Getting to know you
Linebackers and co-MVPs Kwon Alexander and Ukeme Eligwe top star-studded NFTC
ATHENS, Ga. -- Oxford (Ala.) High School's Kwon Alexander and Stone Mountain (Ga.) High School's Ukeme Eligwe didn't know much about each other before they got to Friday's Nike Football Training Camp, but they did by the end of it as they shared the linebackers MVP award.
"I knew the name," Eligwe said. "But we competed and I think we became friends. He's a great player. It was a great group of guys overall. All the linebackers came out to play tonight. It was a great group overall and I am so glad that I came out to compete."
The linebackers stole the show with Alexander and Eligwe leading the charge. Nick Dawson (Charlotte, N.C./Berry Academy), Darreon Herring (Stone Mountain, Ga./Stephenson), Raphael Kirby (Stone Mountain, Ga./Stephenson), Javiere Mitchell (Leeds, Ala.), Dillon Lee (Buford, Ga./Buford) and rising junior Nigel Bowden (Macon, Ga./Central Macon) also shined in what was the deepest group of the camp.
"It was fun out here," Alexander said. "I think I learned a lot of stuff and there were some drills that I think I can take home. I worked hard out there. We all worked hard out there. There was a lot of competition."
Eligwe favors Florida State over Georgia, Florida, Auburn and Virginia Tech, but Alexander says he's open to the process.
"It will likely be a signing day decision for me," Alexander said. "Right now I am open and not favoring anyone. I like Alabama, Auburn, Oregon, USC and many others. They have all offered me."
Both players showed athleticism and speed in everything they did, whether it was in agility drills, one-on-ones or playing in coverage.
"I thought I did great," Eligwe said. "That's why we are all here -- to compete."
The sky's the limit
One of the last arrivals in Athens was sophomore Robert Nkemdiche (Grayson, Ga./Grayson), but he made one of the best first impressions.
"I can't believe he's only a sophomore," said Chuck Wiley, one of the Nike camp's defensive line coaches. "What he did was just great. Seeing a guy his size [6-foot-4, 264 pounds], I thought he would be a little stiff in the hips but that wasn't the case. He moves so well and is so quick and fast. But the thing I love most about him is that he is so coachable. You would tell him one thing and he would do it. You would tell him another and he would do it. Did you see him beating guys off the ball? I can't believe he's so young. I was impressed."
He was unblockable, even against some of the best offensive linemen from the Peach State, like Vadal Alexander (Buford, Ga./Buford).
"I thought I had an outstanding combine," Nkemdiche said. "I have never been to a combine before so I wanted to come out here and play hard. I know I still have a lot to learn but I don't think I was blocked at all. I am still learning."
When asked about the recruiting process, Nkemdiche shrugged. He doesn't even know how many (verbal) scholarship offers he has up to this point.
"I think it's more than 10," Nkemdiche said.
That number will certainly multiply over the coming months, as Nkemdiche's stock should skyrocket leading up to his signing day, which is still 22 months away.
Other notable DLs
Several other notable defensive linemen who had their moments were Larry Jefferson (College Park, Ga./Banneker), Jarontay Jones (Stone Mountain, Ga./Stephenson), Dequan Clark (Buford, Ga./Buford), Sheldon Rankins (Covington, Ga./Eastside), Derious Bennett (Columbus, Ga./Carver) and rising juniors Reggie Carter (Stone Mountain, Ga./Stephenson) and Kelsey Griffith (Mill Creek, Ga./Mill Creek).
"I went undefeated in one-on-one," Carter said, who displayed great speed off the edge. "I did well and it was a great learning experience for me. There was a lot of great competition out there."
Some talented running backs put on a show Friday night, including the MVP of the group Mike Davis (Stone Mountain, Ga./Stephenson), a Florida commit.
"Mike did some incredible things," said Nike camp running backs coach Jake Campbell. "He has great lateral movement and change of direction. He's terrific in the open field. He's a true running back where things come so natural to him. He's versatile and has soft hands. He's also a strong ball carrier who really seems to understand the position."
Another back who excelled was Kenyan Drake (Powder Springs, Ga./Hillsgrove), an Alabama commit.
"He just looks like an incredible athlete," Campbell said. "I am not sure if he's a pure running back but he does a lot of nice things. He has speed and nice hands. He has size. He's just a big time athlete."
Four other backs caught Campbell's eye as well in Troymaine Pope (Anniston, Ala.), Mike Hilton (Tyrone, Ga./Sandy Creek), Dondre Brown (Varnville, S.C./Wade Hampton) and rising junior Kamani Thomas (Dallas, Ga./East Paulding).
"Pope went relatively unnoticed at the beginning," Campbell said. "Then he really came on strong. He's quick and shifty and has great ball carrying skills.
"Thomas is so quick and once he matures he will turn into a heck of a running back. Brown is so athletic for his size and Hilton has speed and is very coachable. He just gives you a great effort."
The waiting game
Wide receiver Cory Batey (Nashville, Tenn./Ensworth) was voted voted the MVP of the wide receivers, but is still waiting on his first offer.
"My game is started to click," Batey said. "I have to admit I did drop a few balls out there early but overall I did well. Things are really picking up for me."
He has run a laser-timed 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds, posted a 4.16 shuttle run and vertical jumped 39 feet, 3 inches. In fact, of 12,000 athletes who have tested for the SPARQ rating, Batey has the fourth-best total of 125.40.
Vatey said Tennessee, South Carolina, Kentucky, Mississippi State and Cincinnati are all recruiting him and here's guessing he'll have a very active May as coaches come through the Ensworth doors.
Rising junior Riley Ferguson (Butler, N.C./Butler.) won the quarterback MVP, while the offensive line MVP went to Joe Harris (Lithonia, Ga./Lithonia). D.J. White (McDonough, Ga./Union Grove) won the defensive back MVP.
Alexander talks recruiting
Vadal Alexander was one of the top offensive line prospects at this event and hopes to have a working top 10 soon.
"LSU, Miami, Alabama, Auburn and USC are just some of my offers," Alexander said. "I feel do blessed to have each and every one. Right now I am open. I hope to have a top 10 this summer and a top five going into the season."
Alexander has made unofficial visits to LSU, Alabama and Auburn. He hopes to see some more schools this summer.
Syracuse offers Scelfo
Center Joseph Scelfo (Bogart, Ga./North Oconee) picked up a Big East offer this week and hopes that there will be a few more that follow.
"Syracuse offered me last Thursday," Scelfo said. "I feel great about that one. Louisiana-Monroe said that they are going to offer me on August 1st. [UNC Charlotte coach] Brad Lambert said he hopes I am his first commitment, so I think I have an offer from them as well."
Lambert coached with Scelfo's father, Chris, at Georgia under Jim Donnan. Scelfo also said that he's hoping to take unofficial visits to Vanderbilt and Virginia Tech in the very near future. Both programs are recruiting him as well.
Position switch for Hicks?
Defensive lineman Quayvon Hicks (Blackshear, Ga./Pierce County) worked out with the running backs. Georgia is recruiting him as a fullback. Hmmm.
Jamie Newberg has been covering recruiting in the Southeast and nationally for 19 years. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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