CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- With roughly 50 players saying they had at least one offer, the first stop on the 2011 Nike Football Training Camp tour was a good one. A deep group of wide receivers led the way but there were plenty of prospects to watch at the University of Miami on Sunday.
Give them the damn ball
The receivers were a strong group and while the roster had some notable names on it, it was actually an up-and-coming receiver prospect who grabbed the MVP award. When we first saw Herb Waters (Homestead, Fla./Homestead) about two months ago he had no offers, but has since picked up offers from Louisville and UCF and that list will likely continue to grow. He tested well and that speed translates to the football field. A rangy athlete, Waters displayed the speed to be able to separate from defenders on vertical routes and the ball skills to make the catch. While a few other receivers could have made a case for MVP, Waters, who we feel could also potentially fit well at safety, had a good outing and certainly deserved the recognition.
The No. 1 quarterback in the 2011 class, Jeff Driskel, should be excited that 2012 WR LaTroy Pittman (Citra, Fla./North Marion) will be following him to Florida. Pittman is thickly built with long arms and good hands. He displayed his ability to gain position against tight coverage and continued to show that he can make plays when the ball his thrown his way. Pittman's high school teammate, Sean Price, was also in attendance and had a good day. A receiving tight end, Price is working to add bulk and looks noticeably thicker than he did on his junior film. He still needs to add more size, but he has good hands, concentration, toughness and if can maintain speed as he continues to develop his frame he could be a real productive target at the college level in the right system.
Angelo Jean-Louis (Wellington, Fla./Palm Beach) is a prospect who has impressed on film and we were looking forward to seeing him. He did drop some balls in drills when we had our eyes on him, but overall he looked good and displayed some of the strong attributes we saw on tape. He has a wiry build and good acceleration. In drills he flashed his ability as a route runner and impressed with how smooth and quick he can be coming out of his breaks. He has the vertical speed, but also shows the ability to win in transition.
Jamie Wilson (Belle Glade, Fla./Glades Central) had a good day and displayed good hands and the ability to consistently catch the ball away from his frame. An interesting prospect to keep an eye on is WR/TE Samad Hinds (Miami, Fla./Monsignor Edward Pace), who just started playing football as a junior. At 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, he is a tall, lean and long-limbed prospect. He needs to add bulk, but the former basketball player said he will not play round-ball next year and will focus on football, which should help not only his development as a player but also aid him in adding size. He is a big target who made some good grabs and while he had no offers at this point, he did display some tools that should intrigue some recruiters.
Backs to the future
The running backs were led by a very talented and exciting prospect who still has some time until he needs to find a pen to sign a national letter of intent. Despite not having to worry about national signing day until 2014, Sony Michel (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage) is already creating a buzz. The group MVP, Michel continues to impress every time we see him and Sunday was no different. He is quick and fluid with a compact and thick build. In pursuit drills, he displayed his speed by effortlessly gliding down the field. It looked like he wasn't even trying very hard, but he still remained tough to catch. Maybe the most impressive part though was his performance during a blocking drill. Watching Michel impress with the ball in his hands is not shocking, but the talented underclassman also displayed excellent ability as a blocker. He was tough and competitive when taking on linebackers. He got his hands on rushers quickly, kept a good low base and his quick feet which make him dangerous as a runner also served him well as a blocker as he was able to stay in front of and quickly cut-off and wash blockers when they tried to come inside on him. Standing there on the Hurricanes practice field and watching Michel block, I quickly thought of ex-Miami and former Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins back Clinton Portis. Michel flashed the ability to not only be a playmaker but also well-rounded which adds to his "Wow" factor.
The rising sophomore was not the only underclassmen back to grab some attention as Greg Bryant (Delray Beach, Fla./American Heritage) also stood out. A physically impressive and thickly built player, the 2013 prospect looked like a physical, between-the-tackles runner with enough speed and quickness to also create the big play. He is a player we look forward to studying more closely down the line.
