Sunday, March 10, 2013
Lessons Learned: Los Angeles NFTC
By Erik McKinney and Blair Angulo
LOS ANGELES -- As the first stop on the 2013 Nike Football Training Camp tour, Los Angeles provided a good look at hundreds of standouts in the West region. There were individual standouts at every position as well as several players who put themselves on the map with impressive performances. But the lasting impressions from the camp centered around two schools with talent to spare, a missed opportunity, a school making an out-of-state statement and Southern California’s deficiency and strength -- again -- at key positions.
Serra and Bosco lead the way
After a big play during Sunday’s camp, it was more than likely that when you searched the roster to see who was responsible, that player would be from one of two schools: Serra (Gardena, Calif.) or St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.). Combined, there were 18 players from those two schools, including linebacker MVP Dwight Williams, offensive line MVP Damien Mama, and three of the five recipients of invitations to The Opening (Williams, Mama, and cornerback Naijiel Hale). And these two programs won’t be finished with the 2014 class, either, as 2015 quarterback Josh Rosen (St. John Bosco), 2015 linebacker John Houston (Serra) and 2016 wide receiver Brandon Burton (Serra) are all players to watch moving forward.
|Dwight Williams was the linebacker MVP and received an Opening invite at the Los Angeles NFTC.|
Standouts missed due to injury
There was enough talent on hand so that the absence of ESPN Watch List members Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra) and Jalen Brown (Phoenix/Mountain Pointe) didn't necessarily lessen the event's prestige, but it did leave room for many what-if questions. Jackson showed up to the field with a large group of Serra teammates, including Williams, but had a walking boot strapped to his right foot after suffering an injury while playing for his high school's basketball team. He would have been the clear favorite to take home the defensive back MVP honors. The same goes for Brown, who showed up with his right arm in a sling after injuring his shoulder last week in the New Level Athletics 7-on-7 West Regional in Las Vegas. Spectators missed an opportunity to see two of the best prospects on the West Coast go head-to-head.
UCLA staying strong in Arizona
Brett Hundley didn’t just lead UCLA to a nine-win season in 2013. The former Arizona prep quarterback’s success has the Bruins poised to make a big statement in Arizona, just in time for perhaps the state’s greatest collection of recruits. In the 2013 class, UCLA grabbed safety Priest Willis and offensive lineman Kenny Lacy. And again, the Bruins are generating plenty of buzz among prospects, including wide receiver Dionte Sykes (Chandler, Ariz./Chandler), who has UCLA firmly in his top two. 2015 wide receiver Christian Kirk (Scottsdale, Ariz./Saguaro) is also high on the Bruins, though he will take his time with the process.
Running on empty
The running back group was strong at the very top, with position MVP Royce Freeman (Imperial, Calif./Imperial) as well as Demario Richard (Palmdale, Calif./Palmdale). But beyond that, there were few impact players at the position during this camp. Of course, without pads and any sampling of a running game, it's often difficult for tailbacks to stand out at these events. However, the showing on Sunday makes this position in the area all the more interest to follow during spring ball and into the fall, as Southern California tailbacks break out every year with big seasons. There just hasn't yet been a hint of where it will come from.
Another strong defensive back group
Defensive back was arguably the deepest position on the West Coast in the 2013 recruiting cycle, with safeties Su'a Cravens (USC), Priest Willis (UCLA), Tahaan Goodman (UCLA) and Hatari Byrd (Oklahoma), as well as cornerbacks Chris Hawkins (USC), Johnny Johnson (UCLA), Dashon Hunt (Oregon State) and L.J. Moore (Oklahoma) leading the charge. If what we saw at the NFTC is any indication, there is just as much talent in this class. Denzel Fisher (Compton, Calif./Centennial) earned MVP honors, but there were a handful of others worthy of the honor. Hale, Jonathan Lockett (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei), Jaleel Wadood (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) and 2015 prospect Iman Marshall (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) stood out.