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Alabama and Maryland recruits live up to hype at Washington D.C.'s Nike camp

Welcome to The Crootletter (sign up to get this in your inbox every morning!). I'm filling in today for Bud Elliott, SB Nation's National Recruiting Analyst, and in this space I'll be sharing news, rumors and musings on the world of college football recruiting.

DeMatha Catholic defensive end Chase Young is a top 2017 prospect.
DeMatha Catholic defensive end Chase Young is a top 2017 prospect.
Student Sports

Clifton, Va. – Sunday marked this year's Washington, D.C., regional camp for The Opening, the annual Nike showcase of some of the country's best high school talent. There are a few kinds of recruits at a regional like this, which mostly features kids from the "DMV." That's D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

The first type is the elite one, who has his pick of just about any school in the country. The greater Washington area produces at least one, two or three such players in every class.

Then there are the solid guys to be fought over by regional schools like Maryland, Virginia Tech, Virginia and even Penn State and Pitt, with someone else maybe swooping in.

Then there are more middling players, just trying to get noticed and catch on somewhere. Of the nearly 400 participants at this camp, most fall into the latter category.

One should always expect the highest-profile recruits to shine brightest at camps like these. That couldn't have been more of the story on Sunday, when the consensus two best players in Maryland were the best on either of the two fields, and everybody else was scratching to stand out.


The best QB on Sunday was Kasim Hill, the four-star 2017 St. John's College (D.C.) product who committed a week ago to Maryland. He was named the camp's quarterbacks MVP after an impressive day of slinging the ball, throwing tight spirals and not throwing interceptions in any drills. When Hill missed, he missed long or to the sideline, keeping the ball safe. But he didn't miss often, and he looked smooth and fundamentally sound.

A few Virginia 2017 prospects are worth keeping an eye on, too. Three-star Lindell Stone looks boyishly young and doesn't have a Power 5 build yet, but he's astonishingly athletic for a small pro-style passer. He made just about all all the throws, and he even made a jumping, one-handed catch off to the side of a drill that channeled Odell Beckham Jr. Stone has offers from UCLA, Wisconsin, Ole Miss, Virginia and Pitt. Fellow Virginia three-star Alex Faniel had a rough day, getting on top of a lot of throws and driving them into the turf or otherwise throwing low. But he measured in at 6'6 and looks athletic, and it's easy to see why Justin Fuente and Virginia Tech want him.

Some other interesting names: Beau English, a rising senior at Maryland powerhouse DeMatha Catholic, is really athletic and throws a good ball. He's slight looking and runs a read-option system in high school, which screams "next Navy quarterback commit," but he might pick up some Power 5 looks with a really good senior season. (Navy and Robert Morris are his two current offers.) I also liked 2017ers Ori Jean-Charles of Spring Valley, N.Y. (maybe another option guy) and Tyler Lytle of Servite (Calif.), who claims offers from Miami, Arizona State and Washington State.

Running back

Some regard DeMatha four-star Anthony McFarland as the best 2017 player in Maryland. That might be true. He's only 5'9, but he's sculpted and uber-athletic. The only thing is that McFarland might not be a running back. He spent much of the day at receiver, and his size, solid speed and terrific hands suggest he'd be a good slot. He can also run outside routes, though.

McFarland earned an invitation to July's national Opening camp in Oregon, but as an athlete, not a running back. He'll be able to go wherever he wants for college, but he mentioned Alabama and Maryland as two of his top schools.


There were a lot of receivers, and evaluating all of them is hard. But my favorite was 2019 DeMatha receiver DeMarcco Hellams. He's solidly built, and he ran crisper routes and made more spectacular catches than anybody else. His fundamentals are a dream. His footwork is excellent, and his body control belies the fact that he's a 6'2 rising high school sophomore. Hellams already holds offers from North Carolina and Maryland, and his recruitment is going to be a national affair. He'll be one of the highest-rated receivers in the country and have his pick of most of the SEC and ACC, or anywhere else.

The 2017 class doesn't have a lot of high-end receiver skill in the area, so, McFarland could end up the best one. Three-star Maryland receiver Cameron Sullivan-Brown is a leaper and has a lot of college interest. The home-state Terrapins are really pushing for him, but there's competition.

One interesting player was 2017's Nykeim Johnson, of D.C. Big disclaimer here: Johnson is 5'7 and 157 pounds, and this was a non-contact camp with no pads and no hitting. It's very easy for tiny guys to look great in a setting like this. But Johnson ran a 4.42-second 40-yard dash (the best of anybody) and was named the camp's receivers MVP, showing off good hands and fluid route-running ability. In the hours after the camp, Johnson got his first offer, from Charlotte. It's hard to say if he'll get serious Power 5 looks, but he's definitely worth watching.

Watch out in 2018 for Oxon Hill (Md.) talent Daniel George, whose 121.71 Nike rating from pre-drill physical testing was the best of the day for anybody. Players with his tools don't stay quiet for very long.

Offensive line

The best player was Gonzaga (D.C.) three-star center Johnny Jordan, who earned offensive line MVP honors and did better than his peers at preventing interior defenders from strafing past during line-on-line drills.

It's difficult to evaluate linemen from drills with no pads, but four-star Maryland 2017 commit Jordan McNair struggled, and 2018 IMG Academy tackle Chris Bleich, a Penn State commit, is hard to get past.

Defensive line

The best player in the whole camp was DeMatha's Chase Young, another rising senior who earned a national camp invite. Young will have his pick of any program, and Alabama has been among those pushing for him the hardest. (Like his teammate McFarland, he's also seriously considering Maryland.) Young went up against McNair twice head-to-head, and McNair barely touched him either time. He's so long, explosive and effortlessly good.

Four-star Good Counsel (Md.) defensive end Joshua Paschal also looked good. He earned a national camp invite, too. Three-star H.D. Woodson (D.C.) defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman also found his way into the backfield a lot, as did St. John's tackle Cam Goode.


The highest-rated player was four-star Calvert Hall (Md.) 2017er Tyshon Fogg. Linebackers are another hard position to evaluate at these things, because the best way to assess them is pretty simple: "Did he make the tackle?"

There's no tackling here, and the only thing a linebacker can do is show he has some agility and takes smart angles toward the ball. Bishop McNamara (D.C.) product Wesley Bowers showed he could, and Fort Hill (Md.) 2018 prospect Brayden Poling did the same. In pass coverage, North Point (Md.) prospect Keisean Wilson stood out with a good read and nice interception against Ocean Township (N.J.) quarterback Kenny Pickett.

Defensive back

Archbishop Carroll (D.C.) 2017 prospect Deon Jones is going to be monstrous. He has good speed, turns his hips well, jumps really high in the air and has every look of the top-10 national cornerback he is. Maryland's been going after him pretty hard locally, but it wouldn't be surprising if one of the national powers that wants Jones (Clemson, Auburn, Florida Stateetc.) gets him out of the area. He's so impressive.

Three-star Riverdale Baptist (Md.) cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields was named the camp's DBs MVP.


Recruits are big fans of the NCAA's new social media recruiting rules, but they could really screw with coaches.

It's sometimes really hard to project high school players.

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