Commentary

Michigan talent the story of Champaign

Originally Published: June 7, 2009
By Bill Kurelic | Scouts Inc.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill.-- A group of high school football prospects was on hand in Memorial Stadium on the campus of the University of Illinois on Saturday. Top prospects from Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa and a number of other states traveled to Champaign to work out at the Nike Football Training Camp. In all, more than 200 prospects took part on a partly-cloudy day.

A number of prospects from the state of Illinois took part in the camp, but even more impressive was the array of talent from Michigan that invaded the Land of Lincoln.

Saturday was almost a "who's who" of Michigan's top 2010 prospects. Quarterbacks Devin Gardner (Inkster, Mich./Inkster), Robert Bolden (Orchard Lake, Mich./St. Mary's) and Joe Boisture (Saline, Mich./Saline), all ESPNU 150 Watch List prospects, showed up to work out. Michigan's top running back prospect, Austin White (Livonia, Mich./Stevenson), won the camp MVP award for running backs. Two of the top defensive linemen from the state -- teammates William Gholston and Jonathan Hankins (Detroit, Mich./Southeastern) -- were at the camp as was one of the state's top linebackers, Austin Gray (Warren, Mich./Fitzgerald). On the defensive side, Daniel Easterly (Detroit, Mich./Cass Tech) took the field. In all, eight elite prospects from Michigan attended camp.

Quarterbacks shine in Champaign

The strength of the camp was at quarterback. Gardner, Bolden and Boisture showed they deserved the hype that was generated heading into camp. Gardner started a bit slow, but by the end of the camp was throwing very well. He showed a strong arm throwing the out pattern.

Boisture also got better as the day went on. He looked every bit of his advertised height of 6-foot-6, but showed some ability to throw on the move. Bolden was the most consistent of the three in the day's activities; he has the potential to be a star at the next level. The ball comes out of Bolden's hand like a rocket.

Chandler Whitmer (Downers Grove, Ill./South) represented for Illinois, and won the camp's quarterback MVP award. The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder is not as big as the other three, but the University of Illinois commitment threw a nice spiral, and showed both a strong arm and the ability to throw on the run.

Cream of the crop (other than QBs)

ESPNU 150 Watch List wide receiver Kyle Prater (Hillside, Ill./Proviso West) was impressive on Saturday. He stands every bit of his listed 6-foot-4 height, and runs with an effortless gate. Prater made a number of nice catches and had little trouble getting the best of the defensive backs during drills. It was anything but a surprise when Prater was named the MVP for wide receivers at the end of the camp.

If a "look test" award were given out, it almost certainly would have gone to Gholston, another ESPNU 150 Watch List prospect. Gholston not only looked great physically, but he showed speed and agility for a big guy. On more than one occasion, Gholston blew by his opponent with an outside speed rush.

Line battles

The overall group of linemen on both sides of the ball was not up to the high standards set by the quarterbacks in Champaign, but three guys staged some great battles when the offensive linemen took on the defensive linemen in pass-rush drills.

Offensive lineman Zach Fulton (Homewood, Ill./Flossmoor) took on defensive tackle Bruce Gaston (Chicago/St. Rita) and Hankins in some great individual matchups. Fulton won a battle or two with good feet and solid pass-protection technique, and took the camp's offensive line MVP award. Gaston and Hankins won a battle, and plenty of praise from the coaches on hand. The 6-foot-3, 304-pound Gaston is a powerful defensive lineman who uses his hands well rushing the quarterback. Hankins combines speed and power and used some nice moves to defeat his opponent.

Secondary stars

There was little doubt which defensive back stood out. ESPNU 150 Watch List prospect and University of Illinois commitment Corey Cooper (Maywood, Ill./Proviso East) showed speed, quickness, agility and broke well on the ball. Cooper's teammate, Antoine Lewis, a Minnesota commitment, had his moments, but the man in the secondary was Cooper.

A notch below

Gardner, Bolden, Boisture and Whitmer weren't the only talented quarterbacks in Champaign. Meiko Locksley (Albuquerque, N.M./LaCueva), Kofi Hughes (Indianapolis, Ind./Cathedral) and Derek Roback (Waverly, Ohio/Waverly) showed they have the potential to play quarterback at the next level. Locksley, who is the son of University of New Mexico head coach Mike Locksley, threw a tight spiral from the pocket and on the run. Hughes and Roback have been recruited quarterback/athletes, but showed enough on Saturday to be considered solely at the quarterback position. Roback has a strong arm and threw a nice, consistent spiral, while Hughes showed a nice touch and mobility. Locksley, Hughes and Roback each have at least one Division 1 scholarship offer, and all three will likely land additional offers before they select a college.

As expected

White was the top running back at the camp. He flashed his excellent speed, has a powerful looking frame and can catch the ball. White, who has a dozen scholarship offers including Michigan, Michigan State, LSU, Illinois and Wisconsin, left no doubt on Saturday that he is a Big Ten-type prospect.

Linebacker James Morris (Solon, Iowa/Solon) made the trip from Iowa to Champaign and went home with the linebacker MVP award. Though he didn't pass the "look test" to the extent Gholston did, Morris looks plenty good enough. He runs well and can do everything recruiters like to see linebacker prospects do. The future Iowa Hawkeye is going to be a playmaker at the next level.

Biggest surprises

Other than Prater, it was not a great camp for senior wide receivers, but a sleeper may have emerged from the group. Wide receiver Josh Butts (Champaign, Ill./Centennial) didn't have far to travel to camp. Butts showed good speed on Saturday and made some nice catches. He was able to get open, and stood out among other receivers at the camp. Quarterback Cameron Meredith (Westchester, Ill./Saint Joseph) plays on a team that has not won much, which doesn't help his recruitment. Meredith is waiting on his first scholarship offer, but based on his showing Saturday, it seems likely to happen at some point. Meredith has a quick release, moves well and shows no major flaws. Ole Miss, Illinois, Memphis and Ball State are showing interest.

Super sophs

Running back Rodney Coe (Edwardsville, Ill.) and wide receiver DeVaris Daniels (Vernon Hills, Ill.) were regarded as two of the top Class of 2011 prospects in the state of Illinois going into camp. They showed why on Saturday. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Coe is a powerful young man who will be one of the top running backs in the Midwest next season. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Daniels is fast and showed good hands during drills. Like Coe, Daniels has Big Ten-type talent.

Wide receiver Matt Poches (Hartland, Mich.) showed why he already has scholarship offers from Western Michigan and Toledo. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Poches made a spectacular one-handed catch in what had to be the reception of the day. He also made an outstanding sliding grab. In short, Poches caught just about everything within reach. In addition to the MAC schools that have already offered, Poches is drawing interest from Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Oregon State, Oregon, Indiana and Vanderbilt.

Defensive back Eilar Hardy (Pickerington, Ohio/Central) is a top-notch Class of 2011 prospect in his home state. Hardy, who already has a scholarship offer from Maryland, will stop at Ohio State next for the Buckeyes' football camp.

Bill Kurelic covers recruiting for ESPN affiliates Nittanynetwork.com and Bucknuts.com.