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May 11, 2004

Breaking down the Atlanta NIKE Camp

ATLANTA - With around 500 Division I prospects on the field last Saturday at the Atlanta NIKE Training Camp, it would be easy to think that some of the top talent might slip through the cracks because of the sheer volume. But with the Southeast Region being the deepest concentration of talent around the top players always seem to still manage to stand out.

And one of those that stood out the most was running back Darren McFadden of Little Rock (Ark.) Oak Grove.

The early Arkansas commitment dominated the testing phase of the camp and looked good the entire day. Measuring in at 6-foot and 198 pounds, McFadden ripped off a 4.38 40 and then followed it up with a 4.4 minutes later. He had a 4.7-second shuttle time after he slipped and a very solid 32 inch vertical leap and 14 repetitions of 185 pounds in the bench press.

McFadden showed great hands in the position drills, ability to make sudden changes of direction and could hardly be covered in one-on-one drills.

With his long and lean frame, there were whispers amongst the more than 100 college coaches on hand that he might even project as a blue-chip safety prospect. Either way, McFadden looks like has all of the good of a player that could be a national top 50 prospect and one heck of a grab for the Arkansas Razorbacks.

"I was disappointed with how I ran in the shuttle," McFadden said. "But overall it was a great camp for me. I got a chance to see how I stacked up against the best players in the nation, and I think I did all right."

When prompted that he did more than just all right, McFadden then cracked a knowing smile.

McFadden wasn't the only one that was smiling on Saturday as countless Division I players saw their stock move up with solid performances in front of all of the college coaches. Here's a Rivals100.com breakdown of each of the positions.

Quarterback
All weekend long, including at Friday's Elite 11 Regional quarterback workout inside Bobby Dodd Stadium, the focus seemed to be on Waynesville (N.C.) Tuscola quarterback Jonathan Crompton. Despite all of the pressure and attention, Crompton delivered.

Crompton showed remarkable poise in the pocket and make great decisions in the one-on-one drills. He was one of the few quarterbacks that were able to drill the 18-yard out on a frozen rope consistently and his footwork was unmatched at the camp.

Tennessee continues to be the strong leader for Crompton and from everything he showed on Friday and Saturday he could be an impressive fit in the Volunteers offense or in any team's scheme honestly.

Crompton might have been the headliner, but there were several others that made news - especially Joe Cox of Charlotte (N.C.) Independence.

Cox, who measured in at 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, was consistent the entire weekend and definitely opened a few eyes with his proper mechanics, great balls and ability to put the ball right on the money every single time. He might end up being one of the biggest steals for somebody - he's yet to earn his first scholarship offer - in the state of North Carolina.

There were a few quarterbacks that could easily be lumped into the athlete category that were impressive.

Carlton Hill of Monticello (Fla.) Jefferson County had a solid camp, and with his 6-foot-2 1/2 , 206-pound frame and 4.7-second time in the 40-yard dash he will make a very fine high-level Division I prospect. However, watch for some college coaches to recruit him as a jumbo athlete because of his athletic ability and rough around the edges passing ability.

St. Paul (Minn.) Cretin-Derham Hall athlete Reggie Rock, who listed himself at 5-11 heading into the camp but was somewhat shorter than that, looked solid and threw a very nice ball. But with his height, he's likely destined for another position in college. He'll get some experience at playing cornerback this football season as the coaching staff at Cretin-Derham Hall are going to let him play on both sides of the ball, which is something they've not let their starting quarterback do in a long, long time.

Joey Elliot of Evansville (Ind.) Harrison, Cameron Sexton of Laurinburg (N.C.) Scotland, Brandon Jones of Marietta, Ga., and Eric Ward of Decatur (Ga.) Southwest DeKalb were others that looked good at the quarterback position.

Running back
Maurice Wells, ranked as the No. 1 running back in the nation in the Rivals100 pre-evaluation list, measured in at 5-foot-9 and 177 pounds. He clocked in with a 4.44-time in the 40-yard dash. Wells, who said he consistently times in the 4.3 range, said he was disappointed with his time because he wanted to beat fellow Florida running back Antone Smith, who clocked a 4.25-second time at the Miami NIKE Camp.

So is Wells the nation's top running back?

"I don't know," he said after the camp. "I'll let you guys at Rivals decide that. I can't be worried about where I'm ranked. I came out here today at the NIKE Camp to make myself a better player and see how I stack up against everybody else.

"I wanted to come out here and see where I stood. I'm a competitor, even though I have a ton of offers already, this is football and I always want to be around the game. I had a good time and feel this was definitely a nice way to showcase myself."

Wells, however, knows that he's special and he proved it Saturday in everything that he did.

In the position drills, Wells excelled showing electric cut-back ability, a sudden burst of extra speed and the ability to change directions without any hesitation. With Smith impressing at the Miami Camp and North Hollywood, Calif., standout Marlon Lucky impressing at the San Diego Camp, it was going to be hard to measure up to either of them. Yet, Wells did more than that and demonstrated why he's earned scholarship offers from almost every major program in the nation.

