- Craig Haubert, ESPN Staff Writer
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- The Nike Football Training Camp (NFTC) landed at the home of the national champion LSU Tigers. It was one of the smaller ones thus far with a turnout about half the size of the bigger camps.
There were several big-name no-shows, including LSU commits corner Janzen Jackson (Lake Charles, La./Barbe) and running back Michael Ford (Leesville, La.), wide receiver Rueben Randle (Bastrop, La.), linebacker Tahj Jones (Sulpher, La.) and running back Eddie Lacy (Geismar, La./Dutchtown). The camp did draw some touted recruits and also saw some other participants take advantage of the opportunity to get extra reps with the smaller numbers and grab some attention of their own.
One big name who showed was super athlete Russell Shepard (Houston/Cypress Ridge). The LSU commit made the trek from Houston to work out at his future playground and looked right at home. Easily the best pure athlete in the building, Shepard did not disappoint in his overall skills.
He worked out with the quarterbacks all day and continues to show that despite his great ball and running skills, he has what it takes to be a quarterback at the college level. He effortlessly went through footwork drills, rarely needing to look down at his feet to help him navigate the obstacles. He quickly dropped back and got set. He threw a very catchable ball and looked sharp in his accuracy most of the day.
The ESPN 150 Watch List prospect reaffirmed to us he is a much better passer than most people give him credit for. He does not have great height (6-foot-2) and that could be a slight obstacle for him, and while he threw a nice ball, he doesn't have a cannon arm. One thing is for sure: He is a special talent. While impressing at quarterback he also made some impressive one-handed grabs just shagging some of the wild throws by the receivers who were returning the ball.
As Advertised (part two)
The other big name in the house to recruiting fans was monster defensive tackle Chris Davenport (Mansfield, La.). The highly sought-after defender was very impressive-looking on the hoof.
In person, he proved what we had seen on film: He carries his bulk very well. He had a good wingspan and was a fairly trim-looking kid for a 300-pounder. He had his moments going through the footwork drills, at times flashing the foot quickness that has recruiters lining up. In the one-on-ones, he got plenty of reps. He was easily the most physically dominating lineman there. Even when he got blocked (which happened occasionally) he still managed to generate push into the backfield and collapse the pocket.
We liked that he continually tried to use his reach and work moves to try to defeat blockers and did not just rely on his size. He regularly tried to club and rip, and while he needs to develop his pass-rushing ability, he displayed the tools to be a productive pass-rushing defensive tackle at the college level.
"Varsity Inc." Spinoff
Last fall, ESPN featured the West Monroe (La.) High School football program in a reality show called Varsity Inc. While the lights and cameras are long gone, three West Monroe 2009 prospects came out and proved worthy of some camera time also.
In a trip to West Monroe late last fall for its playoff game against Ruston, junior linebacker Barkevious Mingo particularly stood out. With a tall, rangy frame he still needs to physically develop and grow into his body. His wingspan and stride were impressive. He is still fairly raw and struggled at times in drills and in the ones-on-ones, but also displayed exciting upside. We feel his future might be at defensive end in college, but whether there or at linebacker, this kid has a bright future. Mingo's ability was obvious to others in attendance as he walked away with the camp's linebacker MVP award.
The West Monroe Rebels also had another award-winner in attendance, as D.J. Banks took home MVP honors among the defensive backs. A talented athlete who fills many roles for his high school team, Banks showed his best fit could likely be on the defensive side of the ball in college.
And while he didn't garner an award, running back LaDarius Adams, a third Rebels prospect, had a good day. Though lacking ideal height, the 5-foot-10 back flashed some of the burst he had shown on film. All in all, a very good day for the former TV stars.
Lamin Barrow (6-foot-2, 205 pounds)
John Ehret (Marrero, La.)
While scouting the linebackers, Barrow stood out. He is an impressive-looking athlete with good size and a nice wingspan. He displayed a good motor, regularly being the first one up in drills. While contact was very limited, he did a nice job of being able to break down in space and get his hands on running backs. Mingo displayed much better upside, but Barrow might have been the best linebacker out there Sunday, and he likely helped his cause for some more attention with his performance.
The offensive line group was small in numbers, but when it came time to compete, it made some noise. In the one-on-one drills with the defensive line, the hogs represented themselves well, winning their fair share of battles.
One prospect who had a good showing was guard Patrick Lewis (Reserve, La./East St. John). He displayed good toughness and good feet as he was able to mirror rushers. He had some good battles with the highly touted Chris Davenport. Lewis for his efforts walked away with offensive line MVP honors.
Jordan Mills (Assumption, La.) was a good-looking tackle prospect. He displays good feet early and used his hands well but tailed off as the drill went on. The linemen were forced to take a lot of reps, and he likely tired and looked a bit sloppy in his technique.
A Glimpse into the Future
While the focus was on 2009 prospects, one underclassman demanded attention. Defensive lineman Anthony Johnson (New Orleans/O. Perry Walker) sported a beard and looked like a college senior. Despite his appearance, though, Johnson is only a freshman. With Greg Oden syndrome (i.e., he looks much older than he is), he competed like a senior-to-be. He had a good, thick build for a kid his age. He grabbed as many reps as he could and was physical. He displayed the ability to push older prospects around, and has a bright future. Johnson is a name we will probably hear again when we talk about the 2011 class. Jermauria Rasco (Shreveport, La. / Evangel Christian), another freshman, also blended in well with the older prospects.
Even without great numbers, the day was good because we got a chance to focus on some new faces and see some of the bigger names get more reps.
Wearing a different number than what was on the roster, running back Tyrone Duplessis (New Orleans/O. Perry Walker) forced onlookers to adjust and find out who he was. A very diminutive back at 5-foot-8, he was thickly built and displayed good quickness. His efforts for the day landed him MVP honors.
Another good-looking back was Kendrick Hardy (Monticello, Miss./Lawrence County). The good-sized back made the trip from Mississippi to showcase his skills.
Local prospect Julius Warmsley (Baton Rouge, La./St. Michael) had a good day in one-on-one drills. He took plenty of reps and displayed good quickness off the edge. He also displayed a solid command of being able to use hands to help him best blockers.
While Shepard was the best quarterback in attendance, Jordan Luallen (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove) also had a good showing.
ESPN television is currently in production on a special that will profile the top prospects at the Nike and Elite 11 training camps. The information used in this article was gathered as part of the television production process.