Rivals Camp Series St. Louis: Thoughts from the sideline
EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. – This is “Flyover Country,” and for many years it was ignored by the big, national camps until Rivals came to St. Louis and brought the top prospects together. This year, St. Louis was the final stop on the Rivals 3 Stripe Camp presented by adidas and Rivals adizero Combine tours, and the city and surrounding states brought out their best to compete. The Rivals analysts on-hand give their thoughts after wrapping up the regional series of the Rivals Camps.
ADAM GORNEY, National Recruiting Analyst
If there are 12 wide receivers in this class better than Notre Dame commit Jordan Johnson I would be surprised because he has been outstanding at numerous events this offseason and he shined again Sunday at the Rivals 3 Stripe Camp presented by adidas. The four-star is so smooth throughout his routes and he has such excellent hands, he’s the type of player who could go to South Bend, get on the field early and be really special in that offense. I love how focused he is, too, because he said one reason he picked Notre Dame was because he could be successful for life after football and that just adds a level of extra perspective that does not go unnoticed. He might not be the best receiver in the entire class but during rankings week a conversation will definitely be had about exactly where he should fit because nobody at Sunday’s camp could really contain him.
Illinois coach Lovie Smith has won nine games in three seasons with the Illini and has won only four conference games but if the administration there gives Smith some leeway and more time to rebuild things in Champaign, then there’s a good chance Illinois could become much more noteworthy in the Big Ten West. Here’s why: Recruiting. I was struck by how many outstanding prospects mentioned the Illini as serious contenders in their recruitment on Sunday, and not just giving the Illini a courtesy mention, either. Four-star defensive back Antonio Johnson and four-star receiver Teriyon Cooper were just two of many - and both of those players have the ability to step in right away and make an impact. A lot of top Missouri and Illinois prospects were talking about how hard the Illini staff is recruiting them and how much serious interest they have in the program. The next step is for Smith to start winning more games to gain some job security so a few of these top-notch guys could come in and make things better.
JOSH HELMHOLDT, Midwest Recruiting Analyst
There were conflicting emotions arriving at East St. Louis High School this weekend. On one hand, I was proud to see the Rivals 3 Stripe Camp held at one of the Midwest’s most storied high school programs. On the other, this is a program weighed down by tremendous loss. Just two weeks earlier, eighth-grader Jaylon McKenzie was shot and killed. He held early scholarship offers from Illinois and Missouri. He was supposed to be participating in this camp. East St. Louis is a city that, sadly, is accustomed to loss. And yet, McKenzie’s passing has seemed to uniquely affect the community. This weekend the community celebrated Jaylon’s life with a memorial service on Saturday. On Sunday, Denver Warren won the Gatorade MVP award in Jaylon’s honor, displaying character and sportsmanship. The need for healing continues, though. Please say a prayer for this community.
St. Louis is becoming the Wild Gateway to the West when it comes to recruiting. The flagship state universities of Missouri and Illinois are both within a three-hour drive from St. Louis, and both programs are doing an admirable job of making sure the city knows it is a priority in their recruiting efforts. But, the rest of the country is starting to clue in to the talent that St. Louis is producing. Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Texas have had success here in recent classes, and schools such as Florida State and Oregon are regularly recruiting the city. St. Louis has a feel similar to Chicago, though, where no school has been able to put up a wall around and consistently dominate recruiting in the city. Today’s camp showed the talent in the city is not diminishing any time soon, which means the number of schools regularly recruiting here will only increase.
At the end of the one-on-one sessions for both the line and skill positions we usually have a showcase of the top performers. I took a picture of five offensive linemen who earned spots in Sunday’s showcase in St. Louis, and bet I come back to it at some time in the future. It was an impressive group. At right tackle was 6-foot-7 Mitchell Walters. Next to him at guard was Chicago’s Jalen Grant. East St. Louis’ Javontez Spraggins was at center and Trinity Catholic’s Jalen St. John, the eventual MVP, was at left guard. Sophomore Teddy Prochazka, all 6-foot-9 of him, manned left tackle and completed the line. The defensive line group on Sunday was talented and featured a number of prospects who are national recruits. This was a competition that was dominated by the offense, though, on Sunday.
WOODY WOMMACK, Southeast Recruiting Analyst
Every week at these camps we're reminded how old we are as recruiting analysts when the offspring of former players participate. This week was no different as Ron Powlus III walked away with quarterback MVP honors after an impressive day. Powlus is of course the son of former Notre Dame quarterback and current Irish quarterback coach Ron Powlus Jr., one of the most hyped pre-Rivals recruits of the 1990s. It was cool to see Powlus III and his father celebrate the performance and the award after the event. Powlus is still waiting for a major breakthrough when it comes to his recruitment but assuming he continues to improve, he will have every opportunity to land at a Power Five program. Powlus was part of a deep quarterback group that included Missouri commit Brady Cook, as well as four-star Kentucky commit Beau Allen. Several other underclassmen quarterbacks also impressed, including class of 2022 prospect Nick Brown, who has the look of a future double-digit offer guy.
Despite another camp taking place in the city of Nashville on Sunday, a number of prospects made the trip west to St. Louis to show what they could do at Sunday's event. Headlining the caravan was three-star linebacker Davyn Curtis, who walked away with linebacker MVP honors for his performance. But several future three- and four-star players also did a good job of helping their stock, including class of 2021 tight end Hudson Wolfe, class of 2021 defensive linemen Javon Nelson and Zion Rucker. The willingness of Tennessee players to travel and compete has become a fixture of the Rivals Camp Series in recent years and Sunday's showing was another impressive outing for the Volunteer State's best.