Through the Trifocals

Ron Turner and staff are in the midst of summer camps, and they are extremely busy entertaining athletes from all over the country. Illinisports reports on Turner's 7 on 7 camp as well as the quarterback and padded lineman camps. <br><br> Read more in Illinisports latest column on

Ron Turner and his staff are certainly busy these days. In just the days between Saturday, June 19, and Wednesday, June 23, they have four different high school camps to run. Their annual 7 on 7 tournament was held on Saturday, along with a padded lineman camp. A quarterback camp followed Saturday evening through Sunday noon. And directly following that was a padded camp for all positions that ran from Sunday through Wednesday.

The logistics of putting on all these camps can be a nightmare if one is not highly organized. Fortunately, there is a large support staff that makes all the arrangements, including registration, directing traffic to the dorms and fields, taking care of injuries, appeasing parents and providing for the many and varied needs of the players.

During this time, Ron Turner and his coaching staff are involved in direct teaching of the campers. They are supplemented by a number of additional high school and college coaches who help provide quality hands-on practice for all the young talent on campus. And there is a large number of campers to teach. The 7 on 7 camp had approximately 90 different high school teams from around the Midwest. The lineman camp had around 400 linemen, the quarterback camp had around 85-90 signal callers, and the padded camp was also quite well attended.

In addition, Turner and his staff are always on the lookout for talent worth recruiting. Since they cannot possibly watch every 7 on 7 game or every position drill, they do videotapes to study once the camps end. You never know when an athlete will "explode" and make a lasting impression, so they all must be given the chance to be seen. These are busy and tiring times for the coaches and players alike, but they are worth it for the lessons learned, the prospects identified, and the good will created. Just having all the young athletes doing Illini drills and studies with Illini equipment on Illini fields and squad rooms helps create a positive impression on the young minds.

For those who have not attended a 7 on 7 camp before, please allow me to describe it to you. This is the seventeenth year of the camp, started by Mike White and continued by John Mackovic, Lou Tepper and now Ron Turner. High school teams are paired up into equal divisions with other teams of comparable school size. These do not necessarily coincide with the eight division Illinois High School Association. In fact, there were just six divisions this past Saturday.

Each team is guaranteed at least three games, with a fourth for those who compete for placing within their divisions. Each field is 45 yards in length and is divided into three 15-yard increments plus two ten-yard endzones. A team earns a first down by crossing the incremental lines. For example, if their last play put the ball at the 16 yard line, that team has four plays to go one yard for a first down. Or, if they start with first down on the 29 yard line, they must go 14 yards in four downs.

There is no punting, but a team can elect to place their opponent on their own five yard line if they cannot move the ball. There is a running clock of 20 minutes per half, with one timeout allowed per team per game. Extra points always count as one point.

Passing is the name of the game. A running back can run a draw play, but a quarterback cannot. Most teams forsake the run since there is no one to block the middle linebacker, and it places a potential receiver in the backfield. One hand touch is the alternative to tackling since no pads are worn. A center is not allowed to go out for a pass, so some teams do not use a center, allowing the quarterback to snap to himself.

The quarterback must release his pass within four seconds of the snap, or it counts as an incomplete pass. Needless to say, the receivers and defensive players do a great deal of running on every play, and many players are near exhaustion by the end of the day. Cramping, sprained ankles, strained knees and similar injuries are always possible. But it is a great opportunity for teams to practice their passing games and passing defense prior to the fall season. And, it is a lot of fun.

I was hoping to report on all the top athletes attending the camp, players who could possibly be recruited by Illinois. But games were held literally all over campus, and only the UI coaches and staff could reach every venue since they all had golf carts to help them. The best I could do was to stay close to the teams with the top quarterbacks. I hope to provide my observations on the attributes of the quarterbacks I observed, both at the passing tournament and in the quarterback camp that followed.

But first, allow me to share the results of the 7 on 7 tournament. In all the years this has been held, I have never seen the results shared with the general public. So in the interest of those who are still loyal to their high school teams and desire to know how they did, I hope the following will be of assistance.

In the 5A division, Maine South captured the championship, held inside Memorial Stadium, with a 40-26 victory over Franklin, Wisconsin. Franklin is described as a perennial power in Wisconsin, and they played well. Their most effective player was a receiver who stood approximately 6'-7" inches tall. He had some athleticism in addition to height, and he caught clutch touchdowns when his team needed them.

Franklin needed every score it could muster because Maine South is a dominant power in Illinois and has a sophisticated passing attack. Led by its "News-Gazette" Player Of The Year, quarterback Sean Price, Maine South finished second in the state last year and scored on nearly every possession throughout the day. Price had an outstanding supporting cast of receivers and defensive backs, all of whom were athletic and in great condition. I will discuss Price more later. The third place game in 5A was won by Pittsburgh, PA (Woodland Hills), because East St. Louis had to leave and thus forfeited the game. The consolation championship in 5A was won by Louisville, KY (Male) over Wheaton Warrenville South.

The 4A championship was won by Morris over a team from Cicero (Hamilton Heights), Indiana, 47-31. Morris was led by 6'-6" quarterback Zach Jones and a cast of competent receivers. Hamilton Heights was probably overmatched as they rode the hot and talented arm of quarterback Dustin Sherer into the championship game. Throughout the tournament, Sherer had taken several 4-second counts rather than throw into coverage, but it appeared he felt too much of a burden of leadership and began his first two possessions with long passes against the wind and into the waiting arms of eager defenders. Hamilton Heights could never recover. I will discuss Jones and Sherer more later also. Glenwood won the third place game by forfeit over Evansville, IN (Reitz).

