Wilder shows versatility
Normally a lineman when he plays defense, Wilder showed the skills to play LB
The Nike Camp at Alabama brought together over 300 players from all over the South in what was one of the biggest and best Nike events of the year. Here's a look at some of the standouts on the defensive side of the ball.
Wilder impresses at linebacker
There aren't too many players at the high school level more physically impressive than athlete James Wilder (Tampa, Fla./Plant). Wilder took on the challenge of playing a new position and impressed enough to earn LB MVP honors.
"I was planning to work out with the running backs or the defensive linemen," Wilder said. "I decided to with the linebackers but was still going to move over to the lineman for the one-on-ones, but I loved working with the 'backers, and we developed some great camaraderie right away.
"I decided to stay there, and I had a great time. The coaches were great, and I learned a lot. It was challenging since I haven't played much linebacker, but I think I showed I could play the position."
Wilder was dominant in the pass-rush drills as expected since he plays on the line for Plant but surprised many with his ability to drop back in to coverage.
"I was shocked to hear he wasn't a linebacker," LB coach Chris Gizzi said. "He had no problems flipping his hips and running with the running backs. He's a great kid too and worked really hard.
"Physically, he looks like a college player right now and had the biggest arms I've seen on a linebacker. He runs very well and I love how he competed. No matter where he plays in college, he's going to be a great player."
Finishing a very close second for MVP honors was athlete Marcquis Roberts (Powder Springs, Ga./McEachern). Roberts is a great all-around player and does everything well. He has the build of a big safety and was the most natural in coverage of any of the linebackers.
"I loved that kid," Gizzi said. "He was right there with Wilder all day. He's a natural athlete and is very fluid in how he moves. He definitely has the size to play linebacker but the athleticism to move to safety if a team wanted to try him out there. He competed hard all day long and has a great motor."
Linebacker Armonze Daniel (Avon, Ind.) also has an ideal frame for the college level. At 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, Daniel is a hulking figure but moves very well for a big man and dominated the pass-rush drills. He's being recruited regionally right now but with his talent and upside that should change and he could become more of a national recruit.
Antonio Marsh (Pritchard, Ala./Blount) has safety size and can really run. He had an eye-opening performance at the Nike combine in Mobile earlier in the spring and was equally impressive in Tuscaloosa. He was among the top two or three 'backers in the cover drills.
Harris leads talented group of DBs
The strength of the camp might have been the defensive backs and no one played with more swagger than cornerback Ronnie Harris (Atlanta, Ga./Westlake). Harris isn't the biggest corner but, like so many other sub-6-foot corners, plays with a chip on his shoulder and was very physical.
"I liked his confidence but I also liked how well he took coaching," DB coach Michael Fletcher said. "He had great feet and is technically sound. He knows how to play the position and can play press and also has the speed to turn and run with any receiver."
Harris is being recruited heavily by schools from all over the country and has offers from Auburn, Kentucky, Louisville, Ole Miss, Stanford, Purdue, South Carolina, Tennessee, Wake Forest and West Virginia, to name a few.
Harris may have won MVP honors, but the best corner prospect might have been Jonathan Rose (Leeds, Ala.). Rose has incredible size (6-1, 180) and physicality and could play corner or safety at the next level, although big corners with Rose's athleticism are in high demand.
Rose is all of 6-1, 180 pounds with great ball skills and playmaking ability. Given his skill set, speed and quickness along with his natural size, he's bound to be among the top corner prospects in the country.
Another corner who came in to the camp with a big reputation and definitely lived up to it was Blake Countess (Owings Mills, Md./Good Counsel). Countess was very active during the 7-on-7 session and took as many reps as any of the defensive backs. His ability to break on the ball and his quickness in exploding out of his backpedal were very impressive.
Hasean Clinton-Dix (Orlando, Fla./Dr. Phillips) showed why many consider him among the top safeties in the nation. Clinton-Dix can cover, hit and is physical enough and has the frame to even move to linebacker in college. Clinton-Dix's ability to close on the ball for a big safety is incredible and he has great football instincts. He's one of those players that just seems to always be around the football and it won't be surprising to see the Alabama commit play early in his Tide career.
Pat Martin (Greenville, S.C./J.L. Mann) was another impressive safety. Martin is a downhill player who loves to come up and make the big hit but he looked just as comfortable playing in space and made several nice plays on the ball. Martin stands right at 6-0 but has a strong body and should have a smooth transition to the college game because of how physically tough he is.
Pettway dominated along the line
Clinton-Dix wasn't the only Alabama commit to have a dominating day. Athlete D.J. Pettway (Pensacola, Fla./Catholic) earned DL MVP honors and was among the most versatile defensive linemen we've seen on the Nike tour this year.
Pettway took reps at both end and tackle and never lost a battle in the one-on-ones. At 6-2, 250 pounds, Pettway has the frame that could see him line up just about anywhere along the defensive line in college.
"He's an aggressive player and plays with a lot of energy," DL coach Lonnie Martz said. "He goes all-out on every play and came out here and performed like he had something to prove. He has a nice first step and showed a good spin move as well."
Class of 2012 standout Chris Casher (Mobile, Ala./Faith Academy) was easily the most explosive player off the edge. Casher was running right around every tackle he went up against but showed a great inside move as well when players tried to overplay off the edge. At 6-4, 220 pounds, Casher already has a mature frame and may not be done growing. As he continues to gain strength, he'll continue to climb the rankings for defensive end prospects in his class.
Quay Evans (Morton, Miss.) and athlete SamQuan Evans (Winston-Salem, N.C./Carver) -- no relation -- were two of the top tackles in the camp.
Quay is just a sophomore but is already about 6-2, 300 pounds and very powerful. He's very active with his hands and won't stay blocked. He manhandled just about every lineman he went up against, and it's scary to think he has two years of high school left.
SamQuan had a solid showing at the Nike camp at Virginia Tech and excelled once again in Alabama. He doesn't have the same physical upside as Quay because he lacks the size at 5-11½, 275 pounds but is very strong and quick off the ball. He took a ton of reps in the one-on-one drills and is the kind of player who will battle all day long.
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