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Wednesday, July 24, 2013
At LSU camp, elite get defined

By Gary Laney

BATON ROUGE, La. -- ESPN 300 quarterback Brandon Harris (Bossier City, La./Parkway) told anyone who would listen that he would not attend last week's LSU July Elite camp.

But at the beginning of the week, there he was, exchanging chest bumps with ESPN 300 wide receiver Trey Quinn (Lake Charles, La./Barbe) after the pair hooked up for a touchdown pass, then firing strikes to ESPN 300 athlete -- and LSU receiver target -- Speedy Noil (New Orleans/Karr).

Brandon Harris
Quarterback Brandon Harris committed to LSU shortly after the team's July camp.
Three days later, Harris committed to LSU in an expected move after other schools on his list (Ohio State, Auburn) took commitments from other quarterbacks. Even if Harris' mind wasn't made up when he camped on that Monday morning, the assembled talent may have made it for him.

He was one of six Louisiana players out of the approximately 700 campers that day who were offensive players among the top 48 prospects in the ESPN 300. Throw in two more Louisiana defensive players in that top 48, plus a smattering of other in-state ESPN 300 prospects and several out-of-staters, and LSU's camp was like an elite prospect summit.

And most of the talent was home grown.

"Being from Louisiana and knowing the talent we have here, I don't want to be on another team having to play against it," Harris said.

That ability to bring so much talent to one spot over four days in July has become an invaluable recruiting tool for LSU. Not only does it allow the Tigers to bring in quality players and let already committed prospects -- current commits like Edward Paris, Chris Hardeman and Jacory Washington were there -- work their own recruiting magic, but it also lets LSU separate the players from the wannabes.

Featuring players from Louisiana (highest rate, per capita, of NFL players) and talent-rich states Texas and Florida, it was difficult to separate many of the top-ranked prospects from some unknowns. So many passed the eye test. So many turned in eye-popping 40-yard-dash times.

What the camp setting does is it allows coaches to evaluate a player's competitive nature and his willingness to take on difficult assignments.

A case in point was ESPN 300 cornerback Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen). Long considered one of the best players in his class, Brown had little to prove this year, but still seemed driven. A year ago, Trey Quinn had gone from productive high school player to elite prospect by dominating LSU's camp, including sessions where he beat Brown's coverage on numerous occasions.

Tony Brown
Tony Brown's fiery competitiveness impressed during 1-on-1 matchups at LSU's camp.
Brown was obviously out for redemption on Monday. When Quinn lined up to take a rep, Brown would shoo other cornerbacks away for the chance to match up with the elite receiver. Quinn, a competitor in his own right, wouldn't back down, and the pair locked into some of the best 1-on-1 battles of camp.

After the last rep, when Quinn ran a perfect route but had a completion knocked out of his hands on a great play by Brown, LSU recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson turned to coaches and said, "Now, that's great offense AND great defense."

That's the stuff coaches might not be able to see on film, and it's what makes Brown an elite football player.

It's in settings like this camp where players can show that competitive edge. Defensive back Santos Ramirez (Shreveport, La./Evangel Christian) earned all-state honors last season but was unknown as a prospect until he came to LSU. He measured at 6-foot-2, ran a 4.4 40-yard dash, then excelled in coverage while not shying away from the best receivers there.

The same story can be told of relative unknown Freddie Booth-Lloyd (Cocoa, Fla./Cocoa), who took on competition and excelled in one-and-one drills after running a 5.1 40-yard dash at over 300 pounds.

In the process, both Ramirez and Booth-Lloyd took steps toward becoming elite prospects, just like Quinn did the year before.

It's proof that the LSU Elite camp isn't just a collection of established talent. It's where some players get defined as elite.