A Look At The SoCal Nike Camp

Here's a look at the players who caught our eye at the Nike Camp in Los Angeles, our first stop on the tour. There may not have been a player in the league of a Whitney Lewis, but the camp did show there is some great depth in the region once again.

This was the most difficult camp we've had to choose an MVP for various reasons. Our MVP is always based on a combination of how well a player test as well as how he does in the position drills.

Phoenix (Ariz.) Desert Vista tight end Zach Miller looked great and was arguably the top offensive recruit at the camp. Miller is just about without a weakness on the field showing good size and speed, great hands and runs excellent routes. Not only is he the top tight end in the West, it's going to be tough to find a better tight end anywhere in the country. Unfortunately, Miller didn't run a 40 which eliminated him from consideration.

We also loved Playa Del Rey (Calif.) St. Bernard quarterback Rocky Hinds who is a physical freak and one of the most gifted athletes we've ever seen at the position. With a slow start, Hinds still clocked a 4.47 in the 40 but a twinge in his hamstring didn't allow him to run his second 40 or the shuttle. He rested up for the quarterback drills and got better and better as the camp went along.

Hinds has a cannon for an arm and throws everything on a line. He struggled early with his overall footwork and the complexity of some of the drills but as the day went along, he showed why he's a definite 'Elite' level signal caller. As good as Hinds was, our quarterback coach Bob Johnson, whose opinion we'll always defer to, actually felt Corona's (Calif.) Brian Hildebrand had the best day throwing the ball which eliminated Hinds.

Mission Viejo (Calif.) defensive back Marty Tadman had a great all around camp gloving every receiver he went up against and also tested well running a 4.56 in the 40 with a 4.11 time in the shuttle. We also liked Los Altos (Calif.) defensive end Brigham Harwell who our line coaches all unanimously hailed as the top guy they worked with all day. Harwell also tested well running a 4.78 in the 40, 4.51 in the shuttle and jumped 29 inches in the vertical.

It was close but in the end, the player we felt had the best overall camp was Corona (Calif.) Centennial running back Terrell Jackson. Jackson, 5-9, 183 pounds clocked a 4.46 in the 40, 4.14 in the shuttle and jumped 32 inches in the vertical. He looked very good in the position drills as well and was the choice by our position coaches as the top back of the day in what was a strong group of runners.

Jackson has all the tools to excel at the next level including a nice burst, great quickness and is very shifty. He changes directions very well and can stop and start on a dime. He's a very patient runner and knows how to set up his blockers. On the field, Jackson scored 50 touchdowns a year ago including eight in the Div V Championship game and always seems to come up big in the biggest games. Right now, Jackson has offers from Cal and Hawaii and favors USC, UCLA, Notre Dame, Arizona, Washington State and Oregon.

Breaking down the rest of the camp starting with the offense, Hildebrand had to be the surprise of the day.

"He was very good, he's a very accurate thrower," Johnson said. "He runs pretty well and has a strong arm. He's also a great kid and very coachable. I liked him a lot."

Other quarterbacks who stood out in addition to Hinds and Hildebrand were Beverly Hills (Calif.) Oliver Linter, Kevin Craft, son of SDSU head coach Tom Craft and is still looking for the right high school, Anthony Andre from Riverside (Calif.) Poly, Rudy Carpenter from Westlake (Calif.), Chris Owens from Thousand Oaks (Calif.), Matt Brennan from Huntington Beach (Calif.) Marina and Drew Cavanaugh from Villa Park (Calif.).

Three running backs jumped out at us and all look like high major Div I players. We already mentioned Terrell Jackson, the camp MVP. We also liked LeAndre Matthews out of East Bakersfield (Calif.) and more than a few onlookers said the buffed out back reminded them of Concord (Calif.) De La Salle's Maurice Drew in size, speed and power. At 5-7, 182 pounds, Mathew is built like a tank and put up 185 pounds 28 times to go along with his 4.40 time in the 40.

San Diego's (Calif.) Marian Catholics Patrick Gates looked great as well clocking a 4.40 in the 40 and looked smooth in the position drills. Another back we have to mention is Nigel Ricks out of Glendale (Ariz.) Cactus who clocked a 4.43 in the 40 and showed the size and natural athletic ability to play a number of positions in college.

Wide receiver Michael Bumpus from Culver City (Calif.) didn't test and therefore couldn't be selected for camp MVP honors but he looked great in the one on one drills and will be in our pre-season Hot 100.

Bumpus has suction cup like hands and runs very polished routes. He showed he deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as anyone when you're talking about the best receivers on the West Coast. Riverside (Calif.) J.W North standout Damon Morton also looked strong in the receiver drills as did Santa Fe Springs (Calif.) Santa Fe's nathan Kimbrough, Phoenix (Ariz.) Desert Vista's Corion Cooper and Carson's (Calif.) Jordan Fata.

