Jaydon Mickens on the mend
PALO ALTO, Calif. -- Typically, this would be a busy time with regards to recruiting for Los Angeles (Calif.) Dorsey's Jaydon Mickens, one of the West Coast's top players from the 2012 class. Thing is, the versatile athlete recently took some much-needed time off to rehabilitate a bothersome foot injury.
Without the added exposure that comes along with constantly being in the public eye, prospective programs appeared to be a bit leery of actively pursuing Mickens.
However, once word starts spreading about his well-rounded effort at last weekend's Nike Football Training Camp over at Stanford, things figure to change in the near future.
Mickens didn't miss a beat, in fact. Without previous knowledge of his circumstance, one might not have ever known he had been troubled by a supposed bad wheel. Those who thought the USC commit would be a step slower could not have been more wrong with their assumption.
"It was important for me to come out and show everyone what I could do," Mickens said. "This was my first camp of the year because I've been dealing with an injury since October. I've aggravated things a couple of times too. This is the first time I've worn cleats since December.
"Overall, I think I did a good job. My expectations were high because there is a lot of good competition at this camp. It was nice to work on some things, getting in and out of jams, running solid routes. Just to be out here working hard and catching some passes was big for me."
Standing out in the crowd at the NFTC was no easy task, certainly not with several high-profile skill position players around. There were, after all, numerous ESPNU 150 Watch List members from the 2012 class in attendance at Stanford, seemingly too many to count.
Running back Robert Lewis (South Gate, Calif./South East) lived up to the hype that surrounds him. The same thing could be said about multipurpose threat Davonte Neal (Scottsdale, Ariz./Chaparral). It's worth mentioning that Deontay Greenberry (Fresno, Calif./Washington Union) did little, or nothing, to tarnish his growing reputation as one of the top wideouts on the West Coast.
Still, Mickens separated himself from his talented counterparts.
When it came down to things on the other side of the ball, life did not get any easier. Going up against imposing secondary presences Tee Shepard (Fresno, Calif./Central) and Shaq Thompson (Sacramento, Calif./Grant) during one-on-one passing drills proved to be a daunting task.
Nevertheless, Mickens used elusiveness to counteract the physicality.
Lining up and blocking linebackers such as Jeremiah Allison (Los Angeles, Calif./Dorsey), Scott Starr (Norco, Calif./Norco) and Christopher Santini (San Jose, Calif./Leland) was essentially one of those no-win situations. Each prospect outweighed him by an average of 50 pounds.
Resourcefully, Mickens used technique to effectively hold his own.
Overall, his debut at camp or combine for this calendar year was largely a success. And there were no clear-cut indications about his lingering toe problems being an issue.
"I was impressed with Mickens' explosive burst out of his breaks and how controlled, sharp and balanced he was as a route runner," said Billy Tucker, a national director of scouting for ESPN.com. "He was crafty too and really set up defensive backs well. He's obviously a dangerous space player after the catch and a guy who can make things happen underneath."
Mickens has proved to be adept at making things happen in the past, no doubt, thus the interest from USC. When the Trojans put a scholarship offer on the table, the opportunity proved to be too good to pass up. Accordingly, Mickens verbally committed back in October.
Apparently, Southern Methodist (SMU) and Washington were undeterred by the Trojans efforts to keep him close to home. Both programs offered Mickens, and undoubtedly, remain hopeful the 5-foot-9 and 160-plus pound pass-catcher will eventually have a change of heart.
"Jaydon loves football, he has a passion for the game," Dorsey coach Paul Knox said. "He is willing to work hard to take his game to the next level, put in the extra work. I think colleges from all around see that from him, that's why schools call me all the time and ask about him.
"I know Jaydon wanted to do well at the camp up at Stanford, and from everything that I hear, he did a good job of that. He is taking care of things on the field, and off the field, in the classroom. He's taking care of business right now. It's all part of the process, he knows that."
Several newly minted Pac-12 schools have expressed varied levels of interest in Mickens, most notably Cal, Oregon and UCLA. Arizona State and Oregon State have been in contact with him as well, although both colleges appear to be on the outside looking in.
USC, in all likeliness, is presently the front-runner to win his services.
"I like the Trojans, the campus is right down the street from my house and I have a good relationship with the whole coaching staff over there," Mickens said. "But I'm listening to other offers all the time, I'm trying to keep my options open if other schools want to talk to me.
"Washington stepped up and offered. They want me there and said I can make an impact right away. They have a scheme for me and everything. SMU said the same thing to me. In the end, I'm going to take everything in and talk with my family about each situation."
It's anyone's guess as to what the future could potentially hold for him. In terms of current situations, there was some valid concern about whether Mickens was completely healthy. He answered those questions at the NFTC at Stanford though. Loud and clear, mind you.
Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com.