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Overheard at Los Angeles NFTC

4/26/2010

LOS ANGELES -- Very rarely is the sequel as good as the original, but last weekend's NFTC on the campus of USC surpassed the NFTC on LSU's campus. Last week, D.J. Pettway (Pensacola, Fla./Catholic) and Mickey Johnson (Covington, La./St. Pauls) stole the show and often dominated on the defensive line in Baton Rouge. This weekend it was more of the same in the City of Angels.

Defensive tackle prospects Antwaun Woods (Woodland Hills, Calif./Taft) and Todd Barr (Lakewood, Calif./Lakewood), along with defensive end Greg Townsend Jr. (Beverly Hills, Calif./Beverly Hills) each showed why they are considered among the best in the country.

For the 6-foot-1, 325-pound Woods, it was all about measuring himself against quality competition.

"Today was a lot of good competition, more than I expected when I came out here," Woods said. "There was a lot of good competition out here, a lot of good offensive linemen."

Woods grew up a USC fan and jumped at the chance to be a Trojan.

"USC has always been my favorite school growing up here in Southern California and I got a chance to live my dream," Woods said.

However, Barr and Townsend Jr. have yet to make a commitment. The 6-2, 265-pound Barr has more than a dozen offers and all of them are still under consideration.

"I've had all the Pac-10 [schools offer] besides USC," Barr said. "I have Nebraska, Northern Arizona, Minnesota, Colorado and SMU. I haven't really narrowed it down yet. I have to discuss it with my parents, position coach and head coach before I do that."

Barr has dreams of playing in the NFL, like any other top prospect, but realizes the importance of education.

"Education and relationship with my coach. It's a big, important thing with me, education is first of course because football is not always going to last forever, so I'm going to need a good degree to fall back on," Barr said.

Townsend Jr., the son of former TCU, Los Angeles Raiders and Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Greg Townsend, hasn't shut the door on any programs at this point either and would like to hear from a pair of SEC national powers.

"I have 11 offers, but right now my top five is USC, Washington, Oregon, TCU and Miami," Townsend Jr. said. "I would like to get a look from Florida and Alabama."

The trio of Woods, Barr and Townsend Jr. were the headliners of the talented group, but were joined by more than a handful of future FBS defensive linemen from the states of California, Utah and New Mexico.

USC leads for Thomas

Quite possibly the top prospect on hand Sunday was do-it-all DeAnthony Thomas (Crenshaw, Calif./Crenshaw). The 5-9, 160-pounder showed up a little late, but it didn't take long for the explosive athlete to take center stage. However, it wasn't just at running back -- where he dominates on Friday nights. On Sunday, the two-way star also showed off his vast skills at safety.

"I felt pretty good," Thomas said. "I just wanted to come out here, play well and stay healthy. I came out here kind of late, but I think I did pretty good. I felt a little rusty, but it is what it is."

After the conclusion of the event, the national prospect spoke about his recruitment and specifically about one school.

"Right now, the schools I feel most comfortable at is USC, Washington and Cal. That's just for the local schools. USC, they showed me how they are going to use me in the system and how I can be a great player at USC. A lot of schools haven't showed me that yet, so that's why I feel so comfortable here and they are my favorite."

The majority of programs have slapped the athlete tag on Thomas, with the exception of the Trojans. USC is specifically selling the running back position and the chance to follow in the footsteps of past star backs with an all-around skill set.

"USC wants me as a RB. They said Reggie Bush did it, Joe McKnight did it and they want me to be next," Thomas said.

While Thomas has offers in hand from all over and could essentially pick his college, it will be a major surprise if he leaves the state.

"It's true I don't want to go too far away from home, but my mom can drive to see me at Cal or if I'm here in [Los Angeles] at UCLA or here [USC]," he said.

No place like home

Receiver Victor Blackwell (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei) is one of the more highly regarded receiver prospects on the West Coast. On Sunday, he flashed the impressive talents that have earned him more than a handful of offers to date.

"I have Notre Dame right now, UCLA, Oregon State, Washington, California and Tennessee," Blackwell said. "My favorites right now is UCLA, Cal because they are top notch, Miami and Georgia."

The 6-1, 185-pound pass-catcher plans to take in a pair of camps this summer.

"I think I might go to Cal because they have an All-American showcase I want to attend and maybe Rising Stars," he said.

While early in the process, two Pac-10 coaches have caught the eye of the talented prospect.

"I have built the best relationships with Coach [Kevin] Daft from Cal and I like Coach [Rick] Neuheisel a lot. He's a really cool guy," Blackwell said.

He is a looking for a number of things when picking a school, including a location close to his home, playing style and that it factor.

Langi has three on top

Running back Harvey Langi (South Jordon, Utah/Bingham) was one of the more versatile prospects in attendance. The 6-3, 220-pounder not only showed very good feet in station work, but also displayed an impressive pair of hands as well as the ability to run routes. The talented Utah prospect has six offers on the table and can expect that list to rapidly grow.

