Five Standouts at L.A. Nike Camp

Sunday marked the first of the nation's famous Nike Camps, where an invited collection of regional football talents congregate for training, competition and measurements. This first edition was held in Los Angeles, and <i>The Bootleg</i> made the trek to track down the best SoCal talents Stanford will be recruiting this year. Here are photos, numbers and evaluations of five top targets.

After 6 1/2 hours on USC's campus Sunday for the 2003 Los Angeles Nike Football Training Camp, I was left sunburned and dehydrated.  But fortunately for you, I left loaded with observations, photos and chances to talk with some of the best looking kids in Southern California (and Arizona).  I had a fair idea going into the camp who might have a shot with Stanford academically, though without seeing a transcript on these kids I can't tell who will get the most serious of looks from the Cardinal coaches.  I do believe that several of the top performers at the camp have a shot, though.  And profiled below I give you the creme de la creme.  Assuming the top kids showed up for the camp, these are the five who I would nail down today as my top five recruits in SoCal and Arizona if I'm Buddy Teevens...

OL/DL Thomas Herring (Fremont HS, Los Angeles).  Camp measurements and numbers: 6'5.5", 290 pounds, 4.9 forty, 22" vertical and 15 bench reps.  I had heard bits and pieces about Herring being one of the top defensive linemen in the West, but getting a chance to eyeball him in person was eye-opening.  He's built like a beast, and showed that he's very light on his feet as I watched him in footwork and ladder drills.  The bench number might be one cause for alarm, but Herring has hardly done any weight lifting in his life.  I think he came out of this camp recognizing that he needs to hit the weights this spring and summer, and he has a body that is so raw right now... it's scary to think what he could become if he ever get serious about strength and conditioning training.  Herring plays tight end and defensive end at Fremont, which is the same school that is giving Stanford Mark Bradford this fall.  That link could be important for the Card, given the great relations they built with Fremont head coach Peter Duffy.  Duffy told The Bootleg at the camp that he plays Herring out at tight end to best help his team offensively, but I project that Herring could be a fantastic offensive tackle at the college level.  He could also play three of the defensive line positions.  And even though he hasn't developed his strength, he showed during the one-on-one drills that he can envelop offensive linemen.  Herring is the best looking big body I saw, with nobody even a close second.  Very well proportioned, and already moves so well at 290 pounds.  Even if he is a marginal Stanford admissions prospect like Bradford was, he's worth every ounce of Stanford's recruiting efforts.  Coach Duffy also told me that Herring has a tough story at home, with his father gone and his mother mostly in a wheelchair or bed-ridden with lupus. 

QB Rocky Hinds (St. Bernard's HS, Playa Del Rey).  Camp measurements and numbers: 6'4", 207 pounds, 4.47 forty and 29.1" vertical.  Sore hamstring prevented him from running a shuttle, or even the second allowed forty attempt.  While Herring may have the most versatile future, and ungodly upside, Rocky Hinds was the #1 freak of the camp I saw.  To run a camp timed 4.47 second forty at his size, with a sore hammy, is sick.  His size and speed make you think of Dennis Dixon from this last class, and though Hinds is similarly a raw project at the position, his footwork is well ahead of Dixon's.  Great arms strength, and he moves so well around the field.  One fun part of these camps is that you see guys perform several functions in drills, and that included seeing Hinds catch some balls thrown by other QBs in his group.  I liked the soft hand, and have to believe that he could play several positions with his athleticism, in addition to quarterback.  Hinds told me he is looking solely at the QB position for college, and that's how he wants to be recruited, but don't think that college coaches won't have some other positions in the back of their mind when they are watching him.  He'll be one of the hottest and most elite QB recruits in the country.  Already has offers from UCLA, USC and Colorado.  He's a "freak" in the loving sense that Teyo Johnson and Mark Anderson were freakish athletes coming out of high school.  And regardless of who you have on your roster today, you recruit someone like this until he commits or puts a restraining order on you.

TE Zach Miller (Desert Vista HS, Phoenix, AZ).  Camp measurements and numbers: 6'4", 240 pounds, 4.26 shuttle and 28.2" vertical.  No forty (hamstring) and no bench (shoulder).  Miller was hyped as perhaps the best tight end in the West before the camp, and there is no question he dominated at this camp like a man among boys.  It's disappointing that he didn't run a forty, given that he produced such a good shuttle time for his size, but it's what he did in drills that bolstered his reputation.  He moves smoothly, cuts well, has good balance, and showed great hands.  I think what separates him from so many other tight ends his age, though, is the fact that he does everything so well with a body that is already so well put together.  Miller is a recruit where a picture is worth a thousand words, and college coaches look at him with the idea that he could probably play in his first year at that level.  Now layer his 4.0 GPA on top of this, and you can understand why he might be Stanford's top tight end recruit in the nation.  Miller says academics and education are important to him, which gives the Card a solid opening.  Already has offers from Arizona, ASU and Miami.  He'll be a top national recruit this year, and would have been the MVP of this entire camp had he run a forty at 4.7 or under.

RB Terrell Jackson (Centennial HS, Corona).  Camp measurements and numbers: 5'9", 183 pounds, 4.46 forty, 4.14 shuttle, 31.6" vertical and 13 bench reps.  The above three are either raw or missed an important testing mark to round out their resume, but Jackson put the whole package together.  His speed and vertical leaping marks speak to the type of athlete he presents, and he backed it up on the field with the best performance in a very large running back group.  He looks good running, cuts smoothly, and has a great burst.  As a junior, he grabbed the nation's attention with no less than fifty touchdow


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