Lets first talk about some of the bigger name prospects there. Ernie Sims drove up from Tallahassee, Florida. The star running back/linebacker didn't disappoint. Without question, he passes the eyeball test. He has a huge lower and upper body. Sims ran well (4.5 forty) and looks fluid. Each prospect there gets to decide what position they want to go with during the drills. Simms choose LB. Interesting. The Nike Camp coaches were sky high on Sims when discussing the linebackers in Tuscaloosa. In fact, they compared him to former All-American and current Miami Hurricane DJ Williams. They liked his willingness to learn, his passion and competitiveness. The coaches thought he was extremely coachable and was just missing a few minor things with technique to become a great overall linebacker. One thing easy to notice is that pure athletic ability when watching Sims. Whether at linebacker or running back, he is at full speed in one step. He recognizes things very quickly and he appears to have truly great football instincts.
Another camp standout was quarterback JaMarcus Russell(photo above). Boy does this kid have all the tools, although somewhat raw. The first thing you notice is his size. Russell is tall and he is put together nicely. The second thing you notice is his arm strength. Russell has an absolute cannon for an arm. It appeared he may have been pressing a little, as most of the kids were. If he stays relaxed in the pocket and takes a little off each throw, he may become a little more accurate. Russell was a little inconsistent with his throws but he displays everything a quarterback needs to be successful at the next level. With hard work and proper coaching, Russell can go as far as he wants to go in football. The sky's the limit with him.
I do not want to say Chad Jackson (photo above) had an off day, just a few drops. First of all, Jackson has great size for a receiver, especially in his upper body. I mean he is huge and wide. Jackson is fast and quick. He is also powerful with the ball in his hands. At this level, he runs pretty good routes and is very fluid on the field. Jackson showed why he will be one of the most coveted wide receivers in the South.
But two out of staters stole the show – John Logan (photo above) (from Lexington, KY) and Chris Johnson (photo below) (from Rosedale, MS). In my opinion, Johnson had the best day of any of the wideouts in what was a deep and talented position at the camp. Johnson showed consistent and terrific hands. He ran good routes, was quick off the line and dominated the one on one competition at the end. He has very good speed and quickness. Logan ran the fastest forty (4.32) of the weekend and was equally as impressive as Johnson. The two are different in appearance - Logan is a thicker in the upper body and Johnson is lanky.
There were several other wide receiver standouts like Matt Caddell (ALA)(photo below), Anthony Perine (MS), and Maurice Rose (MS) . They all have the same characteristics – speed, quickness and good hands.
Defensively, Eric Gray (AL)(photo below) stole the show at defensive back. He was very impressive in the one on one drills and showed why he will be one of the top cover corners in the South this season. Gray made play after play and was rarely beaten.
The talk of Athens was quarterback Chris Leak(photo below). Last April at the Georgia Tech Nike Camp, Leak was the top QB there, even though he was only a sophomore. You can say the same thing about this Nike Camp as well. Leak is about as polished as you can get at this position in high school. Perhaps his best attribute is his accuracy. He puts the ball where it needs to be nine times out of ten. Leak is fluid and possesses a good arm. He is built well. Leak makes good decisions and can move in the pocket and throw on the run.
Like at Alabama, the wide receiver position was very deep in Athens. Again, an unknown (to the point) was perhaps the standout wideout of the camp. His name is Terrell Allen (SC). He is built much like Chad Jackson (ALA), although he may have a bigger upper body but he may be a tad shorter. Allen ran good routes and caught everything all day. He shows quickness, speed and explosiveness. Other standouts were Armand Cauthen (GA), Antwaun Jackson (GA), Antonio Scaife (MO)(photo below), and Sean Bailey (GA).
Cauthen, like Allen, has great size for a receiver, especially in the upper body. He is aggressive and physical. Jackson is smaller but quicker and faster than those bigger receivers. Scaife came from St. Louis. He is an all-purpose player for his high school team but it is very evident he will be a receiver at the next level. Scaife and Bailey have excellent quickness and speed and showed some consistent hands.
Defensively, Marcus Clayton (FLA)(photo above - Clayton vs Allen) and Paul Oliver (GA) (photo below) were outstanding. Clayton is a little undersized but he makes up for it with his speed (4.39 forty), quickness, competitiveness, passion, and great hips. He was a blanket in the one on one drills. So was Oliver. The big difference between the two is size. Oliver is taller and has extremely long arms. Many regard Clayton as the top cover guy in Florida. I have not seen a better one than Oliver in Georgia so far this year.
What should also be noted about the Nike Camp in Athens is the bench press record. Each individual bench presses 185 pounds as many times as they can. The record was thought to be 45 going into Sunday and they have been doing these camps throughout the country for four or five years now. Josh Thompson, from Statesboro, Georgia, strolled up to the bench press and proclaimed he was going to do 60 reps. We are kind of looked at each other and said go for it. Thompson ripped off 56 reps! It was unbelievable. A buzz stirred through the camp and no one could believe it. But there were a half dozen of us that witnessed this. About an hour or so later, Josh Ward from Sevierville, Tennessee, did an amazing 62 reps on the bench. It was incredible to watch.
Congratulations and a big thank you go to the Nike Camp coaches. They do an absolutely amazing job with these kids. One thing happens at these events for sure, these high school football players learn a few things to take with them and they walk away better players.
Look for more Nike Camp updates later on today and tomorrow.