Illinois NFTC turns into an arms race

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- It didn't take long to see the talented quarterbacks at Saturday's NFTC were a special group. As a matter of fact, many of the NFTC personnel will tell you it was the best group of gunslingers in one location so far this year. Quarterbacks from at least six different states ventured to the land of the Illini to show their wares. Several of these signal-callers have already committed, while others are starting to narrow their choices. Even some of those on the cusp of getting offers took huge strides Saturday.

Most impressive quarterbacks

Chandler Whitmer (Downers Grove, Ill./South), who was the top name going into the camp, did not disappoint anyone, even though the overall quarterback talent was very keen. At 6-1, he's not the tallest QB prospect, but Whitmer has a rocket arm and is especially impressive on the move. Although he can use some work on his drops, he can throw the post corner and takeoff with ease. Whitmer is currently committed to the University of Illinois for 2010.

Robert Bolden (Orchard Lakes, Mich./St. Mary's) was much more skilled than expected coming into the NFTC. He is a tall, impressive athlete who catches your eye in warmups with his quick release and velocity. He consistently put the ball on the money -- both when dropping back and when sprinting out. Like the other quarterbacks, he'll need some work on his drops and setup, but he can truly throw the football. Bolden has yet to commit to any school but already has offers from Penn State, Michigan State and Louisville.

University of Michigan commit Devin Gardner (Inkster, Mich.) is a carbon copy of Bolden in terms of build. He is a tall and intimidating signal-caller who delivers the football to the right spot as the receiver is making his break. He needs to polish his technical skills but is quick and athletic with a strong arm.

Joe Boisture (Saline, Mich.) is one of those guys who grow on you the more you watch him perform. He is a tall and lanky quarterback and was the most natural in the pocket. This future Boston College Eagle is smooth and confident. On Saturday, he proved he has the ability to throw the football vertically with accuracy.

The man who came from nowhere to impress everyone was Cameron Meredith (Westchester, Ill./St. Joseph). Along the physical lines of Bolden and Gardner, but not as tall or filled out, Meredith might have had the most over-the-top release of any quarterback. He is a raw talent who puts the football on the money and has great timing on his release.

Skilled standouts

Wide receiver Kyle Prater (Hillside, Ill./Proviso West) looks the part of a big-timer. He is on the brink of being one of the top skilled athletes in the country. Prater is smooth and fluid in his routes and absolutely towers over the secondary -- standing 6-5. Prater can separate from defensive backs with his quickness and speed. He snags the football out of the air with his long arms and big, soft hands. It was no surprise that Prater made several acrobatic, reach-back receptions during the camp.

Corey Cooper (Maywood, Ill./Proviso East) is what coaches look for in a defensive back. He has great hips and went through agility drills with precision. He possesses quick feet and proved he can speed turn without any loss of balance or positioning on the receiver. Cooper breaks instantly on the pass and can get up in the air to make the interception or knock down the football. Cooper seemed comfortable in his future home at the University of Illinois.

Trench warfare

There is no doubt that the guy you want to send off the bus first is William Gholston (Detroit/Southeastern). This budding superstar was the most physically impressive man in Champaign on Saturday. He proved to have speed off the edge when lining up at defensive end and often beat the offensive tackle before the opponent could kick back and anchor down.

The defensive tackle duo of Bruce Gaston (Chicago/St. Rita) and Jonathan Hankins (Detroit/Southeastern) were powerful and hard to pass-block. Gaston uses his hands well, effectively using the push-and-pull technique. But he needs to be more fluid in sliding his hips to the outside to clear the blocker. Hankins is a true power-rusher who is difficult to stalemate. He has a great motor but needs to expand his repertoire of pass-rush techniques.

Bill Conley is a recruiting coordinator for ESPN Scouts Inc. He previously worked at Ohio State for 17 years as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator.