After a disappointing showing of top recruits in Miami the previous week, recruiting analysts were cautiously optimistic about the chances for a top turnout at the Orlando tour stop of the Nike Football Training Camp (NFTC). In their favor was the lack of a scheduled standardized test or an in-state spring game at a major school, two factors that conspired to keep attendance down in Miami. Weather, however, looked to be an issue, with major storm clouds rolling in from the Gulf.
But everything came together perfectly. Nike was proactive in letting players and coaches know that the event would be held rain or shine, the storm dodged the camp for the most part, and the talent showed up.
And what talent it was, with an incredible ten players earning invites to The Opening (Nike's all-star camp in Oregon in July):
DL Demarcus Walker Jacksonville Sandalwood
OL Laremy Tunsil Lake City (Fla.) Columbia
OL Ira Denson Madison County (Fla.) High
RB Greg Bryant Delray Beach (Fla.) American Heritage
RB Ryan Green St. Pete Catholic
WR Ahmad Fulwood (Fla.) Jacksonville Bishop Kenny
LB Quinton Powell Daytona Beach (Fla.) Mainland
SS Marcell Harris Orlando Dr. Phillips
FS Leon Mcquay III Seffner (Fla.) Armwood
CB Vernon Hargreaves III Tampa Wharton
Make sure to look for interviews with many of these players this week on the SB Nation Recruiting Hub.
Demarcus Walker was determined to back up the No. 3 defensive end ranking given to him in the recent release of the ESPNU 150. Walker came in at 6'3 and 275 pounds. That may seem too large for a traditional defensive end, and it may be, but that doesn't detract from Walker's abilities as a football player. Whether he ends up playing defensive tackle of five-technique end in a hybrid or true 3-4 alignment, Walker is clearly one of the top defensive linemen in the country.
I made a statement today at the NFTC "I'm the best"— DeMarcus Walker (@livinglegend_44) April 22, 2012
Two other defensive lineman also stood out. Devin Washington, a defensive end from Orlando Jones High School was quite impressive. He had a win over offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil and showed well in drills. Washington's build will remind long-time Florida Recruitniks of a young Brandon Jenkins from Talahassee (Fla.) Florida High in the 2009 class, though I do not believe Washington is as talented as Jenkins at the same point in their respective high school careers. Washington took home the defensive line MVP, but he was not invited to the opening.
And Caleb Brantley (pictured), a Gator commitment out of Crescent City (Fla.), was impressive during drills from his defensive tackle position. Brantley is 6'3 and 300 pounds, with very good athleticism. He did very well in some 1-on-1s, but was absolutely whipped by Ira Denson. I am not sure Brantley was prepared for Denson's intensity in the early reps, and in the later reps, Denson had gained confidence thanks to the early wins.
On the offensive line front, both Laremy Tunsil and Ira "Juice" Denson stood out. Tunsil's performance was unsurprising. He is widely considered the top offensive line recruit not only in Florida, but nationally as well. Tunsil has quick feet and great length, and was only defeated a few times in 1-on-1s. Tunsil needs to add strength in his legs, but definitely has the room to do so.
Denson (pictured) was a major surprise. The 6'4, 320 pound guard prospect out of Madison County held offers from FIU and Western Kentucky and was not hearing from any major schools. That should change, perhaps as early as Monday. Denson was decent during drills, but was extremely impressive in 1-on-1s. The intensity, energy and power he displayed is not something usually shown in a camp setting. There is the line of thinking that not every prospect is giving 100 percent effort at an April camp, but Denson still had to have the power to go with his intensity. He whipped Florida defensive tackle recruit Caleb Brantley, who otherwise had a good day. Denson does not appear to have special feet, and I have no idea how he blocks in a game setting, but his power and length are very good. Denson is yet another example of just how early we are in the recruiting process. Denson could drop a few pounds to improve his quickness without losing his power.
There were no surprises at the running back position, as Oklahoma commitment Greg Bryant (pictured) and uncommitted runner Ryan Green were the top two backs. The 5'11, 196-pound Bryant is a very powerful runner who showed better quickness than I expected. On the other hand, everyone in Florida knows about Green's quickness, but his efforts in the weight room are paying off, as he displayed good power in 1-on-1s.
Florida commitment Ahmad Fulwood showed good body control as he continues to fill out his frame over the off-season. He didn't win the receiver MVP award, but he was invited to The Opening. I continue to believe that while Fulwood probably won't scare opposing defenses in the SEC, he has a very high floor and should be extremely productive if he is able to draw 1-on-1 matchups as a No. 2 receiver. He should also be a weapon in the red zone, where space is limited and jump balls are common.
The receiver MVP on the day was Ft. Myers (Fla.) Dunbar High's Johnell Barnes. Barnes is flying a bit under the radar in Florida, but he definitely has the talent to play at the BCS level. Barnes is listed at 6'0 and 160 pounds, and he can fly. Camps offer the type of setting that really benefits a player like Barnes, and he took full advantage. Confusingly, Nike awarded Barnes the MVP but did not invite him to The Opening.
While the camp setting is not a good place to evaluate all aspects of a linebacker's game, it is a good opportunity to see a player in coverage. And Quinton Powell excelled in that area. Powell is committed to the Gators. And while there are safeties bigger than the 195-pound Powell, it is clear that he has the frame to add strength and play north of 220 pounds for the Gators. Powell did a nice job of bumping the opposing running backs to give himself time to adjust to their route. Powell's performance earned him an invite to The Opening.
I've seen Marcell Harris plenty over the last two years, and every time I see him, I think "linebacker." But then the 6'2, 206-pound Harris changes my mind, and I think he can play safety at the next level, provided it is in the right system. It will all depend on how much bigger and stronger he gets over the next two years. For now, Harris is a very good high school defender and will compete at The Opening.
One very impressive player was Leon McQuay III. McQuay looks like a boundary corner, but will almost certainly play safety at the next level. He's very long with good hips for a safety, and if you're looking to tag a recruit with the term "rangy," it is him. Harris took home both the defensive back MVP award and an invite to The Opening. He is taking his recruitment slow and is still gathering information on a number of schools.
While McQuay won the defensive back MVP award, the best defensive back recruit, and perhaps the best recruit at the camp was Vernon Hargreaves III (pictured). The son of USF's defensive backs coach, Hargreaves combines excellent athleticism with perhaps the most advanced technique I've ever seen in a cornerback recruit. Hargreaves probably deserved the MVP, but it is becoming a bit tired to give him the top award at every camp he attends. Hargreaves was invited to The Opening, however.