CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - The NIKE Camp held in Chapel Hill, N.C. had its share of big names, a few surprise attendees and was arguably the deepest of its kind all year long when it comes to D1A talent. The headliner was Fayetteville (N.C.) Jack Britt offensive tackle Xavier Nixon but it was another lineman, 2010 freak Robert Crisp from Chapel Hill High School who stole the show.
Nixon, ranked as the No. 27 player overall in the country, looked impressive with excellent footwork in drills and a few dominating sets in the one-on-ones. He looks closer to 6-foot-4 or 6-foot-5 than his listed 6-foot-6, but he has long arms, very quick feet and he uses his arms very well. He has the upside to be an undersized left tackle a la D'Brickashaw Ferguson if he continues to develop at a high level.
However, it was Crisp, all 6-foot-8 and 293 pounds of him, who took home the OL MVP award. The sophomore tackle has five-star potential and is one of the top underclassmen in the country. His footwork in drills was amazing for such a big, young player and he was dominant in the one-on-ones against a very strong group of defensive linemen.
Beyond Crisp and Nixon, the offensive line group wasn't deep but there were some impressive players. Washington (D.C.) St. John's College High offensive guard Peter White looked in good shape, moved his feet well and did excellent in one-on-ones. White had some very good battles in the one-on-ones with some of the better defensive linemen. Ahoskie (N.C.) Hertford County offensive guard Will Simmons was arguably the most physical lineman on the day. On his first rep, he butted heads with his opponent drawing blood from both but never backed down after a quick bandaging. Charlotte (N.C.) Harding University offensive guard Markus Lawrence was also impressive and guard Jeff Harris from Kernersville (N.C.) East Forsyth is undersized but was one of the best offensive linemen when it came to technique.
The defensive line was much deeper and absolutely loaded with talent. Florence (S.C.) West Florence defensive end Malliciah Goodman (Clemson commit) took home the MVP honors while players like Forestville, Md. end DeOnte Arnett, Hampton (Va.) Phoebus defensive tackle Dominik Davenport (West Virginia commit), Chapel Hill, N.C. defensive tackle Jared McAdoo (UNC commit), Williamsburg (Va.) Lafayette end Will Hill and Ashburn (Va.) Stone Bridge tackle David Wang (Virginia Tech commit) were also very impressive.
Defensive line coach Marty Spalding raved about this group.
"We went to Miami and that's supposed to be the best pool of high school talent in the country but that d-line group was weak," he said. "They didn't play very hard. North Florida was fabulous, Southern Cal was good, TCU was good but LSU - another mecca - was very unmotivated. So today I told this group I wasn't going to be rah, rah. They took what we told them happened at LSU and used it as motivation. We challenged them and they responded. We had 50 reps against the o-line and won about 40 of them."
A few players stood out to Spalding.
"Wang who is going to Virginia Tech did well. Davenport was the best defensive tackle here. He's just small but he's a born leader. Goodman was our best defensive lineman. The best thing going for him is his future, he's going to be a really special player. I've been doing this for 15 years and I rank players 1-10, with 10 the best football players all-around. I haven't had a 10 in 3-4 years and he's right there. I've had some 10s turn out to be awesome players - Andre Carter and Haloti Ngata. He's not quite as good as they were as far as high school football players, but he could be in college."
Two 2010 players to watch out for are Chesapeake (Va.) Oscar Smith defensive tackle Evan Hailes and Lynchburg (Va.) Brookville School Zack McCray.
Beyond the trenches, the best battles were in the wide receiver-defensive back one-on-ones. The wideouts were led by MVP Alshon Jeffrey from St. Matthews (S.C.) Calhoun County who made a surprise appearance. Jeffrey made everything look effortless against some very good defensive backs. He was joined by Lynchburg (Va.) Brookville School stud Logan Thomas, Bennettsville (S.C.) Marlboro County wideout Kinsman Thomas, Durham (N.C.) Southern Durham speedster Kendrick Wiggins, Chesapeake (Va.) Great Bridge four-star Logan Heastie (West Virginia commitment), Anderson (S.C.) T.L. Hanna wideout Quintin Payton and others. Athlete Kendall Gregory-McGhee made the trip all the way from Aurora (Colo.) Cherokee Trail and has excellent size. McGhee worked out with the wideouts but is likely a tight end or possibly a defensive end in college.
Logan Thomas only took a few reps in the one-on-ones due to a fractured pinkie but was too big and smooth for the defensive backs. Kinsman Thomas made some nice catches, Wiggins was quick and ran very good routes and Payton made some nice catches. Heastie showed his quickness and route-running. A couple of sleepers to remember include Charlotte (N.C.) Victory Christian little man Tehvyn Brantley and 2010 wideout Anthony Creecy from Durham (N.C.) Southern Durham. Brantley was one of the toughest players to cover and Creecy showed off some nice double moves.
The defensive backs were equally impressive led by two Rivals100 prospects. Charlotte (N.C.) Independence safety Devonte Holloman made a surprise appearance and showed a strong initial bump and the ability to run with smaller wideouts. Fellow safety Damario Jeffery from Columbia, S.C. showed the same ability and used his length in the one-on-ones. While most project Holloman as a linebacker at the next level, Jeffery was clearly the bigger player so both could end up closer to the line of scrimmage in college.
