- Craig Haubert, RecruitingNation
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ATHENS, Ga. -- A case could be made that Georgia has turned the big three -- California, Florida and Texas -- into the big four when it comes to top talent-producing states. Anyone who doubts that needed only to look at the talent that showed up at the University of Georgia on Friday evening; the Bulldogs' practice field was the site of one of the strongest Nike Football Training Camps we have seen, especially for defensive players.
The linebackers represented with a very good group as at least a half-dozen prospects sported multiple offers, and the NFTC staff said this was possibly the best group they have had. ESPNU 150 Watch List prospect Kwon Alexander (Oxford, Ala./Oxford) rose to the top of the talented pack, and while he is a somewhat physically unassuming kid, especially when compared to some of the other top linebackers in attendance, he stood out when it was time to perform. Whether dropping into coverage or in one-on-one pass-rush drills, he was very impressive and displayed good overall athleticism and a savvy feel for the game. Facing running backs in a pass-rush drill, he displayed good initial quickness to dart by blockers and was very active with his hands, which made it very hard for the backs to get a clean shot on him; he also effortlessly got to the quarterback. In coverage, Alexander was very good in his drops, displayed good awareness, and showed the acceleration and breaking speed we saw on film. He walked away with a piece of the group's MVP award. He shared that honor with Ukeme Eligwe (Stone Mountain, Ga./Stone Mountain), another Watch List prospect. He possesses good flexibility, balance and agility, and throughout the camp he displayed the motor and intensity we saw on film. Kwontie Moore (Norfolk, Va./Christian Academy) is an inside linebacker with a thick build and physically looks like the strong and productive run defender we saw on film. In addition to being a big kid, he runs well for his size and fared well dropping and playing in zone coverage. Dillon Lee (Buford, Ga./Buford) is a promising tight end prospect, but he's likely to land on defense in college and worked out with the linebackers. He has good height, and while he has a blue-collar style, he is a good athlete and, as we expected, performed well all the way around. Raphael Kirby (Stone Mountain, Ga./Stephenson) also deserves mention as he is a tough kid with good quickness.
Shutting it down
The defensive backs put on a show, led by Travis Blanks (Tallahassee, Fla./North Florida Christian). The safety prospect looks the part with a well-built frame and good height and body length. He is a good athlete with a nice combination of size and speed. In coverage drills, he used that long reach to consistently get his hands on opponents and was very physical. He moved well and was able to break down and change directions smoothly. Chaz Elder (College Park, Ga./Banneker) is a safety prospect with good height and a long and lean frame. He needs to keep filling out that frame, but he can run and has good ball skills. Trae Elston (Oxford, Ala./Oxford) wasn't the biggest or most physically imposing safety, but he is a fast, rangy athlete and has good size. He possesses good athleticism, displayed good ball skills and could potentially be employed at corner, as well.
The defensive line had some talent, but the undeniable star was Class of 2013 prospect Robert Nkemdiche (Loganville, Ga./Grayson). His presence seemed to create a buzz throughout the camp and the rising junior did not disappoint. A physically impressive kid, he did not look like an underclassman, with his thick and muscular build. In one-on-ones, he showed excellent initial quickness. He displayed the ability to be active with his hands, he worked moves and often left blockers stunned with how quickly he was able to get moving and work past them. He is a promising kid to keep an eye on for the 2013 class. Reggie Carter (Stone Mountain, Ga./Stephenson) is another promising underclassman. He is a bit of a defensive end/outside linebacker tweener buildwise at this point, but flashed ability as a speed edge rusher. He needs to physically develop and lacks ideal height, but he could get upfield in a hurry.
But the Class of 2012 was also well-represented. Buford High had several good prospects in attendance, including defensive tackle Dequan Clark. He may not get as much hype as some of his talented teammates, but we liked him on film some, and in one-on-ones he displayed the ability to quickly attack half-a-man, sink in the rip and get upfield. Ladarius Banks (Dallas, Ga./East Paulding) is a prospect we need to evaluate further on tape, but he was very active with his weapons in pass-rush drills. Louisville commit Larry Jefferson (College Park, Ga./Banneker) took part and has good length, though he needs to keep filling out his frame. He might be a candidate to move to outside linebacker in college. As a pass-rusher he has some good natural tools, but as he displayed on film, he needs to be sure to have a plan.
Battling big boys
The offensive line faced a deeper group of defensive linemen, but the big boys group possessed some talent, as well. Vadal Alexander (Buford, Ga..Buford) is one of the top line prospects and we were eager to see him perform. He has good natural size and a nice wingspan. In pass protection, he displayed the ability to get set quickly and the flexibility to bend and slide his feet. He flashed the ability to use that reach and deliver a good punch. He could land at tackle in college, but may also land at guard which, in the long run, might be a better fit. Either way, he offers some versatility to play inside or on the edge, and for a lineman who comes from a run-heavy offense he displayed good ability in pass protection with tools to work with and improve. Kofi Amichia (Powder Springs, Ga./McEachern) showed some promise. He is a leaner kid for a line prospect and needs to keep filling out, but showed some physical upside. He was able to get set and quickly kick back and cut off rushers. He used his hands well and displayed good ability to mold. We need to study him on film, but he showed flashes, and interest in him should pick up in the near future. Steve McKenzie (Stone Mountain, Ga./Stephenson) is not the biggest kid, but he has a big, thick build, although he could rework some of his size up top. He was stout inside, as the guard prospect showed good feet and used his hands to punch. He needs to play with more bend, but was competitive and did a good job.
Wide receiver D'Arthur Cowan (Olive Branch, Miss./Olive Branch) caught our attention. He is a long and very lean receiver with a nice catch radius. He displayed good hands and the ability to extend and snatch the ball out of the air. He is an intriguing prospect we want to study closer on film. A player we liked on tape and were interested to see was tight end Jonathan Curry (Phenix City, Ala./Central). We liked his physical nature as a blocker on film, but at the camp he also displayed some ability as a receiving target, consistently extending for the ball and displaying good strong hands. He lacks ideal height for a tight end and said he is not being recruited much as a true in-line tight end, but more as an H-Back. That would make sense based on what we have seen from him on tape and in person. Florida commit Mike Davis (Stone Mountain, Ga./Stephenson) won the running back MVP, which was not a surprise. On film he came across as a well-rounded back and he displayed that at the NFTC camp. No matter what the drill called for, he did it effortlessly.
Craig Haubert is the recruiting coordinator for ESPN Recruiting and has more than a decade of coaching experience. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.
In a camp as loaded as any on the circuit so far this season, it was defensive players who stole the show.