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April 23, 2005

Hooked at NIKE

Ft. Worth, Texas - The University of Texas has been dominating the national recruiting scene with 17 early commitments before the spring evaluation period even started. So it was only fitting that a Longhorn commitment was named the most valuable player at Saturday's NIKE Training Camp.

Grand Prairie (Texas) South Grand Prairie strongside defensive end Brian Ellis dominated the testing phase of the camp and looked good in one-on-one drills, taking home the top honors at the camp.

"I'm speechless," Ellis said when he was informed that he was named the top overall player at the camp. "I don't know what to say."

Many of the Longhorn commitments decided to sit Saturday's event out for a number of different reasons, but Ellis said the competitor in him wouldn't allow him to remain on the sideline.

"I know a lot of people told me that coming to something like this even though you're committed could only hurt you," Ellis said. "But I wanted to make myself better. I wanted to learn from some of the best trainers and football people around. I also wanted to test myself against all the great players in Texas."

He passed with flying colors.

Ellis, who is 6-foot-5 and 242 pounds, ran a 4.75-second time in the 40-yard dash, had 17 repetitions in the bench-press, a 29.9-inch vertical leap and a 4.25-second time in the shuttle. He also was one of the most dominating pass rushers in the one-on-one competition, and he showed amazing change of direction and technique throughout the drills.

"I wasn't going to miss a chance to come out and compete," Ellis said. "I liked what I did today, but I still think that I could have done a lot better."

Ellis admits that he's a tough grader, though. His coach, David Fisher, agrees that he Ellis is a long way from being a finished product but the tools are there for him to be something special.

"He needs to put on another 20 or 30 pounds to play at the level he thinks he can," Fisher said. "But he'll probably do that. He's a 17-year old kid and just a junior in high school. He's so athletic for a big kid. He wears a size 17 shoe, so he's not through growing.

"He looks slender, so he can easily add weight."

But the only weight that Ellis added on Saturday was the weight of being named the camp's top performer. That's what they call good weight.

Challenging Ellis for top honors at the camp was Gerald McCoy of Oklahoma City (Okla.) Southeast. The 6-foot-4, 280-pounder didn't have the best 40-yard dash time with a 5.4-second electronic time, but that was the only thing that he did slow on Saturday.

Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Miami and LSU have already offered McCoy and it was easy to see why. Nobody - repeat - nobody could block McCoy one-on-one. He would beat helpless blockers time after time with a surprisingly quick first step. He then would use his amazing strength and very good technique to get by the blocker and the quarterback.

And don't even get started about his frame.

Nobody looked more out of the box ready to go than McCoy, and the college coaches, which included head coaches from Texas A&M, Missouri and UTEP, could be seen drooling over him throughout the camp.

"It was great," McCoy said. "At first I was nervous when I got here, but I saw the guys here having fun and all the coaches know what they're doing. They're intense.

"The biggest thing I learned was the speed of all the players and what to do in the speed drills. I learned a lot about how to improve my quickness. I'm going to go get me one of those SPARQ parachutes that we used in the drills. They really helped me today."

The day just didn't belong to the defensive linemen.

There were plenty of very talented skill players, including blue-chip two-way player Perrish Cox of Waco (Texas) University. Cox clocked in the 4.5-second range and worked out with the receivers, but it's easy to see why many programs consider him one of the top cornerback, if not the top cornerback prospect, in the Lone Star State.

Running back Mon Williams of Mesquite Horn isn't mentioned enough by fans when talking about the top running back in the state. In what is considered to be one of the better years in Williams' name doesn't get thrown around as much as other names like Emmanuel Moody or Michael Goodson. But after watching Williams in every facet of the game on Saturday it's clear that he's one of the best backs around.

He tested well, running in the 4.5-second range, and in passing drills he made linebackers look like they were standing still. He caught everything that was thrown his way and the spin moves that he did in the drills were a thing of beauty.

The quarterback position at the camp appeared to be stacked as quite a few players came into the came with solid reputations and they did nothing to disappoint.

