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May 16, 2004

TEs take center stage at Iowa City NIKE Camp

IOWA CITY, Iowa - Thank you Jeremy Shockey. Thank you Kellen Winslow Jr.

Thanks to the exploits of Shockey, the New York Giants' star, and Winslow, first-round draft choice, it's cool to be a tight end again. So it's no surprise to see that the position that dominated at the Iowa City NIKE Training Camp Sunday afternoon at the University of Iowa was tight end.

It was the most impressive collection of tight ends so far on the NIKE Camp tour this season. Blue-chip recruits Zach Potter, Chase Coffman and Trent Flander and fast-rising A.J. Haase were on hand, showcasing their size, speed and ability to be big-time playmakers with their pass-catching ability.

It's hard to single out one in this group because all of them had their own strengths that should make them household names with college recruiters this fall.

Potter, who measured in at 6-foot-7 and 258 pounds, didn't display blazing speed with a 5.0-second time in the 40-yard dash, but he did have a pair of soft hands, decent footwork and an incredible body and frame that will certainly make recruiters drool. Some college coaches are quietly whispering that Potter might be an offensive tackle on the next level and seeing him work out it's easy to see that he could project at that position.

He reminds a lot of people of Miami Hurricane offensive lineman Eric Winston when he came out of Midland (Texas) Lee. Winston was a highly touted tight end prospect, but many colleges thought he had potential as an NFL offensive tackle. Or since the NIKE Camp was in Iowa this weekend, how about the shift Robert Gallery made from tight end in high school to offensive tackle at Iowa? That move turned him into a top five-pick in this year's NFL Draft.

Could a similar move be in store for Potter? Or will he stick at tight end?

"I like having the ball in my hands," Potter, of Omaha (Neb.) Creighton Prep, said. "I honestly don't know if I would like to make the move. I've always been a guy that has had the balls thrown to me, and I think I'm a big enough play maker to stick at tight end and be an impact in college."

Coffman of Peculiar (Mo.) Raymore Peculiar measured in at 6-foot-6 and clocked an average 4.81-second time in the 40. However, he was extremely fluid in the passing drills and had some great hands in one-on-one competition against the linebackers. Coffman, who has scholarships from Iowa, Kansas State and Missouri, doubles as a basketball player and he used his hops and ability to post-up defenders in jump-ball situations to come down with impressive catches time after time.

Flander of West Des Moines (Iowa) Dowling has been talked about as one of the top five players in the state and he didn't disappoint Sunday. Flander in at 6-foot-3 and 222 pounds, and he was extremely physical throughout the camp. His route running was very precise and he had the type of muscle build that you'd expect out of a tight end that's not afraid to mix it up as a run blocker, too.

Even though he's from tiny Boone Terre (Mo.) North County, Haase looked like he's good enough to take his game to the big-time. Haase, who committed early to Iowa State but admitted he's not turning away calls from other college coaches, was impressive in every sense possible.

Haase was at the front of almost every drill, worked hard to get as many repetitions possible and did all of the little things that college coaches crave in a leader. Then he displayed some smooth routes, great explosion off the ball, great hands and was physical when the time came for him to match up in one-on-one drills. Haase might be a relative unknown on the national recruiting scene but watch for his stock to continue to skyrocket after the impressive camp Sunday.

There were other positions that were stocked with good talent, including the quarterbacks. The stars in that group were Evan Sharpley of Marshall, Mich., Dustin Sherer of Westfield (Ind.) Hamilton Heights and Kerry Meier of Pittsburg, Kan.

Sharpley (6-2, 200) did all of the little things that want from a high-level quarterback. He displayed great footwork, was solid with his technique and put the ball in the right spots. Sherer showed surprising speed with a 4.7-second 40 time and had a very strong arm. Meier (6-2 203), who some consider the top player in the state of Kansas, ran a very solid 4.6 in the 40 and had good arm strength and decent accuracy.

There wasn't a ton of great running backs, but a few guys did make strides and took their names off the sleeper list and put themselves in the solid Division I category.

One such player was Ballwin (Mo.) Parkway West running back Chris Jackson. Jackson, who measured in at 5-foot-10 and 197 pounds, simply had amazing feet and was able to go through the rope drills and bag drills without any hesitation. He also had a collection of spin and juke moves that made it almost impossible to catch during one-on-one drills. Not much was known about him heading into the camp, but he'll be one to keep an eye on for sure after Sunday.

Fullback prospect Jake Behrens of Omaha Millard North came in at 6-0 and 219 pounds and looked to be the optimal fullback for a team that likes a good blocker and a guy that can catch the ball out of the backfield. He doesn't have any scholarship offers at this point, but after a 4.3 shuttle, 31 inch vertical and 21 bench-press repetitions, he'll probably earn a few before the end of spring.

Newton, Iowa, running back Derrick Law definitely passes the eye-ball test at 5-foot-11 and 197 pounds. Law clocked a 4.75-second 40, but did excel in everything else at the camp, including one-on-ones and in position drills.

The defensive end and linebacker groups also attracted a lot of attention with a solid batch of prospects, including solid players like Sam Porter, Brent Gritton and Eric Small. Porter of Chicago Morgan Park was hard to block in one-on-one drills, Gritton of Lincoln (Neb.) East looked very good despite a nagging hamstring pull and Small of Naperville (Ill.) Central dominated the bench-press testing with 32-repetitions of 185 pounds.

However, there is little doubt after Sunday that Iowa City (Iowa) West two-way lineman Alex Kanellis has a strong argument for top player in the state honors. Ok let's end the debate, he is the best player in the state, especially after Sunday's workout in drills and in one-on-ones.

Not only was he able to be easily coached and didn't need to be told to do things twice, Kanellis had amazing footwork, a solid and very sturdy frame and great explosion off the ball.

Kanellis, who was working out with the defensive linemen, was a little light because he is still gaining weight after slimming down to 215 pounds for wrestling season, but by the time he's hitting football he should be around 255 again. He could easily be in the 6-4 and 265-270 range in college and still keep that great explosion.

For expanded coverage of the Iowa City 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.


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