April 19, 2005

Golden opportunity

LOS ANGELES - They call California the Golden State for a reason.

Milwaukee (Wis.) King receiver Lance Kendricks went West this past weekend to the Los Angeles NIKE Training Camp at the University of Southern California looking for a golden opportunity to challenge and test himself against some of the nation's best players.

"I figured I would get a whole lot more exposure in the West if I came to a camp like this and challenged myself against the best players out here," Kendricks said. "I knew there were going to be some good players if I went to the NIKE Camp at Michigan, but when you think about great defensive backs and skill players, California is always right up there.

"I wanted to challenge myself against the best."

He more than passed the test and was one of the top prospects overall at the camp. His performance, along with others standouts, is analyzed in this Rivals.com NIKE Camp breakdown.

In his junior season, Kendricks was named as an all-state and all-conference performer. Kendricks was also named as the conference offensive and defensive player of the year in 2004. Kendricks is also a two-time national AAU triple jump champion. He put all of those skills on display Sunday and was easily one of the best receivers at the camp.

"I practiced a lot and came into the camp ready," Kendricks said. "I worked hard because I knew there was going to be some great corner play out here. I was really happy with how I did. They came right up on me, and I was able to get by the defensive backs a lot and make a lot of big catches."

Along with his great hands, Kendricks also prides himself on his great physical tools.

He measured in at 6-foot-3 and 207 pounds at the camp. He also clocked a 4.4-second time in the 40-yard dash and repeated it in the shuttle when he slipped but still managed to clock a 4.4-second time.

"I think it's kind of hard for defensive backs to match up against me," he said. "I'm a lot stronger and more physical than what they see every day. I use my upper-body strength to get good separation and then I can turn on the speed and get open almost every time."

Heading into the camp Kendricks only had one lone offer from Wisconsin. That is sure to change. He's getting attention from the entire Big 10, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Florida and now has to be on the radar screen for the USC Trojans.

"I saw coach (Pete) Carroll here with his son," Kendricks said. "I know they were watching me, and I would love to look at a great school like USC. I'm just going to soak this performance in. Hopefully it'll open up a few more eyes, and I made the most of this golden opportunity."

Quarterbacks
Everybody seems to agree that it isn't the best year for quarterbacks in California, but there were a few signal-callers that looked good on Sunday.

Portland (Ore.) Westview standout Cody Kempt was one of them. He displayed a good arm and was one of the few quarterbacks that seemed to be on target in one-on-one drills. Chad Manis of Los Alamitos, Calif., was another quarterback that impressed. He will be replacing Jimmy Barnes, who signed with Alabama this past recruiting class, and you can count on him to put up some monster numbers over the next two years.

Diamond Bar, Calif., quarterback Jeff Jansen also impressed with a great frame and some solid reads. Chris Forcier, a junior-to-be from San Diego St. Augustine, was one of the better players at the camp. He is the younger brother of Jason Forcier, who signed this past year with Michigan. There were whispers from observers that he might end up being better than his older brother.

Running backs
The running back spot at this camp was also not as strong as it usually is in the Golden State. But keep in mind that several of the state's top backs, like C.J. Gable, worked out at other positions.

Nonetheless, there were still a few guys to keep your eye on.

Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft running back Andre Harris more than passed the eyeball test and looked solid throughout drills. Lonyae Miller of Fontana (Calif.) Miller was one of the more hyped sleepers heading into the camp and he tested well and displayed a fluid running style in drills.

Mission Viejo, Calif., fullback Chane Moline didn't test well according to most reports, but he did look physically impressive and did well in other areas of the camp. He also displayed a sense of toughness that should make him a solid pickup for the fullback position.

Wide receivers
The receivers were one of the most loaded positions of the entire camp, and it was highlighted by big-time players like Kendricks and Long Beach (Calif.) Poly receiver Terrence Austin.

Austin proved to everybody that he's the next great player to come from Poly, one of the most storied talent-producing programs in the nation.

Austin, who measured in at 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, clocked a 4.5-second time in the 40-yard dash and had a blistering 4.0-second time in the shuttle. But it was in the one-on-one drills that he sent a loud and clear message to everybody in the Southland and in the nation.

Everybody there agreed that Austin was something special

"He was hands down the best receiver at the camp," NIKE receiver position coach Matt Jones said. "He was so explosive in one-on-ones, and he had a great day."

