COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Close to 300 prospects attended one of the larger Nike Football Training Camps of the year Friday. While some marquee names were late scratches, it still included a handful of top prospects from Ohio and the greater Midwest competing hard at the Ohio State practice facilities.
The theme of the camp may have been the standout performances by some of the region's ESPN 150 Watch List prospects currently slipping under the national radar due to their lack of ideal positional measurables. Watch List prospects like quarterback Jon Budmayr (Woodstock, Ill./Marian Central Catholic) and tight end Tyler Eifert (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Dwenger) fit their evaluations as great pure football players Friday worthy of ESPN 150 consideration.
Jon Budmayr (6-1, 200), Quarterback
(Woodstock, Ill./Marian Central Catholic)
We thought the ESPN 150 Watch List quarterback resembled a high school version of Missouri QB Chase Daniel on film, and his play in Columbus backed it up. The crafty gunslinger lacks prototypical size (he is probably closer to 6-feet) and may not be in the same category as Daniel in terms of athleticism, but his poise, moxie and ability to distribute the ball quickly and accurately all over the field Friday are very similar.
He lacks an over-the-top release but his delivery was quick, consistent and the ball jumped off his hand all day with good RPMs. We thought he showed good arm strength on film and backed it up leading receivers downfield with good air under his deep ball. Budmayr impressed us strictly as a passer versus an imaginary rush; the exciting part is his ability to create and improvise with his feet are equally impressive.
He could be sliding under the national radar due to his marginal height, but we feel it can easily be masked in a spread system at the next level. Budmayr showed Friday he deserves mention in the same breath as some of the top dual-threat QBs in this class.
Tyler Eifert (6-5, 215), Tight end
(Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Dwenger)
Reminiscent of Indianapolis Colts TE Dallas Clark, Eifert may be falling under the national radar because he is a tweener currently lacking the great bulk to project well as an in-line tight end and the speed to create consistent separation as a college wide receiver.
Tweener or not, this kid is a darn athletic tight end with a great set of hands and a knack for getting open. He was an extremely difficult matchup for some of the camp's better linebackers during one-on-one passing drills and just showed a knack for creating separation and making the difficult grab. The most exciting part about this kid is his potential for physical development. He looked a shade under his listed height of 6-foot-5 but has a long frame with broad shoulders. He should see his 220 pounds quickly become 250 once he attacks a fulltime college weight training program. He might not possess prototypical TE measurables but could use that to his favor if a team decides to use him creatively as an H-back.
Zach Boren (6-1, 240), Linebacker/Fullback
Boren is what he is -- a tough, blue-collar, unflashy football player with good instincts and the ability to just get it done between the white lines. Those attributes combined with his marginal lateral mobility are why we project he may end up at fullback at OSU. Friday he also showed why linebacker is not out of the question.
Boren passed the eyeball test physically with his compact frame layered with good bulk and was equally impressive in drills we thought might exploit some weaknesses. More of a tackle-to-tackle, downhill run stopper, Boren showed grit and deceptive athleticism, jamming and running with some of the faster backs in one-on-one passing drills and breaking down well in open-field tackling stations. There were no Buckeyes coaches on hand to witness his camp MVP performance at linebacker, but it showed why he might not be limited to strictly fullback in college.
Looked good on the hoof
Isaiah Bell (6-2, 200), Safety
Bud Golden (6-2, 200), Running back
Under Armour All-American safety Bell could have passed for a weakside linebacker and actually looked bigger than his listed measurables. When you look at his rangy, long-limbed frame, particularly the length of his arms, it's not out of the realm of possibilities that this kid has another inch or two of growth left. He looked far from frail though and was defined with good muscle tone and lean bulk. We joked with the recruited safety that linebacker could be in his future at Michigan, and he smiled like he had heard that comment before. It's hard not to see a potential 6-foot-3, 225-pound frame in two or three years, and he did look better at times playing the ball in front of him Friday as opposed to backpedalling.
In person, Golden fit the great running back measurables we saw on film. He is a tall, well-built kid with the body structure to hold an additional 15-20 pounds of lean bulk to complement his downhill, north-south running style. His frame really impresses you without pads on. While lean, you can see his naturally strong, well-defined upper-body with the broad shoulders to eventually carry more weight and the load as a college running back. We liked Golden's functional strength and physicality fighting off the press from linebackers during the day as well; hands were equally impressive.
Jonathan Newsome (6-3, 215), Defensive end
It's hard to say Newsome's stock went down because he graded out fairly close to where we had him off our film reviews (76). We were looking forward to getting a good look at the Ohio State offer at defensive end, but unfortunately, he decided to compete with the outside linebackers most of the day and was not really impressive.
While he showed a good motor and a great frame for continued physical development, he struggled moving laterally in space and looked a bit stiff trying to mirror running backs in open-field drills.
If the Ohio native decides to commit to the Buckeyes, we feel it will be strictly as a defensive end, and he will need a lot of work in the OSU weight room to physically develop.
Jordan Stepp (6-0, 285), Defensive tackle
Stepp won the defense line MVP award on Friday with the same hardnosed, "smack you in the mouth" style we saw on his junior film. He may lack ideal height at just 6-feet, and his body structure is not ideal, but Stepp utilized his stout frame to his advantage all day getting under blockers' pads and jolting them upright with great explosiveness. His quickness off the ball for a player with his girth was impressive, and he battled hard in the trenches. Could have been a "Stock Up" candidate but we had Stepp graded at a solid 77 before the camp, and he justified the ranking and his under-the-radar status.
A look to the future
William Gholston (6-7, 230), Defensive end
Former OSU linebacker Vernon Gholston may have left for the NFL, but there is another Gholston waiting in the wings. William Gholston, cousin of the New York Jets' No. 6 overall pick in the 2008 draft, will only be a junior next fall but is a similarly freakish athlete.
At 6-foot-7, 230 pounds, he is still a bit awkward in some of his movements and struggles with leverage but showed good get-off, quickness and above average hand usage beating defenders off the edge on the pass-rush. He didn't dominate physically turning the shoulder or attacking half the body but was aggressive and finished well versus older competition. Gholston clearly has the upside to develop into a top 2010 defensive prospect.
Billy Tucker is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. and has close to a decade of coaching experience at the college and high school level. Tucker has served as a recruiting coordinator for two nationally ranked Division II colleges. Most recently, he was the associate head coach and defensive coordinator for Merrimack College, which advanced to the Sweet 16 in the 2006 NCAA Division II playoffs.
ESPN television is currently in production on a special that will profile the top prospects at the Nike and Elite 11 training camps. The information used in this article was gathered as part of the television production process.