NFTC Defensive Standouts

The defensive backs and linebackers were both loaded, with UCLA prospects like D.J. Calhoun, Adoree Jackson and John Plattenburg standing out...

DEFENSIVE LINE

It was a little tough to pick an MVP for the defensive line. No one really dominated like other Nike Camps we've been to, but there were still several standout performers, many of them underclassmen.

Earning MVP honors was Mori Savini from Sandy (Utah) Jordan.  Savini is an undersized defensive tackle who did well at the SoCal NIKE Camp and showed even better in Oakland. He's very tough to block because he's so quick off the ball, is very strong and will always win the leverage battle. He showed multiple pass rush moves and didn't have to rely on trying to just bull rush an opposing guard like the majority of the tackles.

Jacob Daniel of Fresno (Calif.) Clovis North is a massive defensive tackle who powered his way through the competition. Just a sophomore with some extra weight, it's conceivable that he'll grow into an offensive lineman, but it's also conceivable that he trims up as he matures and becomes an All-Everything defensive tackle.

Livermore (Calif.) defensive lineman Everett Powell was one of the top defensive ends in attendance. Powell is lean, fast, and strong. He beat most tackles at the line of scrimmage, and he showed good agility to dip his shoulder and turn the corner to get to the quarterback target.

Boss Tagaloa of Concord (Calif.) De La Salle not only won Best Name at the event, but he was one of the top defensive linemen in attendance. His performance was especially impressive considering he's a freshman and a member of the Class of 2016. Tagaloa was quick enough to win all of his reps at end, but with his frame and body type, it's hard to picture him not moving inside on the next level. It's also hard not picturing him as a national recruit in two years.  In fact, Ole Miss already got involved this last week and offered him.

Chibu Onyeukwu of Pittsburg (Calif.) is a combo end/tackle that could play either position in college depending on how he develops. He had arguably the best combination of size and quickness at the event. Quicker than the big tackles and thicker than the speed rushers at end, Onyeukwu had a solid day of beating offensive linemen.

Jase Franke of Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure fit into a similar mold as Onyeukwu. Franke is a wide bodied defensive lineman thay haf success rushing the quarterback no matter where he line up.

Fresno (Calif.) Central defensive tackle Tashon Smallwood, a USC commit, had an up and down day.  He did fine in one-on-one's, but in drills was a little bit all over the place.  He also needs to work on his body some.

Meanwhile, Fresno (Calif.) Central defensive tackle Sharif Williams has the body that college coaches covet as a defensive lineman but needs to just continue to get better with his technique, especially given his background as an offensive lineman.

Elk Grove (Calif.) Cosumnes Oaks defensive end Josh Davis also was solid throughout the day, and looks like he's an ideal end at the next level but could even be a hybrid linebacker.

Greg Biggins, Scott Kennedy and Brandon Huffman contributed to this report.


LINEBACKERS

The camp was loaded with inside ‘backers but it was Portland (Ore.) Jesuit athlete Joey Alfieri who stole the show and drew raves from lead LB coach Chris Gizzi.

"It's not just the fact that Joey made plays all over the field on Sunday, it's the way he made those plays," Gizzi said. "Whatever he's doing his eyes are looking at the right stuff, his limbs and torso are synchronized and balanced and his feet are alive before, during and after the key moment of a play.

"Even when someone gets an angle on him (it didn't happen often Sunday), he counters and finds a way to get back his advantage in that situation. Mentally and emotionally, he's everything you want in a player: poised, smart and encouraging. He put on the best performance by a ‘backer at any NIKE Camp this year."

Mammoth Granite Bay (Calif.) inside ‘backer Cameron Smith was rated the No. 3 backer by Gizzi at the SoCal NIKE Camp and moved up a spot in Oakland. The sophomore is 6-2, 250 pounds and still growing but is a tremendous talent and the scary part is he's twice as good with the pads on.

"In just two months since the LA NIKE Camp, he has taken another step up," Gizzi said. "He's a true MIKE ‘backer that can make plays all over the field. He has fantastic body control and poise that give him a heightened ability to make plays that most at his position never even get close too.

"His superior field vision and awareness is another gift that his physical and emotional maturity accentuates. If he was only 5-11, he would still be a great prospect but at 6-2 and with that frame, I think you're looking at a big football player right there."

One of our big themes this past spring is how does Berkeley's (Calif.) Michael Lazarus (pictured at right above) only have a handful of offers. He's an elite player with size, speed and toughness and his talent should dictate double digit offers.

"He has incredibly explosive skills and aggressiveness," Gizzi said. "His ability to close and get frontal on a ball carrier is noteworthy. This is an athletic ‘backer with a mean streak - a valuable combo.

"His body type can place him in a bunch of systems, as an outside backer I think he's an every down kind of player. He has a frame that will afford him room to grow and put some more muscle on depending on a team's need. He's very coachable as well and I think he'll be a heck of a college player."

While Alfieri, Smith and Lazarus made up Gizzi's top three, there were another eight or nine players with legitimate BCS level ability.

El Cerrito's (Calif.) D.J. Calhoun always comes ready to compete and he had a very good camp as well. In fact Gizzi said there was very little separating Calhoun from the top three and he probably has better film than each of them. He showed explosive speed, ability to change direction and plays with a passion that few have, regardless of position.

Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco's Chandler Leniu opened a lot of eyes just by measuring in at 6-1, 230 pounds. The knock on Leniu was always his height but he didn't stop there, he tested very well with a 4.70-40, threw the power ball 44' and his 103.83 SPARQ Rating was one of the best in the camp. He looked great in the drills as well playing fast and aggressive and looking very comfortable in space.

