NIKE Camp - Linebackers

This year's group was led by a trio of talented south Florida standouts, all of which should draw plenty of national recruiting interest this year.

Although the group of linebackers at this year's NIKE Camp wasn't real deep, the top few were pretty good.

At 5-foot-11 1/2 and 205 pounds, Miami (Central) standout Ali Highsmith showed why college coaches are getting very excited about him as a prospect. Highsmith -- who is no relation to former UM standout Alonzo Highsmith -- ran a 4.70 in the shuttle run, showing off pretty good lateral quickness. Although he might not be the most impressive athlete among the linebackers, Highsmith can flat out play. During drills, he was awesome. His instincts are excellent and that's what separates him from most other linebackers. In addition, nobody can talk a better game. Although his pass coverage skills could be improved, he diagnoses the run as well as any linebacker in Florida. And he's extremely quick to it. I think Highsmith is an upper Div 1 prospect right now, although I would not label him a big timer just yet.

First it was Jonathan Vilma. Then it was Frank Gore. Last year it was Alex Pou. This year, Coral Gables standout linebacker Quintero Frierson will try to keep the Coral Gables-to-UM pipeline alive. At 5-foot-11 and 205 pounds, Frierson isn't quite built as well as Highsmith physically, but he does have similar quickness, as proven by his 4.72 shuttle time. Like Highsmith, Frierson separates himself with excellent instincts and the natural ability to find the ball career. He moves in and out of traffic really well, and he's a tremendous form tackler -- considerably better than Vilma's tackling ability at that age. Frierson was smooth during drills. The only question I have is how well he can take on much bigger blockers at the next level. I'm not saying he's blockable, but I think it'll be his toughest transition. Still, I think he's an upper Div 1 prospect right now.

The best athlete among the group was clearly Hollywood Chaminade's John Beason. At 6-feet and 206 pounds, Beason showed off excellent lateral quickness by running a 4.54 shuttle time twice. He moved from sideline to sideline better than any LB prospect at the entire camp. Physically, he's what you want. At a track meet in Palm Beach County last week, Beason finished second in the high jump behind UM incoming freshman Devin Hester, who goes about 5-11 and 175. Beason was outstanding during 1 on 1 drills, and probably showed the best ability to turn and run with receivers of all the major LB prospects. While he doesn't have the instincts of a Highsmith or Frierson, he still finds the ball extremely well. I think Beason is a definite upper Div 1 prospect right now and athletically, he probably has the most upside of the three. Right now, however, he's not as good a football player -- in my opinion -- as Highsmith or Frierson.

Northwestern's Leo Waiters checked in at 6-feet and 232 pounds, a little shorter and heavier than I expected. However, he was very impressive during drills. With a 4.50 shuttle time, Waiters did very well during drills. Although he's a candidate to grow into a 6-0 and 255 pound linebacker, I think he performed well and is probably a mid level Div 1 prospect right now.

When talking about Ely, everyone mentions RB Tyrone Moss and the two big linemen (Andrew Bain and Cyrim Wimbs). However, it's on the defensive side of the ball that another Div 1 prospect stands out. At 6-foot-1 and a solid 215, James Martin put in an impressive performance. With a 4.82 shuttle time, Martin isn't the quickest linebacker out there, but he makes plays. A very powerful and explosive tackler, he also features excellent pass rushing skills which leads me to believe he could become a rush-linebacker at the next level. He's a mid level Div 1 prospect right now.

There's your recap of the Miami NIKE Camp when talking about linebackers, but I just wanted to update another top notch prospect and that's North Florida Christian's Ernie Sims, who attended the Alabama NIKE Camp yesterday. Sims checked in at 5-foot-11 and 217 pounds. He's built much thicker than the kids talked about above and has more muscular development. Sims showed off blazing quickness by running a 4.37 shuttle time. I think it's he -- along with Tavares Gooden -- that are the big time linebacker prospects inside the state right now. Highsmith, Frierson, and Beason are upper Div 1 prospects that are real close. Regardless, you can see it's a very strong year for linebackers in Florida -- especially when you consider Dwight Stevenson (check recap of defensive ends) will be a linebacker in college and talented Edison standout Woodley Monhomme was a no-show at the camp.

Next up - Cornerbacks

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