Commentary

Offensive tackles take centerstage

NFTC Washington brings out top OT prospects Josh Garnett and Zach Banner

Updated: June 20, 2011, 4:47 PM ET
By Greg Biggins | ESPN Recruiting

The final Nike Football Training Camp of the year hit Seattle as nearly 130 players from all over the West region gathered to show off their talent. While the overall numbers were lower than a typical NFTC, there was still some big-time talent on hand, headlined by two of the nation's top offensive line prospects.

For the last couple of years, Josh Garnett (Puyallup, Wash./Puyallup) and Zach Banner (Lakewood, Wash./Lakes) often have been mentioned together as it's hard to talk about one without bringing up the other. It's not often the state of Washington produces one of the nation's best offensive linemen, let alone two.

[+] EnlargeJosh Garnett
Tom HauckESPNU 150 OT Josh Garnett (left) is a major target for Michigan and several other top programs.
Garnett took home OL MVP honors and was as impressive as any lineman we've seen at an NFTC this year. The tackle measured in at a solid 6-foot-5, 302 pounds and had the quickest feet of any lineman in the camp. He's already very technically sound and when you combine that with his size, long arms, toughness and athleticism, you have a lineman who has the talent to play as a true freshman at the next level.

"Going to this camp last year really helped me a lot this year," Garnett said. "I knew how to prepare, and me and Zach have been training together for the last couple of months to get ready for this. I loved the competitive nature of the camp and overall I thought I did pretty well.

"I even took some reps at defensive tackle just to get in some extra work. I play both ways at Puyallup so I wanted to work on some things at defensive tackle and it was fun for me. Obviously everyone is recruiting me for offensive line and that's where I'm most comfortable."

Garnett still has a large list of schools on his lst and hasn't even begun to narrow things down just yet. He did say Nebraska, Notre Dame, Michigan, Stanford, Auburn, UCLA and USC were a few of the schools recruiting him heavily at the moment. With a 3.86 GPA and a 1680 SAT score, Garnett will be able to write his own ticket.

At 6-8, 333 pounds, Banner actually makes Garnett look almost small when they stand side by side. Banner is one of the biggest linemen in the country but has surprising agility, enhanced by his time spent on the basketball court. He might have the longest wing span of any tackle we've seen. During the one-on-ones he was able to manhandle just about every defensive end.

While Garnett has a somewhat introverted personality, Banner is a loud, gregarious kid and loves to compete. He's what you call a "front-of-the-line" guy -- he wants to be the first guy in every drill and took more reps than any other lineman. He was the guy leading the linemen in every huddle and is a natural leader.

"I had a lot of fun competing out here," Banner said. "I live for this and I always enjoy the chance to compete and show I'm one of the best players in the country. I know there wasn't a lot of defensive lineman out there, the group was a little small, but I still enjoyed putting in the work. The one-on-ones are always a lot of fun."

Banner has tremendous physical tools and a strong desire to be the best. While some players shy away from making big statements, Banner has no problem saying his goal is not only to be the best lineman in the nation but the top overall player, period.

"That's definitely my goal and what I work for every day," Banner said. "I look at the ratings, I'm not going to lie, and I see a lot of players ranked higher than me that I think I'm better than. It just motivates me though. It makes me want to go out and work that much harder because obviously I still have a lot to prove."

Three other offensive linemen who stood out were Chase Eldredge (Palos Verdes, Calif./Palos Verdes), Arthur Flores (Denver/Mullen) and Jack York (Paradise Valley, Ariz./Notre Dame). Eldredge, 6-4, 250 pounds, is a relative sleeper but might have had the second-best feet in the group behind Garnett. Flores, 6-4, 304 pounds, is holding offers from San Diego State, Colorado, Utah, Boise State and Central Florida and had some impressive reps during the one-on-ones. York, 6-2, 259 pounds, is a scrappy guard prospect who competed hard and has definite Division I ability.

Quarterback group headlines camp

While Garnett and Banner were the camp headliners, the quarterback position was the strongest in the camp by a wide margin. Three senior signal-callers had very good camps, but it was a rising junior who took home MVP honors.

