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Sunday, May 5, 2013
Lessons Learned: Chicago NFTC

By Chantel Jennings

ADDISON, Ill. -- The most recent stop on the 2013 Nike Football Training Camp schedule was just outside of Chicago, and The Windy City swept out plenty of talent on Sunday. The competition in the trenches and the depth at wide receiver was the best the 2013 cycle, making the day especially interesting all around.

RecruitingNation writer Chantel Jennings attended the camp. Here’s what she learned:

MVP Awards/The Opening
Quarterback Kyle Allen (Scottsdale, Ariz./Desert Mountain) already received an invite to the Elite 11 finals, but he capped off his Chicago weekend by also picking up the quarterback MVP of the Chicago NFTC. Joining him with MVP honors were Minnesota running back commit Jeff Jones (Minneapolis/Washburn), wide receiver J-Shun Harris (Fishers, Ind./Fishers), Michigan State offensive lineman commit Brian Allen (Hinsdale, Ill./Hinsdale Central), defensive lineman Anthony Love (Romeoville, Ill./Romeoville), linebacker Nyles Morgan (Crete, Ill./Crete-Monee) and defensive back Wilbert Jones (East St. Louis, Ill./East St. Louis). Wide receiver Terry McLaurin (Indianapolis/Cathedral) had the highest SPARQ rating of the day, 126.96. McLaurin clocked a 4.48 in the 40-yard dash, a 4.36 in the shuttle drill, threw the powerball 41 feet and came in with a 41.4 inch vertical leap.

On top of those accolades, seven players earned their coveted invites to The Opening, which will be held in Beaverton, Ore., at the Nike headquarters in July. Allen, Jones and Sykes picked up MVP honors as well as invites to The Opening. Also scoring those invites were Michigan State defensive lineman commit Enoch Smith Jr. (Chicago/Mount Carmel), Michigan wide receiver commit Drake Harris (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian), Iowa State wide receiver commit Allen Lazard (Urbandale, Iowa/Urbandale) and wide receiver Braxton Berrios (Raleigh, N.C./Leesville).

Drake Harris throwing out a Go Blue

— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) May 5, 2013
Jamarco Jones
Jamarco Jones announced a top four of Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Notre Dame on Sunday.
Top OL names top four
Jamarco Jones (Chicago/De La Salle Institute) wasn’t able to participate Sunday due to a shoulder injury and sling, but he showed up anyway with teammates Mikale Wilbon (Chicago/De La Salle Institute) and Shelby Spence (Chicago/De La Salle Institute). However, he did take advantage of the day by announcing his top four of Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Notre Dame (in no particular order). All four are close to home, which he said was a priority.

“Just trying to find the little details about each one that has an affect on the decision process,” Jones said.

Jones plans to revisit all four schools before announcing his commitment on June 27. The No. 8 offensive tackle said he’s now just hoping for a gut feeling regarding one of the schools on his next visits.

D-line domination
When one defensive lineman wins the MVP award and another gets an invite to The Opening, there’s evidently a lot of depth along that position. The coaches raved about the amount of competition there was in the trenches at the Chicago NFTC following the event.

In the 2014 class, Lawrence Marshall (Southfield, Mich./Southfield) and Ohio State commit Dylan Thompson (Lombard, Ill./Montini Catholic) appeared to be guys who were right there with Love and Smith. But the talent didn’t stop in the 2014 class. A few underclassmen showed out, including 2015 defensive linemen Terry Beckner Jr. (East St. Louis, Ill./East St. Louis), Andrew Stelter (Owatonna, Minn./Owatonna) and Jashon Cornell (St. Paul/Cretin-Durham Hall).

Wide receivers widely considered the best group
But the offensive players weren’t about to be shown up by the defense, and especially not skill players. The wide receivers were the best the NFTC staff had seen all season and the group provided entertainment not only during the one-on-one battles, but also during the simple drills and technique work. Ole Miss commit Sammie Epps (Greenwood, Miss./Greenwood) and Austin Roberts (Carmel, Ind./Carmel) brought on mismatches with defensive backs all day. Their size and strength -- which will likely place both as tight ends at the college level -- was too much for a lot of defensive backs. But then there were guys like T.V. Williams (McKinney, Tex./McKinney) and Cameron Polk (Fishers, Ind./Fishers) who burned DBs with their speed (though Williams, at 5-foot-8, gave the crowd a bit more to cheer about when he broke away from bigger defensive backs).

Young talent, bright futures
A few names came out from the woodwork from younger players making names for themselves on a big stage. In the 2015 class, running backs Alec Murphy (Nixa, Mo./Nixa) and Natereace Strong (East St. Louis, Ill./East St. Louis) impressed from the get go in drills. But the two most surprising young guns were in what was the deepest group of the camp -- wide receiver. Even more surprising, they were two 2016 prospects. Harry Ballard (Florissant, Mo./McCleur North) and Desmond Fitzpatrick (Farmington Hills, Mich./Harrison) held their own among the upperclassmen. Ballard -- a legitimate 6-foot-1, 179 pounds, doesn’t have any offers yet but is hearing from Florida State, Notre Dame, West Virginia and Iowa. Fitzpatrick, who grew up a Wolverines fan, has heard from Michigan and Indiana.