Turning into a corner
Josh Turner fared well playing CB at the Dallas NFTC, despite being unfamiliar there
FORT WORTH, Texas -- The field Sunday at the NFTC on the campus of TCU was filled with future Division I players. On a day that was tough to separate from the rest of the field, the special athletes still made their mark.
Athlete Josh Turner (Oklahoma City/Millwood) has become one of the most heavily recruited juniors in the country in recent months and on Sunday he showed why. The 6-foot, 180-pound standout plays mostly as a receiver or kick returner, but he took all of his reps at cornerback, which is where he projects to play in the future.
"It was great. The players and all the talent was awesome. You'll never see this much talent on one field at one time unless you were here," said Turner. "I think I did well. I went through the drills well. I think that was probably my strong point. I actually had three knockdowns, but messed up on a couple of plays. Hey, every corner is going to mess up at times, so I was pleased."
Turner loves the physicality of the game and relishes the opportunity to play press coverage, but there are some nuances of the positions he is still picking up as he goes.
"Playing off is my weakest point as a corner. I'm an aggressive corner and like to play on. Playing off and just being impatient is what I need to work on," said Turner.
On the recruiting front, Miami, Texas and Oklahoma have broken free from the pack of more than 20 offers. However, national champion Alabama and Big 12 North champion Nebraska are continuing to give chase.
"Miami is a great school, produces great corners and it's nice down there. I actually want to go down there, see the campus and meet the players and coaches. Alabama is up there, too. They are doing the right things [winning the national championship]. Nebraska coach Bo Pelini is doing his job sending players to the league, and Texas and OU are powerhouses in the Big 12."
Turner isn't one to wait until signing day to make a decision. He plans to make two or three trips before deciding, following a recent visit to Texas. Trips to nearby Oklahoma, childhood favorite Miami and a June summer camp at Nebraska are likely before ultimately giving a commitment. A number of factors will be key in his decision.
"The environment, the coaches, the team history, the players and their style of play," said Turner.
Rangy safety likes Notre Dame
One of the top safeties on hand was Lyndell Johnson (Plano, Texas/East). The 6-4, 185-pound long-armed prospect continues to show why he is attracting attention from programs coast to coast. He eats up angles and ground quickly with a desired frame.
"I have offers from Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Arkansas, Minnesota, Oklahoma State, Wake Forest, TCU, SMU, Nebraska and Baylor," said Johnson. "Also, Notre Dame is in there. Out of all of those recruiting me right now, it's kind of Notre Dame. I'm really open to everyone, though."
However, a pair of Big 12 South programs had the chance to make a strong first impression.
"I've been to Texas Tech, Texas A&M and that's really it. Tech was a lot more entertaining and I liked it there a lot. I liked them both, though," Johnson said.
The latest Plano East skill position prospect is unsure of a summer visit schedule.
Another safety standout Sunday was Jaylon Finner (Missouri City, Texas/Elkins). The 5-11, 185-pound prospect has an offer from Baylor but continues to see his stock rise headed into the spring. Michigan, UCLA, Clemson, Iowa, Oregon, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and hometown Houston are showing sincere interest.
Wallaces on display
Aaron Wallace Jr. (San Diego, Calif./Rancho Bernardo) was one of the best looking prospects on the hoof at 6-4, 210 pounds and backed it up with a solid day on the field, drawing praise on a consistent basis from instructors. The impressive, physical appearance and knowledge of the game comes as no surprise with his father being former Texas A&M and Oakland Raiders linebacker Aaron Wallace.
Recruiters are starting to take notice, but he has yet to receive his first offer.
"UCLA, Cal, Stanford, really the California schools and Texas A&M are recruiting me," said Wallace Jr. "I went to Texas A&M [Saturday]. It was good. I met the coaches and some teachers because academics are a big thing with me. I saw the facilities and I really liked them. I liked the area and the city. I hope they offer me because I would like to go there."
Aaron wasn't the only Wallace to impress Sunday.
Anthony Wallace (Dallas/Skyline) showed the ability to run in coverage with running backs. He has more than 15 offers from the likes of Oklahoma, Florida, Texas, Georgia, Notre Dame, Tennessee, UCLA, Miami and USC. The Sooners are considered the early favorite, but he has plans to make a trip through SEC country in the summer to check out a number of programs.
Receivers make the grade
The group of receivers in attendance was both talented and deep. The list of top targets included a number of prospects who have already made commitments in Kameel Jackson (Arlington, Texas/Sam Houston) and Cameron White (DeSoto, Texas/DeSoto), along with a number of prospects still on the board. Christian Jones (Spring, Texas/Westfield) was one of the top run-and-catch receivers on hand. The 6-3, 200-pounder featured one of the top wide receiver frames in attendance. He has offers from Arkansas, Kentucky and Texas Tech, among others. Programs such as Oklahoma, Nebraska, Oregon and Oklahoma State are also showing interest.
Another tall target with a terrific body type is Jonathon Lee (Allen, Texas/Allen). The 6-2, 190-pounder has double-digit offers, including Nebraska, Arkansas, Purdue, Iowa, Louisville and Illinois, along with interest from Oregon, Notre Dame and Oklahoma among others.
One of the more intriguing prospects working out at receiver was Kevonte Richardson (Oklahoma City/Millwood). The 6-1, 185-pound Richardson plays quarterback and safety for Millwood but is being recruited as an athlete on the next level, and safety is his likely destination. Arizona, Missouri, Colorado and UNLV among others have offered, with Nebraska a strong possibility.
