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Friday, April 5, 2013
Five stories to watch: Dallas NFTC

By Damon Sayles

The Nike Football Training Camp series will continue outside of Dallas on Sunday. Athletes will trek to Allen, Texas, the home of one of the most impressive high school stadiums in the country. Allen Eagles Stadium, a $60-million facility, opened last year and featured nearly 22,000 fans watching Texas powers Allen and Southlake Carroll clash.

Here are five storylines to watch on Sunday.

Talented DBs aplenty

It’s been said on multiple occasions that the 2014 class may be one of the strongest in years at producing big-time defensive backs in the region. The battle for defensive back MVP has the potential of being extremely competitive with players such as Laurence Jones (Monroe, La./Neville), Jamal Adams (Lewisville, Texas/Hebron), Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen), Steven Parker (Jenks, Okla./Jenks) and Arrion Springs (San Antonio/Roosevelt) expected to be in attendance. Chris Hardeman (Houston/Alief Taylor) has committed to LSU, while Dylan Sumner-Gardner (Mesquite, Texas/West Mesquite) and Armani Watts (Forney, Texas/North Forney) have pledged to Texas A&M. Deionte Thompson (Orange, Texas/West Orange-Stark), a 2015 prospect, has verbally committed to Alabama. All of the DBs will have their shots in one-on-one drills against equally talented ESPN Watch List receivers such as Malachi Dupre (River Ridge, La./John Curtis), K.D. Cannon (Mount Pleasant, Texas/Mount Pleasant) and Texas commit Lorenzo Joe (Abilene, Texas/Cooper).

All eyes on the lineman challenge

While the receiver-defensive back one-on-one drills may get top billing at the NFTC, few drills can get as intense as the lineman challenge. Two bulls who could match up are offensive lineman Demetrius Knox (Fort Worth, Texas/All Saints) and defensive end Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas/Coppell). Both are ESPN Watch List players, and both are expected to compete for lineman MVP honors. Knox, at 6-foot-4 and 295 pounds, and Thomas, at 6-3 and 265, define the old adage “immovable object vs. unstoppable force.”

Seven future Longhorns -- and possibly more

Sunday’s NFTC will feature seven players who have verbally committed to Texas – Joe, Knox, defensive tackle Trey Lealaimatafao (San Antonio/Warren), quarterback Jerrod Heard (Denton, Texas/Guyer), running back Daniel Gresham (Fort Worth, Texas/All Saints), athlete Roderick Bernard (Houston/Sharpstown) and 2015 cornerback Jalen Campbell (Corpus Christi, Texas/Flour Bluff). If the Longhorn commits do some player recruiting while there, that number could rise. Among the high targets for Texas are Thomas, Brown, Adams, Cannon and 2015 defensive end/linebacker hybrid Anthony Wheeler (Dallas/Skyline).

Talent north of the border

While the state of Texas will dominate the roster, competitors from the Sooner State are expected to make some noise as well. Twenty-six players from Oklahoma are expected to attend, including Parker, quarterback Justice Hansen (Edmond, Okla./Santa Fe), receiver Jeffery Mead (Tulsa, Okla./Union) and the Broken Arrow, Okla., combo of linebacker Gyasi Akem and running back -- and Oklahoma State commitment -- Devon Thomas. Look for the players in Oklahoma to not only compete but play motivated in an effort to gain respect from their peers south of the Red River.

The potential rise of the unknown

Players like Ohio State linebacker signee Mike Mitchell (Plano, Texas/Prestonwood Christian) and Oregon defensive end signee Torrodney Prevot (Houston/Alief Taylor) already were established names in college football recruiting prior to last year’s Dallas NFTC. However, players like cornerback Anthony Canady (Mesquite, Texas/Mesquite), athlete Colin Spencer (Dallas/Woodrow Wilson), running back Bryan Driskell (McKinney, Texas/Boyd) and offensive lineman Brad North (Allen, Texas/Allen) used the NFTC as a resume-builder and went from virtual unknowns to high-commodity targets. North ultimately committed to Northwestern, Spencer to Kansas, Canady to Rice and Driskell to Air Force.