South Florida talent doesn't disappoint

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- The Miami Nike Football Training Camp always is a highly competitive event, with most of the richly talented area's top prospects making their way to the University of Miami for SPARQ training, position drill work and competition in one-on-ones. Sunday did not disappoint; several players at each position had eye-catching performances.

Linebacker Jeff Luc (Port Saint Lucie, Fla./Treasure Coast) was considered by many of the observers, including ESPN scout Craig Haubert, to be the top prospect at the event. During drills and one-on-ones, Luc displayed excellent change of direction skills and showed he can be more than just a tackle-to-tackle linebacker, which is good considering most of the top programs in the country covet him.

Receiver Ivan McCartney (Miramar, Fla.) was the most valuable player (according to the NFTC coaching staff) among a loaded field of receivers (and tight ends for that matter) at the event. McCartney is the complete package; he has excellent size, good speed and is an advanced route-runner. McCartney has scholarship offers from all over the country.

McCartney also displayed humility after the camp.

"It felt like I did real good out there, but I can always do better," McCartney said. "I need to focus more on catching the football."

South Florida has a reputation for producing great defensive backs, and many were showcased Sunday. Cornerbacks Keion Payne (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Saint Thomas Aquinas) and Khambrel McGee (Miami/Northwestern) stood out in coverage, making outstanding plays during the one-on-one drills. Jaylen Watkins (Cape Coral, Fla./Cape Coral) also had an excellent day in coverage and showed why many of the nation's top programs are after him, as did McGee's teammate Jerome Thomas and MVP Stevie Green (Lauderdale Lakes, Fla./Boyd Anderson).

As loaded as the receivers and defensive backs were, the running backs gave them a run for their money in terms of overall talent. A pair of prospects from Saint Thomas Aquinas High in Fort Lauderdale were two of the best. Gio Bernard and James White both were excellent in the position work and in one-on-ones. Neither back is huge, but both look strong, run hard and play fast. Their showings in person Sunday back up what you see on film, which is two players who are clearly BCS-level prospects.

Defensive tackle Todd Chandler (Miami/Northwestern) was dominant during the one-on-one portion of the camp. He also showed his quickness and athleticism during position drills. Chandler, who is committed to Miami, won every one-on-one except one. Haubert said he was one of the prospects who really improved their stock at the camp, citing his ability to use his leverage and his hands to shed blockers.

Class of 2011 athlete Teddy Bridgewater (Miami/Northwestern) competed at the event with his teammates and showed why he will contend for top prospect in South Florida honors during the next recruiting cycle. He threw the ball well when he played quarterback, then switched to receiver and looked very skilled during one-on-one drills. Talking to some of Bridgewater's coaches at the event, the most common quote is "he can do anything," and if Sunday's showing is any indication, he can.

Another Class of 2011 standout, cornerback Nick Waisome (Groveland, Fla./South Lake), had a stellar performance. He recently made an unofficial visit to Central Florida.

Here's a look at some other eye-catchers at the various positions.

Running Backs

Jakhari Gore (Miami/Columbus) has been tearing up Dade County competition since his freshman season. He's very lean and skinny, but also extremely fast, sort of like a shorter version of Under Armour All-American Jarvis Giles from the 2009 class. Gore had no trouble getting open deep during the one-on-one and position drills.

Marcus Thompson (Lauderdale Lakes, Fla./Boyd Anderson) burst onto the radar last week at the Miami Nike Combine and on Sunday, the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder showed off some football skills to go with his considerable athleticism, so much so that many, including Haubert, felt that he was one of the top sleepers at the event.

Thompson could be better suited to play linebacker in college and most schools are recruiting him at that position. Still, his overall athletic display showed that he is a legitimate Division I prospect.

Brandon Bennett (Pembroke Pines, Fla./Charter) had a good combine last week and continued to impress on Sunday. He has good hands, good size and runs routes well. Several Division I schools are showing attention.

Fullback Cedrick Wilcox (Port Saint Lucie, Fla./Treasure Coast) showed why he's getting looks from Miami. His performance in position drills showed that he projects to have good blocking and receiving skills at the next level, something that is important for a player at his position.