Zach Miller was the top tight end of the day but two others we liked were fellow Arizona native Mike Barr from Payson (Ariz.) and San Clemente's (Calif.) Chris Wilson. Both players caught everything thrown at them and have the size to play at the next level.

Several linemen stood out and in fact, that group was probably the strongest of the day. There wasn't a better prospect at any position than Los Angeles (Calif.) Fremont's Thomas Herring. At a rock solid 6-6, 290 pounds, Herring clocked a 5.0 in the 40 and has an NFL body right now. He could play a number of positions in college but worked out with the defensive ends at the camp. Herring is not a big weight room guy but just has great natural strength and will be scary once he does hit the weights hard.

Few programs coach up their players better than Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei and that was evident in watching two-way lineman Brandon Nicolas. Nicolas worked out with the defensive tackles and destroyed everyone he went up against. He has great quickness off the ball, tremendous raw power and has all the moves needed to get up the field.

Although he only measured out at just 6-0.5, Hacienda Hts (Calif.) Los Altos defensive end Brigham Harwell is a monster on the field and had the best burst off the ball of any of the lineman. In the one on one drills, Harwell was beat in his first match up with Los Alamitos (Calif.) standout Daniel Espinosa (another program with a college level coaching staff) but was unstoppable after that and is easily one of the elite pass rushers in the region. Speaking of Los Alamitos, mammoth lineman Cameron Filkins had a strong camp on defense but has the body and overall look of a future offensive lineman.

Carson (Calif.) defensive end Norris Malele has put on almost 50 pounds since last year's Nike Camp and came in a rock solid 294 pounds. Malele is so solid and well put together that he doesn't look that heavy. He's a high motor player who plays with fire and passion and is the kind of guy you want on your side.

On the offensive line, Fountain Valley's (Calif.) Leo Talavou was a monster and had a great camp. He was dominant in the one on one drills and has a solid frame and good strength. Compton's (Calif.) Dominguez Chilo Rachal played well on both sides of the ball and has a lot of upside. He's a very physical player with a great body and just needs to keep working on his overall quickness against speed rushers to be a dominant player.

At 6-2.5, 278 pounds, Los Angeles (Calif.) Loyola's Mark Gray has added the necessary size to become a very solid Div I prospect. There was never a question about his ability as Gray has textbook technique, greet feet and a nice mean streak. He could play center or guard in college.

Palisades (Calif.) Geoffrey Schwartz is huge at 6-6, 298 pounds and showed very good feet in the line drills. He's athletic, has long arms and looks like a future left tackle. We also liked Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco's Kristopher Anderson, 6-3, 280 pounds who was unbeaten in the one on one drills.

A sleeper to emerge was Santa Ynez (Calif.) Chris Joseph who looked great in the position drills and has a very solid frame. A junior to watch is definitely Rodney Picou out of Moreno Valley (Calif.) Canyon Springs. Picou is very strong and would be a Div I prospect right now.

Long Beach Poly's (Calif.) Marlin Simmons led a strong linebacker corps but keep your eye a couple of other players flying under the radar. Simmons may play safety next season but we love him at linebacker. He runs well (4.59- 40), has tremendous athletic ability and no one hits harder. Mission Viejo's (Calif.) Jed Collins also looked great and is prototype inside linebacker prospect. With his size and ability to make plays, Collins has a bright future.

Two players we knew a lot about but just didn't realize they were this good were Canyon Country's (Calif.) Andrew Schantz and Corona (Calif.) Centennial's Ryan Phipps. Schantz, 6-1, 220 pounds looks like a body builder but clocked a 4.52 in the 40 and looked excellent in the 'backer drills. In fact, many of the coaches felt he was the top 'backer of the day and we wouldn't argue with them. Phipps is not as big as Schantz but a bit quicker running a 4.50 in the 40 and showed tremendous athleticism in the one on one drills.

Rodney Van out of Long Beach Poly (Calif.) was the top defensive back we saw. He has incredible speed and quickness and locked up every receiver he went up against. At a solid 6-1, Van has the size college's love in a cornerback and he showed the ability to turn and run with his guy or quickly break on the ball. Van didn't run a 40 due to a track meet the previous night but he likely would have challenged for the days top 40 time of 4.33, as speed is definitely his forte.

Complementing Van in the secondary were the Payton twins, Bryan and Jeramy out of Covina (Calif.) South Hills. Both players have great frames, good speed and are the type of athletes who could play safety or corner at the next level. Riverside's (Calif.) Ramona cornerback Chris Camacho is a sleeper no more as he also excelled in the one on one drills.

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