It was a year ago at this time when Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral defensive tackle Ekom Udofia first broke into the national limelight. He put on a dazzling performance as a sophomore at the Palo Alto Nike Camp, with off-chart marks in strength and quickness to go with his performances in the one-on-one battles against some of the top 2004 Class offensive linemen. Fast forward to a few weeks ago when Udofia made his greatly anticipated return to the Nike Camp on the same practice field. Though he was a little disappointed in how fast he ran on the wet grass, after practicing the day before on the adjacent turf lacrosse field which he had believed would be used for testing, the premier defensive tackle walked away having met his goals.
"I did great compared to my expectations," Udofia comments on his performance. "I wanted to be Camp MVP, dominate one-on-ones, and test high, which I thought I did. I wanted my 40 and shuttle to be better, but they were only off because we didn't test on turf."
The rising senior defensive tackle measured at 6'1" and 288 pounds, with a 31.2" vertical leap. He ran a 5.09 in the 40 and 4.65 in the shuttle. Of his testing numbers, his most amazing was the 48 repetitions of 185 pounds on the bench press he put up. No player has ever benched more in the history of these combines.
But testing marks tell only a fraction of the Ekom Udofia story at the 2004 Nike Camp. What he did in drills and then in one-on-one battles against the top offensive linemen truly earned his MVP honors. All of his battles but one came against the Barresi twins (Ben Barresi and Joe Barresi) from Oklahoma, who were breakout players in their own right at this camp. With the exception of one play where one of the Barresi boys put Udofia in something of a headlock (afterward, the animated DT yelled out to the assembled crowd that nobody could stop him unless they used an "L.A.P.D. choke hold"), it was a demonstration of domination. If you looked more closely, you saw some of the techniques that Udofia employs. Put those moves together with his explosive quickness and his overpowering strength, and you see why he is heralded as the top overall defensive tackle in the nation this year.
"I showed everybody that I could use power to get to the QB, but then I also showed off my quickness and finesse with some outside moves - then my outside-and-in move," the Arizona athlete comments. He goes on to elaborate on that out-and-in move: "It was against one of the Barresi's, and I had used two outside moves on him before he had choked me, so I called him out on my last turn. I knew he would be kicking fast outside because that's where I was going, so I took him hard upfield on his outside for three or four yards. I used my right arm to club his inside arm, then came through and ripped with my other arm to get by and beat him."
The Nike Camp took place on a Saturday, and that next day was Stanford's Junior Day. Many recruits who were invited to the event walked away buzzing about the Cardinal coaching staff, players, facilities and academics. Kansas City (Mo.) TE/DL Ben Ladner committed to Buddy Teevens on that day. Sunday should logically have been a big day for Stanford's recruitment of Udofia, but he instead caught an afternoon flight home. The coaches had a very brief window with him, and they made the most of that precious time.
"I had a flight at 3 o'clock, but I stopped by to talk to the coaches for about 15 minutes after my brother, sister and I ate brunch," the youngest Udofia details. "When I showed up, I must have talked with every coach. We talked about why I should come [to Stanford] and how the team is going to be. They also congratulated me on the Nike Camp and for putting up 48. Then I talked to Babatunde Oshinowo - he was just saying how crazy it was that I put up 48."
Udofia took another unofficial visit to The Farm a week ago with his family to see the graduation of his sister, Aniebiet. "I talked to the coaches while I was there, and the whole time was good," the elite D-tackle reports. "Stanford is one of my top four schools right now - with USC, Miami and Oklahoma."
There is something magical about a top five list in the world of football recruiting, largely because prospective student-athletes are allowed to take five official visits. It so happens that this recruit feels more solid with a quartet of leaders. Beyond that, things are a little fuzzy. Just a few weeks ago after the Nike Camp on Stanford's campus, Udofia told The Bootleg that he held a top six - the aforementioned four plus Tennessee and Georgia. Things have changed slightly since.
Of course, some fans who have been closely watching this recruitment will put little value in a top four, five or seven list. They have (not unfairly) perceived that Ekom Udofia is on a collision course with a USC commitment, and discussions of any other schools are just noise. These discerning fans care not to have their time and emotions wasted on following the recruitment that has an inexorable ending for someone else on Signing Day, much less a century-old rival like USC. The question then becomes: when will Udofia pull the trigger on the Trojans?
"I don't even know if I'm going to USC," the junior All-American flatly responds.
And there is at least one reason to believe he is speaking candidly with that comment. Though he has unabashedly held the Trojans in the highest esteem ever since we have talked with him - which goes back a year - he has yet to visit the campus. Udofia has been speaking since last fall of a heightened desire to take an unofficial trip to the SoCal school, yet we are in late June without any such visit transpiring. As each day passes, it appears that USC will have to wait until their one hosted official visit to woo this defensive dynamo.
"I might try to take some unofficial visits this summer, but I don't have any planned so far," he allows. "I might be just doing fall officials."
For some time, Udofia has been looking at a long horizon for his college commitment, which will most likely take him out to January. With six or so months still to go, we would be unwise to rush into any predictions or early conclusions. With a likely plan of delayed visits, in contrast to many kids who are traveling all over the country right now, that merely tells us that the meat of this recruitment is months away. Sit back and relax. The race for Ekom Udofia is still in the starting blocks. All we know right now is that Stanford is in decent position to be in that final heat this fall as he selects his five official visit recipients.
"I'm not really sure what has them on the rise for me - I just like 'em better. I think next year's team should be really good," he says of Stanford. "It seems that they're working hard to have good teams in the future; there's a good chance for me to come in and play; and there is the education."
As one final note, Edofia took the SAT for the first time earlier this month and received his score today online. With a 650 on the quantitative section and 570 on the verbal, he brings a 1220 to the table for Stanford's admissions application process.
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