NoCal NIKE camp - Offense

The sun was out and the coaches were too, as the 2002 NoCal NIKE camp at Stanford brought out the best high school juniors to participate and take their shot at impressing schools enough to earn a coveted scholarship. With players coming in from the midwest, south and east coast, it proved to be a remarkably productive day for many, even for some that had already been to a NIKE camp earlier.

Head coaches from USC, Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon, Washington State, Stanford, Cal, Colorado and Fresno State were just a small handful of the full contingent of coaches roaming sideline to sideline, eager to get looks at players they had either seen before or perhaps to find a few diamonds in the rough that had yet to be unearthed. In yesterday's case, they no doubt were able to do a little of both.

And while the legion of players swelled to nearly 600 before SAQ (Speed, Agility and Quickness) drills began, there were a handful of players scheduled to attend that didn't make it, diluting the player pool that much more. Unable to make it were Tustin's Chris Barrett, Carson's Matt Malele, De La Salle's Maurice Drew and Damon Jenkins, Central Catholic's Ryan Gunderson, Chino's Sedric Ellis, Saint Bonaventure's Whitney Lewis and Venice WR B.J. Vickers. Long Beach Poly's Kevin Brown worked out in everything but the one-on-ones.

As it was last year with Trent Edwards, Ben Olsen, Drew Olson and Ryan O'Hara, the quarterbacks were well-represented. In the three years I've been attending NIKE camps, Mission Viejo head coach Bob Johnson worked this group of field generals harder than any other I've seen. Danville (Calif.) Monte Vista's Kyle Wright once again showed that he is right up there at the top when it comes to west coast signal-callers, although he was a little rusty compared to his USC NIKE camp performance. Spanaway (Wash.) Bethel QB Johnny DuRocher lived up to his billing as the best quarterback in Washington. His 4.8 40 was plenty fast and he showed a rifle arm and good footwork.

San Leandro's Dennis Dixon was right there as well, showing the best athleticism of those in the top group. He's been pegged as a little more of a running QB but don't be fooled. His arm is very strong and likes to hang in the pocket. Danville (Calif.) San Ramon Valley QB Sam Keller and Atherton (Calif.) Menlo-Atherton QB T.C. Ostrander were the other two signal-callers that had top showings. A name to remember for the 2004 recruiting class - Meridian, Idaho's Jacob Bower. Bower has great size and look to him, and while mechanically has some things to work on shows all the potential in the world. Bower will be a player to watch in a year.

At running back, Stockton (Calif.) Edison RB Lynell Hamilton was far and away the class of this grouping. He's a big kid in the 210-215 range, but he is most definitely a tailback. Elma, Washington's Todd Basler made the trek from Western Washington and he should be glad he did. At 6-2 and 220 pounds, he tested well and showed nice agility and mobility for a big man. In my opinion, he's going to get a lot of looks and word around the Stanford campus was that the Cardinal are hot on Basler's tail.

Vallejo (Calif.) Jesse Bethel's Dallas Bernstine ran a 4.41 40 and was also considered one of the top running backs of the day, showing nice moves and explosiveness. Another name to remember is San Jose (Calif.) Bellarmine RB Jarred Belser, and a name to tuck away for next year is Oakland (Calif.) Oakland Tech RB Marshawn Lynch. Lynch jumped out of the building with a 36-inch vertical jump and impressed during the SAQ workout. He will be one of the top athletes to watch out for in California next year.

There was chiefly one fullback prospect that stood out, and he is a very good one. Sacramento (Calif.) Natomas FB Emeka Nnoli is a load and arguably the best pound-for-pound player in the Sacramento Valley. Tough as nails, Nnoli is a strong kid that also has the agility required to be a successful fullback.

The wide receiver position was nice and deep and also showed a glimpse into the future. Los Angeles (Calif.) Fremont WR Mark Bradford was the man here. He caught every ball thrown in his vacinity and looked good doing it too. In fact, he reminded me a lot of Oregon State-bound James Finley. He's got a lanky look to him and his 6 foot, 2-inch frame has room to grow. He's plenty fast (4.4 40) and just starting to tap into his potential. A sure-fire high D1 prospect.

San Leandro's Sam Cheatham showed why he's going to get plenty of attention paid towards him this fall as Dennis Dixon's 'go-to' guy. He's fast, has moves and made more than one DB look foolish during the camp-ending one-on-ones. A few coaches looked particularly interested in following Santa Margarita (Calif) Rancho Santa Margarita's Bobby Whithorne. He's not going to blow you away with size or blazing wheels, but much like Thousand Oaks' Dave Anderson last year all Withorne does is make plays. And he makes all of them.

One receiver that was immediately going to get attention on name recognition alone was Fresno (Calif.) Edison WR Henry Ellard Jr, son of former NFL great Henry Ellard. Ellard was taller than his father (~6-3) and had the look of a great football player-to-be. There's no question he's got the bloodlines. Another player that wasn't talked about too much before the camp but certainly opened eyes was Berkeley, California's Sean Young. Young tested out well, but really stood out during the one-on-ones. He's a big-time playmaker.

Youth showed itself at receiver yesterday, as De La Salle's Cameron Colvin and Stockton (Calif.) Edison's Lavelle Hawkins both shined during the one-on-ones and will benefit greatly from their NIKE camp experience. Expect those two to be headliners next year.

The tight end spot was a bit thin, but there were three players that did stand out from the rest. A bit of a sleeper emerged in Fairfield (Calif.) Armijo TE Aaron Johnson. A big, physical talent, Johnson ran well and showed good hands. He's a player that could also move to defensive end in college. Trey Koziol came all the way from Hinsdale, Illinois to get noticed, and he did. Koziol is a very well put together kid, showing solid athleticism and technique. Oakland, California's Eric Hicks was another TE mentioned for his ability catching the ball and running with it. He's not the biggest guy in the world but has game, so he could be a slot back or a situational receiver in college.

Rounding out the offense are the large humans, the big uglies. There were lots of them in attendance, and ironically enough the ones that seem to perform the best were the ones that had already been to a NIKE camp. Long Beach Poly's Hercules Satele and Charles Owens, as well as Torrance (Calif.) North Torrance OL Robert Gustavis headlined a very solid and deep group of athletes that tested out as offensive linemen. Berkeley (Calif.) St. Mary's Leon Drummer is the real deal at either OL or DL. He's got the ideal size to be a run-stuffer inside or as a college center.

Anaheim (Calif.) Servite's Ryan Kalil had a very productive day, as well as Oak Park (Ill.) Fenwick OL Evan Barbosa, Lafayette (Calif.) Acalanes OL Adam Cimina, Salt Lake City (Utah) Brighton OL Tom Sorenson, Santa Rosa OL Nathan Todhunter and Albany, California's Brandon Varnado.

A local name to watch for is Tacoma (Wash.) Charles Wright OL/DL Jon Medley. He's a tall lineman that is just starting to fill out and he showed very nice technique and tenacity during the one-on-one drills. Since he plays for a small school, the competition he goes up against will always be a question mark, but for at least a day he showed he had what it takes to take on some of the best in the West.

And last, but certainly not least, is Vallejo, California's Bradis McGriff. The biggest lineman at camp, McGriff looked to be 6-6 to 6-8 range and around 310-320 pounds. The scariest part was that he's just a high school sophomore, and the glee was evident on all the college coaches' faces when they watched McGriff strut his stuff. He's simply a wall on the offensive line and shut down everyone he went up against. He had a solid day and clearly was eating up all the teaching he could get from line coach Marty Spaulding. McGriff should easily be one of the best OL to watch out for next year.

Tomorrow, a look at the defensive stars. Top Stories