April 18, 2010

LSU commits show out at LSU Nike Camp

BATON ROUGE, La. - The LSU practice field was the site of the Baton Rouge Nike Football Training Camp on Saturday and it was teeming with prospects that will soon call that field home. LSU is off to a furious pace to its 2011 class with 10 commitments already. On Saturday, four of those commitments were competing and they were all among the day's top performers.

With LSU offensive tackle commit La'El Collins watching from the sideline with a tweaked ankle, the clear bell cow of the future Tigers was wide receiver Jarvis Landry. Landry ended the day early with a turned ankle but had a terrific performance earning the wide receiver MVP without even taking part in the one-on-one period. It's hard to imagine there is a better set of hands in the nation than the pair that Landry possesses. He is also an incredibly quick route-runner, and though his top-end speed may not be ideal, his start-stop ability and acceleration are just that: ideal.

Another prospect with nothing to prove was Jeremy Hill. Hill has been piling up offers throughout his junior season from schools around the country and ended the process early with an LSU commitment. His appearance on Saturday had as much to do with representing the Tigers as it did his passion to compete.

"We talked a lot about that," Hill said of the strong LSU presence. "We said we were all going to come. We tried to get the most guys out here just to show that LSU has for the future. We wanted to compete. We have a lot of offers but that doesn't matter. We still want to get out and compete and get back in football mode and get ready for football again."

Hill also saw the camp as an opportunity to prepare for the next level.

"I really just want to get back into competition," he said. "I really haven't seen top tier competition in a while and I just want to get out there and see how I'm going to react to it and get ready for the next level because everybody's going to be good. I have to get as much competition as I can before I get there."

Hill's performance proved that he is ready. He was clearly the biggest back in attendance and predictably he enjoyed and excelled at the pass-blocking drills but he brings more to the table than just a big body. Hill is deceptively elusive, has great feet and can catch the ball out of the backfield very effectively. He will come to LSU with the flexibility to be a big back or a versatile H-back.

Hill was joined in the backfield with fellow-commit Terrance Magee. Magee lines up at quarterback for 4A state-finalist Franklinton but worked out at his future position of running back on Saturday. There isn't any one part of Magee's game that really jumps out at you but he is a fluid natural athlete.

LSU was also represented on the offensive line with Corey White. White likely plays on the inside on the next level but on Saturday he showed the feet and athleticism you need as a tackle. Though he isn't as talked about as some of LSU's other early commitments, White could be one of the real steals of the class.

He also didn't hesitate to get out and compete. In fact, the idea of not working out just because he's committed didn't even cross the big lineman's mind.

"I wanted to come out and just get out of the house instead of laying down all day I wanted to come out and get some work in," he said. "When I came I just had in my mind that I wasn't going to slack and I was going to be the first in all the drills."

Linemen play big

The offensive and defensive linemen were not big groups in terms of numbers but they certainly played big and no one played bigger than Mickey Johnson. Watch Johnson on film and see him walk onto the practice field and it's hard to believe that the two are the same. Johnson is short and isn't going to stand out in a crowd but once the ball is snapped, you're going to find him very quickly because he's going to find the ball.

Despite Johnson's height, he is powerfully thick with a barrel chest and an extremely strong base. He is also explosive. With his strength and leverage, you expect him to be a bull-rushing specialist but that's not the case at all. Johnson can beat you with his quickness, he can beat you as a technician or he can just go right through you with his strength. Johnson's performance earned him the defensive line MVP award.

On the offensive line, Destrehan's Ethan Hutson earned MVP honors for handling every defender except for Johnson. Hutson had a really complete day. His flexibility and feet were tops among the linemen. Hutson has the quickness and reaction skills to handle more athletic linemen but when faced with a bigger interior player, he has the ability to sink his hips and get strong, holding his ground. Credit is also due for Hutson for stepping up and taking every rep he could and taking on all comers.

Though at first glance, Hutson looks like he may have size issues, he measured in at 6-foot-4 and 287 pounds on the day. As a rising high school senior, that size is not concerning, especially when coupled with the versatility that Hutson offers. For Louisiana power Destrehan high school, Hutson played every position on the offensive line as a junior. Likely he projects as a guard or center and if his performance on Saturday was representative of his ability in pads, there can't be many better center prospects anywhere.

Also on the offensive side of the line, some standouts included Andrew Petitjean, George Ray and Derek Edinburgh. Ray is the most college ready of that group with a great punch and good size. Petitjean, though effective, will likely be a low to mid-major player due to his size but showed that he can compete with anybody. Edinburgh is only a sophomore but was probably the biggest prospect at the camp. He is a work in progress but has a lot of upside.

Though Johnson stole the show on the defensive side, several other players stepped up with strong performances. One player who emerged from obscurity to be one of the toughest blocks at the camp was Terry Johnson out of Oxford, Miss. Johnson had good size, athleticism and a great motor and attitude.

Also from Mississippi, 2012 prospect Nick James out of Long Beach was one of the better looking prospects as a wide-bodied and athletic defensive tackle. He will need to get in better shape and finish drills on a more consistent basis but the tools are certainly there. D.J. Pettway and Michael Brinson are both highly recruited players that came in and had nice days as well on defense.

One other surprise of the day was Malcolm Pichon out of Salmen, La. Pichon is huge with some bad weight on him but he is deceptively quick and can really move for a player pushing 350 pounds. He holds offers from Louisiana Tech and SMU currently but could be due for some more following the spring evaluation period.

