SoFLA NFTC Notebook

The wide receivers and defensive backs shined today in south Florida. Big time recruits like Da'vante Phillips, Calvin Ridley, Sam Bruce, John Burt, Dionte Mullins, Tyrek Cole, Calvin Brewton and a host of others all had standout days. Of course the camp was loaded at some other positions as well.

Plantation, Fla. - In typical South Florida fashion, the skilled athletes shined bright at the Nike Football Training Camp on a hot and sunny day at Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage. It was a camp dominated by the wide receivers and defensive backs. It was an elite and deep group of prospects in the Classes of 2015, 2016 and 2017.

All the big names had big days. The wide receiving corps was led by a handful of standouts who all battled for MVP honors in Da'Vante Phillips (Miami Central), Calvin Ridley (Coconut Creek, Fla./Monarch), Sam Bruce (Ft. Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas), Dionte Mullins (Miami Gulliver Prep), John Burt (Tallahassee, Fla./Lincoln), and a host of others.

"This camp was very solid," said Bucky Brooks, a wide receiver coach for NFTC. "It was very comparable to what we saw yesterday in Orlando. There were not as many big [bodied] guys but they were just as talented. And I was really impressed with a few of the underclassmen."

First things first, the MVP went to Phillips. He turned an excellent performance and looks as if he's really coming into his own and gaining more and more confidence as a player. Phillips isn't new to the recruiting arena. He has been a known commodity for some time and at one point was committed to the Gators. He ran good routes, showed strong hands and is a physical wide receiver.

"He's so smooth and so fluid," Brooks said. "He catches the ball so well and has such good hands. And he gets it. You tell him something and he processes it on the field so quickly."

Calvin Ridley
Ridley looked just as good, though they are different players. He's bigger, longer and more explosive. But like Phillips, Ridley just snatches the ball out of the air so effortlessly.

"He has a chance to be really special," Brooks said. "Everything just comes so natural to him. He's so smooth and things come easy. There's no question that his best football is ahead of him."

One wide receiver with an incredibly high ceiling is Burt. He's down here and plans on visiting Miami tomorrow. In the meantime, he tested very well this morning and finished with the highest SPARQ rating of this group (99). He has great size (6-4/180) and runs so well. But Burt is far from a finished product. He needs to work on his route running and just becoming more comfortable with the position.

"He's raw but he has a very high ceiling," Brooks said. "He runs so well, especially for a bigger wide receiver. He has a chance. He just needs polish and to keep working on the fundamentals."

Not to be out done, Dionte Mullins put on a show. This 2016 recruit caught just about everything thrown his way, even bad balls. In about a five minute span Mullins made two ridiculous catches in two different ways. One on play he ran a post route and the ball was overthrown. Mullins ran underneath it, laid out and made the diving catch. A few moments later he ran a sideline route and the ball was badly thrown behind him. He stopped himself, turned his body, climbed the ladder and made a one handed grab that drew a loud ovation from all the kids in attendance as well as fans on the sideline and in the stands. This kid just has uncanny ball skills.

"Boy does he have great hands," Brooks said. "For such a young kid he makes great adjustments to the ball when it's in the air. You don't see that in young players. He catches the ball at all angles. That kid is a quarterbacks best friend because he will catch bad balls."

Another rising junior that never disappoints is Bruce. He's another that caught the attention of Brooks.

"That kid just has ‘it'. Bruce has this sense of tempo and timing that's uncanny. He runs good routes and catches everything. It's kind of crazy."

It just wasn't those names, as there were plenty of other wide receivers that all made their splash plays on the day. Jovon Durante (Miami Norland), Kahlil Lewis (Miramar, Fla.), Tavares Martin (West Palm Beach, Fla./ Dwyer), Jawaun Harris (Ft. Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas), Tavaris Harrison (North Miami, Fla.), Austin Mallory, Brandon Luckett (Bradenton, Fla./Lakewood Ranch) and tight ends Devonaire Clarington (Hialeah, Fla./Champagnat Catholic) and James Gardner (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) all had very good days.

Tyrek Cole
Getting defensive
The defensive back group was almost just as strong as the wide receiver corps. This unit was highlighted by several of the big name cornerbacks and safeties in the state like Tyrek Cole (Miramar, Fla.), Tavarus McFadden (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage), Kendrell McFadden (Miramar, Fla.), Jaquan Johnson (Miami Killian) and Calvin Brewton (Miami Central).

"Cole is ahead of the game," said Geno Jackson, defensive backs coach for NFTC. "He has another switch. He has great feet and can flip his hips and run. He has a tremendous knowledge of the game and great instincts. He has a feel. He showed it in half skelly with a couple of great interceptions. It's like he has this switch he can flip on, especially when you ask him to press."

Cole, an FSU commitment, won the MVP for the defensive backs. It seemed closely contested until the final hour. Then he took over and made some very nice plays.

Staying at cornerback, Jackson loves Tavarus McFadden. This is a big cat at 6-foot-3 and 195-pounds. Many think he could ultimately end up as a safety. Not Jackson.

