Orlando NFTC Notebook

There were plenty of 2014, '15 and '16 stars at the Orlando Nike Football Training Camp and four took home invitations to the prestigious Opening event this summer like Armwood safety Kyle Gibson.

Orlando, Fla. - There's never a shortage of defensive backs from the state of Florida so when you come to a Nike Football Training Camp you can expect to see some outstanding cornerbacks and safeties.

Today was no different but it was the safeties that stole the show, according to NFTC defensive back coach Eugene Jackson.

"Yeah, there were a lot more safeties in this group," Jackson said. "And Kyle Gibson (Seffner, Fla./Armwood) was the guy. I think he was the clear cut top defensive back. He was just a step ahead of everyone. He could really break on the ball and showed outstanding closing speed. When we threw things at him he picked things up very quickly."

Gator cornerback commitment Duke Dawson(Cross City, Fla./Dixie County) was another standout. He was another one of Jackson's favorites and he feels he has more upside at safety over cornerback.

"I think he would be my No. 2," Jackson said. "He's big and he's physical. I think he's a guy that can excel inside the box, add some weight and muscle mass. He's good in transition and plays the ball really well. I like his aggression out there."

Another strong performer for Jackson was Trey Marshall (Lake City, Fla./Columbia). He looked great in the agility drills and got better as the day went on.

"He's a big guy in the secondary," Jackson said. "And he will knock your head off. I thought it took a while for him to get going but once he did he was really good."

Derwin James (Auburndale, Fla.) was another safety that Jackson raved about. He's a member of the class of 2015 and committed to the Seminoles.

"To me he's a hybrid," Jackson said. "He can play cornerback or safety. He made some great plays on the ball today and I thought he was one of the better underclassmen out here."

The great thing about the Nike Camps is discovering new prospects. That's exactly what happened when it came to determining the defensive line MVP. The winner wasn't defensive tackle Poona Ford (Hilton Head, S.C.) or defensive end Blake McClain (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood). There was a surprise for this one and that award went to Markel Winters from Tallahassee (Fla.) Rickards.

"I took home MVP honors," Winters said. "It was a good experience and I learned a lot. I have to have a better take off and use my hands. But I showed out my versatility today."

Winters, 6-foot-3 and 220-pounds, is flying under the radar. So far he has scholarship offers from Western Kentucky, Old Dominion, and Tennessee State while teams like Auburn, Florida State, Kentucky and Samford are all showing interest.

Winters showed good speed and athleticism off the edge.

Other positional MVP honors went to quarterback Michael O'Conner (Bradenton, Fla./IMG Academy), running back Keith Harrington (St. Petersburg, Fla./Northeast), wide receiver Artavis Scott (Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake), offensive lineman Montel McBride (Plant City, Fla.), linebacker Greg Mclisse (Palm Bay, Fla./Bayside) and defensive back Kyle Gibson (Seffner, Fla./Armwood).

Four To The Opening
Four players received invitations to The Opening in wide receiver Artavis Scott, defensive backs Duke Dawson and Kyle Gibson and the nation's top inside linebacker, Kain Daub (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood).

Ford Dominates
One of the most impressive performances Saturday was from four-star defensive tackle Poona Ford (Hilton Head, S.C.). Ford, 6-foot-0 and 285-pounds, lacks the ideal height to play the position but boy does he have every other physical attribute. He's explosive off the ball and very powerful. Ford has athleticism for a big man and great feet. He was unstoppable in the one on one drills versus the offensive linemen. In fact, he won every rep.

That doesn't surprise his head coach B.J. Payne.

"What's scary is that he only started to put his hand on the ground last August," Payne said. "Before he played middle linebacker and fullback for us. He still plays fullback and some teams like him there.

"Poona's upside is through the roof. He's so explosive and so strong. He's phenomenal."

In his first season playing the three-technique at defensive tackle Ford had a blockbuster season, recording 154 tackles, 44 tackles for a loss and 11 sacks. Those are unbelievable numbers for an interior defensive linemen.

"I have coached about four or five guys that played in the NFL and about 20 or so that went to BCS schools and he's the best I have ever coached," Payne said.

Ford is also a monster in the weight room. He squats 600 pounds, bench presses 375 and hang cleans 350. He just turned 17 years old.

The Quarterbacks
Michael O'Connor wasn't the only impressive signal caller in Orlando. Chase Litton (Tampa, Fla./Wharton) threw the ball very well. He has terrific size at 6-foot-6 and 190-pounds. Litton, who says he has current scholarship offers from LSU, Western Michigan, and USF, will have a chance to have a monster spring when coaches can begin to see him throw during the May Evaluation process.