Two sophomore pass-catchers were as impressive as anyone. Tall target Caleb Jones (Austin, Texas/Austin High) and speedy Thomas Johnson (Dallas/Skyline) continued making their cases as two of the top 2012 prospects in Texas. Jones isn't a fast-twitch athlete, but he makes up for it with terrific size, very long arms, soft hands and impressive timing.
On the other hand, the 6-0, 175-pound Johnson is an exceptional athlete with bursting separation, quickness, speed and lateral movement. The former Arlington Oak Ridge signal caller has three programs standing out headed into Skyline spring practice, which is sure to bring a number of verbal offers.
"Growing up, I originally started out liking Florida. When I transferred to Oak Ridge, my friends started putting BYU in my head and there is nothing wrong with BYU," said Johnson. "It's really Texas, BYU and Oklahoma right now as my favorites."
Johnson rushed for 1,626 yards and 25 touchdowns on 125 carries and passed for 1,095 yards and 14 touchdowns as a sophomore. He will be a full-time receiver at Skyline.
Hunter a bull at defensive tackle
Defensive tackle Chuck Hunter (Monroe, La./West Monroe) may not be the most physically imposing tackle/nose guard prospect, but he certainly makes up for it with a nonstop motor and physical attitude. He features a leverage-winning bull rush that proved to be tough to handle for offensive line prospects. The 6-1, 290-pounder has offers from Mississippi, TCU, Mississippi State, Baylor, Memphis and Louisiana Tech.
Defensive end Grady Ollison (Malvern, Ark./Malvern) not only featured one of the best frames of the defensive line group, but backed it up with a solid day in drills and one-on-ones. The 6-5, 275-pound prospect is likely to move inside at the next level. Arkansas has offered and he's drawing interest from the majority of SEC and Big 12 programs.
Running on all cylinders
The junior class of running backs was terrific as expected, led by a once-in-a-decade sort of class of backs from Texas. Herschel Sims (Abilene, Texas/Abilene) and Darrian Miller (Blue Springs, Missouri/Blue Springs) proved to be the best in the talented field and separated themselves in pass-catching drills.
For Miller, a Kansas commitment, the day was about measuring up against the competition from the Lone Star State.
"It was somewhat of a motivation because everybody talks about Texas boys, and they didn't disappoint," Miller said. "They gave me a run for it, but I just tried to show up and do what I usually do. I was pretty happy about the way things turned out."
The 5-9, 185-pound Miller had the chance to meet Sims and came away impressed with what he saw.
"I had seen Herschel because of being on the [ESPNU 150 Watch List]," said Miller. "We warmed up together, and he seemed like a pretty cool guy. I caught a glimpse of him and he went by a guy in one-on-ones."
2012 RB crop impressive
Trey Williams (Spring, Texas/Dekaney) may not be the biggest of the backs at 5-8, 170 pounds, but he is on his way to being one of the most productive in the Lone Star State. After nearly reaching the 2,000-yard mark in 10 games as a sophomore, he has lofty goals for 2010.
"I had 1,930 yards last year," said Williams. "I definitely exceeded my own expectations and am planning to beat that next season. I'm always looking for a higher standard to do something better."
One of the ways to get better is measuring oneself against top competition, which is exactly why the Houston-area budding star made the trip north.
"It was fun. I love competing. Like I've told other people, I love competing against the best athletes and it's a great feeling and blessing to get all the good work in. Not all athletes get the chance to go through the workout we went through today," he said.
That desire to compete and push the limits only helps his recruitment.
"I'm interested in Texas and Alabama, the top two schools in the country. I want to be the best and play for the best. I loved Michigan growing up, but I thought about the weather and said, 'Nah, I'm not going to do that. I'm from Houston, man,'" Williams said.
Zac Brooks (Jonesboro, Ark./Jonesboro) was impressive physically at first glance and backed it up, featuring some exceptional qualities in terms of feet, balance and ability to accelerate. The 6-2, 190-pound sophomore played mostly receiver last season, racking up nearly 800 yards, but will move to running back as a junior. He already has a verbal offer from Arkansas.
Brendel anchors the line
Jacob Brendel (Plano, Texas/East) wasn't the most physically imposing lineman competing, but he certainly didn't let the lack of size affect his play. The 6-5, 265-pound defensive tackle had an impressive performance, displaying the ability to mirror his opponent with leverage and strong hands.
"I'm a little undersized, but the game is pretty much all about pad level and hand placement. If your hands are engaged and you move your feet with the defender, you will win the battle," said Brendel.
Because of his impressive feet, strong hands and the understanding of leverage, he is receiving looks on both sides of the ball and at multiple positions along the offensive line.
"Northwestern is going to put the best five on the field regardless of position," Brendel said. "Texas Tech wants me for offensive line or defensive line, depending on where I'm better at. Other than those, its pretty much center."
Brendel has offers from Arizona, Northwestern, Wake Forest, Baylor, Texas Tech, Arkansas and Kansas. He has been on an unofficial visit to Northwestern and has Texas Tech coming up next weekend.
"Probably Northwestern would be standing out the most right now. They have their act together in academics. I'm looking for a school that a degree will mean something and they are that type of school," Brendel said.
The Morales brothers were also impressive Sunday. Texas Tech commitment Tony Morales (Arlington, Texas/Sam Houston) and Alfredo Morales (Arlington, Texas/Sam Houston) showed why they are two of the top guard prospects in the state, winning a number of one-on-one battles with the combination of technique and physicality.
Gerry Hamilton has covered recruiting in Texas and the Southwest for more than a decade. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.