Positioned for success

BEAVERTON, Ore. -- Edward Paris of Mansfield Timberview High School in Arlington, Texas, chose to attend college at LSU over offers from just about every power program within 500 miles of his home.

Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Arkansas -- they all wanted Paris, along with far-flung Florida, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Nebraska and others.

No doubt, he's a superior athlete. Paris finished among the top 10 of more than 150 elite college prospects at The Opening on Monday in the SPARQ Combine.

He trains long hours with his high school team and competes tirelessly in 7-on-7 competition in the offseason.

But the 6-foot, 201-pound safety, No. 52 in the ESPN 300 and fourth nationally at his position, credits position-specific workouts as much as any factor for his rise.

"To become a better player, you have to train at multiple positions," Paris said after his Vapor Carbon squad won its first-round 7-on-7 game Tuesday at The Opening. "For me, that means linebacker, corner, safety. That's what makes me elite, I think. It's all preparation – the work I chose to put in outside of regular practice."

Paris feels right at home this week at Nike World Headquarters, the unofficial position-specific coaching capital of the game for six days of the Elite 11 finals and The Opening, which wraps on Wednesday.

At every turn here, former players and coaches sharpen their skills. Four or five coaches work with each of the 7-on-7 teams, and that's not to mention the ex-NFL-types like LeCharles Bentley, who shared wisdom with the kids early this week in Oregon.

Bentley runs a performance center for offensive linemen in Scottsdale, Ariz.

What began as a movement among quarterbacks, with gurus like George Whitfield and Steve Clarkson, has grown to encompass all positions.

Kids don't play two or three sports as often as they did a decade ago. Now, there's football season and football-training season.

"The quarterback position is a special one, because you have certain intangibles that go with it," said Matt James, a veteran coach who works for Nike and the Elite 11 program.

James also trains players in the SPARQ Combine drills.

"When you have players all over the field who love this game," he said, "and they know this is what they want to do -- and how hard it is to get a scholarship, even start on their varsity teams -- you're seeing a lot of specialized training."

Paris used specialized training, he said, to push himself to a level that appealed to schools like LSU and Texas. He trained with Clay Mack, a North Texas-based instructor who specializes in technique and position-specific skills.

Receiver K.D. Cannon of Mount Pleasant, Texas, and safety Jamal Adams (Lewisville, Texas/Hebron), both also in attendance at The Opening, work alongside Paris with Mack. Additionally, Paris has traveled to Houston to train with a private coach.

How does it help him?

Take Tuesday, for example, when he played 7-on-7 football at The Opening. Paris knew from position-specific work back home in Texas how to read the quarterback.

Because he trained at multiple positions, he was ready to cover every spot on the field. In this instance, he found himself isolated on the slot receiver.

"When I saw that drop step, I read one or two," Paris said. "I know when (the ball) is coming."

If it's fast, before the receiver can gain position, that's an easy breakup or interception.

The specialized training, he said, "got me here, pretty much," he said.

Others at the pre-college level rely primarily on instinct.

"Football and practices, it always came naturally to me," said Georgia-committed running back Nick Chubb of Cedartown, Ga., No. 14 in the ESPN 300.

Chubb said when he got to high school and watched tape of his runs, coached would ask where he learned his moves.

"I didn't learn those moves," Chubb said. "Nobody taught me that stuff."

Offensive guard Toa Lobendahn of La Habra, Calif., received specialized training from his father, Vince, a former high school coach who played in the Arena Football League and at Utah.

"A lot of it is intelligence," said the younger Lobendahn, who has committed to USC. "He's given me that insight of what to do."

In some ways, this kind of coaching has turned into big business.

"There's a marketplace now, and a little bit of a niche," James said. "Hopefully, as a coach, you're making a difference for that athlete. The knowledge that these coaches have, it normally only got spread at the professional level. But now as a ninth-grader, you may have an opportunity to learn, and it can make a huge difference."

Still, the Elite 11 program sets the standard. It joined forces with The Opening this year, bringing more advanced training to the quarterbacks. With better players around them, the QBs can operate more complex systems.

The Elite 11 coaches are eager to push the envelope. Their playbook includes 29 NFL-caliber concepts and approximately 200 plays.

"This is the most amazing experience you can have as a quarterback," said Elite 11 finalist and Texas A&M commit Kyle Allen of Scottsdale (Ariz.) Desert Mountain.

Allen believes the specialized training is more advanced for quarterbacks than any other position, as it should be.

"As a tight end, you don't need to read the whole field, read the coverage and know if safety or the corner's coming down," Allen said. "That goes with the mental side of being a quarterback. At other positions, it's more athletic ability."

Paris, who craves knowledge as a defensive player, might argue differently.

And attitudes like his serve as a driving force, James said. If the high school players want to train like professionals, they'll likely find a coach willing to help.

"Kids are hungry to learn position-specific things," James aid. "They're hungry to learn things that can make them better."