A hot quarterback in Florida of late has been Zach Darlington (Apopka, Fla.). He received an offer from Nebraska last week and Ole Miss the week before. He already had scholarship offers from teams like Virginia Tech, N.C. State, Boston College and others.

Darlington was just cleared to throw this past week after having wrist surgery on his throwing hand. He played with a broken bone is in hand during their state title run and had an amazing post-season in leading the Blue Darters to a state championship.

"That wasn't too bad," Darlington said. "I had to knock a little rust off. I think I threw better as the day went on. I just can't flick it right now like I want."

A new name on the quarterback board is Kyle Ploucher from Tampa Catholic. He was very impressive throwing the football and showed a lot of arm strength and good accuracy.

There were several impressive underclassmen in attendance like Ryan Davis (St. Petersburg, Fla./Northeast) and DeAndre Johnson (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast). Both of these 2015 standouts had very good days. They have good arms and exceptional mobility and athleticism despite not having the ideal size for the position. Johnson has already committed to Florida State while Davis currently holds scholarship offers from Arizona, Florida State and USF.

A freshman to keep an eye on for the 2016 class is Xavier Gaines (Frostproof, Fla.). This is a young kid with a big arm and a lot of athleticism.

Wide Receivers Stoodout
Once again Artavis Scott showed why he's one of the most coveted receivers in the 2014 class. While he doesn't have that great size Scott does everything else very well. Scott, 5-foot-11 and 190-pounds, is well put together and can really run and has outstanding quickness. He runs excellent routes, can get in and out of his breaks and he typically catches everything in sight. He did not disappoint.

A surprise among the receiver group was Raheem Harvey (Largo, Fla.). Harvey, 6-foot-0 and 170-pounds, only has offers from Ball State, Middle Tennessee State and USF but that should change shortly. He runs well, has good quickness and has very good hands.

2015 standout George Campbell (Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake)had a strong day. Campbell shows at every event he performs in that he's a competitor and one of the very best in his class. Campbell was outstanding playing wide receiver today. He's 6-foot-3 and has great length. Campbell can run like a deer and he possesses super hands. 2016 wide receiver Keith Gavin (Crawfordville, Fla./Wakulla)is another impresive underclassman. Gavin has roughly the same height but is much thicker than Campbell. He runs well but not great. But Gavin is a big bodied and physical wideout that has strong hands when catching the football.

Recruiting New and Notes
Five-star linebacker Kain Daub is close to getting to another decision. The former LSU commitment told Scout.com that he's basically down to two schools – Alabama and Florida State. Daub plans on visiting the Crimson Tide on April 21st and make his announcement "sometime this spring." FSU is the front runner at this point.

Lakeland Kathleeen star athlete Ja'Von Harrison has been a long time commitment to Virginia Tech. He picked a big offer from LSU yesterday.

Three-star offensive tackle Denzel Ward recently moved from Chicago, Ill. to the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. He told Scout.com that Florida is his current leader.

Plant City defensive end Sedrick King is player flying under the public radar but not the colleges. He currently holds scholarship offers from teams like Rutgers, USF, UCF, and Kentucky.

2014 Tampa Catholic two-way star T.J. Harrell now has 25 scholarship offers. It appears he will end up playing safety in college. He also plays running back. Harrell told Scout.com that about the only team that hasn't offered that he's waiting on is Miami.

Keith Gavin, a member of the 2015 class, still has only the Clemson offer. He said he grew up wanting to play for Florida State.

St. Petersburg (Fla.) Catholic offensive tackle Reilly Gibbobs missed the Orlando NFTC because of a back injury sustained while throwing in a track meet. It's expected that he will attend the Atlanta NFTC later this spring.

2015 offensive tackle Marcus Ivey (Apopka, Fla.) is quietly racking up his share of early offers. According to his high school coach Rick Darlington, teams like Florida, Ohio State, Nebraska, Oklahoma and South Carolina have already offered him.

Jensen Beach linebacker Xavier Preston says he now has seven scholarship offers – Louisville, USF, UCF, Memphis, Arkansas State, Rutgers and Illinois. His teammate, quarterback Alex Ogle, has an offer from Florida Atlantic.

For more from the 2013 Nike Football Training Camps, check Scout.com's Nike Football Training Camp Coverage.

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