USC Nike camp brings out the best

While the Arcadia Invitational lured some of Southern California's top high school athletes on Saturday, there was no question where the rest were. USC was the place to be as nearly 400 prep football players converged to test their own skills as they ran and jumped all over the Trojans' practice field yesterday afternoon.

Parents and friends were plentiful as 376 players stacked their own football worth up against the best of the best in Southern California, and while there were a couple of noticeable absentees (Helix's Reggie Bush and Taft's Steve Smith) some top athletes really stuck out. Camp MVP Whitney Lewis from Ventura (Calif.) Saint Bonaventure wowed onlookers with a 4.33 40 and a 4.01 shuttle. At over 6 feet and 200 pounds, those are impressive numbers.

The top defensive performer was Carson's Mathew Malele. Malele dominated last year's DL corps at San Diego and he did nothing yesterday to diminish his ranking as the top defensive tackle in the West. He went 6-0 in the one-on-ones and was never seriously challenged.

No two players travelled farther to attend the camp than Punahou's Matt Culver and Indianapolis (Ind.) Ben Davis fullback Adam Blakey. Culver looked solid with the defensive backs, while Blakey turned heads with an impressive workout. At over 230 pounds, Adam ran a 4.6 40 and passed the look test with flying colors.

Quarterback is always the marquee position, and this year's USC Nike camp had two of the West's best in Huntington Beach (Calif.) Edison signal caller Tommy Grady and Danville (Calif.) Monte Vista QB Kyle Wright. Alhambra's Dominic Breazeale and Playa Del Rey (Calif.) St. Bernard's Rocky Hinds were two QB's that worked out with the QB's but look like athletes that could make a difference at other positions.

At running back, Los Angeles (Calif.) Roosevelt's Jody Adewale, Long Beach (Calif.) Wilson's Brandon Atkinson, Tyrice Daniels from Oak Grove, Chino's Jacob Flowe, Manhattan Beach (Calif.) Mira Costa's Michael Okwo, Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei's Rafael Rice, Tolleson, Arizona's Marcus Thomas, Fontana (Calif.) Kaizer's Alen Wade, Torrance (Calif.) South Torrance's Chauncey Washington and Ventura (Calif.) Saint Bonaventure's Terrell Lambert stood out as the top ballcarriers in attendance Saturday.

Receiver was loaded, headed by Lewis and Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco's Joe Cowan. Joe is the son of former Husky great Tim Cowan. We'll have a story on Joe up soon. Los Angeles (Calif.) Jordan's Martail Burnett, Compton's Genoa Dill, Danville (Calif.) Monte Vista's Sam DeSa and Los Angeles (Calif.) Locke's Marcus Johnson were the cream of the WR crop.

Offensive line was a lot thinner than in past years. There was no Nathan Rhodes in attendance, but there were some players that definitely distinguished themselves from the pack. Mission Viejo's Drew Radovich looked very strong, hanging with the best DL when it came to the one-on-one drills. Torrance (Calif.) North Torrance's Robert Gustavis is a little undersized, but he moves well and has great technique and desire. Charles Owens from Long Beach Poly looks to be the most polished and athletic of all the Jackrabbit big men. He had a great day.

Other offensive linemen that stood out included Paso Robles' Travis Draper, Palm Desert's Micah Gaeta, Valencia's Alex Gottlieb, Agoura (Calif.) Agoura Hills' P.J Irvin, West Jordan (Utah) Copper Hills' Brandon Larsen, Bakersfield (Calif.) Centennial's Matt Reese, Provo (Utah) Timpview's Dallas Reynolds and La Mirada's Shannon Tevaga.

Defensively, there were a bunch of players that really stood out. On the line besides Malele were Long Beach (Calif.) Poly's Kevin Brown and Josh Tavanu'u, who received a bunch of personal attention from Nike OL/DL coach Marty Spaulding. Anaheim (Calif.) Western's Fili Moala, a USC oral commit for the class of 2003, also looked quite nimble. He looks to be a great get for Pete Carroll. Matt Spanos from Corona, California is another defensive lineman that had a nice camp.

When you think prep defensive ends in Southern California, one name immediately comes up - Inglewood's Lawrence Jackson. Lawrence didn't have the best SAQ workout, but when he lined up one-on-one, the offensive lineman was outmatched every time. He's a flat-out stud. Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw's Brandon Mebane may have worked out with the linebackers, but at 255 pounds he's a DE/DT in the making.

The linebacker group was deep and plentiful, a nice change from last year. Heading the list were the one-two Long Beach Poly punch of Brian Banks and Mark Washington. Those two will be a serious force to be reckoned with this fall. One scout in attendance saw a lot of Chico Fraley in Banks. Another linebacker that came to play was Moreno Valley (Calif.) Canyon Springs' Drean Rucker. He looked good and played good, the kind of athlete that could either be a punishing inside 'backer or a fullback.

Other top 'backers included Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure's Lee Martin, Cathedral City's P.J Bradley, Carlsbad's J.C Cooper (who worked out with the safeties), Los Angeles (Calif.) Dorsey's Jerome Johnson and Peoria, Arizona's Ammon Wolfley.

Defensive backs were spearheaded by Gardena (Calif.) Serra's Devin Stearns. This group wasn't as deep as it has been in years' past, but there were some players that will get D1 sniffs. They include Elk Grove's Tyrice Daniels, Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw's Daymeion Hughes and Moreno Valley's Tim Parks.

The stars were in attendance today, from former Trojans Keyshawn Johnson and Willie McGinest to future Trojans Fred Matua and Brandon Hancock. Matua was in fine form, barking out lines while the OL/DL ones were getting started. Fred took a little ribbing, as he was wearing a Stanford shirt yesterday. He claimed it was the only clean shirt he had.

Current Trojans that soaked in the atmosphere included Darryl Rideaux, Billy Hart and Matt Cassel.

Florida State signee Lorenzo Booker was also there with his cousin Curtis Richardson, watching intently his former St. Bonaventure teammates. Like Matua, Booker was also wearing some unique apparel. In his case it was a Notre Dame sweatshirt. James Finley was all decked out in his Oregon State gear, while UCLA signee Kevin Harbour showed up in regular street clothes to take in the action.

Washington was also well-represented, as Oye Waddell came by to watch his brother, Arcadia (Calif.) Rio Honda WR Paul Hampton, work out. The former Husky linebacker is taking graduate courses at USC, pursuing a masters in Public Administration. He told us he always walks around campus in purple, never forgetting his collegiate roots.

There were some great coaches helping out yesterday. One was Marques Tuiasosopo's uncle, Titus. He was responsible for the offensive linemen. Ken Margerum was the receivers coach. He was the same under Tom Holmoe at Cal before Holmoe received his walking papers. Ken still holds the Pac-10 career mark for most touchdowns receiving.

Long Beach Poly's Freddie Parish and Los Angeles (Calif.) Loyola's Quentin Daniels didn't participate but that didn't stop them from showing up and making their presence felt. Parish and Daniels will be two players to watch this fall without question.

There will be more in-depth position-by-position analysis and player updates from the USC Nike camp in the next couple of weeks. Top Stories