Max Browne (Issaquah, Wash./Skyline) led his team to a 7-on-7 title Saturday at Washington but showed no signs of fatigue to take home MVP honors. The junior measured out at 6-5, 201 pounds and made every throw and made it look effortless on Sunday.

He has a live arm and his arm strength will only improve as he continues to fill out. He can throw on the run as well as in the pocket, understands timing and anticipation and knows when to put touch on his passes. His deep balls were very accurate, and he threw the tightest ball all camp long as well.

Browne is already holding offers from Washington, Cal, Utah and Clemson, and he'll be among the most heavily recruited quarterbacks in the country next spring.

Jeff Lindquist (Mercer Island, Wash.), Cyler Miles (Denver/Mullen) and Matt Morin (Temecula, Calif./Chaparral) all had very strong camps as well, showing they're among the most talented quarterbacks in the region.

Lindquist, 6-3, 227 pounds, attended the Elite 11 Camp at Stanford in May and had a solid workout but was lost a bit in a group that also included Connor Brewer, Jake Rodriguez, Zach Kline, Bart Houston and Tanner Mangum. On Sunday, Lindquist was much improved and looked like a completely different player.

He was more confident and looked a lot more comfortable on the field. He was more decisive in his reads and threw the ball with a lot more zip. The quarterback has a college body right now but moves very well and is capable of making plays with his legs as well as his arm. Lindquist was right behind Browne for QB MVP honors on the day.

Physically, Miles is one of the most impressive-looking quarterbacks ever to attend a Nike Camp. He's a chiseled 6-4, 221 pounds and you can tell he loves the weight room. He's very athletic and is the guy you want leading your team off the bus.

This was Miles' first appearance at a Nike Camp, and as often happens he struggled a bit throwing the football simply because he wasn't used to the drills. You could see him thinking through a lot of his throws as opposed to just letting it rip, and his velocity was way down compared to other quarterbacks.

Saying that, Miles picked it up as the camp went on and finished very strong in the one-on-ones. He's able to spin it consistently and has a nice, tight release. In terms of upside, no one has as high a ceiling as Miles and once he puts everything together, it's scary to think how good he could be.

Morin, 6-2.5, 221 pounds, is no stranger to the NFTC tour as the camp at UW was his third of the year. He also attended the Elite 11 Camp at Stanford. The ball explodes out of his hand and Morin has arguably the strongest arm in the entire West region.

The question with Morin after every camp is always his ability to throw with touch. He can make every throw including the deep outs and comebacks that a lot of college quarterbacks can't make. Where he needs to continue to work is on throwing with touch, the balls where you need air to get it over a linebacker but still beat a safety and with better timing.

If Morin can develop this, and there's no reason to think he can't because of how hard he works, he has a chance to be a difference maker in college. He has a strong, athletic body, is a tough kid with great leadership ability and has the kind of personality his teammates will love and rally around.

Russell backs up his prediction

Prior to the NIke Camp, running back KeiVarae Russell (Everett, Wash./Mariner) called his shot, saying he was going to take home RB MVP honors. That's exactly what happened as Russell was not only the best back in the camp but easily among the best we've seen in the West region this year.

"I felt I was snubbed last year," Russell said. "My goal was to win that MVP this year and I told a lot of people I was going to do it. I had a lot of fun and was clowning around a little but when it was time to work, I was all business and I thought I had a really good camp.

"I was real focused out there and I knew this was the last Nike Camp of the year so I wanted to go out with a bang. I wanted to represent my school and my hometown out here, and I feel I did a good job of doing that."

Russell measured in at 5-11, 172 pounds and showed a nice burst, the ability to make a defender miss in the open field and great hands out of the backfield. He has a strong upper body but needs to work on his lower body strength a bit as he has the calves and thighs of a receiver rather than a running back.

"I really liked him a lot," lead RBs coach Jake Campbell said. "He's a super athletic kid and plays with great spatial awareness. He's a smooth runner but is explosive in and out of his breaks and did really well in the blocking drills, showing some nice physicality."

On the recruiting front, Russell has double-digit offers and said Cal, Washington, Notre Dame and Boise State stand out right now. All have offered.

