NFTC Chicago: Offensive Skills Recap

We knew this was going to be a strong offensive group at the NFTC in Chicago, but there were a few surprises as sleepers emerged and the usual suspects did what they do.

Receivers a Big Time Group

The camp coaches said this was the best group of wide receivers they had seen all year, as what was an impressive lineup of names did not disappoint.

While there were many BCS prospects and even a few commitments, it was a little guy with no offers who ran away with the MVP award in Fishers (Ind.) junior J-Shun Harris. Harris, a slot guy, showed quickness, explosiveness and a knack for making tough grabs. His size will limit him some, but as a slot receiver and return man, he offers exciting possibilities.

Indianapolis was well represented beyond Harris. Cathedral's Terry McLaurin put up great testing numbers and then used his speed in one on ones. He's a quick kid who can get deep, but also showed he could get open underneath. He did a nice job of making grabs along the sidelines while keeping his feet in.

Hamilton Southeastern's Cameron Polk had a very nice day. He went up high and made several grabs in traffic. For a kid who hasn't played football or wide receiver for all that long, he shows good natural ball skills and has good size. Speaking of size, Carmel's Austin Roberts is a big, well put together kid. We knew that already though. What turned some heads was his ability to run at that size. He could be a big receiver or an H-Back at the next level.

Michigan had two commits there in Drake Harris (Grand Rapids Christian, Mich.) and Maurice Ways (Detroit Country Day, Mich.). Harris is very smooth and effortless in everything he does. He can create separation as a route runner and has excellent ball tracking skills, which he was praised for several times. Ways is a big body with physicality who used his size to shield away defenders on underneath routes.

Iowa State commit Allen Lazard (Urbandale, Ia.) was one of the tallest receivers out there. He used his size to go up and make a couple grabs with guys draped on him. He's going to present matchup problems, especially in the red zone in college. We could even see him potentially growing into a flex type tight end.

Braxton Berrios came all the way from North Carolina and earned an invite to The Opening. He's a good route runner who left a few guys standing and also showed sure hands, making a few tough grabs, including one diving grab over the middle. Harvey (Ill.) Thornton's Jauan Wesley, who has a couple of offers, once again showed that he's a tough matchup for any corner because of his quickness and ability to make cuts while moving full speed. He's not the biggest guy out there either, but has good hands and always seems to be making plays.

In the sleeper category, Treevon Prater of East St. Louis (Ill.) and Hartland (Wisc.) Arrowhead's Ricky Finco both had great days. Prater was able to get behind guys and Finco is a quick kid who runs good routes. Sammie Epps and Devohn Lindsey are two big guys who came from Mississippi and Arkansas respectively and used their size to win one on one battles.

Others who impressed include Treston Fowler, freshman Dezmond Fitzpatrick, and Daurice Fountain. David Dowell (Lakewood St. Edward, Ohio) and Cameron Green (Lincolnshire Stevenson, Ill.) are two sophomores with length who made some plays throughout the day.

At the tight end position, Tennessee commit Daniel Helm showed solid hands and ball skills. Freedom Akiamoldan is a big kid with upside, and Joliet Catholic's Jordan Jones is a tweener, but has a nice frame and catches the ball well.

Backs Don't Disappoint

Illinois has a good group of running backs this year and those guys defended their home turf.

Chicago De La Salle's Mikale Wilbon, a Vanderbilt commit, showed great quickness and burst. Then when it came to catching the ball, he was excellent. He made the play of the day, a one handed catch with a defender all over him. Stock up for Mr. Wilbon after this event.

Chris James of Niles Notre Dame Prep is a thicker kid who showed good route running ability and great hands. We saw him play last year, but didn't get to see him catch many balls and this setting allowed us to see that part of the four-star prospect's game. Matt Domer of Chicago Mt. Carmel is another kid who looked quick in drills and then made for a tough one on one matchup for linebackers. Tinley Park (Ill.) Andrew's big, physical Jarvion Franklin is always tough as a blocker in pass rush drills and catches the ball well out of the backfield.

The running back MVP was Minneapolis Washburn's Jeffrey Jones, who has great burst and quick feet. He's a very good athlete and had everybody talking with his speed and ability to catch the ball. Already a four-star prospect, Jones continued to raise his stock with this performance.

Chicago St. Rita's Tommy Mister has played several positions, but is likely a receiver at the next level. He's added good weight and is moving well still. He looked good in footwork drills. He still has to improve in pass protection, but he had an all around good day. Christian Brothers (Tenn.) junior Ramadi Warren also had a good day.

Of the young guys, Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward's Andrew Dowell and East St. Louis (Ill.) standout Natereace Strong are both longer kids, but have powerful builds. Strong already holds several offers and Dowell looks like a kid who will get them. Both caught the ball well and Dowell made some really tough grabs that turned some heads.

Quarterbacks Come from Near and Far

The nation's top prospect, Kyle Allen, again showed why he has the accolades he does. He has a great combination of zip on his passes and athleticism, but also showed timing and anticipation in the 7 on 7 portion.

Curtis Ladd came up from Texas and spun it well. He put good zip on his passes and has a quick release. Chris Little of Evanston (Ill.) has nice size and made some good throws on the day and we continue to like SMU commit Darrell Colbert Jr., who has a live arm.

Of the young guys, Ryan Brand from U of D Jesuit (Mich.) threw it very well. He's not the biggest guy, but has good zip on his passes and can get it down the field.

There were a few guys who do not have offers yet, but had nice days. Sam Straub (Ames, Ia.), Jalen Brady (Southfield, Mich.), and Ricardo Johnson (Cretin Derham Hall, Minn.) are three of the onest to watch.

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