A 2012 back who impressed was Miami commit Randy "Duke" Johnson (Miami, Fla./Norland). Having seen Johnson in action before, the question is not his talent level but what his best position he should play. We feel his best fit at the next level may be as a corner, but the quick Johnson can be exciting with the ball in hands and displayed that in drills Sunday. The decision between offense and defense is not a clear one and the playmaker may be able to help the Hurricanes in time in all three phases of the game. Another back who stood out was Roshard Burney (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.), who is a bigger back who displayed a good size-to-speed ratio. We look forward to studying him more closely on film.
There was some good talent among the front seven prospects. One who passed the eye test and saw a little action at both defensive end and linebacker was Tyriq McCord (Tampa, Fla./Jefferson). With a long and muscular frame, he is a bit of a linebacker/end 'tweener, but we feel his best fit is with his hand down and he spent the majority of the camp working with the defensive line. During 1-on-1's he displayed his upside as a pass rusher. He can challenge tackles with his speed, but also used his hands well utilizing that long reach and being violent with his weapons to knock blockers hands down. He even displayed his athleticism during a bust. On one snap he jumped offsides and as his momentum took him forward he got into a handstand for a beat or two before landing back down in his stance. You would like to see him hold his water, but it was a bit comical and impressive to see how he handled it.
Pedro Sibiea (Homestead, Fla./Homestead) is a defensive lineman who fits a bit into that swing guy mold at this point. In 1-on-1's he was able to mix things up and be active with his hands and one rep pulled off a good spin move. Dwayne Hoilett (Vero Beach, Fla.) took home the MVP for the D-Line and he seems to show up at any event he can compete in. He is a good athlete and a long-limbed prospect who needs add bulk to his 6-2 frame. He does have good burst off the ball and uses his reach to keep blockers off of him. He has an offer from Southern Miss and felt a handful of schools were close to offering.
The linebackers were led by Keith Brown (Miami, Fla./Norland), who took home the MVP for the linebackers. The Miami commit has good size and moves well. He displaying good agility and balance as well the ability to quickly close on the ball. On film he displayed ability to be disruptive when blitzing and showed that in drills with the ability to use his weapons to knock blockers aside as a pass rusher. Brown established himself as the most well-rounded linebacker at the camp and has the tools to be a three-down player in time at the college level. The son of a former Miami Hurricanes linebacker James Burgess Jr. (Homestead, Fla./Homestead) seems to just play the game well. He is not the fastest kid, but he displays a good feel for coverage and can open up and get good depth on his drops as well as be physical.
The front line
The offensive line was not the biggest group, but they competed well in 1-on-1s. Inuka Rhaheed (Fort Pierce, Fla./Westwood) caught the eye with his unseasonably Christmas socks which sported Santa Claus on them, but two-way lineman, who has an offer from Buffalo, also did well in 1-on-1s. He delivers a good punch and has the feet to mirror rushers, but does need to sit back a little more as he can bend at the waist, get a little top heavy and leave himself exposed. Ereck Flowers (Miami, Fla./Norland) is a tackle prospect with good size and moved his feet well but does need to improve his flexibility and play with more bend. Rhaheed's teammate Zerrie Patterson did a good job at a line camp we saw him at a few weeks ago and showed flashes again at the NFTC. He is a big kid who needs to watch how he develops his frame, but he displayed a good initial punch, flashed the ability to shadow rushers well for a big kid and displays some upside as a guard prospect.
A good looking strong safety prospect was Marcus Maye (Melbourne, Fla./Holy Trinity Episcopal) who passes the eye test. A move to outside linebacker could be in his future, but he displayed good speed and range for a bigger safety. We look forward to studying Maye on film and seeing how he uses his size in a game setting. The safety does have interest from several schools and a source close to him told us that things are still pretty open for him on the recruiting trail. Virginia Tech commit Donaldven Manning (Miami, Fla/Central) was in attendance and looks like a great fit for the Hokies. He may lack a bit in size and top-end speed, but the kid is a quick and savvy player who is able to mask some of his weakness and make plays.
Craig Haubert is the recruiting coordinator for ESPN Recruiting and has more than a decade of coaching experience. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.