WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Gentlemen start your engines.
While the Indianapolis 500 isn't this weekend there's another high profile event heading to the Hoosier State. Saturday at Purdue University is the next stop on the NIKE Training Camp Tour and there will be plenty of blazing fast performances even though things will be on the gridiron instead of the oval.
Detroit Country Day running back Jonas Gray has been waiting for this weekend for quite some time. The 5-foot-9, 206-pound blue-chip running back is ready to prove he's one of the nation's premiere running backs and a great performance this weekend in front of college coaches from all over the nation could go a long way toward helping prove that.
"This is the event I've been getting ready for months for," he said. "It's big, no it's huge. Where else do you get to go out there and compete against the best of the best and show them that belong at the top of the charts? I'm hoping that I can make the most out of all of the training and take that next step."
Gray already has quite a few national offers from teams like Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota, Purdue and quite a few others, plus he's ranked as one of the Rivals250 to watch for the class of 2008. But he has bigger goals in mind.
"This is place where I show everybody that I belong in that top 100," he said.
Saturday will also be a proving ground for quite a few other players moving up the charts.
Quarterbacks Zac Dysert of Ada, Ohio, and Domonick Britt of Trotwood (Ohio) Madison are coming off strong workouts at the recent Elite Skills Camp at the Cleveland Browns Stadium and both are hoping to have big NIKE Camps. Britt is holding offers from Cincinnati, West Virginia, Akron, Eastern Michigan and Kent. Dysert is blowing up with recent offers from Cincinnati, Akron, Ball State, Troy, Western Michigan, Central Michigan and others.
"It doesn't get any better than the NIKE Camp," Britt, who could also be recruited as an athlete, said. "This is where all the top players come to test themselves. I'm just glad I'm going to get a shot to show what I got."
Local stars Marqueis Gray of Indianapolis Ben Davis is one of Indiana's top recruits with heavy interest from Indiana and Purdue. The 6-foot-4, 213-pounder already has offers from Indiana and Purdue and for many national observers this will be their first chance to see Gray workout in person.
One of Iowa's best also highlights the quarterback spot. Keokuk, Iowa, dual-threat quarterback James Vandenberg has an early offer from Northern Illinois and is getting plenty of attention from schools all over the Midwest. After throwing for 2,655 yards this weekend's camp could really help his stock out. Junior-to-be Dustin Kiel of Columbus (Ind.) East is a top underclassmen to watch at the camp.
The stars at running back aren't limited to Gray from Detroit.
Jamal Womble from Sierra Vista (Ariz.) Buena is scheduled to be at the camp, and he's one of the West's top backs. At 5-foot-11, 215-pounds he's already racked up offers from Arizona State, Boston College, Nebraska, Oregon State and Purdue. He's using the weekend visit to Indiana to also take an unofficial visit to Purdue.
"I was planning on going to a Purdue camp, so it worked out," Womble, who rushed for 1,223 yards and 14 scores in 2006, said. "It'll be nice to get off the West Coast for a weekend and see what's out there. The NIKE camp just happened to come right after Purdue offered me. It all kind of fell in place."
Cortez Smith of Detroit Cass Tech will join Gray in representing Michigan at the running back spot. Smith is one of Detroit's biggest sleepers and after a strong junior season, he already has two scholarship offers from Indiana and Ball State. Some schools like him as a safety prospect, but he'd prefer to play running back.
The receivers and tight ends are highlighted by arguably the top prospect in Ohio – Cincinnati Elder tight end Kyle Rudolph. The 6-foot-7, 220-pounder turned down early national offers to commit to Notre Dame. He's hoping this weekend's camp could help cement his status as one of the nation's – if not the nation's – top tight end prospect.
Rudolph will be surrounded by plenty of talent at the position.
Bowling Green, Ky., receiver Ryan Wallace is expected to be there and with early offers from Ole Miss, Cincinnati, Oklahoma State and Purdue, he could have a breakout day. His teammate D.L. Moore is also getting plenty of attention and has offers from Purdue, Cincinnati and Western Kentucky. Roy Roundtree of Trotwood Madison continues to climb the charts. He recently picked up a Nebraska offer, and after a strong Elite Skills Camp workout, he is line for many more offers.
Illinois will be represented at the position by one of the state's best – Homewood Flossmoor standout Supo Sanni. The 6-foot-4, 178-pound receiver has one offer from Illinois, but is close on quite a few others. With a strong Saturday watch for those offers to multiply. As a junior, he had 35 receptions for 700 yards. He also had 85 tackles and six interceptions on defense.
Indiana's top prospect for the class of 2009 looks to be Ed Hazelett of Indianapolis Warren Central, and he is expected to work out with the receivers on Saturday. Warren Central has been home to some of the nation's top talent the past five years and Hazelett appears to be next in line.
Several of Illinois' finest highlights the offensive line stars at the camp.
There isn't a hotter player in Illinois than Graham Pocic of Lemont Township. With offers from Florida, Florida State, Illinois, Penn State, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Purdue, Northwestern and others, it'll be a great chance for Pocic to further lock in place his status as one of the nation's best. Brian Mulroe of Chicago Loyola Academy is also set to be there, and he is an early Northwestern pledge. Joe Semple of Mundelein, Ill., is another Illinois lineman to keep an eye on.
A few other talented lineman to look out for include: Kurt Wermers of Crown Point, Ind., Ethan Ruhland of Lake Orion, Mich., Rocko Khoury of Traverse City (Mich.) West and Mike Golic, a Notre Dame commitment that might show up with his younger brother.
Indiana will be well represented at the defensive line as Kawann Short of East Chicago (Ind.) Central, Nicolas Sliger of Hamilton (Ind.) Southeastern and Nelson Hurst of Plainfield, Ind., lead the way. Short made an early commitment to Purdue, Sliger is heading to Indiana and Hurst has an offer from Mississippi State on the table.
Adam Coleman from Bettendof, Iowa, is another name to watch. He has offers from Duke, Stanford and Northern Illinois. From Illinois look for Danny Farr of Evanston Township and Mike Johns from Oak Forest. Farr has an Illinois offer and Johns has offers from Air Force and Army.
Gray's teammate, Kenny Demens is probably the top linebacker heading into the camp. After a strong showing at a recent NIKE Combine, Demens has picked up recruiting steam and he has offers from Michigan State and Purdue.
Nate Palmer of Chicago Simeon is already heading to Illinois, but that's not stopping him from heading out on Saturday to showcase his skills. Jamiihr Williams of Trotwood Madison is another top linebacker to look for. He was great at the Elite Skills Camp on Tuesday and has seen the offers start to pour in.
The defensive back group doesn't look like it's going to be the deepest at the camp, but a few guys that will be showcased include: Detroit Northwestern cornerback Anthony Hollis, Bowling Green, Ky., standout Jared Carpenter, Detroit Southeastern corner Troy Tidwell and Muskegon, Mich., safety Bobby Miller.
Jeremy Crabtree is the national recruiting editor for Rivals.com He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.