Other running backs who stood out include Israel Linder (Miami/Northwestern), Cassius McDowell (Deerfield Beach, Fla.), Oregon commit Ethan Grant (Coconut Creek, Fla.) and Randall Evans (Miami/Palmetto).

Wide receivers

In addition to McCartney, there were multiple elite prospects at the event.

Miami commit Quinton Dunbar (Miami/Booker T. Washington) impressed. Dunbar is a bigger receiver with good speed, hands and athleticism. He was a tough matchup for many during the one-on-one portion of the camp; he has a great combination of speed, size and hands.

James Louis (Delray Beach, Fla./Atlantic) is a big, strong receiver with good hands. He's explosive and has good feet. Reese had some good moments during one-on-ones, but really stood out during position drill work, showing off his athleticism.

Willis Wright (Miami/Miami Springs) showed some of the ability on deep passes that allowed him to average 24 yards per reception last season for his high school team. It's easy to forget about Wright (and some of the other talented guys in the region) given the number of headlining receivers in the area in this class, but he's right there with the rest.

The slippery DeJoshua Johnson (Pahokee, Fla.) had some nice moments during one-on-one drills. The key for Johnson at the next level is going to be getting bigger and stronger. The guess here is that he will, as multiple colleges are in hot pursuit of the elusive playmaker.

Michaelee Harris (Miami/Northwestern) is quick, strong and has good hands. He didn't jump out as much as some of the other receivers during one-on-ones, but you can clearly see why he's one of the top pass catchers in Dade County when you watch him cut, catch and run in position drills.

One of the unknowns to emerge at the event and another of Haubert's sleepers was Denzel McCullum (Hollywood, Fla./McArthur). McCullum is a tall, wiry player who caught just about everything. He ran good routes and showed good hands in position drills and the one-on-ones.

Other standouts at receiver included Rashad Lawrence (Orlando, Fla./Olympia), a 6-2, 195-pound big-bodied receiver that performed well during one-on-one drills; Pat Harris (Port Saint Lucie, Fla./Treasure Coast); speedy Stevie Green (Lauderdale Lakes, Fla./Boyd Anderson) and Andre Gutierrez (Coral Gables, Fla.).

Delvin Jones (Miami, Fla./Palmetto) worked out at receiver on Sunday and showed off his outstanding athleticism. Jones' best position long-term is defensive end. If he wants to play offense, it's most likely tight end. He did have his moments at receiver, though.

Tight ends

Charles Fashaw (Miami/Northwestern) had a brilliant performance during the one-on-ones. He caught nearly everything that was thrown at him, ran good routes and was able to shake many of the defensive backs he went against during the drills to get open. Fashaw has been to several combines so far this recruiting cycle and this was by far his most impressive performance. He's still holding only one scholarship offer, from Boston College, but expect that to change quickly as schools scout him during the spring evaluation period.

"Even when I was going up against some of the better corners, I still caught the ball," Fashaw said.

A look to the class of Class of 2011 reveals that Nick O'Leary (Palm Beach, Fla./Dwyer) has an outstanding skill set. He has a knack for getting open by running his routes hard and crisp and has a great set of hands. He simply makes catches and impressed all of the coaches that worked with him during the event. He's not just a combine guy, either, as several high school coaches commented on his performance last season in games where he made similar plays with the pads on.

O'Leary's teammate, Gerald Christian, worked out at tight end and was one of the better athletes in the group. But Christian may be better-suited to play linebacker in college. It would have been great to have seen how he stacked up against Luc and the others.

Sleeper Kendall Montgomery (Miami/Pace) performed well, making at least one tough catch. The key for Montgomery is to get more comfortable with the ball in his hands (he has limited experience playing football) and that will come in time. The 6-6, 230-pounder should be on the radar of any college that has a need at the tight end position during this recruiting cycle, but not an immediate one because he will need development. Still, it's hard to ignore the upside.

Stacy Robinson (Orlando, Fla./Jones) says he's a receiver, but most of the observers at the camp felt that if the jumbo athlete is going to reach his full potential in college on offense, it will likely be as a tight end. That being said, he was not bad at receiver, making several tough catches during one-on-one drills and displaying good hands during position work.