"I have offers from BYU, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Stanford, UCLA and I think that's it," Langi said. "My top three out of my offers would be Stanford, UCLA and BYU."

In addition to the six that have extended offers, Langi is receiving attention from all over. Having already made several unofficial visits, the talented prospect has plans to visit a pair of Pac-10 schools in the coming weeks.

"USC, Arkansas, LSU, Alabama, Florida State, Oregon, Oregon State are recruiting me. I've already been doing a bunch of unofficials. I'm going to do a couple of more of these combines, at Oregon and Stanford, and I'm going to do unofficials there. I'm talking to some other schools about making unofficials also," Langi said.

However, Langi is in no rush to make a commitment.

"I'm going to train and stuff, do all these camps and see where I'm at after the summer," he said.

Cassell has seven offers

Linebacker Rahim Cassell (Lakewood, Calif./Lakewood) was one of several impressive linebackers in attendance. The 6-1, 210-pounder was not only impressive on the hoof, but also showed in drills and in coverage why seven programs have extended offers.

"Washington, Washington State, SMU, Minnesota, Arizona State, Oregon State and Idaho [have offered]," Cassell said. "Colorado is also looking at me, Texas Tech and UCLA are paying attention to me also."

Cassell had a whirlwind weekend of sorts. His weekend began with a trip to Tempe, Ariz., to take in Arizona State's junior day before flying back Saturday night for the NFTC on Sunday.

"I went to Arizona State [on Saturday] for their junior day. It was great. Their field was awesome and I had never seen anything like that before," said Cassell, who doesn't have a timetable for making a decision. "Arizona State coach [Greg] Burns has been hitting me up a lot and we are developing a relationship."

Notes

Sioasi Aiono (West Covina, Calif./South Hills) has offers from BYU and San Jose State. The 6-3, 292-pound guard prospect is hearing from USC, UCLA and Washington. He listed UCLA as his childhood favorite, but USC has emerged as his current favorite. Aiono more than held his own all day against some of the top defensive linemen on the West Coast.

• Linebacker Corey Waller (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) has offers from Washington and Idaho. However, USC, UCLA, Oregon State, Arizona State, Arizona and Miami are also showing interest. The 6-2, 215-pound, intense defender expects Arizona State to also offer in the near future.

Theodore Chambers (Lakewood, Calif./Mayfair) was one of the top cornerback prospects on hand. The 5-11, 159-pound, quick, reactive prospect is yet to receive his first offer, but that's expected to change soon. Southern Mississippi is talking about offering next, while Colorado, Nevada, San Diego State, UCLA, Iowa State and Tennessee are also showing serious interest.

Devaughn Hanley (Cerritos, Calif./Gahr) is receiving looks from Miami, Kentucky, Northern Arizona, Iowa and UCLA. Miami and Kentucky are showing the most interest, according to the 6-3, 264-pound defensive tackle prospect. He plans to make visits to Northern Arizona and possibly Miami this summer.

Charles Burks (Huntington Beach, Calif./Edison) has an offer from Stanford and is drawing interest from Washington, San Diego State, Oregon State, Duke and UCLA. Duke, Oregon State and Washington have informed Burks they are close to offering. He worked out at defensive end Sunday, but is sure to get some looks at linebacker on the next level, as well.

• Tight end Dillon Van Der Wal (Thousand Oaks, Calif./Oaks Christian) has offers on the table from Minnesota, Baylor and most recently Arizona State after Saturday's junior day visit.

"Coach [Dennis Erickson] called me into the office and it was really cool because Arizona State is the school I've always wanted to go to," Van Der Wal said. "My dad went there and it was really big to get an offer."

The 6-7, 235-pound two-sport star is also being recruited heavily by BYU, Colorado, UCLA, Oregon. Van Der Wal also excels on the hardwood and is being recruited by Washington as a power forward.

• Receiver Samuel Boyd (Corona, Calif./Roosevelt) was one of the best looking prospects on the hoof at any position, let alone receiver. The 6-2, 232-pounder has an offer from Nevada and is being recruited by Arizona, Colorado and Washington. Boyd is getting looks at receiver, but will likely be recruited as an athlete with defense in mind by many programs.

• One of the fastest players in attendance was receiver B.J. Kelley (Fresno, Calif./Central). The 6-1, 175-pound two-sport star will be competing in the 300-meters May 6 at the state track and field championships. He has a season-best time of 37.8 seconds and has been offered a track scholarship by Fresno State. A sleeper on the football field, he has one offer in hand, Cal-Poly, but expect that to change in the coming months.

Gerry Hamilton has covered recruiting in Texas and the Southwest for more than a decade. He can be reached at espngerry@yahoo.com.