Others who stood out include Roebuck (S.C.) Dorman cornerback Taylor Sowell (UNC commitment), Greenwood, S.C. safety D.J. Swearinger, Anderson (S.C.) Westside corner Lex Butler and MVP Walt Canty, a teammate of Sowell's at Dorman. UNC commitment D.J. Bunn from Smithfield (N.C.) Smithfield Selma was on hand but didn't work out due to an injured hamstring.
Defensive backs coach Michael Fletcher has his own standouts to mention.
"Overall it was a great group; it was really hard to pick a guy today. Believe it or not there were six or seven guys that could have gotten the MVP award but Canty won it because he carried over the stuff from SPARQ position drills to the one-on-ones. He's a safety type of kid and usually those guys get lost in the shuffle with the corners, but he held his own in one-on-ones. He is disciplined and has a high football IQ.
"There were a lot of good kids from this camp. Torrance Hunt, Chris Payne (South Carolina commit) and Collin Bing stood out. It was a solid group. Hunt's explosion is great. He was probably the fastest kid at camp. Payne is another kid that is very explosive; he's a great football player. Finally, Bing really stuck out. He has great feet, great hips and is one of those guys that is kind of raw, but you put him on the football field and he seems to get better."
Hunt, from Durham (N.C.) Durham is small at 5-foot-7 and 153 pounds but is a legit 4.4 kid and has a 41-inch vertical. Payne teams with Jeffery in the secondary at Columbia High School in South Carolina and showed excellent instincts while Bing is a 6-foot-0 sleeper from Augusta (Ga.) Glenn Hills. Other sleepers include safety J.T. Edwards from Rocky Mount (Va.) Franklin County, cornerback James Hopper from Fayetteville (N.C.) Seventy-First, safety Michael White from Lithonia (Ga.) Miller Grove and corner Breon Thornton from Charlotte (N.C.) Independence.
There weren't an abundance of top quarterbacks at the event and the clear MVP winner was Hampton (Va,) Phoebus standout Tajh Boyd. Boyd, a West Virginia commitment, showed good accuracy throughout the day, a strong arm and excellent feet. He was fluid in his drops all day. Boyd will also be at next weekend's Elite 11 workout at Penn State. 2010 stud Phillip Sims was also impressive. The Chesapeake (Va.) Oscar Smith product has a cannon of an arm, showed nice touch and has good size. Although he's likely a defensive back at the next level, Glen Allen (Va.) Deep Run athlete Antone Exum worked out at quarterback and threw some nice passes a well.
Finally, the linebacker group was much deeper than the running backs but there was talent on both sides. The clear MVP at linebacker was late addition Justin Dixon. The Smithfield (N.C.) Smithfield Selma star is built like a truck and is very explosive. He has good hips and can run with most anyone in coverage. He is already committed to North Carolina. Norfolk (Va.) Lake Taylor 'backer Mike Privott, Dinwiddie, Va. standout Bradley Johnson and High Point (N.C.) High Point Central's Ricky Dowdy (NC State commit) also stood out.
Linebackers coach Chris Gizzi had his take on things and a few other names that impressed.
"We had a very solid group. Our MVP Dixon had a phenomenal camp. The guy worked his butt off. He's a big body kid and he's got a lot of physical gifts, and I think he is learning never to be satisfied. I think that's a big thing for a kid of his talent level. Another kid who had a great camp was Dowdy. He can run, he's athletic and he'll be a phenomenal college player. Adrian Cavanaugh is quick as a cat, a true weakside linebacker and high-effort guy.
"A surprise kid and a kid I want to make mention of was a kid named Scott Ooley. He was 5-foot-10, very unassuming, 210 pounds, but he was probably the best playmaker we had. He was a leadership kind of guy, a real hustle kind of guy. If he was 6-foot-3, everyone would want him, everyone in the country. Another kid that caught our eye was Travis Williams. He might be a lean safety type. He had a real all-around camp, was real happy with the way he played."
Cavanaugh hails from Ashland (Va.) Patrick Henry and also plays running back. Ooley is from Hoschton (Ga.) Mill Creek and Williams is a 2010 prospect from Norfolk (Va.) Lake Taylor.
Finally, the running backs were led by Shelby, N.C. athlete Larry Raper (Clemson commitment) who showed very quick feet and an excellent burst. Others who stood out were MVP Cody Getz from Buford, Ga., Mount Airy, N.C. athlete Michael Dobson and Virginia Beach (Va.) Landstown tailback Sterlin Phifer. Running backs coach Jake Campbell gave his take on the position as well as a few other names.
"We had a pretty good group of running backs," he said. "The first guy that kind of caught our eye was Raper. He definitely came in looking like he could be the real deal. One guy that caught our attention early on was Getz. A little quick guy, but just a lightning bug out there doing everything about as fast as you could possibly imagine. We started watching out for him."
"A couple of other guys did pretty well. Joshua Snead showed some real good explosion, some power, right off the bat in some of our drills. Kind of the final evaluation is always that one-on-one receiving drill against the linebackers, and you get a really good feel for people's athletic ability. I think that's where Getz and Chris Kennedy kind of separated themselves as far as being just incredible athletes."
Snead is a 2010 prospect from Four Oaks (N.C.) South Johnston while Kennedy hails from Greensboro (N.C.) Northwest Guilford.