Los Angeles (Calif.) Salesian sophomore Kyahva Tezino is a smooth looking athlete who probably made more plays than anyone during the half-skelly period. He also shined in the one on ones and is one of the more natural athletes you'll see at the linebacker position. He's definitely an elite national recruit in the 2015 class.

Tezino's Los Angeles (Calif.) Salesian teammate Jamardre Cobb was impressive as well and is very athletic for a player his size. Cobb is an inside 'backer who can move, looked very good in space and is always physical and aggressive.

San Marcos (Calif.) Mission Hills' Fred Warner continued his standout play this spring and now looks like a full fledged linebacker after playing primarily defensive end as a junior. Not surprisingly, he killed the pass rush drill and showed an overall explosiveness that few have. Coach Gizzi said, "it looks like he's shot out of a cannon every play."

Gilbert (Ariz.) Higley's Mason Johnson made a nice impression on the NIKE coaches with his size and speed. Johnson played defensive end for Higley but his size will dictate a move to linebacker and he showed he has plenty of athleticism to make the switch.

A few other linebackers who caught the coaches eyes included; San Jose (Calif.) Archbishop Mitty's Chandler Ramirez, Pleasant Hill (Calif.) College Park's Steve O'Brien, Bakersfield Christian's (Calif.) Grant Bouma, Overland's (Colo.) Tre Thomas, Gilbert (Ariz.) Higley's Logan Johns, Vanden's (Calif.) Elijah Williams and Clovis North (Calif.) Isaiah Duran.


DEFENSIVE BACKS

It was a loaded group of corners and safeties but the MVP went to Corona (Calif.) Centennial corner John Plattenburg, who might have been the best overall player in the camp.

"I think he's a Sunday player," lead DB coach and former safety Michael Fletcher said. "I love his frame, he has been well coached, he's instinctive, technically sound and very physical. He plays with a swagger but not cockiness and will be able to cover a slot or an outside receiver in college."

What made Plattenburg's performance even more impressive is the fact that he has only been playing corner for half the season. He played safety at the start of the season and running back on offense. He has looked very good all spring at corner on the 7 on 7 circuit and he could end up the No. 2 corner in the west by the end of the summer.

As good as Plattenburg was, no one is going to catch Gardena (Calif.) Serra's Adoree Jackson for that No. 1 corner spot in the west. He's one of the most athletically gifted players in the nation this year and showed up in Oakland after participating in four events in track the day before.

Not only did Jackson take part in the position drills but did the testing as well and clocked a 4.48-40 after long jumping a nation leading 25' the day before. Jackson took reps at corner and receiver and wowed the coaches with his explosiveness as well as his ability to take coaching and quickly apply it on the field.

El Cerrito's (Calif.) Adarius Pickett is a physically imposing player with good top end speed. He has a great frame and has the hip quickness to play corner but a few of the coaches feel he could be even better as a ball hawking free safety with his size and toughness. Pickett is a natural leader, was the first guy to jump in front in every drill and has a big upside to him.

Arlington (Texas) Mansfield Timberview's Brandon Simmons was the top safety in the event and like Pickett and Jackson, earned an invite to The Opening following the event. Simmons is smart, savvy and athletic and has very good play making ability. He competed very hard, has great football instincts and was the guy making sure the other DBs were lined up right during the half-skelly portion of the camp.

Right after that top group was Norco (Calif.) corner Kwesi Mashack and Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) corner Artuz Manning.

Mashack has a good frame and is built like a tank. He's very physical and strong, especially in his upper body and is gifted athletically as well. He can run and jump and plays with good technique as well. Mashack is very competitive as well and will battle you all game.

Manning has great feet and hips and blanketed receivers. He has great cover skills, showed explosion breaking on the ball and has a great feel for the game. He has been well coached and plays with a high football IQ and just needs to get stronger and add some weight to round out the rest of his game.

A pair of safeties who impressed were Syracuse's (Utah) Kavika Fonua and Concord (Calif.) De La Salle's Das Tautalatasi. Fonua is a well built 6-0, 200 pounds and has size, strength and is very active. Tautalatasi is a ball hawk with great football instincts. He's very quick and athletic and is always around the football.

A young DB to keep your eye on is Upland (Calif.) sophomore Elijah Jones. Jones has a corner frame but plays some safety as well and really stood out in all the drills. He was able to lock receivers up while play in off-coverage and doesn't need to clutch and grab like so many other players.

Corona (Calif.) Santiago safety Ron Robinson immediately catches your eye with his frame, he looks like a college safety and then when you see him run and close on the ball, you wonder how he's not a double digit offer kid.

Fresno (Calif.) Clovis West corner Andre Chachere has a nice frame, good feet, active hands and a strong football sense about him. It seems all Fresno DBs play with an edge and a natural toughness and that described Chachere on Sunday.

West Covina (Calif.) corner Sidney Jones and Oakland (Calif.) McClymonds safety Lavon Washington are two more players who caught our eye. Jones is a smart cerebral player, has good football sense and ball awareness. Washington is solid in all aspects of the position. He's a tough, physical player and a solid all around athlete as well.

Gardena (Calif.) Serra safety Glen Ihenacho tested off the charts with a 102.15 SPARQ Rating and then looked good roaming the secondary. Ihenacho is a tough, athletic safety with good ball skills and solid football instincts.

National Analyst Brandon Huffman contributed to this report.

Greg Biggins has been covering recruiting for over 15 years, covering the West since the mid-1990's and currently serves as a national analyst for Scout.com/FOXSportsNext.
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