USC Rising Stars camp - Day 2 recap

Day 2 of the USC Rising Stars camp got started with a bang as the verbal commit of Tyron Smith became official and then came the surprise appearance at the camp of the #1 ranked cornerback in the country in Patrick Johnson from Florida.

Day 2 of the USC Rising Stars camp got started with a bang as the verbal commit of Tyron Smith became official and then came the surprise appearance at the camp of the #1 ranked cornerback in the country in Patrick Johnson from Florida.

Smith and Johnson were definitely the stars of the day and for different reasons. Smith has been a camp and combine superstar since his sophomore year when he was named MVP of the Nike Camp. With his tremendous physique, there is no doubt when you see him that he is a guy capable of being a dominant football player. There had been rumors for several weeks that a verbal to USC was imminent but it was still nice to hear the news that everything was finally "official". Tyron then went out in the drills and proved that he deserves his lofty status of "Trojan verbal" as he dominated every defensive lineman who came his way. One thing to notice about Tyron, besides his obvious physical stature, is how long his arms are. The guy has tremendous reach and that is going to serve him well on the USC o-line. Tyron is such an athlete that there is some speculation that he could get a look at either TE or DE but there are no such plans for a change of position with this young man. With Tyron being added to an o-line commit list that already includes Matt Kalil and Matt Meyer, it's safe to say the Trojans are well on there way to putting together one of the best o-line classes in school history.

The fact that Johnson showed up on Friday morning came as a surprise and it was a pleasant surprise at that. Johnson has real nice size, plays under control, plays with a swagger and is a competitor. I think it's safe to say that he is the best high school corner I've seen at one of these USC camps since we've been doing this website. He got banged up making an interception in the TrojanBall championship game but came back in and finished in true Pete Carroll competitive style with another interception (this one for a touchdown) along with the game clinching sack. After the camp Johnson said he considered his recruiting battle down to Miami and USC after having given an early verbal commit to the Canes. It will be tough to get him out of South Florida but Trojan fans have learned to never say never when it comes to Carroll and recruiting. No player is out of his reach.

There was a buzz around the field when it came to a tall, blonde quarterback, some kid named Montana. Nathaniel Montana, son of Joe, has been a basketball player up until now and he has decided he wants to give football a shot. He will likely be a reserve QB this year at DeLaSalle as a senior and he is interested in walking-on at USC. Personally, I would take Joe Montana's kid as a walk-on even if he was 5-8 and threw every ball in the dirt, simply for the PR value of having the son of a Golden Domer legend on our team. The fact that Nathaniel is 6-5, 195 and showed zip on some of his throws is just a bonus. Don't get me wrong, Nathaniel is still very raw as a quarterback but the thought of Papa Joe supporting his son in Cardinal and Gold is enough to make any Trojan fan smile.

Curtis McNeal, another Trojan verbal, showed up on Friday and his game is made for TrojanBall, the freestyle game that the coaches play at these camps to help judge the athleticism of the players. McNeal is short, there's no way to deny that, but he is well put together in that compact frame. His legs, in particular his calves, are well defined and he also has a strong upper body. The thing I continue to love about McNeal whenever I get a chance to see him play is his absolute spirit for the game. He just always seems to be having a blast whenever his is on the field and you get the feeling that he has been the best player on every team he's ever been on because there is a sense of pure confidence in his game. The Trojans are getting a real playmaker in this one. Speaking of running backs, I continued to be impressed yesterday with Dillon Baxter, the freshman from Mission Bay. Definitely a name to remember for the future.

At the receiver spot, D.J. Shoemate was suffering through the stomach flu so he wasn't able to take part but he did spend a lot of time talking with Joe Adams from Arkansas. We talked in the Day 1 report about how Joe starred at corner on Thursday but on Friday he switched over to receiver and also looked good. Joe is receiving interest from schools on both sides of the ball with the common thought being that defense would be his first look if he chooses the Trojans. Another receiver who looked good was Martin Bayless form Castle Park HS in San Diego and Martin the son of the former NFL defensive back of the same name. Martin, Jr has size and runs good routes.

The tone was set for the second day of camp with the one on one line drills and nobody helped get that started more than Armond Armstead. The big defensive tackle from Sacramento knew that he was coming down to the camp with the possibility of a scholarship offer in hand if he performed well enough and a tweaked back earlier in the week wasn't going to slow him down. On his first rep, Armond got physical with Daniel Campbell, the big OL from Texas, and Campbell clearly wasn't ready for that level of intensity. Armond did well in the rest of the morning drills but then sat out the afternoon while following the d-line from drill to drill and listening intently to anything said by Coach Holt or Coach Watson. In my opinion, we easily could have seen the interior of the Trojan d-line class at this camp. We would love to add Jurrell Casey as the NG and it looks like Armstead could be a real option for the 3-technique spot. Armond was told to call the coaches next week for a scholarship update. There is also the possibility of Solomon Koehler who once again did well. We saw Wes Horton yesterday, who will be one defensive end signee, so it's possible we could be focusing now on getting one more rush end to fill out the d-line class. Horton is slightly built for his height and it's exciting to think of what he can look like after some time in the USC strength and conditioning program.

It will be interesting to see what happens with the recruiting of Daniel Campbell at this point. Campbell had a solid afternoon in limited action on Thursday but on Friday he didn't do much to show himself as one of the top linemen in the nation. After he took the big hit from Armstead it would have been nice to see him come back with some increased intensity later in the drill but it didn't happen. He looked a little top heavy at times but the good news is that he has quick feet and that is all important for an offensive lineman. There is still a lot to like about this big fella but with the commit of Smith our available o-line spots are dwindling. Guys like Campbell, Khaled Holmes, Max Tuioti-Mariner, Hamani Stevens, Zebrie Sanders and Matt Hunt are all fighting to position themselves as Trojans and only two, maybe three, are going to make it.

We've talked a lot about the lack of corners this year and how we hoped the camp would provide some opportunities, it did. Besides Johnson, I also think Vaughn Telemaque could get a look at both corner and safety, we also have talked about Joe Adams who did well. The state of Texas also provided two corners at the camp, one a senior and one a junior, and the senior D'Anton Lynn from Celina, walked away from the camp with offer. Lynn missed most of last season with injury but he is a smooth athlete who can also play either corner or safety (he has been known as a QB/S to this point). Marcus Davis from Clear Creek HS in Houston will be a junior next year and his skills as a cover corner are obvious. He trains in the off-season with Patrick Johnson and it's clear the two have a very good relationship. One of the more physical players in camp was a junior-to-be at Carson, a safety named Antonio Crews, a player his coach calls "the next Mark Carrier".

A couple years ago there was a defensive player who wasn't flashy but who kept on showing up at camps and the more you watched him the more you appreciated his game. That player was Kevin Ellison and we've seen how valuable he has become for the Trojans. One player who is starting to give me the same feeling is linebacker Brandon Magee from Centennial HS in Corona. Brandon doesn't always do anything to stand out yet he is always around the ball and in the right position. He has been a hard-hitting presence for three years on the Centennial defense and he will continue to be recruited by the Trojans through the fall. We talked yesterday about freshman linebacker Robert Powell from Rancho Verde, and on Friday Powell also got a look at tight end.

Click here for Day 1 recap from Rising Stars camp


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