Jackson's teammate Travon Patterson will help Poly form a deadly combination at receiver this year. Patterson is shorter than Austin, but he's just as quick and has similar ability to get open. Along with Austin, Patterson dominated the one-on-one drills.

Gable worked out with the receivers and you could tell he was a little raw when it came to his route running-ability. But there is no questioning his physical make-up and ability. Running a 4.5-second time in the 40-yard dash, Gable showed game-breaking ability in one-on-one drills.

San Diego Westview receiver Daniel Lofton, the son of former NFL great James Lofton, ran routes all day that would have made his father proud. His precision routes and cuts to the ball proved that he's one of California's best receivers. His 4.52-second time in the 40, too, didn't hurt.

At tight end, Mission Viejo, Calif., standout Konrad Reuland looked the part of a blue-chip prospect at his position. However, John Reese of Upland, Calif., and Howard Croom of Long Beach (Calif.) Woodrow Wilson were also dominating.

Reuland, though, was the man at the position. He caught everything thrown his way and his physical make up should have him ready to be an immediate impact type prospect.

Jeff Cumberland of Columbus (Ohio) Brookhaven had an Illinois offer heading into the camp and he came to the event with his teammates, who also were impressive. With size that could probably make him a tight end/receiver hybrid, it was easy to see why teams like Florida, Miami, Michigan State, Minnesota and Ohio State are also interested in him. He was one of the most physically gifted kids at the camp.

Offensive linemen
Rivals.com recruiting analysts Greg Biggins and Rick Kimbrel both agreed that this year's offensive line talent in California was something that hadn't been seen in a while and Sunday's camp proved their point.

UCLA fans should be pumped about getting an early commitment from Walnut, Calif., offensive tackle Sean Sheller. The 6-foot-5, 255-pounder was a little lean, but he has a great frame and his footwork was unrivaled in the camp. He also displayed a very good first power punch in one-on-one drills, and it looks like the Bruins have landed themselves a good one.

Mark Jackson of Columbus (Ohio) Brookhaven came a long way to Los Angeles to check out USC and also showcase his talent against players from outside the Midwest. He's probably glad he did now. Jackson had one of the best camps of anybody, and his physical frame gives a college coach plenty to work with. Jackson admits that he still has some room to go with his technique, but the building blocks are there for him to be a solid offensive line prospect on the next level.

La Puente (Calif.) Bishop Amat offensive tackle Brandon Bennett earned a spot as one of the top 11 players at the camp with a solid overall effort throughout the day. A lot of people were raving about how physically impressive Jackson looked, but when it came down to the fundamentals and what it takes to be a great lineman now, Bennett looked to have the better goods at this point. Bennett will be one of the more highly recruited linemen in the West, especially once he gets in even better shape this summer.

Junior-to-be Sam Demartinis of Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame was a little thin and will obviously need to add muscle, but there is no question that the tools for him to be one of the West's best offensive line prospects next season are all there. He had great fundamentals, great footwork and his punch was also impressive.

Jovon Hayes of Los Angeles Dorsey was kind of overshadowed by some of the other big names at the camp, but he proved throughout the entire day that he is one of the West's best. He was also first in line in every drill and exhibited great leadership skills to go along with a great frame and physical makeup. It was easy to see why Arizona, Baylor and UCLA have already extended him an offer.

Pacific Palisades, Calif., offensive lineman Mitchell Schwartz was huge and had a great frame. He got a little high in some of the drills, but with easily a 6-foot-5, 280-pound frame he has plenty to work with and should get plenty of recruiting attention. Hayworth Hicks of Palmdale, Calif., was similar to Schwartz with a great frame and more than passing the eyeball test.

Defensive linemen
Cleveland Jones of Los Angeles Dorsey was highlighted by the defensive line coaches as the best in the group.

"This kid has all of the tools possible," NIKE Camp coach Marty Spalding said. "He is very fast for his size and he is a very strong kid too. I think he is one of those guys that is going to play very soon wherever he goes. I really liked his work ethic and how he performed today. He's a tough guy, he's just one of those guys that you like to get in your program because of all the things you can do with him."

There were also quite a few other prospects that looked impressive and might end up being more heavily recruited than Jones.

Josh Holmes of San Diego Point Loma was a very hard worker and did everything and beyond in all of the drills. He has a little baby fat that will be lost once he gets to the next level, but there is plenty of positive tools to work with there and there is a good shot he will be under consideration for four-star status.