While Wells was the headliner at running back, several other prospects showed that they're worthy of the high-level of attention they are receiving.

Marietta (Ga.) Wheeler running back Richie Rich blew up at the camp. Already possessing an impressive list of offers, including a recent offer from national-power Oklahoma, Rich measured in at 5-9, 177 pounds and with a 4.44-second time in the 40. Rich threw down the gauntlet and took a major step toward being named the top running back in the state of Georgia for the Class of 2005.

As a junior Rich carried the ball 196 times for 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns with an average of 7.6 yards per carry. He recently picked up a scholarship offer from Oklahoma to go along with his others from N.C. State, UAB, Duke, North Carolina and Wake Forest. Watch for those offers to double here in the next few weeks, though.

Tennessee commitment LaMarcus Coker of Antioch, Tenn., looked impressive with his 5-10 , 185-pound frame and 4.30-second time in the 40. Wearing electric blue gloves, Coker was electric on the field and that time was the top posted mark at the camp and will go down as one of the best in the entire nation.

Coker could easily be an all-purpose back with his soft hands and ability to cut out of the backfield. He was put together very well and his explosiveness is hard to describe. Let's just say that he's got more giddy-up than Pee Wee Herman on crack.

Two running back teammates from North Carolina also opened up a few eyes. Travis Padgett, 5-7 and 166 pounds, and Martrey Littlejohn, who was also in the 5-7 or 5-8 range, of Shelby (N.C.) Crest were had impressive explosion and their ability to cut during drills made them standout despite their height. Padgett had one of the fastest times at the camp with a 4.38 in the 40.

Wide receiver
Get to know these two names - T.J. Williams of Tallahassee Leon and Carlos Thomas of College Park (Ga.) Banneker - because they're about to become a household name with recruiting coordinators in the Southeast.

Thomas came into Saturday with a few impressive scholarship offers already on his resume from Florida, LSU and Maryland. He left with more and more because of his dominance throughout the entire day.

Thomas had an amazing workout in the drills and in the one-on-one portion Saturday. He couldn't be covered and was able to beat defenders off the line-of-scrimmage with solid upper-body strength and a quick burst of speed that allowed him to excel into the open field.

At least five college coaches after the camp conceded that Thomas was their pick for the top receiver in the camp. Not too far behind Thomas was Williams, who was a virtual unknown heading into the camp.

Williams ended up being one of the most pleasant surprises of the day. The 6-foot-2, 170-pound receiver showed exceptional quickness, sticky hands and good route-running ability in the drills. He also caught a lot of attention with his camp-best 3.97-time in the shuttle run. He'll be a kid that should have multiple scholarship offers by the time he's finished with the spring evaluation period.

Charlotte (N.C.) Independence receiver Mohamed Massaquoi illustrated why he's considered to be one of the top five players in North Carolina. He measured in at 6-2 and clocked in with a 4.43 40. Massaquoi had very good hands, was able to use his tall frame to go up and get the ball in one-on-one situations and ran very precise routes.

Huntsville, Ala., receiver/tight end Careg Bonner also impressed. Bonner, who is 6-3 and 223 pounds, ran a very solid time of 4.6 seconds and was tough to match up with in passing drills because of his physical nature. It's no surprise that Alabama and LSU offered him a scholarship and why he'll be one of the better players in a down year in the state of Alabama.

There had been a big debate amongst high school and college coaches in South Carolina as to where Bennettsville (S.C.) Malboro County standout receiver Rendrick Taylor (6-1, 210) stands in the Palmetto State. Some schools love him and others didn't think he was worthy of top five consideration.

Yet after an impressive workout on Saturday, those that tab him as one of the state and Southeast's best receivers could to be right. Even though he clocked a 4.61-second time in the 40, Taylor was athletic with a 37-inch vertical leap. With more muscles than some linebackers at the camp, Taylor easily got off the line, had very soft hands and caught almost everything throw in his direction. But there is still some thought that he might not be fast enough to be a high-level receiver and he might end up having to find another position in college.

Nick Kyles of Milldgevile (Ga.) Baldwin showed why he has several impressive scholarship offers with a great outing. He clocked in with a 4.58-second 40 and a 4.31 shuttle, which isn't spectacular, but he did impress throughout the day with great precision routes, very good hands and the ability to use his long frame to go up and get the ball. Kyles already has offers from Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Miami, Mississippi State and Tennessee and would be a steal for either one of those programs.

Brandon King of Houston County, Greg McClendon of Columbus (Ga.) Carver and R.J. Webb of Pickens, S.C., were the other attention grabbers at the position.

Offensive line
With all of the other positions loaded at the camp, the offensive line was somewhat thin of major high-level Division I prospects. Probably the best standout in the bunch from Rivals100's evaluation was Dallas (Ga.) East Paulding standout tackle Paul Duncan.

