Friday, April 12, 2013
Five stories to watch: Atlanta NFTC
By Kipp Adams
Stop six of 13 for the NFTC will take place Saturday at Buford (Ga.) High School in the Northwest sector of metropolitan Atlanta, and this event will not be short on star power. More than 300 prospects representing 20 states are expected to come out and compete, over 90 of which claim offers from FBS programs. Here are five storylines to watch at the Atlanta NFTC.
Will Lorenzo Carter emerge as the top pass-rusher in the Southeast?
Based on his junior season alone, Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross) put his name is on the map as one of the best in the country off the edge. The 6-foot-6, 230-pound defensive end helped lead Norcross to its first state championship last fall, racking up 136 tackles, 45 tackles for losses and 18 sacks in Georgia’s highest classification. More than 30 programs have offered a scholarship to Carter, and he plans to showcase just why he is so coveted this weekend.
Watch List well-represented
Out of the 300 prospects selected to the ESPN Watch List for the 2014 class, 21 plan to be on the NFTC fields participating in the position drills and one-on-one competition.
Heading east from Alabama are linebackers Shaun Dion Hamilton (Montgomery, Ala./Carver) and Rashaan Evans (Auburn, Ala./Auburn), as well as running back Racean Thomas (Oxford, Ala./Oxford). Quarterback Brandon Dawkins (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian) is going coast to coast as he heads from California to compete in Georgia. Coming up north from the Sunshine State are quarterback D.J. Gillins (Jacksonville, Fla./Ribault), running back Johnathan Vickers (Tallahassee, Fla./North Florida Christian) and cornerback Duke Dawson (Cross City, Fla./Dixie County), a University of Florida commitment.
It should come as no surprise that Georgia is well represented when it comes to top-echelon talent, with quarterbacks Tyler Harris (Blackshear, Ga./Pierce County) and Clemson QB commitment Deshaun Watson (Gainesville, Ga./Gainesville), running backs Nick Chubb (Cedartown, Ga./Cedartown) and Stanley Williams (Monroe, Ga./George Walton Academy), offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. (Suwanee, Ga./Peachtree Ridge), Carter and Andrew Williams (McDonough, Ga./Eagles Landing Christian Academy) at defensive end, linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams (Ellenwood, Ga./Cedar Grove), cornerback Wesley Green (Lithonia, Ga./Martin Luther King) and safety Nick Glass (Atlanta/St. Pius X), a University of Georgia commitment.
Cornerback Jermaine Roberts (New Orleans/Saint Augustine) and defensive tackle Gerald Willis III (New Orleans/Edna Karr) will make the trek from New Orleans to compete, tight end Jeb Blazevich (Charlotte, N.C./Charlotte Christian) will travel over after taking an unofficial visit to Alabama on Friday, and Poona Ford (Hilton Head, S.C./Hilton Head) will compete in his third NFTC after participating in the Charlotte and Orlando events.
How many Peach State prospects will earn invitations to The Opening this year?
In year three of its existence, The Opening is well regarded as the premier summer event for prospects, with 150 of the top recruits from across the country earning invites to the Nike Headquarters event by impressing at either Nike SPARQ Combines or NFTC’s. Fourteen from Georgia participated in the first year and 14 took part in the second year of The Opening last summer. After impressing at Charlotte NFTC, linebacker Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County) is the first from Georgia to be invited to third edition of The Opening. With more than 200 of the 300-plus invitees at the Atlanta NFTC hailing from Georgia, chances are that several will be selected on Sunday. While any of the Watch List prospects stand a strong chance, keep an eye out for explosive athlete Stanton Truitt (Monroe, Ga./Monroe Area), wideout Shakenneth Williams (Macon, Ga./Rutlan), cornerback Kendarius Webster (Stockbridge, Ga./Stockbridge), and 2015 speedster Taj Griffin (Powder Springs, Ga./McEachern) as well.
Spotlight on quarterbacks
With the Elite 11 passing competition taking place at Buford on Friday, several of the signal callers will return the next day to showcase their arms at the NFTC. More than 40 quarterbacks are expected, including Washington State commitment Peyton Bender (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Cardinal Gibbons), Elijah Staley (Marietta, Ga./Wheeler), Cole Garvin (Tyrone, Ga./Sandy Creek), Devlin Hodges (Kimberly, Ala./Mortimer Jordan) and John Lovett (Hyattsville, Md./DeMatha Catholic).
Tyler Harris might have the best arm strength out of the quarterbacks expected, and Deshaun Watson is considered by many to be one of the top overall prospects in terms of natural ability. D.J. Gillins has a similar skill set to Watson, and Brandon Dawkins has everything you look for physically in a passer. Keep an eye on 2015 passer Tyler Queen (Acworth, Ga./North Cobb), a stocky rising junior who flashed a cannon for an arm in wet and windy conditions at the Charlotte NFTC.
Youth is served in the Peach State
Close to 20 rising juniors with FBS offers have registered to compete at the Atlanta NFTC, including running back Traveon Samuel (Phenix City, Ala./Central), athlete Terry Godwin (Hogansville, Ga./Callaway), Alabama defensive end commitment Mekhi Brown (Columbus, Ga./Carver), defensive end D’Andre Walker (Fairburn, Ga./Langston Hughes), defensive end Arden Key (Lithonia, Ga./Martin Luther King) and the aforementioned Queen and Griffin.
But what’s more impressive is that with fewer than 40 Class of 2016 prospects claiming offers, all four of those rising sophomores represented in Georgia will be on the field Saturday. Tight end Isaac Nauta (Buford, Ga./Buford), lineman Antwuan Jackson Jr. (Ellenwood, Ga./Cedar Grove) and cornerbacks Ronnie Blackmon (Tyrone, Ga./Sandy Creek) and Khalil Ladler (Stone Mountain, Ga./Stephenson) will be competing against competition one and two years older than them, but will more than likely hold their own.