Strong Arms

The quarterback group was led by four standouts. Baton Rouge (La.) Catholic quarterback Zach Oliver walked away with the MVP award for the group. He had a very consistent day showing good decision-making, a strong arm and good leadership qualities.

Oliver was pushed by Stevie Douglas, Broderick Hall and Daniel Sams. Douglas is home schooled and plays for a team of home schooled athletes so made the most of his opportunity to get reps with and against elite competition. He has very good height and is very accurate with the football. At times he'll make the wrong read but he puts the ball where he wants it to go.

Sams is a raw, but extremely talented quarterback prospect. He has size and athleticism to go with a big arm. He can be a little bit nonchalant with his mechanics at times but as far as having the ability to make big plays, Sams has it. He is a Kansas State commit and is the type of quarterback that Bill Snyder has had a lot of success with in the past.

The fourth quarterback of the group may have been the biggest surprise. Broderick Hall out of Tuscaloosa (Ala.) Paul Bryant has picked up offers from Mississippi State and Southern Miss and it's easy to see what schools like in him. Hall is tall and athletic but he throws a beautiful deep ball with touch while still understanding ball placement on the intermediate routes. Hall could have the most upside of any quarterback at the event. He played on a two-win team in 2009 so may be overlooked at this point but there's no doubt that the kid is talented.

Jarvis junior

There was one receiver that was head and shoulders above everyone else on Saturday despite the fact that the camp had a very deep and talented receiver group. There was little surprise that that receiver was Jarvis Landry. The potential runner-up on the other hand may be a surprise. Bralon Addison out of Fort Bend (Texas) Marshall was phenomenal as a receiver and he did his damage in much the same way that Landry does his.

It's hard to get a read on just how fast Addison is but he is certainly quick, has great acceleration and he knows how to get open. Similar to Landry he creates great separation with his crisp routes and even if he isn't wide open, he will catch anything he touches.

What's even more impressive about Addison's performance on Saturday is that he is only sophomore. Moreover, Addison doesn't even typically play receiver. He was the sophomore of the year in his district in 2009 as a running back. Addison doesn't have great size but he is extremely advanced as a pure football player at this stage and should see his recruitment really blow up as a junior.

Receivers go deep

The receiver talent on Saturday didn't stop with Landry and Addison. In fact, there weren't enough reps to go around for all the talented receivers in attendance.

  • Joseph Morrow out of Ocean Springs, Miss. holds numerous major offers including one from LSU and from each of the in-state Mississippi programs. He showed great size and ball skills and looks to be a matchup up problem for cornerbacks.

  • Odell Beckham is considered by many to be a safety prospect but he was very impressive at wide receiver at LSU. He is a very natural athlete that runs well and has great body control. Beckham was the prospect responsible for some of the days most athletic plays.

  • There may not have been a better looking receiver on the hoof than Franklinton's Chris Briggs. Briggs has great size and gets in and out of his cuts well for a bigger receiver. He looks like he has soft hands but also showed some inconsistency in that regard. He was certainly one of the day's more intriguing prospects and shows a world of upside.

  • Similar to Beckham, Ryan Byrd has the kind of athleticism that jumps out at you when you watch the way he moves. He may still have more upside at safety but Byrd really excels on vertical patterns and out-jumping defenders for footballs.

    Other receivers that had good days included Devin Fosselman, Nick Hill, Tyriq Patrick, Carl Pearson and Stewart Hartman.

    Running back to watch

    Similar to the receivers, the running backs were deep and talented but a previously anonymous prospect was the talk of the camp by the time all was said and done.

    Ameer Abdullah was absolutely dominating out of Homewood, Ala. He first began making waves in the open field tackling drill. Not only were linebackers having trouble squaring him up, they could barely put a finger on Abdullah. His change of direction and start-stop ability was phenomenal.

    Abdullah then moved over the pass-blocking drill and was equally dominating. Using toughness and terrific feet, Abdullah blocked like a fullback rather than the shifty all-purpose player that he is.

    Currently Abdullah only has offers from small local programs but he has the talent to really see his recruitment blow up as his junior year approaches.

    Abdullah's show-stealing performance was that much more impressive when the talent level of the rest of the field is taken into consideration.

    Derek Milton will be at Hargrave Prep next fall and looked very ready with good physicality and athleticism. Raheem Richard has a similar build to Abdullah and a similar athleticism as well. Next in line in that mold of an elusive all-purpose back is Lutcher's Daniel Taylor out of the class of 2012. Taylor also made his presence felt with some athletic plays.

    Effrem Reed, Josh Robinson, Brian Thomas, Myron Dominique and Anthony Williams all were part of the very strong group of running backs as well and each had their moments.

    Defensive stars

    Among the rest of the defensive stars of the day, Ryan Simmons out of Cibolo (Texas) Steele would have to be one of the first names mentioned. Simmons was receiving praise from the coaching staff from the first drill to the last as a big, athletic, hard-working linebacker that showed the ability to make plays in space, turn his hips and cover and also play with a high effort level throughout.

    In the defensive backfield, the MVP award went to Brian Isaac out of Natchez, Miss. Isaac is a safety prospect that has the ability to cover, good feet and a nose for the football.

    Also a defensive back, Joseph Hunter out of Pensacola has a lot of upside. He catches your eye as a 6-foot-3 defensive back but keeps your attention with terrific hips and the ability to climb the ladder for the football against receivers.

    Several other defenders had good days including Lazarus Chase, Daren Kitchen, Tino Thomas, Matt Bailey and Kirby Bonnavillain.

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