One-Day Camp: Defense

It was probably the best collection of defensive backs at a one-day camp in recent memory. There were also other linebackers and defensive linemen who definitely improved their stock...

DEFENSIVE BACKS:

The defensive backs at the camp were a tremendous group, with possibly 6-10 players participating that UCLA will definitely recruit or more than likely recruit either this year or next.

We've already covered Clifton Smith, who was probably the best defensive back in the camp.

Probably the biggest story among the defensive backs was Freddie Parish. Parish, whose father attended UCLA, with Freddie Jr. growing up a UCLA fan, had not been offered by UCLA to date, while having gotten offers from other programs. There admittedly had been a little bit of tension because of it, but UCLA was completely justified in having not offered Parish to date. Not that he wasn't good, but UCLA has limited scholarships to offer this season, and there wasn't much to go on when it comes to being able to evaluate Parish. Parish played sparingly as a junior last year on one of the most loaded teams in California history at Poly, so his highlight reel consisted mostly of kick-off return coverage. He attended the Palo Alto Nike Camp, but the camp had so many attendees it was difficult to really get a grasp on one individual's talents. Parish then didn't intend to participate in UCLA's one-day camp, but UCLA spoke with Freddie Sr., and convinced him to let his son attend.

It looks like it's paid off. Parish performed very well on the day. He had good size, measuring at 6-2 and around 190 pounds, and showed good instincts and quickness for a potential safety in the drills. The heart and character of the kid himself has never been a question, with it readily apparent that Freddie Jr. is a quality kid. So, with UCLA coaches able to watch Freddie in action more on Saturday, he was offered a scholarship.

The Parishes were very excited about the offer. The word is that the family plans to take an unofficial visit to campus soon so Mrs. Parish can meet with Head Coach Bob Toledo. Parish has a number of other offers from schools he has said he's very interested in – Notre Dame and Stanford in particular. He said after the UCLA offer was extended that he'd still like to take his time and possibly take some official visits. The on-campus unofficial visit to UCLA should prove to be very interesting.

UCLA offered four other defensive backs as a result of their performance at the camp – Terrell Thomas, Etiwanda Rancho Cucamonga; Leon Hall, Vista; Dennis Keyes, Van Nuys Birmingham, and junior Randy Estes, Los Alamitos.

All three of those juniors that were offered scholarships – Thomas, Hall and Keyes -- ran some of the best 40s for the day. Keep in mind that the times at Spaulding Field are notoriously slow compared to the Nike Camp times. In the history of the one-day camp, there have only been a handful of players timed in the 4.5s in the 40. Lorenzo Booker last year ran a 4.59. In fact, there haven't been many sub-4.5s ever run on Spaulding Field by UCLA players. It has left the UCLA coaches – including Toledo – understandably skeptical about 40 times in the low 4.3 range.

We don't have exact numbers on some of the prospects from Saturday, since UCLA won't release those numbers, but from the information I received, Keyes tied for the fastest time of the day with a 4.62 (probably, if you translated that into a Nike Camp 40, probably in the mid 4.4 range). Thomas ran in the mid-4.6s, as did Hall. Freddie Parish didn't record a 40 time.

Thomas looks to be about 6-2 and 175 pounds. He is long and lanky, but fluid in his running style and in his short bursts for how big he is. With his size, he had a nice ability to turn his hips and get out of his plant with quickness in the one-on-one drills, and nice closing speed. Thomas had one of the best verticals at the camp, at around 33 inches.

While Thomas is pretty narrow in his frame, Keyes has a larger frame. He's probably 6-0 to 6-1, and weighs about 190 pounds. When he ran his 40 it was surprising he did so well because his running style was so smooth it looked like he wasn't pushing himself. In the drills, he had good quickness for his size, being able to stay with smaller, quick wideouts, and had good instincts on his break.

Leon Hall was the second best cover corner in the camp along with Smith. He's about 5-10 to 5-11, weighs about 175. Hall has great feet and quickness, and great instincts. There were a few one-on-ones where he completely blanketed the wide receiver. Hall joined Thomas with one of the best verticals for the day, also right around 33 inches.

Randy Estes is a sophomore at Los Alamitos and as soon as he stepped out on the field it was pretty evident he was a great athlete. He was about 6-2 and weighed 180 pounds. From what I heard, he ran a 4.7 40, which is good for a sophomore. He had a nice vertical, I believe around 30 inches, and looked very quick in the drills. It's scary to think that he has another year of high school football, and another year to develop, before he'll be recruited.

