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May 8, 2006

Ohio State NIKE Camp: Big offers coming

COLUMBUS, Ohio Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech defensive tackle Joseph Barksdale obviously had a good day at the Ohio State NIKE Camp, but just how good became evident on the Saturday morning after the event. Barksdale, who dominated one-on-ones and showed great feet for a 322-pounder, received two offers he's been waiting for. Both Southern Cal and Texas offered the big man, who said he's going to take his time and all five of his official visits.

Chicago running back Robert Hughes has been rumored to be favoring Illinois and Notre Dame, but he mentioned that his dream school is Miami and an offer from the Hurricanes might send him packing down south. Hughes and good friend Martez Wilson could be a package deal. If that were to be the case, Illinois would be the team to beat because of academic restrictions at Notre Dame. Wilson just received an offer from Southern Cal the night before the combine so the Trojans could also be in the mix.

Michigan defensive back Ronald Johnson was at Ohio State on Friday, seemingly for an unofficial visit as he didn't dress for the NIKE Camp. He was talking to Jim Tressel for a good while during the camp, but the feeling is still that Michigan is the team to beat.

Big-time quarterback Keith Nichol didn't make the camp because of his junior prom. The Michigan State commitment already worked out for the Elite 11 folks out in Los Angeles so he didn't feel the need to go to NIKE. The camp could have used him though as few quarterbacks impressed.

Wisconsin running back John Clay will be receiving more offers very soon after passing the eyeball test and testing well at the camp. The 222-pound running back hasn't been as heavily recruited as expected, but many colleges were talking about him after the event. Fellow Wisconsin native Josh Oglesby, a commitment to the Badgers, did not make the trip but Clay said that Oglesby texts him often about joining him in Madison and the thought of running behind the monster offensive tackle is intriguing.

Iowa defensive back/running back Jordan Bernstine helped himself as much as anyone at the camp. The state of Iowa is supposed to be weak again this year when it comes to talent, but Bernstine's sub 4.4-second 40-yard dash and his 40-inch plus vertical jump put him higher on the list of Big Ten schools.

Ohio State commitment Nate Oliver reportedly ran in the 4.8-second range for his 40-yard dash which has to concern the Buckeye coaches. Oliver doesn't have a broad frame so he'd be an undersized linebacker if he had to take that route. He'll have to work on his speed quite a bit to make an early impact at strong safety, his intended position.

Ohio quarterback Clay Belton has impressive size (size 17 feet and a 6-foot-5 frame) but his footwork and mechanics need work. Many schools going to the camp to see him seemed to be expecting more.

Indianapolis (Ind.) Warren Central has a lot of good football players. Running back Darren Evans is the guy most have heard about and he showed quick feet, but defensive back Jerimy Finch could be the best prospect from the high school. He looked smooth in coverage and is very aggressive. He also has a very imposing physical presence at corner.

Warren Central also has a good wide receiver in Adrien Robinson and the only freshman at the event was 2009 stud Ed Hazelett. Hazelett ran a sub 5.0-second 40-yard dash as a 14-year old. Defensive end Jeff Boyd was also impressive in one-on-one drills.

Plenty of programs had coaches proudly showing their colors including Ohio State (obviously), Michigan, Penn State, Notre Dame, Texas, Southern Cal, Illinois, Michigan State, Boston College, Northwestern, North Carolina, UConn, Vanderbilt and many others. Head coaches in attendance included Tressel, Randy Walker and Randy Edsall. Almost every MAC school was heavily represented as well.

The quarterback position was very thin at the event. There were many athletic signal-callers but no one stood out above the rest. Michigan's DeMarcus Grady and Justin Siller, Nebraska's Phillip Bates and Pennsylvania's Cody Catalina all showed excellent agility, but each had some sort of mechanical issue. Michigan quarterback Steven Threet looked great physically but his footwork lacked and he dropped his arm a bit on his release.

Keep an eye on 2008 running back Darius Ashley. The Cincinnati (Ohio) St. Xavier prospect showed excellent quickness and great hands in drills and will be one of the better backs in the state next year.

Ohio wide receivers Chris Givens and Josh Herron were amongst the best receivers at the event. Both have an offer from Cincinnati and some MAC offers and might have earned themselves serious consideration from mid level Big East and Big Ten schools.

Defensive end Carson Byrd from Trotwood (Ohio) Trotwood-Madison is slightly undersized but has an excellent burst off the football and might have earned a few more offers with his play. Fellow defensive end Marquis Singleton from Decatur (Ill.) Saint Teresa might have been the biggest surprise of the camp overall. He has a set of the longest arms we've seen this year at camps and surprising power for a lighter rush end. Grades might be the only thing holding him back from quite a few Big Ten offers.

It seems that many schools are looking for top defensive tackles this year and a few of the biggies might have found their guy in Hillard (Ohio) Darby stud Antonio Jeremiah. He currently has offers from Kentucky, Louisville, Boston College, West Virginia and others, but Ohio State, Michigan and Southern Cal coaches were all watching him with interest.

Boston College, Michigan, Michigan State and Duke were among the teams that seem interested in offering Hamilton, Ohio defensive end Charlie Hatcher. Hatcher will most likely leave the state unless he can earn an Ohio State offer this summer at camp. Hatcher is technically very sound, uses his arms very well to keep offensive linemen off balance and has a great motor. He was the most polished defensive end at the camp.

Michigan defensive tackle Ryan Wheat is solid as a rock physically with a unique body type. Wheat has very thick legs but they are also squat and he has a long torso. This gives him a lot of power off the snap but if he gets high, he's susceptible to being knocked off balance. When he stays low though, he's a load to handle. Michigan State is currently his only offer.

Cuyahoga Falls (Ohio) Walsh Jesuit offensive guard Nick Schepis was the best offensive lineman at the event. Schepis has a compact build and is very powerful. When he gets his arms into defensive linemen, he usually drives them back. Chicago (Ill.) Hubbard offensive guard Keith Otis has a lot of potential but needs to drop some weight before he'll see big offers.

There was quite a buzz surrounding 2008 cornerback Boubacar Cissko, a teammate of Barksdale, during drills and one-on-ones amongst college coaches. The 5-foot-9, 175-pounder isn't huge, but he has great hips and feet and is a shutdown corner who still has an inch or two left to grow.

For complete coverage of the NIKE Training Camps, log on to StudentSportsFootball.com.



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