PHILADELPHIA -- The freshmen at the Philadelphia IMG seven-on-seven camp were easy to spot. Small. Slow. Mostly underdeveloped physically and struggling against the upperclassmen competitors.
Except for one.
Quarterback David Sills looked more like a college freshman than a high school freshman, even though he is the latter. The quarterback from Elkton (Md.) Eastern Christian Academy led his team, Flash Training, to a championship and earned most valuable player honors for the event. Still, he wasn't completely pleased, often criticizing his play throughout the tournament.
Admittedly, Sills can be a bit tough on himself.
"I guess you could say that," the 6-foot-3, 185-pound quarterback said. "I guess I rate myself a little harder than other people."
Sills, who committed to Southern California as a 13-year-old, said if he hadn't been so fond of the Trojans he might have considered Florida State and Georgia, but that's never been an issue.
"I haven't really thought about it because USC was always the school for me," he said.
Still, coaches who regularly visit his talent-rich school come calling -- to no avail.
"They kind of tease me because I'm so young," Sills said. "They say, 'Hey, you're going to end up coming to our school.' They really don't talk about anything serious. I think they know I'm 100 percent USC."
Several schools have visited Eastern Christian during the spring evaluation period. Southern California is scheduled to be there Monday. Trojans coaches were one of the first to see Sills' potential, thanks to his work with quarterback coach Steve Clarkson.
Part of the teaching includes footwork. What was once incorrectly labeled "happy feet" is now known as a positive attribute. Sills will often reset his feet several times as he goes through his progressions. It's a trait rarely seen in underclassmen, and the best example of it can be seen when quarterback Peyton Manning plays.
"I think footwork is a big part of my game," he said. "I've been working on my footwork because what you do with your feet affects what you do with your throwing motion. If this toe's not pointing the right way, then your elbow is going to go high, and I don't want my elbow to go high because you won't have strength on the ball."
Sills' father, David Sills IV, said his son works on speed and agility training every day.
"He's doing phenomenal," said the elder Sills, who takes his son to California to work with Clarkson several times a year. "Clarkson handles all the mechanics. Every time he goes out there, he always tweaks it a little bit. The thing I see the most growth in is leadership, decision-making, all of those types of things."
Despite all the hard work, burnout isn't a factor. David says he wakes up every day ready to fine-tune his game. Perhaps he's not crazy about weight training, but put a football in his hand and he's in heaven.
"I love the game," he said. "I love playing. I love seven-on-sevens. I love just competing every day and working hard. I don't think I'll ever get burned out because I love competing, love competing. I love playing with other guys and going at it as hard as we can because competing is what I love to do."
Sills said he's never woken up one day in his life and not wanted to get on the football field. He's also not hesitant to recruit, although his type of recruiting is a bit different than other quarterbacks. Instead of trying to secure commitments from prospects, Sills is trying to secure scholarship offers from Southern Cal for his teammates.
"I'm trying to get two receivers, a running back and my brother, Jahmere, offered because I know they're USC-caliber players," Sills said.
That could be tough since USC is limited on scholarships because of penalties levied by the NCAA. Still, Sills is trying, along with teammate Kenny Bigelow, the ESPN 150 defensive tackle who committed to USC in November.
"I always keep the names in their ears," Bigelow said of mentioning his teammates to the Trojans coaches. "I'm always like, 'Hey, did you check out this guy? He just performed well here, did this there.' I always keep them informed on them."
Bigelow said the most likely of his teammates to receive a scholarship is offensive lineman Khaliel Rodgers, who recently visited USC's campus but didn't come away with a scholarship offer.
Rodgers, who happened to be wearing a USC jacket this weekend, is realistic. He knows the Trojans don't have much need for offensive linemen. He's more focused on scholarship offers from UCLA, Ohio State and West Virginia. He likes UCLA's campus and its coaching staff, thinks West Virginia is a great program with great coaches, and has been impressed by coaches at Ohio State, where he will visit next month.
Still, he knows Sills is working USC's coaches.
"He's fighting hard because he wants me to go there," he said. "Kenny is, too, but right now I'm just weighing my options."
Running back Wendell Smallwood is the 2013 prospect from their school most likely to get a USC offer, according to Bigelow. Smallwood has scholarship offers from Rutgers, West Virginia, Auburn, Temple and Connecticut.
"It's going good," Smallwood said of his recruitment. "It's been picking up the past couple of months."
Smallwood said he currently has no favorites but is keeping a close eye on West Virginia.
"That move to the Big 12 was a positive one for me," he said. "I've been up to Rutgers a couple of times so I'm real cool with their coaches. All the other places, I plan on visiting."
So what would an offer from USC mean?
"Man, that would be a dream come true," said Smallwood, who visited the Los Angeles campus last fall for the UCLA game and has also visited Maryland, Rutgers and West Virginia.
Daikel Shorts Jr. is also a possibility, albeit a likely long shot. The receiver has scholarship offers from Boston College and Temple. Shorts said he likes both schools for their academics and athletics, but as for a USC offer, he said, "I would love that. That would be nice. That would be real nice. That's actually my favorite school."
Shorts Jr. said he plans to visit Boise State, Notre Dame, Penn State, Maryland and Connecticut soon. He has already visited Ohio State.
Then, there's family to look out for. Sills is trying to get an offer for his adopted brother, cornerback Jahmere Irvin-Sills, who has scholarship offers from West Virginia, Temple, Southern Miss, Connecticut, Rutgers and Houston.
"Ah, man," Irvin-Sills said of a possible USC offer. "Every time we go up there I'm with him. Hopefully I get an offer soon."
Irvin-Sills isn't coy. He said he'd commit on the spot if he got that coveted offer, but if that doesn't happen, West Virginia should be tough for any other school to overcome thanks to a strong relationship Irvin-Sills has with his recruiter, Daron Roberts.
"Me and Coach Roberts get along very well," Irvin-Sills said. "We talk about how if I was to commit to that school, I would fit into that defensive scheme and be a big part of the defense."
Further down the line, Sills seems sure that 2014 receiver Freddy Canteen will get an offer from several schools and certainly Southern Cal.
"I'd love it a lot," said Canteen, who was sporting a USC headband and added that he would possibly commit to the Trojans immediately if he got the offer.
There's always the possibility that no player from Eastern Christian, other than Sills and Bigelow, will receive a scholarship offer from USC. Don't expect that to deter Sills from his commitment. He seems as solid as a freshman pledge could possibly could be.
"USC was his No. 1," Sills' dad said. "It still is. It always would have been. If he would have gotten offered by Alabama or somebody, he wouldn't have committed at that point.
"It does make it nice now where he's not pulled in 1,000 different ways. Coaches still want to see him and still want to talk to him. They'll say it's still a long time off, but they don't push it very much so it's nice."