Offensive line

Torrian Wilson (Miami/Northwestern) was the best prospect on the offensive line at the event. He has good feet, is athletic and has excellent upside. He had a good day in the one-on-ones, only getting beat once at tackle. It's not a surprise that he continues to be offered scholarships by programs from coast to coast, including Tennessee and Michigan most recently.

"Me and [Miami Booker T. Washington defensive end] Lynden Trail got after it pretty good out there," he said. "He got me one time, but I turned around and got him the next."

The camp MVP on the offensive line, Michael Vannucci from North Marion High in Citra, Fla., showed toughness and fire when competing in one-on-ones. Schools are just now starting to show attention, and he could end up being a nice pickup as a center or guard for a program.

Although he does not lack size, 6-7, 360-pound John Ragoo (Miami/Pace) has to develop better feet and work on his conditioning to reach his full potential. He should continue to improve; two or three years in a college program will change things.

Jose Jose (Miami/Booker T. Washington) had an issue with his cleats (he did not have any with him), but borrowed a pair to participate in a handful of one-on-one drills and was not beaten.


There are some in the state of Florida that feel that quarterback MVP C.J. Bennett (Tampa, Fla./Alonso) is a Chase Daniel clone. While comparing him to a Heisman Trophy candidate may be a bit much, he did impress on Sunday. Bennett has a good arm, his size just works against him. Still, performing well with the talent around him that he had goes a long way toward emerging.

Marshyl Rothman (Jupiter, Fla./Jupiter Christian), Turner Baty (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Saint Thomas Aquinas), Brandon Doughty (Coconut Creek, Fla./North Broward Prep), Trevor Siemian (Orlando, Fla./Olympia), Stephen Morris (Miami, Fla./Monsignor Pace) and Michael Strauss (Miami, Fla./Gulliver Prep) all had some good moments here and there.

Defensive line

Defensive ends Corey Lemonier (Hialeah, Fla.) and Lynden Trail (Miami/Booker T. Washington) are two different types of prospects at that position, but both stood out at the event. Lemonier is more physically developed. Build and strength-wise, he is ready to play in the first year at most schools. Some believe he's similar to Miami's Allen Bailey from the Class of 2007. He displayed good footwork in drills and has good quickness.

"All of the coaches taught me some new drills and some things I can work on to get better," he said. "I am glad that I came and learned. It felt real good to get out here and compete."

Trail is a taller, leaner prospect with a great frame to add weight. He is not an instant-impact guy, but with a year or two of development, could be a terror. The one-on-one drills against the offensive linemen were made for players like Trail.

"I am a speed rusher, so I did well in a situation like this," he said.

Defensive Backs

Travis Bell (Belle Glade, Fla./Glades Central) was described by one of the NFTC coaches as a player who "just takes half of the field away" at a free safety spot. Bell did not feel think he performed all that well during the event, but obviously the coaches and several observers disagreed.
Another Miami Northwestern defensive back, cornerback Khalid Marshall, had a solid day in coverage as did Richard Leonard (Miami/Killian). Leonard backs up his outstanding film with his play at the combine.

Cornerback Merrill Noel (Pahokee, Fla.) had some good moments, building on a dominant performance that he had at a recent 7-on-7 tournament as did Gilbert St. Louis (Plantation, Fla).


Class of 2011 standout Denzel Perryman (Coral Gables, Fla.) has been a two-year starter for his high school team and has posted tackle totals in triple digits both years. He could be one of the top prospects in Dade County for the next cycle and showed why at the camp Sunday. He can move and is very physically impressive.

Another Class of 2011 prospect, Willie Mitchell (Deltona, Fla./Pine Ridge), is one to watch during the next cycle. The 6-foot, 210-pounder has good speed and has seen a lot of snaps during his high school career to date.

Other linebackers who had some good moments included Darius Davis (Miami/Dr. Krop), Ralph Williams (Miami/Gulliver Prep) and Rashad Gaitor (Miami/Northwestern).

In the crowd

Under Armour All-Americans Lamarcus Joyner (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Saint Thomas Aquinas) and Chris Dunkley (Royal Palm Beach, Fla.) both were at the event watching, as was Florida commit Matt Elam (Palm Beach, Fla./Dwyer). None of the three participated in the drills.

JC Shurburtt covers recruiting for ESPN.com. He can be reached at jcsespn@aol.com.