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2014 Birmingham Nike football camp: 7 players invited to national Opening camp

The Mid South's top recruits gathered in Birmingham, AL on Sunday, with most of the top talent emerging along the offensive line.

Four-star Alabama commit Lester Cotton
Four-star Alabama commit Lester Cotton
SB Nation

About 300 college football recruits gathered at Spain Park High School for Sunday's Nike Football Training Camp, for a round of testing, drills, and one-on-one competitions.

The following seven players were invited onward to Oregon's The Opening on June 8, the year's biggest recruiting camp:

  • Tuscaloosa, AL OG Lester Cotton (Alabama commit)
  • Brentwood, TN WR Van Jefferson (247 Sports Crystal Ball favorite: Ohio State)
  • Pinson, AL DE Kendall Jones (top offer: Mississippi State)
  • Reserve, LA CB Xavier Lewis (Crystal Ball favorite: LSU)
  • Memphis, TN OT Drew Richmond (Crystal Ball favorite: Tennessee)
  • Memphis, TN ATH Deddrick Thomas (Crystal Ball favorite: Ole Miss)
  • Bessemer, AL OG Darryl Williams (Crystal Ball favorite: Mississippi State)

I focused on the big men for most of the day, as the bulk of Birmingham's blue-chip talent was along the offensive and defensive lines.  Which works out well, since half of the camp's best players based on invites were indeed linemen. A few notes on some standouts in the trenches:

The 6'5, 309-pound Cotton was without question the best linemen during one-on-one drills, winning most of his battles with superior technique. He posted a string of clear wins during the final round, going against a defender likewise deemed among the camp's top five at his position group. He was also concerned with technique during OL drills, communicating well with coaches and walking himself through extra reps during waits. Cotton earned Offensive Line MVP honors.

Jones, at 6'4 and 240 pounds, sheds blocks well and has a very quick first step. His length enabled him to win several hands battles. He has plenty of room to grow and could play edge rusher in a number of systems.

The 6'3, 285-pound Williams was consistent throughout the day, but shone brightest during the final round of one-on-ones. The three-star guard took two of three battles in dominant fashion against five-star defensive tackle Daron Payne, the camp's highest-rated player. Williams had the entire offensive line contingent hollering as he barked in Payne's face, at one point calling the country's No. 2-rated DT "soft." Williams doesn't fear much.

Payne had a relatively quiet day. The 6'2, 316-pounder from Birmingham (who said his current top four is Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, and Texas) had the most imposing physique of anyone on the premises, but appears raw and overaggressive at times. Of course, when that aggression connects, it's terrifying -- he hurled one smaller offensive lineman to the ground like it was nothing.

Vasco Curry, a 5'11, 255-pound defensive lineman from Memphis, was just about unstoppable during one-on-ones, unofficially losing only one matchup during about 10 faceoffs. The slasher reports less scholarship interest than the others at the camp (perhaps due in part to his unconventional shape), but if he can produce during games like he did on Sunday, that'll change in a hurry. Curry received the camp's Defensive Line MVP award.

Other standouts:

  • Brandon, MS DT Fletcher Adams (Crystal Ball favorite: Mississippi State)
  • Lexington Catholic, KY OL Cameron Bailey
  • OC/FB J.R. Burns (Missouri among interested schools)
  • New Market, AL OL Zachary Branner (Auburn, LSU among interested schools)
  • Gadsden, AL OL Tyler Carr (Crystal Ball favorite: Auburn)
  • Hattiesburg, MS OL Rishard Cook
  • Harris County, GA DL Blake Jones
  • Norcross, GA DE J.B. Kouassi (Clemson, Iowa among interested schools)
  • Mobile, AL DL Montrez Lang
  • Washington County, AL DL Cameron Moss
  • West Limestone, AL OL Dakota Siniard
  • Daphne, AL OL Christopher White
  • 2016 Mobile, AL DL Darius Whitfield (Crystal Ball favorite: Alabama)