Duncan, who is 6-6 and 282 pounds, ran a 5.4 but when it came to the pass-protection drills, he kept the quarterback protected with great technique and the ability to move his feet quite well.

"I'm a better pass blocker than run blocker," Duncan, who has offers from Duke, Florida and Vanderbilt, said. "We mainly run the ball at my high school, but I'm a better pass blocker. I like allowing the guys to come to you and then using your body and arms to keep them away from the quarterback."

Joe Birdsong of Nashville (Tenn.) Montgomery Bell Academy looked very good also and said he really likes Tennessee and Ole Miss, along with several others. Marlon Davis of Columbus (Ga.) Carver, Thomas Hutton of Wichita (Kan.) Wichita Collegiate and Trevor Scott of Peach County also had very good camps.

Defensive line
This is where the freaks came out to play. There were more than a half dozen high-level Division I defensive linemen, including two players that could contend for five-star consideration.

Warner Robins (Ga.) Houston County defensive end Kyle Moore is probably the second-best player in the state behind LaGrange linebacker Tray Blackmon, and he showed it all day long.

Moore, who is 6-6 and 247 pounds, clocked a 4.73 40, 4.50 shuttle and did 19 reps in the bench. He was a one-man wrecking crew throughout drills and in the one-on-one competition - even though he didn't go undefeated like a few of the other talented d-line prospects did. But seeing was believing with Moore. He looked like he was ready to step on the field right away and when he turns his motor on, there isn't a better defensive end in America.

James McKinney of Louisville (Ky.) Central was the other show-stopper at defensive line. Rivals100 has been a big fan of McKinney ever since he was at the U.S. Army All-America Combine in San Antonio this past winter, and he stepped up again Saturday with another All-America type performance.

Measuring in at 6-2 and 277 pounds and finally working out at where he needs to be - defensive tackle instead of tight end - McKinney drilled would be blockers into the ground with bull rushes, swim moves and a spin moves. He also tested well with a 5.12 in the 40 and 25 reps on the bench.

Michigan got an early commitment from McKinney, but it looks like every day that he's going to test that original pledge and think more and more about other teams like USC, Miami, Notre Dame and several others that have offered him.

"Michigan is still my top school," McKinney said. "I just wanted to open things up and take a few trips. USC was the first school to call May 1 and offered me a scholarship so I'm definitely going to visit there. Miami and Notre Dame are two other trips I know I'll take and of course I'm going to visit Michigan as well."

At 6-5 and 228 pounds, Larry Cox was one of the most intimidating prospects that Rivals100 has seen so far on the NIKE Camp tour. Cox didn't run the fastest time at 4.9 seconds, but he couldn't be blocked in drills and had a long and lean frame that will be able to easily handle an additional 25 pounds at the next level.

His pass-rushing technique, which included an explosive first step off the line, might have been the best that has been seen so far this year.

Another defensive lineman that really impressed was Decatur, Ga., defensive end Corey Moon. Moon, 6-4, 235 pounds is very athletic and quick off the ball. He came in to the camp with a big reputation after a dominant junior season and lived up to it on Saturday. He also tested well running a 4.78 in the 40, jumped 28 inches in the vertical and did 19 reps on the bench. Auburn and Duke have offered.

Linebacker
The top linebacker at the camp was Marcus Ball of Stone Mountain (Ga.) Stephenson. Ball, the younger brother of Georgia Tech quarterback Reggie Ball, is just going to be a junior, but he looked like he could step out on the field today and his game is also at a very high level with a muscled up physical frame and solid speed.

He could easily be one of the nation's top safety or outside linebacker prospects in the Class of 2006.

Another linebacker that impressed was David McDowell of Skyland (N.C.) T.C. Roberson. McDowell clocked a 4.72-second 40, 28 inch vertical and 17 reps on the bench. Greenville (Fla.) Madison County outside linebacker Eugene Hayes showed why he has offers from Georgia, LSU, Michigan State, Notre Dame. He flew around all over the field in drills and showed a good nose for the football.

Defensive back
For all of the skill positions, defensive back seemed to be the one with the least amount of talent. However, that doesn't mean that there wasn't a few players that'll be recruited heavily.

One player that definitely passed the eyeball test was Antavoius Coates, who was 6-3 and 185 pounds. Coats, who could project on both sides of the ball looked more natural working out with the defensive backs and really seemed to be able to close on the ball when it was in the air.

Also watch out for Henry Chubb, a 5-11, 175-pound cornerback from Waycross (Ga.) Ware County. He ran a 4.5-second time in the 40, but seemed much quicker on the field during drills and one-on-one drills.

For expanded coverage of the Atlanta NIKE Training Camp, you should check out StudentSports.com. Access to StudentSports.com requires an additional membership. Coming Soon! The best is getting better. The Rivals.com Recruiting Database will include all authentic data from this summer's NIKE Training Camp schedule.

Rivals.com recruiting analyst Greg Biggins contributed to this report.


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