Two other backs who had good camps were D.J. May (Federal Way, Wash./Federal Way) and Devante Downs (Lynwood, Wash./Mountlake Terrace). May, 5-11, 190 pounds, was RB MVP at the Nike Camp at Oregon two weeks ago and showed the same explosive speed and natural running ability that impressed everyone.

Downs, 6-1.5, 215 pounds was a revelation and someone to watch very closely. He has the body of a college back right now but is just a freshman, going into his sophomore season next year. He's a tough, physical back who was dominant in every drill and with three more years to develop, Downs has a chance to become a national prospect very shortly. Oregon, Washington, Texas, Miami, Cal, UCLA and Stanford top his early list.

Neal does it again

Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral athlete Davonte Neal attended his third Nike Camp after attending the camps at USC and Stanford earlier. He worked out with the receivers this camp and took home WR MVP honors for the second consecutive event, after earning the same accolade following the camp at Stanford.

Neal has several unique tools that translate very well to the next level. He has the speed to get separation from his defender, runs great routes, knows how to set up a defensive back and has the strong hands needed to finish off the play.

"Early on, it seemed like he was taking it easy, maybe pacing himself a little too much," lead WRs coach Chris Angel said. "Once we went to half skelly and the one-on-ones, he really turned up the intensity and started to dominate. He's a great player and will be as good as he wants to be at the next level."

Neal was in town for the camp after taking an unofficial visit to Washington on Saturday. The Huskies are recruiting the athlete very hard, but Neal has yet to narrow his list and will take the summer before deciding what schools he wants to visit.

Michael Rector (Gig Harbor, Wash./Bellarmine) just committed to Washington on Saturday and looked very comfortable in his future home. At 6-1, 174 pounds, Rector has an athletic frame and showed tremendous speed, running past opposing corners all camp long.

Dozier does it all

Cedric Dozier (Lakewood, Wash./Lakes) is easily among the best and most versatile athletes in the West. He worked out at receiver, corner and safety and looked very good at all three positions.

Dozier is being recruited as an athlete but says receiver is his favorite position right now. After seeing him Sunday, it wouldn't surprise us to see him play on either side of the ball as he made a ton of plays, no matter where he was lined up.

"Man, I had a great time. I really didn't expect to learn so much," Dozier said. "At corner, I learned a lot of the little things, like when to look for the ball, hand placement and how to break on the ball. The coaches talked about having a clock in your head and when it hits three seconds, be ready for the ball to come out, things like that.

"At receiver, I learned about beating press coverage, shielding a defender and extending my hands more. The competition was great and I had a great experience. This was definitely one of the best camps I've been to."

Dozier showed plenty of speed and was very physical in the secondary. A few times while play safety, he came up and drilled a receiver going over the middle, to the chagrin of the camp DBs coaches. He showed good hands at receiver and is dynamic after the catch. ASU, Cal, Colorado, Oregon, Oregon State and Washington are his current favorites. All have offered.

More MVPs

Jayshawn Jordan (Seattle/O'Dea) took home DB MVP, Zach Walen (Lake Oswego, Ore./Lake Oswego) was the LB MVP, and Sam McCaskill (Eugene, Ore./Sheldon) was the DL MVP.

Jordan, 5-8, 173 pounds narrowly beat out Jeffrey Coprich (Valencia, Calif./West Ranch) as both cover corners made a ton of plays. Jordan, who has a Washington State offer, came on in the one-on=ones and made some great plays on the ball, showing a lot of athleticism.

Coprich, 5-8, 175 pounds, was the most physical corner on the day and could have easily taken home the MVP. He runs well and is a fierce competitor. Taylor Taliulu (Aiea, Hawaii/Aiea) was the top safety in the camp.

Walen, 6-3, 182 pounds, is rail thin but made a ton of plays in the half skelly period and one-on-ones and looked good in the pass rush drills as well. He beat out his junior teammate Neil Wagner for the MVP. McCaskill had a solid camp in Oregon two weeks ago and shined again on Sunday. The 6-4, 224 pound rush end has offers from Portland State and Montana and could emerge this summer as a definite sleeper to watch.