"I think he's a corner," Jackson said. "He's a true corner that is so big. I thought he was having a great day until he tweaked his ankle late. He just so big and so explosive."

Someone that wants to play corner that will likely end up at safety is Kendrell McFadden (West Virginia commitment. He's another that impressed Jackson.

"He's so long," Jackson said. "And he's another big kid (6-3/180). If he puts on another 10-pounds he could become a fierce safety and be among the best. I like him more and more I see him."

Calvin Brewton
Brewton, an FSU commitment, is coming off a shoulder injury and this was his first action in some time.

"You would never know it," Jackson said. "I love his football IQ. He just soaks everything in that you try and teach him. He has great ball awareness and he can cover a lot of ground."

Then there's Johnson who is probably the best athlete of this group. He also excels on the other side of the ball as a running back. Jackson gushed over what he saw in Johnson.

"Oh man, if he was just a little taller," Jackson said. "He's so strong and brings that running back mentality to the position. I think that kid has the heart of a lion. He got beat out there today but he wanted to line up and do it again. I love that mentality he has."

Like the wide receiver position the secondary today was so deep. There were a handful of kids that performed well who have bright futures. A few under the radar guys are Ocie Rose (Miami Booker T. Washington), Ronnie Hoggins (Coconut Creek, Fla./Monarch), Malek Young (Coconut Creek), Malik Henderson (Halladale, Fla.), Tyler Byrd (Naples, Fla.) and Richie Kittles (Ft. Lauderdale Stranahan).

"114 (Hoggins) and 109 (Young) are the same player," Jackson said. "They can change direction, have great hips, and feet. Henderson is very good and so is Ocie. 191 (Byrd) is my sleeper. He has good size and can really run and play the ball. I like Kittles at safety too."

To no one's surprise
It shouldn't be a surprise that several from this group got invited to the Opening after today's event. Da'Vante Phillips, Calvin Ridley, Tyrek Cole, Kendrell McFadden, Calvin Brewton, and Tavarus McFadden all got their invitations. Also invited were quarterback Torrance Gibson (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage) and linebacker Tevon Coney (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.).

Torrance Gibson
Lots of ability
They are far from finished products but the quarterbacks today have some upside and promise according to NFTC quarterback coach Jordan Palmer. The big fish here today was Torrance Gibson.

Gibson, 6-foot-4, 207-pounds, is an incredible specimen and one of the top athletes in the state. But this five-star prospect has work to do at the quarterback position.

"He has so much natural ability," Palmer said. "He just needs to develop the mechanics of the position and get consistent throwing the football. He has to learn to become an accurate passer. As an athlete though he can do whatever he wants to do."

Another stellar dual-threat signal caller is Lamar Jackson from nearby Boynton Beach. Like Gibson, he has to work on the fundamentals of the position.

"He's another outstanding athlete," Palmer said. "And he has a strong arm. He has every throw but he has to get a better feel for the game. He's just raw but has a ton of upside."

Gibson and Jackson already possess a ton of scholarship offers. For Daniel Parr (West Palm Beach, Fla./Dwyer), he's just looking for his first. He threw the ball very well today.

"He actually reminds me a lot of Sean White (Auburn signee)," Palmer said. "He needs to be more consistent and work on his mechanics. But he can finish a throw which is good. I really like him a lot."

The winner of the MVP award for the quarterback position was Maurice Alexander (Miami Booker T. Washington).

"He's a smaller guy with a lot of ability," Palmer said. "He's coachable and it showed today. He got better and better as the day went on. That goes for all these guys here. Maurice is smaller but he plays with confidence."

Jordan Scarlett
Running backs
Zander Bernard (Lake Worth, Fla./Park Vista) took home the MVP award for the running back position. Bernard (5-9/185) is a thick back with a strong lower body. He showed an all-around game and took to the coaching. He showed good hands and some explosiveness.

Bernard beat out running backs like Jordan Scarlett (Ft. Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas) and Jordan Cronkite (Miami Westminster) for the award. It's nothing these two didn't do but Bernard just had a very good all-around day.

Both Scarlett and Cronkite looked top-notch. They have great size and run with power. Scarlett looks more than college ready already.

Of course you can't forget about Mark Walton (Miami Booker T. Washington). He had a nice day and showed a great burst and jump cut in one on one drills versus the linebackers.

Robert Burns
Watch out for this freshman
A name you will be hearing a lot about over the coming years is rising sophomore running back Robert Burns from Miami Gulliver Prep. He finished today with the highest SPARQ testing score of 118.26.

Burns, 5-foot-11, 210-pounds, ran a laser 4.58 forty and had a short shuttle of 4.56. He also threw the power ball 41-feet and had a 39'3" vertical jump.

This freshman already holds offers from teams like Ohio State, Pitt, Cincinnati, and West Virginia while teams like Alabama and Duke are in hot pursuit for this 2017 prospect.

Other MVPs
The offensive line MVP went to Christian Strachan (Hollywood, Fla./Chaminade-Madonna). The defensive line MVP went to Jarred McGahee (Coral Gables, Fla.). The linebacker MVP went to Tevon Coney.

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