Driskel, Steward shine in Florida
Gainesville NFTC brings out some of Sunshine State's top prospects
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Gainesville Nike Football Training Camp continues to be one of the better stops on the tour. It annually features many of the top prospects from the Sunshine State, and this year's camp featured many strong players from different classes as well as a good group of quarterbacks.
QBs air it outJeff Driskel (Oviedo, Fla./Paul J. Hagerty) continues to show why he will be up for the top quarterback spot upon the release of the ESPNU 150. His deep ball was accurate and compact release efficient. The camp's quarterback MVP delivered throws Sunday with great velocity or touch when needed. Driskel's ability to take something off his passes and change speeds places him into an upper-echelon level coming out of high school. His 4.5 speed and athleticism doesn't hurt either. Driskel needs to continue working on his reads, but the physical tools he brings to the table for a college program to develop are outstanding.
Driskel wasn't the only impressive signal-caller in attendance. Phillip Ely (Tampa, Fla./Plant) has made great improvements in his footwork and overall throwing mechanics since we saw him last fall. He has a quick, fluid release and showed good accuracy on a couple of vertical throws placing the ball right over the top of coverage with great rotation. We expect some more BCS offers to start rolling in for Ely, who continues the tradition of great-signals callers at Tampa Plant.
Kevin Sousa (Orlando, Fla./Lake Nona) also stood out in what was an impressive group of QBs at the camp. His underneath passes had good zip and the ball really came off his hand with some good RPMs at times. He fit several passes into tight spots and had nice rotation on his intermediate-to-deep throws. Sousa has raw arm strength and his mechanics can be shaky at times, but we like his upside when projecting for the college level.
Running wildThis may have been one of the deeper groups of the day and it was comprised of prospects from many classes. Tom Smith (Apopka, Fla./Apopka) had a good workout and may have been one of the better looking backs physically. He is built like a prototypical load-back and showed matching downhill burst and straight-lined speed. Smith caught the ball well out of the backfield, was solid on blitz pickup and should see his recruiting stock improve through this spring evaluation period. J.J. Keels (Melbourne, Fla./Florida Air Academy) is regarded as quality back out of the Sunshine State in 2011 and backed it up with good footwork, sharp change-of-direction skill and natural running ability throughout the day.
The biggest name out of the younger backs was Kelvin Taylor (Belle Glade, Fla./Glades Day), and the freshman showed glimpses of why he'll likely be one Florida's best in the near future. The son of NFL veteran running back Fred Taylor, Kelvin is already well-built and runs with a good base, balance and quickness out of his cuts. Taylor was joined by a fellow 2013 prospect and freakish athlete Derrick Henry (Yulee, Fla./Yulee). He has a monster 6-foot-4 frame with good straight-line speed and more-than-adequate lateral agility. It's unlikely he will remain at running back in college, though. He could grow into a tight end, outside linebacker or even a defensive end with continued physical development. His upside is through the roof. Matt Jones (Seffner, Fla./Armwood) is a 2012 prospect who may have been one of the better looking athletes in attendance. He showed good hips and movement skills for his size as well as solid ball skills. He took reps as a running back, but like Henry, we doubt he will remain there in college. Jamie Gilmore (Citra, Fla./North Marion) was named MVP of the group and looks like he will be a sought-after multipurpose back in 2012.
The Joy of fullbacksHunter Joy (Tampa, Fla./Tampa Catholic) possesses a lower center of gravity and powerful base, which is exactly what coaches look for in a fullback. He flashed some downhill burst but it was his solid performance in blitz pickup, excluding his rep versus top ILB Tony Steward, and he caught the ball well out of the backfield. Overall, Joy competed hard and opened eyes at a camp setting that doesn't typically showcase fullbacks.
Williams shows versatility
Ja'Juan Story (Brooksville, Fla./Nature Coast Tech) may have built up the most hype out of any receiver in attendance, but he was inconsistent in his play and reps. During drills it was hard not to come away impressed with his long frame and great speed. He displayed his impressive wingspan and great hands, including making some nice grabs away from his frame. However, he was not the jump-ball mismatch we were expecting to see during one-on-ones and looked a bit rigid out of his breaks at times.
Aaron Baysdon (Lakeland, Fla./Kathleen) made several big grabs and was a difficult matchup for DBs in one-on-ones. His performance earned him the MVP award at receiver.