In 3A, Quincy defeated Urbana 45-33 for first place, while Metamora won third with a 33-18 victory over Charleston. Taylorville won the consolation championship in 3A. The 2A championship was won by Casey-Westfield over East Central, while Monticello defeated El Paso for third and St. Theresa won the consolation championship. In 1A, the Maine South B team won that championship and the Morris B team won third. Palestine won the consolation game. There was also a 1B schedule, and Red Bud was crowned champion with a win over Taylorville B. Principia finished third.

Sean Price, Dustin Sherer and Zach Jones all stayed over for the quarterback camp, so allow me to describe their assets to you. I am no talent expert, but I have seen a number of talented quarterbacks over the years. I hope that will help guarantee a competent and fair evaluation.

Sean Price may be a shade under 6'-1" tall and weighs around 180 pounds, but he has special talent. He has a self-assured attitude that commands respect and confidence in his teammates, and this aura makes it easy to notice him amidst the hundreds of athletes on adjacent fields. When I saw him in the state championship last year, I questioned his arm strength, but I now realize that I was mistaken.

He throws from his right ear with an extremely quick wrist flip that almost makes it look like he is shot-putting the ball in comparison with most quarterbacks, who need to pull the ball in back of their heads to get the proper momentum on the ball. And he is invariably accurate even if his passes are not always perfect spirals. Even in the second half of his fourth game of the day, Sean could zing a line drive 30 plus yards downfield against a decent wind with impressive speed and quickness.

Sean is said to have been offered a scholarship by Illinois, one of three offered quarterbacks who were present on campus this past weekend. A second one with a scholarship offer is Dustin Sherer. Sherer is around 6'-2" or 6'-3" and has broad shoulders and potential for excellent weight and strength gain. He was able to throw bullets to his receivers from a variety of angles, and he could also use touch when needed. He showed some agility rolling out and firing passes across his body both right and left. He may not be extremely quick, but he does have some athleticism. It was clear his arm was tired and tightening up on him by the championship game, so fans who only saw that game did not get a true picture of his ability.

Morris' Zach Jones is still quite slender at 6'-6" tall, but he does have some arm strength. It appears he needs to wind up a little more than Price and Sherer, but he can throw a wide variety of passes with touch. His arms are so long, one sees elbows flying when he throws, but he gets the job done. I have a hunch he might be the type of quarterback who can add velocity to his passes once he gets on the weights and fills out his slender body. He does not yet have a scholarship from Illinois that I know about, but he is a good quarterback.

Another quarterback who looked good at the 7 on 7 camp was Waubonsee Valley's Paul Blalock. Paul has excellent arm strength and a quick release. He was quite impressive, except for one thing. Paul may be a shade under 6'-0", and he might have trouble throwing over tall defensive linemen in the Big 10. Perhaps he would need to have some sprintouts and rolling pockets created for him to give him the passing lanes necessary to take advantage of his excellent passing skill.

The quarterback who traveled farthest to attend Ron Turner's quarterback camp was Chris Turner from West Hills, California (Chaminade Prep). His high school team didn't join him, so he didn't participate in the 7 on 7 camp. As a result, I cannot vouch for his leadership or ability to throw the long pass. But I was impressed with his skill, and I understand he also has a scholarship offer from Illinois.

Chris is no relation to Ron Turner, but he does come from a similar part of California. I understand he has some family in the area and might like to play in the Big 10. And he has a fluid passing motion that comes right over the top with a quick release and a tight spiral. Chris is possibly close to 6'-3" but is slender at around 185-190 pounds. He appeared to have some bounce to his movements, giving the impression of having some quickness. From what I could tell, I would be happy if Illinois successfully recruited any of the three of Chris Turner, Dustin Sherer or Sean Price. They all look good to me.

There were some other quarterbacks of note at the quarterback camp, but I apologize that I couldn't tell most of their names. I do believe one was Dan Lefevor of Lisle (Benet Academy). Dan is a good-looking 6'-4" with good arm strength. I think he might need to improve the speed of his release, but he has potential.

I tried to attend part of the padded lineman camp, held simultaneously with the 7 on 7 camp. But I was at a complete loss to identify players. The large group of offensive and defensive linemen ranged in size from 160 pounds to one lad who was likely more than 400 pounds. The only way to tell them apart was to read the tape adhering to their helmets, and I was unable to get close to them except during a rest period.

However, I did see one name, in part because he was such an impressive physical specimen. His name was Otis Hudson from Barrington, and Illini coaches seemed to be showing him some attention. Although I once saw him listed as an offensive lineman, he practiced with the defensive linemen. He appears to be at least 250 pounds of solid muscle.

A Barrington teammate I saw with Otis during a rest period looked just like the picture of All-American Offensive Tackle Dan Doering. While Doering was not dressed for the camp, and he appeared to be limping somewhat (perhaps from some other camp), he was there nonetheless. He is being recruited by USC and all the top Big 10 schools, but anytime you can get a great player on campus, it is to your advantage. We may not be able to recruit him successfully, but it was encouraging to see him there.

It is impossible to give a full report of everything going on this past few days without taking a team of reporters to do so. I was one person in a sea of humanity, and I learned far less than I had hoped. But I recommend these camps both to high school athletes wanting to improve their skills and to fans wanting to see future college stars.

Go Illini!
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