LOS ANGELES -- College teams all around the nation host a variety of camps every summer, but few create as much buzz as USC's Rising Senior camp. The Trojans kicked off their two-day camp this week and the talent on the field was proof that this is a pretty big camp among recruits.
Although some expected big-name prospects were absent, the camp was still pretty star-studded. Some of the prospects proved why they are considered among the nation's best, others showed they deserve more attention and a few made it clear the 2010 class is going to be strong.
Just getting started
Naturally there were plenty of future Trojans -- such as quarterback Matt Barkley (Santa Ana, Calif. / Mater Dei) and offensive tackle Kevin Graf (Agoura, Calif.) -- competing. They got a chance to work out on the practice field on which they will spend the next few years.
Barkley came from a morning workout at his high school and put in a full day's work at the camp. The Under Armour All-American looked sharp, getting to throw to fellow USC commit Alshon Jeffrey (Saint Matthews, S.C./Calhoun County). The pair hooked up several times throughout the day but had a nice connection in a team drill in the afternoon session; Barkley hit Jeffrey on a corner route that the monster receiver took in for a touchdown.
Also in attendance was running back/athlete Patrick Hall (Ventura, Calif. / Saint Bonaventure). Hall could play on either side of the ball in college. He showed that versatility at the camp, taking reps on both offense and defense. He may end up on defense in the USC secondary, but with former teammate Darrell Scott now on to Colorado, Hall should have a big year in more of a fulltime role as the running back for his high school team.
East Coast imports
USC is unquestionably one of the programs that can recruit nationally and the lure of the program drew two big-time wide receiver recruits to the West Coast. One was Jeffrey, who looks like a nice fit. Speed is not his forte, but he is a tall target with soft hands and good focus. He displayed throughout the day the ability to reach out with his long arms and snag in passes. He fits the mold of former USC receivers like Dwayne Jarrett -- a big, physical receiver who can cause problems in the red zone and make tough grabs in traffic.
The other big receiver in attendance was Marlon Brown (Memphis, Tenn./Harding Academy). Now when we say big, we mean that figuratively and literally. The undecided Tennessee native is a highly sought-after recruit, but he is also a good-looking prospect on the hoof. With a tall, muscular frame, Brown looked the part. He dropped some balls along the way, but all-in-all he had a good day, making some nice grabs. Like Jeffrey, Brown showed he can use his big frame to outmuscle defenders and make some tough grabs.
Both Under Armour All-Americans stood out both in appearance and play and probably got USC fans hoping for a day when those two line up together to make a formidable pair.
The real deal
Another highly-regarded prospect in attendance was defensive end Devon Kennard (Phoenix/Desert Vista). The Arizona native easily proved why he is one of the premier defensive linemen in the country. During one-on-one drills, he looked sharp getting off the ball quickly. He gave a talented offensive line group fits by using quickness and his hands. His savvy as a pass-rusher stood out on film to us and his performance helped confirm he is one of the elite pass-rushers in this class; he combines ability with technique.
Deep group of big guys
One of the most talented groups as far as depth at the camp was the offensive linemen. Along with Graf, other top line prospects in attendance included Utah natives John Martinez (Salt Lake City, Utah / Cottonwood) and Xavier Su'a Filo (Pleasant Grove, Utah / Timpview). All three had good showings throughout the day.
Graf looked very good on the hoof, carrying his weight well and looking in excellent shape for his upcoming season. He had some huge battles in the one-on-ones with Kennard. When the two paired up, all eyes were glued on them. In one exchange, Kennard shot off the ball and beat Graf with a quick inside move, but showing a competitive nature and an ability to learn quickly, Graf lined up the next snap and caught Kennard when he tried to beat him with the same move. Graf used his hands well and his physicality was no surprise, he just needs to keep working to play low.
Martinez looked very good throughout the day. He is not very big, but he moves his feet very well. If he can add weight on his frame and keep his quickness, he could be an excellent college lineman. Su'a Filo lined up often at tackle and had some trouble early on, but looked much sharper in the afternoon practices displaying the ability to adjust and learn. We feel the better fit for him will be at guard at the college level.
The offensive line had two pleasant surprises. One was Stan Hasiak (Kapolei, Hawaii) who had a good day lining up at guard. He had good size and displayed the ability in one-on-ones to get hands on and mirror rushers. He, Martinez and Su'a Filo hung around each other all day and looked like an impressive group.
The other intriguing line prospect was Taylor Lewan (Scottsdale, Ariz. / Chaparral). While on the he was light side, Lewan was a good-looking kid physically and has the frame to bulk up to a more ideal weight. He struggled at times against some tough competition but displayed some good upside.
The defense also had plenty of talented players, making for an exciting day of one-on-ones. A big name in attendance was Arizona native Craig Roh (Scottsdale, Ariz. / Chaparral). With more than 30 offers, he showed why many programs are after him. He has a lean, muscular frame and will need to keep adding size, but he displayed good quickness off the ball and a very active motor.
Sione Tuihalamaka (Gardena, Calif. / Gardena) was in attendance and had some good moments displaying his ability to get to the shoulder of blockers, throw a rip and power his way to the quarterback. Defensive tackle Justin Brown (Compton, Calif.) came on in the afternoon session. Although he was undersized, he flashed some good quickness and the ability to get skinny and work past blockers.
The secondary had some players who stood out. One was USC commit T.J. McDonald (Fresno, Calif. / Edison) at safety. He is physically impressive and makes it hard to believe he is only going into his senior year of high school. A muscular kid with long arms, it was interesting to see him battle with the equally big Jeffrey and Brown.
Byron Moore (Calif. / Narbonne), who committed to cross-town rival UCLA, also had a good day. We have Moore projected as a wide receiver, and he is a good one, but he showed in coverage a switch to defensive back or at least athlete may be coming.
A pleasant surprise at the camp was a fairly unknown defensive end named Nik Abele (Irvine, Calif.). A tall, lean prospect, Abele was impressive showing great fire as a pass-rusher. Against some good linemen he showed the ability to battle his way to the quarterback. With his long arms, he was tough to stop with his swim move and bull rush. Although it was all just in shorts and T-shirts, if Abele's performance was any indicator, we will be hearing much more about him over the next few months.
Never to early to start talking about 2010 kids, is it? One who had a nice outing was Dillon Baxter (San Diego/Mission Bay) at running back. He looked sharp with the ball in his hands and displayed nice versatility catching a bunch of passes.
Another impressive underclassman was Chris Martin (Oakland, Calif. / Bishop O'Dowd). Tall, lean and rangy, he is a bit of an outside linebacker / defensive end 'tweener. He displayed very nice upside and seemed to come out of the blue to wow onlookers with a couple of nice rushes in one-on-one drills. He's definitely a kid to keep an eye next year.
Also in attendance was quarterback Nick Montana (Concord, Calif. / De La Salle), son of Hall of Fame signal-caller Joe Montana.