The Nike Football Training Camp made its second stop in as many weeks on the West Coast, hitting Autzen Stadium at the University of Oregon in Eugene, and a collection of the Northwest's best were on hand.
Labeled as one of the top quarterback prospects on the West Coast, West Salem (OR) signal-caller Brett Smith took home much deserved MVP honors today as the top quarterback at the Nike Football Training Camp in Eugene. Smith's compact throwing motion makes him an accurate quarterback who is more than capable of giving opposing defenses absolute fits. He seemed to excel today hitting receivers on short and intermediate passing routes between the hashes. It would appear that Smith is a hand-in-glove fit for a spread-option offensive attack, possessing great quickness and athleticism moving around in and outside of the pocket. Though he doesn't have the same kind of elite size and arm strength, his skill-set is similar to that of current University of Washington quarterback, Jake Locker, as Smith maintains comparable mobility.
Upland (CA) quarterback, Nate Romine was another impressive athlete of note. Despite being a member of the Class of 2013, Romine looked to be one of the more polished quarterbacks in attendance. Tabbed as a dual-threat quarterback, Romine combined good mobility and downfield vision with advanced footwork, accuracy, and arm strength for a player of his age. While he wasn't the biggest quarterback around, Romine wasn't physically outmatched either, blending in almost seamlessly with the older quarterbacks.
Chandler (AZ) Hamilton Jai Johnson took home MVP honors at the running back position this afternoon. Johnson represented the Grand Canyon State well, as he displayed great all-around skills for a player of his fire-hydrant type build. Deployed out of the backfield, Johnson exhibited good hands catching the ball and excellent burst when route-running.
Tigard (OR) Ralph Greene and Brentwood (CA) Heritage's Tyler McDonald also flashed tremendous skill and potential. Though he may have been one of the smallest running backs participating, Greene was arguably the toughest player, pound-for-pound, of anyone at the camp. Greene excelled in pass blocking drills and wasn't afraid of contact at the line of scrimmage when getting in to his routes. Greene's tenacity, along with his outstanding speed, agility, and ball-skills, made him one of the more exciting players to watch. McDonald was similarly impressive, demonstrating an ability to be a devastating receiver in addition to being a punishing ball carrier.
Quite possibly the most consistent pass catcher of anyone at the NFTC Camp was Class of 2012 Portland (OR) Jesuit running back, Nicholas Rothstein. Rothstein was simply indefensible in one-on-one drills against the defensive backs. Whether the route was short, medium, or deep, Rothstein was able to make the play, using his superior size and strength to outmuscle defenders for the football.
After coming off an impressive outing at NFTC: Los Angeles, Woodland Hills (CA) Taft wide receiver Michael Thomas had a solid, if not unspectacular day -- due in large part to some poor throws by quarterbacks in his drills. Like his uncle, former USC great and NFL All-Pro, Keyshawn Johnson, what Thomas lacks in blazing overall speed, he makes up for with sticky hands and excellent route running ability. Although he must add weight, Thomas projects to be valuable weapon as a possession receiver at the collegiate level.
Gig Harbor (WA) tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins was arguably the most impressive athlete at the NFTC camp this weekend. Seferian-Jenkins (who currently rates as a Scout.com four-star recruit), took home MVP honors at the tight end position and looked every bit the part as he dominated virtually every drill he participated in. Maybe the most impressive thing about Seferian-Jenkins is his sickening blend of speed and agility for a player listed at 6'7'' and 245 lbs. He routinely outmuscled and outran defensive backs after hauling in receptions today; appearing to be legitimate man amongst boys. With dozens of Division I/FBS offers already in hand, look for Seferian-Jenkins to make an immediate impact on the football field when he arrives on a collegiate campus in the fall of 2011.
If not for Seferian-Jenkins, 2012 Seattle (WA) O'Dea tight end Trent Sewell may have taken home the title of most physically gifted skilled position player. Depending on how Sewell develops over the next couple of seasons, he could conceivably play on offense as a pass catcher or end up just about anywhere on defense. For now, Sewell projects best at tight end, as he will almost certainly need to fill out in order to add sufficient bulk to an already tall, athletic frame.
Along with Seferian-Jenkins, the two other players who caught the most attention from folks on the sideline were Class of 2012 offensive lineman, Joshua Garnett (Puyallup) and 2011 prospect from Oregon, Alex Mitchell. Mitchell, (Portland/Jefferson HS). Though Garnett received MVP recognition amongst the participating offensive linemen, Mitchell couldn't have been far behind. Mitchell's footwork, strength, quickness, and size was something to behold as his dominated every one of his competitors during one-on-one drills with the defensive line.
Garnett was similarly impressive as well, displaying less physicality but more athleticism when compared to Mitchell. His long arms and quick feet enabled him to keep pass rushers at bay with relative ease.
Regardless of where you fell on the Mitchell/Garnett debate this afternoon, one would wholeheartedly agree that both athletes will be deserving of the presumably lofty ranking they will receive heading in to 2012.
On the defensive side, Everett (WA) Archbishop Murphy's Tani Tupou and Portland (OR) Grant's Max Jackson impressed the most along the defensive line during today's camp.
Tupou walked away with the MVP accolades for the defensive line, displaying a great motor during one-on-ones with the offensive line. Tupou's relentless pass rushing style, along with his quickness, made him a difficult opponent for offensive linemen to deal with all day. Similarly, Jackson tormented his offensive opponents with tremendous burst off the ball and an unrelenting pass rushing style.
Though he lacks superior bulk, Jackson's speed and athleticism are his two biggest assets as he could project out to be a talented defensive end/linebacker hybrid at the collegiate level.
The NFTC MVP at linebacker was Michael Balfour from Sherwood (OR). Also listed as a running back, Balfour is physically well put together and he appeared to be one of the most instinctive linebackers at the camp today; exhibiting good recognition skills that often had him in favorable position both dropping back in pass defense and attacking the line of scrimmage in run support.
Gresham (OR) linebacker Joshua Kim also had a very good performance today in many of the speed and agility drills. Though he lacks elite size, Kim's footwork and quickness in changing direction was the most impressive aspect of his game this afternoon.
One of the smoothest athletes competing this weekend was Renton (WA) Lindbergh defensive back, Diondre Toms. In spite of the fact he plays safety for his high school team, Toms likely projects to cornerback at the collegiate level where his size and willingness to play a physical brand of football will be coveted. Outside of his outstanding speed and agility, Toms' arguably possessed the best ball skills of any of the defensive backs at the camp. His ability to locate and high point the football was terrific and he appeared fundamentally sound and touchdown hungry with the ball in his hands after making a play.
Likewise in comparison to Toms, Portland (OR) Jesuit athlete Miles Weatheroy is endowed with wonderful athletic ability and football instincts. It's difficult to project where Weatheroy will end up, but it appears as if he's best suited for defense, where Weatheroy can take advantage of his superior speed and ball skills. During today's camp, he showed great skill in tracking and attacking the football while in flight. Though he will need to bulk up and display more of a physical mentality, Weatheroy could be a diamond waiting to be discovered.