Over 200 of the Midwest's top prospects from Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Missouri, Iowa and beyond converged in Champaign for Saturday's Nike Camp at the University of Illinois. Here's a look at the top performers in the eyes of the NFTC coaching staff.
QB, Chandler Whitmer, 6-0, 183, Downers Grove (Ill.) South
The quarterback position was the deepest it's been all tour-long in Champaign, but it was the local pocket passer Whitmer bound for Illinois that emerged as the group's MVP over a slew of other outstanding prospects. Whitmer was the day's most consistent passer, showing great accuracy, footwork and coachability. He doesn't have A-plus arm strength but more than makes up for it with quick decision-making and a hair-trigger release.
RB, Austin White, 6-0, 189, Livonia (Mich.) Stevenson
White is one of the more versatile 'backs seen on the 2009 NFTC tour to this point. Blessed with a solid 6-foot frame that should be able to easily carry 210-220 pounds in college, White is also light of foot and very smooth with the football in his hands. Is also one of the top pass-catching and route-running backs in the country as evidenced on Saturday and his overall game is a big reason why schools such as Michigan, LSU, Michigan State, Illinois, Iowa and several others have already offered.
WR, Kyle Prater, 6-5, 195, Hillside (Ill.) Proviso West
Prater came in very highly-regarded as one of the nation's top wideout prospects and arguably the top player in Illinois and did nothing to tarnish that image Saturday. Blessed with a long, graceful stride and tremendous frame, Prater was a tough cover all day long and caught everything cleanly with his hands. Did very well against press coverage and was a tough cover in the red area with his length. Not a great route-runner yet, but has all the tools to be a great weapon at the next level.
OL, Zach Fulton, 6-4, 304, Homewood (Ill.) Homewood-Flossmoor
Fulton, the younger brother of former Illinois OL Xavier Fulton, who was drafted in the 5th round this spring by Tampa Bay, showed a well-balanced skill set Saturday that could eventually lead him down the same road as his older sibling in the next 5-6 years. A hard-worker with a good frame, Fulton took strong pass sets in Champaign and was by farm the most solid overall big man of the group.
DL, Elijah Jones, 6-1 ½, 278, Indianapolis (Ind.) Warren Central
Warren Central has produced some standout prospects over the past few years including current Virginia Tech RB Darren Evans and Jones hopes to emerge as the next after a breakout performance Saturday. There may have been other DLs in the camp with better frame or physical gifts, but Jones' strong lower body and relentless motor made him the toughest draw in 1-on-1s and his consistent effort and coachability all day garnered him the top honor post-camp.
LB, James Morris, 6-1 ½, 211, Solon (Iowa)
Morris is what the Nike Camp is all about - a player who has already made a college commitment but still comes out to work on his game and get better from both coaching and competition against other top prospects. The Iowa-bound LB also raised his profile outside of state lines on Saturday, showing good feet and athleticism and the straight-line speed to run with most of the 'backs in the 1-on-1s. Coachable and intense, this Hawkeye Stater has a great future in front of him.
DB, Wayne Pettus, Melvindale (Mich.)
Pettus who came late and missed height and weight, made the most plays in 1-on-1s and was the hands down choice as MVP over some very talented prospects that also had good days. Pettus wouldn't pass most eyeball tests at about 5-7,
145 pounds, but his quickness, instinctual play and competitiveness helped him stand tall by day's end.