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August 3, 2011
The summer camp season is over and the Rivals.com recruiting analysts were all over the country starting with the Penn State NIKE Camp way back in the first weekend of May to the ESPN Rise Gridiron Kings tournament at the end of July that wrapped things up.
Heading into our next set of evaluation meetings and a new set of rankings due at the end of August, here's the next article in our summer recap with some of the most memorable moments we saw on the road, led by Miami (Fla.) Norland running back Randy Johnson who makes the list twice and is giving Miami Hurricane fans all over the country reasons to get excited.
MOST MEMORABLE MOMENTS
Randy Johnson's Amazing Catch -- Johnson made one of the best catches we've ever seen at Day 1 of Gridirion Kings on a pass down the seam on a wheel route. The ball was overthrown and over the wrong shoulder but he turned, elevated and made an amazing one-handed grab and held on despite coming down hard. It was the highlight of the entire tournament.
Randy Johnson Part II -- His nickname is 'Duke' after his grandfather but maybe it should be 'Juke' because the Miami commit has some serious moves. Johnson was so electric during the one-on-ones against some of the nation's best linebackers that the coaches were yelling across the field to watch him in action. He was also good coming out of the backfield and catching passes and really impressed all week.
Diggs Dominates -- Ranked as one of the top wide receivers in the nation and a top 10 prospect overall, Stefon Diggs entered Florida's Friday Night Lights with a lot of expectations. He backed them up and more. The 6-foot, 185-pound wide receiver put on a show during one-on-one competition using his speed and explosiveness to separate regularly from defenders and find the end zone in the Swamp numerous times. Diggs made sure that all of his competitors and onlookers knew of the show he was putting on as he talked a lot of smack, but he backed up the talk with a top-tier performance as the best player on the field that night.
Ohio State Elite 11 Lives Up To The Hype -- There had not been a more talent-laden roster of passers at an Elite 11 prior to the tour's stop in Columbus, Ohio. The nation's No. 1 pro-style quarterback, Gunner Kiel, and No. 1 dual-threat quarterback, Jameis Winston, were joined by a candidate for the top quarterback in the 2013 class, Shane Morris, and each lived up to their rankings with strong performances. Winston is already ranked the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback by Rivals.com so his performance at the actual Elite 11 in Malibu wasn't really a surprise but his consistency throughout the week was striking and proved that Ohio State wasn't a fluke. Winston was great in drills and during the instructional 7-on-7 and has a great feel for the position. If he's better at baseball it's really hard to believe.
Rodgers Holds His Own - Bear (Del.) Red Lion Christian offensive lineman Khaliel Rodgers, a 2013 prospect, is good - that we knew. But heading into the Top Gun Camp in Virginia we thought he'd be outmatched by the slew of defensive line talent. Class of 2012 studs like Aziz Shittu, Hassan Ridgeway, Alex Balducci, Korren Kirven and Ryan Watson as well as 2013 standouts Tashawn Bower and Lowell Lotulelei all gave it a go but no one was able to beat the 6-foot-2, 300-pounder whose lone offer so far is from UConn. Even in 105-degree heat, he never wore down and showed he's one of the best interior linemen prospects in the country for next year.
Matt Davis Is A Quarterback - Coming off an injury his junior year and having the reputation more as a runner than a passer heading into Gridiron Kings, Matt Davis had a lot to prove. Is he healthy and just as fast as he was last year? You wouldn't think he could prove that in 7-on-7 play but he did when he threw a rare interception and ran down his opponent with ease showing great burst. But more importantly, Davis had to prove he's a passer who can run and not a runner who can pass. In leading his team to the title and making one smart decision after another, he showed he's not only a solid passer but a very smart quarterback. The Texas A&M commit has the look of a potential future star if he continues to develop.
Robert Nkemdiche Plays DB - A stud 2013 defensive tackle, the incredibly athletic Nkemdiche played linebacker at the Hoover 7-on-7 and never looked out of place. During his team's game against Allentown (Pa.) Central Catholic, Nkemdiche effortlessly dropped into coverage on one play in particular; quickly turned his hips to stick with his man, then dove to break up a perfectly thrown pass by South Carolina quarterback commit Brendan Nosovitch.
Sills Living Up To Hype - When he was offered a scholarship by Lane Kiffin and USC as a seventh grader and committed, many people thought Bear (Del.) Red Lion Christian quarterback David Sills was some kind of publicity stunt. Fast forward to this summer and Sills is starting to look like the prodigy Kiffin saw. Now roughly 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds and growing every day it seems, Sills is starting to look like a Class of 2012 or 2013 quarterback, not a 2015 as he is. And when it comes to mechanics, arm strength, accuracy and footwork, Sills is well beyond his years. Sure there is more work to do and he has many years of high school (that's right high school) football ahead of him, but Kiffin is starting to look either very smart or very lucky. We'll go for the former on this one.
Smith's Domination - Lake Charles (La.) Barbe tight end DeSean Smith was not well-known heading into the Dallas NUC Ultimate 100 event. The class of 2013 prospect played wide receiver for his high school team but quickly showed he will be among the elite national prospects at tight end next year. In 7-on-7 play, his quarterbacks simply threw it to him deep anytime they were in a jam and Smith always made the play. The opposing teams ended up triple-teaming him but it still did not work. Since that time Smith has camped at both Texas A&M and LSU and both schools wasted no time offering him shortly thereafter.
Timberview's Upset At BadgerSports - Mansfield (Texas) Timberview is not known as a 7-on-7 powerhouse in the state of Texas. In fact, the team does not even play in many tournaments. That's why it was a surprise to see them in the BadgerSports National 7-on-7 tournament in Dallas. In tournament play, they faced off against a very talented Goon Squad team led by quarterback Zeke Pike. Also, Timberview's two best players - Edward Paris and Brandon Simmons - suited up for Goon Squad. When Timberview ended up winning in convincing fashion it was fun to watch the less heralded team celebrate a big victory.
OTHER MEMORABLE MOMENTS
Channing Ward's Focus -- Ward, a Rivals250 defensive end, certainly didn't need to camp in the Mississippi State Camp in Starkville. With an expressionless face, he blazed through drills, showing fire, quickness and an incredible explosiveness. Later, he owned the one-on-ones.
Knapp Wins MVP At Ohio State NIKE Camp - Portage (Mich.) Central's Kyle Knapp is not the biggest offensive line prospect nor the most physically gifted, but his work ethic is second to none. And his MVP performance earned him several new offers, including one from Syracuse he accepted in July.
High Marks For Gabriel At B2G Elite Camp - Wide receiver Gabriel Marks plays with a certain toughness that is contagious and he also runs great routes, never gives up on the ball and pretty much never drops a pass. Marks may have reached his ceiling as far as ranking because of his slender frame, but he can ball and showed it at B2G.
Brandon Kublanow's Physicality - At the NUC South Ultimate 100, the 2013 offensive lineman from Marietta (Ga.) Walton dominated all of his opponents during one-on-ones. On one play in particular, he got tremendous leverage and forced his opponent into the ground face first, then held him down in the dirt until the whistle blew.
Washington Duo -- The Northwest has two monsters in Puyallup, Wash., standout Joshua Garnett and Lakewood (Wash.) Lakes' Zach Banner. Not only do they dominate on the field but they're close friends and they're considering playing college ball together. They're great off the field, too, standing together for more than 10 minutes at The Opening to do one interview.
Ondre Pipkins Invades Ohio - The Rivals250 defensive tackle from Kansas City (Mo.) Park Hill came in as somewhat of an unknown to many of other top prospects at the Ohio State NIKE Camp because he is from outside the region. As soon as one-on-ones began he made his presence known, and he never lost a rep against offensive linemen calling him out.
Maye Sets Tone At Under Armour - In his first two reps at the Tampa Under Armour Combine, Marcus Maye registered an interception. It was an indication of just how good of a day that the talented Florida commitment would have.
Lewison And Striker Double Team -- DT Sheldon Lewinson and DE/OLB Eric Striker combined to be a dominating and disruptive force up-front for the Armwood defense in their spring game. Neither could be slowed by Plant City and they immediately shut down a high-powered Plant City offense.
Mac Long Plays Receiver - At the Texas 7-on-7 state championships as Class 3A Edna High School was warming up, there was a strange sight. Houston offensive line commit Mac Long was wearing No. 80 and running routes. The 6-foot-4, 280-pound prospect certainly looked out of place but he did give his team a weapon in the red zone.
Cooper Emerges -- As a junior, Amari Cooper was extremely limited in his playing time so as the offseason began his name was buzzing but there was little to go on. After camp stops that included Florida State and Alabama he is a full-blown national name.
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