Tight end or tackle?Brandon Fulse (Fort Meade, Fla./Fort Meade) has the in-line blocking skills and large frame to develop into a college tackle, but just when you discuss a potential move inside he makes an athletic grab or move in space that changes your mind. Fulse has a prototypical D-I college frame right now at tight end and while he not be the most fluid, he could certainly fit into a pro-style offense and be a well-balanced asset. Bottom line is it just depends how big he gets. If he outgrows tight end, he might have no choice but to move to offensive line.
A younger Fulse could be emerging in 2012 tight end Kelvin Rainey (Yulee, Fla.). The rangy 6-3 athlete certainly is a prospect to track over the next few years as he's a huge target with more-than-adequate hands and raw athleticism that catches your eye.
DBs on displayThe defensive back unit had some real ballhawks, highlighted by Nick Waisome (Groveland, Fla./South Lake). Waisome made great reads and breaks on the ball underneath and proved to be one of the more natural and savvy players at the position. Like Williams, Waisome too some reps at receiver and actually looked comfortable as a route runner.
We have seen Wayne Lyons (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Dillard) provide good run support on film, but the physically impressive safety had a chance to demonstrate his coverage skills Sunday. Lyons showed good range and burst off the hash getting over the top of routes as well as the ability to flip his hips and transition relatively smoothly in man-coverage during one-on-ones. The ESPN 150 Watch List safety was quick and direct out of his breaks.
Justin Coleman (Brunswick, Fla./Brunswick) was a safety we liked off film evaluation and he only improved his stock at this NFTC. He has a good blend of size and athleticism and showed good breaking quickness, and strong plant-and-drive skill as an underneath zone defender. Coleman showed fine ball skills as well.
George Maxey (Jacksonville, Fla./Raines) was one of the better looking safeties on the hoof and made some good breaks on the ball underneath. He did look better driving on the ball in front of him as opposed to flipping his hips and changing direction, though. That may get recruited more as a hybrid safety/rover type.
Will Likely (Belle Glade, Fla./Glades Central) is a class of 2013 player but competed like an upperclassman and took home the MVP award for DBs.
Big man in the middleTony Steward (St. Augustine, Fla./Pedro Menendez) is built like 2010's No. 1 inside linebacker Jeff Luc, a 6-1, 241-pound beast who ended up at FSU, but is a few inches taller and has better speed. Is that any good? He exhibited the great explosiveness during blitz pickup that has made him one of the better hitters we have seen in recent years. Steward showed Sunday he could get depth in coverage and pattern match with good hips and turns for a linebacker with his great bulk. Overall, he moved well laterally and showed enough athleticism and range to play a strong-side linebacker position at the next level, as well in the middle.
Demarius Dawson (Brunswick, Ga.) needs to continue adding size and fine tune his fundamentals, but he caught our eye with his ability to run. He has plenty of room for physical development on his tall, rangy frame.
Thor and Thorpe dominate in the trenchesThe offensive line performed well as a group, but two players really stood out -- Thor Jozwiak (Eagle Lake, Fla./Lake Region) and Derrick Thorpe (Neptune, Fla./Fletcher Senior). Jozwiak, the group's MVP, was one of the better quick-setters in pass pro and did a good job sinking his hips, sliding and staying balanced. Thorpe did a great anchoring the bull-rush with consistent leverage and a strong punch to knock rushers off-balance. Both displayed good footwork and hand technique throughout the day.
Other notables along the offensive line were Tyler Pierson (Clearwater, Fla./Countryside), who won most of his one-on-one matches with his ability to recover and mirror, and Trey Pettis (Deland, Fla./Deland), who arrived with perhaps the biggest name and offer sheet and was as good as advertised for the most part. He showing deceptive athleticism for a 300-pounder and quickness in his deep set, but also was beat on a few occasions by overextending.
The best young prospect in the group may have been 2012 prospect Reno Nevada (Ocala, Fla./Vanguard), who showed good footwork and raw athleticism. The defensive line didn't have any household names in attendance, but Dante Fowler (Saint Petersburg, Fla./Catholic) earned MVP honors. He is a good-looking hybrid outside linebacker who was quick and explosive off the ball during one-on-ones and nearly impossible to block on the edge.
Billy Tucker is a recruiting coordinator for ESPN Recruiting and has close to a decade of coaching experience at the college and high school levels.