SoCal studs shine Sunday

Sunday, roughly 350 of Southern California's top high school football players gathered at USC to take part in Student Sports' first NIKE camp of the season. While the talent was abundant, there wasn't the one special player, like a Lorenzo Booker or Whitney Lewis from years' past that just stood out above the rest of the pack. There were a few that came close, however. Arguably the player of the camp was QB Rocky Hinds.

Hinds (St. Bernard, Playa del Rey), at 6-4 and 207 pounds, was clearly the toast of this quarterback class, and it wasn't really even close. He ran a 4.47 40 on a sore hamstring and displayed a gun for an arm. Quarterbacks coach Bob Johnson put Hinds through the paces and worked him hard.

The rest of the quarterbacks didn't stand out much at all. They showed flashes of brilliance, but were also inconsistent. The players in this group included Cole Berquist (San Clemente) 6-0, 180, Alex Hickerson (Ocean View, Huntington Beach) 6-4, 210, Brian Stevens (St. Bonaventure, Ventura) 6-3, 185, Brian Hildebrand (Corona) 6-1, 170, Oliver Linter (Beverly Hills) 6-2, 180 and Dion Morton (J.W. North, Riverside) 6-1, 175.

Watching the running backs going through their paces was a different story. There wasn't one standout player, like Hinds, but there was a very solid group of backs that all distinguished themselves as potential D1 players. The head of this group was Terrell Jackson (Centennial, Corona) 5-9, 185 and Patrick Gates (Marian Catholic, San Diego) 5-9, 180.

Jackson is just a freak of nature and you can't help but be impressed watching him work out. He can do it all well - block, cut and catch. He's got all the speed you need in a running back (4.46 40) and is going to make a Division-1 team very happy. Gates is an incredibly smooth, fluid runner. Going out on pass patterns, the coaches would intentionally throw long passes to see what kind of closing speed the RB's had. Gates never looked rushed going after passes and displayed good hands. His 4.40 40 time is proof his speed is legit

Le'Andre Matthews (East Bakersfield) 5-7, 182 had a phenomenal day testing (4.40 40, 4.06 shuttle, 28 reps of 185 pounds and a 33-inch vertical jump), and although he's not the biggest back in the world he is incredibly well put together. To many he's reminiscent of Nip Kaufman in stature, or more recently, Maurice Drew. He has the body that looks to be able to take Pac-10 punishment right now. Other backs that set themselves apart today included Ryen Carew (Sylmar) 6-0, 170, Ryan Kelley (Serra, Gardena) 5-11, 185, Kenyon Blue (Helix, San Diego) 5-8, 160 (who had the top 40 time of the day at 4.33 and also had a 35.3-inch vertical jump), Trason Bragg (Loyola, Los Angeles) 5-10, 190, Travis Lee (Jefferson, Los Angeles) 5-9, 150, Nigel Ricks from Arizona (Cactus, Glendale) 5-11, 170 (4.43 40) and Chris Green (Serra, Gardena) 5-11, 175.

There were five players that stood out in the wide receiver corps - Justin Shaw (Palmdale) 6-1.5, 193, Aaron Ware (Oaks Christian, Westlake Village) 5-11.5, 175, Michael Bumpus (Culver City) 6-0, 175, Ryan Graves (Muir, Pasadena) 6-1, 160 and Damon Morton (J.W. North, Riverside) 6-1, 175. Ware is a sophomore and the younger brother of UCLA star Matt Ware.

Bumpus and Shaw were the ones that really made impressive showings, and Michael's workout was even more so because he was running on an ankle that had been giving him some problems. He's a gamer.

The offensive line was chock deep in talent, and there were seven players that made big impressions on me. The first guy on the list is Chilo Rachal (Dominguez, Compton) 6-6, 310. Chilo is massive, but not overly big. 310 seems to be just about right for him. He lost a big one-on-one matchup with Norris Malele (I'll talk about Norris later on defense), but after that really dominated. That loss to Malele fired him up. His competitive spirit and drive set him apart.

Same goes for Daniel Espinoza (Los Alamitos) 6-2, 290, Mark Gray (Loyola, Los Angeles) 6-2, 285, John Ioane (Tustin) 6-5, 335, Matt Streid (Granada Hills) 6-2, 290, Leo Talavou (Fountain Valley) 6-3.5, 318 and Josh Smith (Norco) 6-5, 313 (who had 30 reps on the bench Sunday). Those 7 offensive linemen have D1 written all over them.

Other offensive linemen that had very solid workouts and should not be overlooked include Brian Abraham (Rancho Cucamonga) 6-6, 260, Dan Rowlands (Los Alamitos) 6-5, 270, Ivan Nicholson (Loyola, Los Angeles) 6-5, 255, Geoff Schwartz (Palisades, Pacific Palisades) 6-8, 280 and John Torres (San Pedro) 6-5, 285.

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