Devin Johnson of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., also impressed with an amazing first step in one-on-one drills and during drills. Johnson looks more like an outside linebacker now with his frame, and he did appear to have the quickness to play the position in drills, so there is no doubt he will be heavily recruited.

Junior-to-be Domonic Glover of Mission Viejo, Calif., looks to be the next great stud defender from the always talented program. He looked physically like he was already ready to move on to the next level and his skill ranked with the best in camp. Keep your eye on him for next year because he might end up being one of the best defensive ends out West. Toby Turpin of Los Alamitos, Calif., was another that caught a lot of people's eye with his play.

Linebackers
Heading into the camp on Sunday there was plenty of talk that Colton, Calif., linebacker Allen Bradford might be the best player in the Golden State. He didn't do anything to dispel that train of thought by earning camp most valuable player honors.

While he was shorter than the 6-foot-2 he was listed at, he didn't come up short in anything else he did. Bradford, who did measure in at 5-foot-11 and 219 pounds, clocked a 4.54-second time in the 40, a 4.44 in the shuttle and had 25 repetitions in the bench-press.

He was also extremely impressive in drills and then he dominated the one-on-one portion when he went head-to-head against a talented bevy of running backs. There were plenty of physically impressive looking prospects at the camp, but there was nobody that had the total package like Bradford.

Who cares if he's 5-11? That simply doesn't matter because he showed to everybody there that he's a great football player and a truly elite national recruit.

"Some people said I was too short," Bradford said. "I feel like I showed everybody today that I'm up there. I know that somebody is going to say something because of my height. But what you can't measure is my heart."

Finishing as the No. 2 'backer in the camp was Ben Terry, who looks like a high Division I prospect at this time. hysically, Terry has a college body right now and measured in at a rock solid 6-1.5, 210 pounds. He clocked a 4.71 in the 40 (electronic time), 4.56 in the shuttle, jumped 33 inches in the vertical and did 17 reps on the bench. Terry of Mission Viejo (Calif.) Capitstrano Valley already has offers from Kansas and San Diego State.

Other linebackers that caught people's eye included Thousand Oaks, Calif., standout Tony D'Ascenzo, Bakersfield (Calif.) West's Daren Mackey, Grand Junction, Colo., star Kris Means, West Covina (Calif.) South Hills' Tobi Umodu and Chula Vista (Calif.) Eastlake's Marcus Yarbrough.

Umodu is committed to UCLA and looks like a good get for the Bruins. D'Ascenzo is a hard-nosed player that might not be as physically gifted as others but he was solid in everything he did. Mackey had the look of a very good outside linebacker prospect. Means was very much in the mold of D'Ascenzo. And if Yarbrough can get in better physical shape then he has a bright future ahead of himself.

A new name from the group that did emerge was Robert Schenck of San Marcos (Calif.) Mission Hills. He had a long frame that looked like it was in the 6-foot-2, 205-pound range and he was flying around making a lot of plays in drills.

Defensive backs
One of the top players overall in Nevada put his name on the national map with a strong showing at defensive back. Jashaad Gaines of Las Vegas was a physical force with a strong upper-body and great footwork that earned him raving reviews from the defensive back coaches.

Poly cornerback Vincent Joseph was also impressive throughout drills, and both he and Gaines were considered two of the top 11 players in the entire camp. It should be noted that Joseph was really the only one, though, that could stay with Austin, his teammate, in one-on-one drills.

Darian Hagan Jr. will be the first to admit that he didn't test as well as he liked and he struggled in some drills, but when it came to the one-on-ones he was in lockdown mode. Somehow he did get separated from the top receiver group and didn't get to go head-to-head with some of the camp's best receivers, but there is little doubts that if he had, he would have done quite well.

Bradford's teammate, Shareece Wright out of Colton, was one of the more impressive looking players in the group. He tested well with a 4.53-second time in the 40-yard dash and he performed well in the one-on-ones.

Heading into the camp he was listed as a running back, but River Ridge (La.) John Curtis stud junior-to-be Joe McKnight was one of the few defensive backs that actually had the guts to play bump-and-run coverage against the talented group of receivers. He was fast, had amazing hips and was able to close on the ball quickly. It was easy to see why people were talking about him being one of the top five underclassmen in the Pelican State.



 

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