Christian Ponder of Colleyville (Texas) Heritage, Sherrod Harris of Arlington (Texas) Bowie, Greg McElroy of Southlake (Texas) Carroll and Joe Mauro of Hurst (Texas) L.D. Bell all impressed. Nick Stephens of Flower Mound, Texas, also emerged as a solid Division I candidate. Stephens was behind a 2,500-yard passer in 2004 but he could make his mark in 2005 in Flower Mound's pass-happy offense.

Along with Williams, quite a few other backs showcased their talent.

Kansas State commitment Leon Patten was in the 5-foot-7 range, looked impressive in pass-catching drills, and his 4.55-second time made him an exciting prospect to watch in the open field. North Garland standout Donte Bean was silky smooth in drills and looked great with the ball in his hands. Texas pledge Derke Robinson of Lewisville Hebron had a muscular frame and he definitely passed the eyeball test. He said he clocked in the 4.6-second range. Antwan Cobb of Pflugerville, Texas, wasn't the fastest kid on the field, but he sure was quick.

Receiver might have been the deepest position at the camp.

Along with Cox, one of the most impressive pass-catchers was Texas commitment Phillip Payne. Payne was a long and physical looking prospect with good quickness and soft hands. He didn't have problem getting open in one-on-one drills, despite whoever was covering.

There were quite a few receiver that appeared physically a lot like Payne - tall, slender but with great muscular frames.

Arlington (Texas) Martin teammates James Iwuchukwu and Josh Marshall looked almost identical with Iwuchukwu around 6-3 and 195 pounds and Marshall at 6-4 and 215 pounds. Neither were the fastest kids, but they created tough match-up problems with their size and frame. Marshall, especially, seemed to catch everything thrown his way.

Bryan, Texas, two-way star Artrell Woods said he just picked up offers recently from Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to go along with his early offer from Texas A&M. He displayed good quickness and had a 4.6-second time in the 40. He did drop a few passes in one-on-one drills, but still he is a very high-level athlete worthy of the attention he's getting.

Steven Harris of Lewisville (Texas) Hebron on film plays both cornerback and receiver, but on Saturday he was strictly a receiver - a darned good one. With around a 4.5-second time in the 40, Harris moved real well and caught almost everything.

Oklahoma standouts George West of Oklahoma City Northeast and Laron Moore of Midwest City were blinding fast in drills and had no problem getting open in man-to-man situations. It was easy to see why West has offers from Notre Dame and Iowa State. Moore had one of the top 10 times in the 40-yard dash.

But Da'Marcus Griggs of Bay City, Texas, had the catch of the day when he leapt up and made a one-handed catch in the back of the end zone on a fly route. He came down with the ball in his right hand and somehow kept his balance, despite the defender literally dragging him down.

Lamarr Houston of Colorado Springs (Colo.) Doherty is considered one of the top players in Colorado, and he arrived late for the camp after an almost 13-hour drive. The late arrival didn't allow him to put up great marks in the testing phase of the camp, but there is no question that he was one of the most physically put together players at the camp. He is listed as a fullback in the recruiting database, but the way he looked he appeared to have big-time defensive end written all over him.

Justin (Texas) Northwest linebacker Blake Collier also looked more than ready to make the leap to the next level. He was chiseled like a rock, and he looked great in drills and one-on-one competition. But he blew the doors off with a 4.46-second time in the 40-yard dash, proving that his great track times translate to the football field, too.

It was truly hard to single out a few defensive backs, but the position was also loaded with talent.

Safety Malcolm Williams of South Grand Prairie was one of the standouts at the position. The Aggie commitment clocked a 4.48-second time and looked both physical and quick in one-on-one drills. His hips made him look like he's probably athletic enough to play cornerback if needed, but with his physical, muscular make-up, it's easy to project him as a safety. Williams committed to A&M early on, and he's also recently picked up scholarship offers from Oklahoma and Arizona.

Danny McCray of Spring (Texas) Westfield is considered one of the top defenders in Houston and he more than lived up to the hype on Saturday. He clocked in the 4.6-second range, and he was one of the most impressive looking defenders at his position.

Plano (Texas) West cornerback Jordan Pugh hasn't been listed on too many people's state top 100 lists, but he more than belongs - especially after a strong performance in one-on-one drills Saturday. With offers from Purdue, Alabama and Kentucky in his pocket don't be surprised if he picks up even more offers by the end of the spring evaluation period.


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