There were a few other defensive back prospects that were intriguing. Ryan Smith, from La Puente Bishop Amat, performed well, running his 40 in 4.64, which was one of the best of the day. He looked about 5-11, but pretty skinny, proably weighing 150 pounds. He had good quicks in the drills, particularly showing nice closing speed.

Lorenzo Sims, Clifton Smith's teammate and sidekick, had a solid day. He was 5-10 and 180 or so. He's very thick, especially in the legs, but still has some good quickness, which enables him to be recruited as a cornerback.

There were a couple of defensive backs that were intriguing because of their potential as linebackers. Daniel Varvel from Baskersfield worked out with the defensive backs, playing safety for his high school team, but he looked like he might have more potential as a linebacker. He's 6-3, and weighs around 190 pounds, but with a wide frame that could easily hold more weight. If you were judging him as a defensive back, he looked thick and a little stiff, but if you thought of him as a linebacker, he had good quickness and a good burst to the ball. Varvel came to UCLA's Junior Day back in February, and last season earned a reputation for being a heavy hitter. Marc Hull is another with a similar style to Varvel. He's 6-2, and weighs around 185, and isn't as thick or as wide as Varvel, but looked more like a weakside linebacker in the coverage drills than a defensive back. He looked like he could definitely put on some considerable weight, and end up in the 215-220 range.

LINEBACKERS:

There weren't any prospects that you could consider really elite among the linebackers at the one-day camp Saturday, but a few that definitely earned a spot on UCLA's to-watch list.

Definitely earning a spot on that list was Fred McNeill, the linebacker from Los Angeles Loyola. He's the son of the former UCLA player of the same name from the early 70s. The problem with McNeill so far this spring and summer is that he's seemingly fancied himself a wide receiver at various camps, and worked out with the receivers rather than the linebackers. When he got clued in Saturday and worked out with the linebackers, he looked pretty good. Physically, he's about 6-1 and in the 200-210 range. He moved very well in the linebacker drills, and showed very nice quickness and flexibility.

Probably the second best prospect among the linebackers might have been Garry Lovely, from San Jose Gunderson. He's still pretty skinny and lanky, weighing just 185 pounds, but has a good frame and size, at about 6-2, to fill out. He's very raw-boned, plenty of arms and legs flying when he works out, but he ran well, in the 4.7 range, and showed good athleticism.

Chris Purtz looked solid on the day. He ran well, even though I didn't get his time in the 40, and looked well coached and technically sound in the drills. He also had a few nice knock-downs in the seven-on-sevens. He looked about 6-0 and in the 215 range.

Phillip Rauscher had a few good moments, but looked like he might be a tweener. At 6-4 and 225, he might have been better off working out with the defensive linemen. He's pretty big and his foot speed looked more suited for a defensive end spot.

Alain Karatepeyan from Chatsworth proved that he might be someone to keep an eye on. At about 6-1 and 210, he had decent size, and moved well in the drills.

DEFENSIVE LINE:

Kyle Caldwell was truly the elite talent among defensive linemen at the camp, as we've reported.

Besides Caldwell, there were other prospects to definitely watch.

Matt Spanos from Corona was probably the second best DL at the camp, and he performed well enough that UCLA could really pick up its recruitment of him. He looked about 6-5 and 260ish. He had a nice, wide frame, but still looked like he could add 20 pounds of muscle. He showed very nice quickness and feet, enough to make him a legit defensive end prospect. But with his potential size, he could end up being a very quick defensive tackle. In other words, the exact kind of defensive line prospect you'd want.

Brandon Mebane from Crenshaw is interesting. When you first see him, you just don't think he has the size to be a defensive tackle on the high-major level. He's about 6-1 and weighs about 250 pounds, and not very wide-shouldered. But then you see him in the drills, and you come away impressed with his quickness, feet and strength. Programs might overlook him, like many overlooked Washington's all-Pac-10 tackle Larry Triplett, who was tagged with being undersized.

There were two new names to watch on the DL as a result of Saturday. Defensive end Joe Rothenberger from Chino Don Lugo, was 6-3 and about 225, and looked quite good in the drills. He had nice agility and quickness going around the corner. Matt Ngwun from Torrance was 6-1 and 260, and looked to have some potential at defensive tackle, with a good burst of quickness.

Recruiting reports on Leon Hall, Terrell Thomas, Chris Purtz, Joe Rothenberger and Phillip Rauscher are coming soon…


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