Commentary

Linebackers aplenty at Penn State Nike Camp

Originally Published: May 12, 2008
By Tom Luginbill | Scouts Inc.

William CampbellTom Hauck for ESPN.comWilliam Campbell made fellow campers think twice about coming his way in one-on-one drills.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Though many Midwest prospects braved poor weather and torrential downpours to arrive at Penn State, it turned out to be a beautiful day as both the Nike Football Training Camp and Elite 11 events moved from the indoor facility to the natural grass surfaces.

There was a big turnout, and the linebackers and interior line group showcased a number of top prospects, including an unexpected appearance by DT William Campbell (Detroit/Cass Tech), a big-bodied, two-gapping presence inside the front four.

We were disappointed not to see QB Bryn Renner (West Springfield, Va.) in attendance; he is one of the better quarterback prospects in this class, and we loved him on tape and hope to see him down the road again or during the fall. Quarterback/athlete Craig Crawford (Huntington, W. Va.) worked out at wide receiver -- likely where he will end up instead of QB. Wide receiver Corey Brown (Monroeville, Pa./Gateway) displayed his versatility by participating in both the defensive back and wide receiver drills throughout the day. Running backs Tavon Austin (Baltimore/Dunbar) and Teric Jones (Detroit/Cass Tech) were both very exciting to watch and showed excellent quickness, balance and ball skills.

[+] EnlargeJe'ron Stokes
Tom Hauck/ESPN.comJe'ron Stokes was the first player to commit to Tennessee's 2009 class.
The top wide receiver prospect at the event, WR Je'Ron Stokes (Philadelphia/Northeast), was nursing a muscle pull in his leg and took part in minimal SPARQ training drills but not football related drills. Stokes was on hand to support his younger brother, 2010 QB prospect Malik Stokes (Philadelphia/Northeast).

On the hoof

DE Brent Urban (Mississauga, Ontario, Canada/Lorne Park Secondary)
They certainly seem to grow 'em big north of the border; this Canadian is definitely the first player you want getting off the bus. Urban stands legitimately around 6-foot-6 and possesses a strong, thickly-built frame that could easily handle 285 to 290 pounds without losing tone or muscle definition.

He possesses extremely long arms and really knows how to use his hands. He is a strength, hands and leverage player. If he keeps his pad level down, Urban can overpower opponents off the ball. He is not overly smooth or fluid and may not display that quick-twitch explosiveness off the edge, but he could develop into a fine run-stopping six-technique down the road. His Level of competition may be a concern.

[+] EnlargeTom Savage
Tom Hauck/ESPN.comSlimmed down Rutgers commit Tom Savage showed improved footwork and mobility.
As advertised

QB Tom Savage (Philadelphia/Cardinal O'Hara)
We were pleasantly surprised to see Savage trimmed down somewhat, quickening his footwork. More importantly, he seems to have tightened up his delivery. His release has become more compact and quicker, enhancing his ability to beat the rush with his arm. He is a classic dropback passer displaying polish, sound footwork and a big arm with natural wrist velocity. He clearly can make all the throws and is very similar to QB Matt Barkley in terms of size and overall mechanics.

QB Tajh Boyd (Hampton, Va./Phoebus)
For his second outing at the NFTC and Elite 11 (he also attended the North Carolina event), Boyd once again proved he is a passer first, runner second. It is easy to term him a "dual-threat" type, but much like 2007 class Virginia product Tyrod Taylor (Virginia Tech), Boyd is athletic, a little undersized, but very sharp with a smooth throwing motion.

[+] EnlargeTajh Boyd
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comWest Virginia commit Tajh Boyd continues to prove he's a passer first.
He showed a good arm, not great and at times displayed excellent footwork, timing and zip on underneath and intermediate throws.

It is important to note all the quarterbacks in this event and others have struggled with consistent footwork and accuracy.

Linebackers aplenty

ILB Dorian Bell (Monroeville, Pa./Gateway)
Bell certainly passes the eye test and can run like the wind. He is on the shorter side but possesses a sturdy build and great feet. He wasn't as active or into the drills as much as we expected, but when he wants to turn it on, look out.

ILB Shane Skov (Pawling, N.Y./Trinity Pawling)
Another guy who looked sensational on the hoof. He's bigger and stronger than Bell but not quite the fluid athlete. However, he can run well for his size and also showed range in coverage drills.

ILB Dan Mason (Pittsburgh/Penn Hills)
Mason is on the shorter side but packs a punch on a thick, strong frame. He's an explosive athlete capable of being an inside or outside guy. He may grow into a tackle-to-tackle run plugger with his body and strength.

Surprise performers

WR Deon Long (Washington, D.C./Dunbar)
The West Virginia Mountaineers are loading up on wide receivers and in time, Long might be one of the better ones they sign from this class. Long worked extremely hard and displayed great size, quickness and consistent hands throughout the day. He attacked the football, showed the consistent ability to stem defenders and eat up cushion and his size will certainly give him an edge in the red zone.

WR Derrell Person (Washington, D.C./Coolidge)
Person sort of came out of nowhere and consistently impressed with his ability to beat press coverage and create separation off the break. He looked excellent on the hoof, displayed quickness and tracked the deep ball well. He showed soft, consistent hands -- something that plagued most of the participants in the WR group.

CB Stephon Morris (Greenbelt, Md./Eleanor Roosevelt)
Morris talked too much for our taste but also displayed his ability to play press coverage and flashed the footwork, short-area quickness and change-of-direction skills to play soft man. He's a compactly-built player with some nice upper-body strength to outmuscle wide receivers at the line.

Sleeper alert

QB Emmanuel Yeager (Washington, D.C./Ballou)
We knew there was something about this guy when we saw him how extremely productive he was on tape and he proved it yet again on the field Saturday. Yeager has added bulk and strength to his frame since his sophomore and junior year and we feel he has grown and inch or so as well. He really zipped the football, showed good power in his arm, solid accuracy for the most part and is a good athlete with nice feet. It won't be long before college recruiters catch on as some already have.

Linebacker, running back or quarterback?

[+] EnlargeKevin Newsome
Tom Hauck/ESPN.comKevin Newsome has the frame and athleticism to play almost anywhere on the field.
QB Kevin Newsome (Chesapeake, Va./Western Branch)
While Newsome was a bit late to the party as he was originally just slated to participate in the Elite 11, when he decided to join the NFTC midway through the drills, he looked like anything but a quarterback. In fact, if you saw him and Dorian Bell side-by-side, you would have thought Bell was the QB. Newsome isn't quite as tall as some have projected him, but he is a well put together dude and is a great looking athlete.

He showed some flashes of becoming a solid passer but has a lot of mechanical and technical glitches to work through. He is very inconsistent with his accuracy, but when he is fundamentally sound, he delivers the ball with nice zip and good power on the deep ball. With his frame and athleticism, he is definitely a candidate to be moved to tailback, safety, linebacker or wide receiver. This is not to say he can't play QB because he can, but nonetheless he has some physical prowess when he steps on the field.

Tom Luginbill is the national director of recruiting for Scouts Inc. Luginbill is a college football and recruiting studio analyst for ESPNU.

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.