mini-camp of the summer.

Officially 315 athletes registered and took part in the drills, while several other prospects were on hand to watch. For new Tide Head Coach Mike Shula and his staff, it was a chance to both see and be seen. "It's important for kids to come in and find out about us," he said. "And it's a chance for us to find out more about them. It's as close to an NFL combine as you'll get in college.

"The more people that we can get to Tuscaloosa and get to know our coaches, the better."

Cornerback Simeon Castille shows his athleticism on the vertical jump.

Director of Football Operations, Randy Ross, was pleased. "It was a pretty good number," he said. "We were up 40 kids from our mini-camp last year. With all our recent turmoil I'd say that was pretty good."

Noting the great number of talented Alabama players on hand, Shula acknowledged that his staff would do everything it could to clean up in-state. "We've got to be big in Alabama, for a lot of reasons," he said. "But mainly the state has a lot of good prospects."

Obviously the majority of players were from Alabama, but numerous prospects from Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee also attended, including athletes from as far away as Dallas, Texas. The camp itself was open to the public, but the Alabama coaches had also encouraged as many of their key targets as possible to attend.

Some of the top offensive talent in the area was on hand, including running backs Trey Brewer (Marietta, GA), Markus Manson (Tuscaloosa-Hillcrest), Josh Smyth (Hoover) and Aaron Johnson (Thomasville). Nursing a sore hamstring, Manson didn't run. But he did turn in an impressive 36 ½ inch vertical jump.

Tight ends Travis McCall (Prattville) and Nick Walker (Pike County) impressed. Walker especially should get an offer from Alabama soon.

Ezekiel Knight (Wedowee), Patrick Gordon (Homewood, LA) and Eric Robinson (Montgomery-Carver) were among the top receivers. Robinson, who turned in a startling 39-inch vertical jump, is also a prospect at defensive back.

Alabama needs to sign several offensive linemen this year. Among the top players on hand Saturday were Cody Greene (Cullman), Jason Bosley (Huntsville), Lance Lee (Oxford, MS), William Davis (Corinth, MS), Ryan Sefton (Gulf Port, MS), John Watts (Russellville) and Matt Mandich (Hattiesburg, MS).

Chris Nickson (Pike County) David Wolke (Smyrna, TN) John Parker Wilson (Hoover) and Conner Wise (Columbus, MS) were among the quarterbacks Coach Shula watched carefully.

D-Line prospect Justin Britt (center) and teammate Cody Green (right) watch the action.

"I saw a lot of good football players out there today," Shula said. "Of course they were a lot younger than the athletes I'm used to."

Plenty of good defensive prospects were also on hand, including defensive backs Travis Robinson (Tuscaloosa-Hillcrest), Adrian Kindred (Opelika), Simeon Castille (Briarwood Christian) and Tyrone King (Birmingham-Minor).

Defensive Coordinator Joe Kines directed linebacker drills, paying attention to Larico Crumpton (Columbiana), Wes Hofacker (Dallas, TX), Lavarus Giles (Benoit, MS) and Dusty and Jordin Lindsey (Mobile) among others.

Again, linemen will be a priority for the Tide in this year's class. Lorenzo Washington (Loganville, GA) caught everyone's eye. "He could help us right now," one observer was heard to comment. Justin Britt (Cullman) led the list of in-state talent, which also included Emmanuel Perry (Montgomery-Carver), Brandon Suggs (Russellville) and Jacquez McKissic (Opelika).

"They grow ‘em big up here," Shula noted afterwards with a laugh. "You don't see that many big guys in South Florida."

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