Sunday, May 3, 2009
Updated: May 19, 1:56 PM ET
Defensive prospects led the charge
By Bill Kurelic
Special to ESPN.com
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- An outstanding group of prospects was on hand at Saturday's Nike Football Training Camp at Penn State University. Many of the top prospects from Pennsylvania showed their stuff, as did some standouts from Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey and many other states. Some even traveled from Canada to participate. In all, over 200 prospects took part on an overcast day in the Keystone State.
The strength of the camp was at linebacker and on the defensive line. There were stars and depth at both positions. The group of wide receivers was solid, as was the group of offensive linemen.
Almost all of the top prospects expected to be in attendance made it to State College on Saturday, with the exception of Under Armour All-America running back Corey Brown (Springfield, Pa./Cardinal O'Hara) and tight end Kevin Haplea (Annandale, N.J./North Hunterdon). Brown had a track conflict, Haplea a baseball commitment.
The excitement and atmosphere were outstanding on Penn State's practice fields, with some great individual battles throughout the day. When the dust had cleared Saturday afternoon, three prospects had set themselves apart.
Cream of the crop
Khairi Fortt (Stamford, Conn.) passed the "look test" and then showed why he is one of the country's top prospects. Fortt moved with grace and power and was very difficult to block. He also showed great instincts, the ability to drop into coverage, and the speed to stay with running backs coming out of the backfield on pass routes. Fortt projects as a difference maker at the next level.
Whether he is listed as a defensive end or outside linebacker, Dakota Royer (Manheim, Pa./Central) is an absolute stud. He worked out with the defensive linemen Saturday and showed a fluid and aggressive style. Royer runs like a deer, with long strides. He does not weigh enough right now to play on the defensive line at the next level, but give him two years and he should fill out into the 230-to-240-pound range. One thing Royer has that can't be taught is the ability to get to the ball in a hurry. In college, he has the potential to be an edge player who must be accounted for at all times.
Sharrif Floyd (Philadelphia, Pa./George Washington) was equally as impressive as Royer -- the two worked in the same group. Floyd showed strength, power and an intense attitude. The only offensive lineman who stood much of a chance against Floyd on Saturday was Under Armour All-American Miles Dieffenbach (Pittsburgh/Fox Chapel). There has been some debate as to whether Floyd will play defensive end or tackle in college. Based on his performance at Penn State, put him down as an interior lineman at the next level, and he has the tools to be a very good one.
Going into Saturday's Nike Football Training Camp, wide receiver Alex Kenney (State College, Pa.) was considered one of the top prospects in the Big Ten region. He lived up to that billing. Kenney doesn't have great size, but he is fast and quick and can get open. Once he gets open, he catches the ball if it is close. Kenney looked right at home going through drills in his hometown.
P.J. Jones (McKees Rocks, Pa./Sto-Rox) did not disappoint while performing at his future home. The Penn State commit is powerful for a quarterback, showed a strong arm, and has enough mobility to move around in the pocket and run when necessary. In fact, Jones showed he is going to be tough to bring down even against the larger, more physical players he will go against in the Big Ten.
Penn State's newest commitment, Adrian Coxson, was happy to be back in State College for the second weekend in a row. Coxson is a physical receiver with a nice combination of size and speed. He made some excellent grabs in group drills Saturday.
The solid group of offensive linemen was led by Dieffenbach. He showed excellent technique and was very rarely beaten in one-on-one drills. Offensive lineman Robby Havenstein (Frederick, Md./Linganore) is a massive young man who challenged Dieffenbach for top billing among the blockers.
Zach Zwinak (Frederick, Md./Linganore) worked out with the running backs Saturday. He showed his power and a tenacious attitude. However, look for Zwinak to play linebacker at the next level. He lacks the speed and elusiveness many recruiters look for in running back prospects, but he has what it takes to be a good one on the other side of the ball in college.
Silas Redd (Stamford, Conn./King) was the standout at the running back position Saturday. Redd is polished and has good speed and great elusiveness. His list of scholarship offers includes Penn State, and the buzz Saturday was that Redd may soon announce a commitment to the Nittany Lions.
Defensive back Cullen Christian (Pittsburgh/Penn Hills) may not get as much publicity as his teammate, wide receiver/defensive back Brandon Ifill, but it was Christian who came away from the camp with honors. Ifill did a nice job Saturday and showed why he has scholarship offers from multiple BCS schools. But Christian was even better and was named the camp's defensive back MVP.
Speaking of camp MVPs, linebacker Nick Forbes won that camp honor at his position over Fortt in a bit of a surprise. The 6-foot-1, 225-pound Forbes was very good at Penn State and should be a solid player in college, though Fortt has "star" written all over him.
The hits keep coming
Javarie Johnson (Washington D.C./Dunbar) passed the look test and showed a great attitude Saturday. The 6-foot-3 and 210-pound outside linebacker struggled a bit in pass coverage, but he has the potential with his long and lanky frame to gain plenty of weight and put his hand down and move to defensive end in college.
Brendon Felder (Monroeville, Pa./Gateway) lived in Boston most of his life. Felder played slot receiver, running back and cornerback for St. John's Prep in Danvers, Mass., during his junior season. However, he has moved to the Keystone State and was impressive at Penn State on Saturday. Felder is at least a MAC prospect on the offensive side of the ball, but he showed the athletic ability to be a very good defensive player at a BCS-level college.
Tight end Ben Koyack (Oil City, Pa.) was among four very talented Class of 2011 prospects who stood out. Koyack looks even bigger than his listed size of 6-foot-5 and 228 pounds. He does not have great speed, but he looked fast enough in drills and showed the ability to catch the ball with a defender draped all over him. Koyack will be one of the country's top tight ends in 2011.
Offensive lineman Cyrus Kouandjio (Hyattsville, Md./DeMatha), who already stands 6-foot-6 and weighs 300 pounds, did a solid job in drills and should have no problem moving from the defensive line, where he played as a sophomore, to the offensive line, where he will play next season. Kouandjio has an offensive lineman's body and will be one of the best in ACC country next season.
Defensive end Steve Miller (Canton, Ohio/McKinley), who is 6-foot-4 and 220-pounds, looked lean but talented. Miller and a fellow Ohioan, defensive back Doran Grant (Akron, Ohio/St. Vincent-St. Mary), showed they were right at home among the older prospects. Grant has excellent coverage skills, breaks on the ball well, and had a perfectly timed, acrobatic interception Saturday.
Bill Kurelic covers recruiting for ESPN affiliates Nittanynetwork.com and Bucknuts.com.