- Jon Mahoney, ESPNHS.com
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Several standout prospects will help kick off the Nike Football Training Camp tour Sunday at the Dallas Cowboys practice facility in Irving, Texas.
This is the first of 12 NFTCs, which feature instruction from former NFL players such as LeCharles Bentley and Chris Gizzi and allow top prospects to go head to head in position-specific competitions. Now in their 16th year, the NFTCs have featured such past participants as Larry Fitzgerald, Darren McFadden and Ndamukong Suh.
Top participants from this year's NFTCs could earn an invitation to The Opening, a weeklong event featuring the nation's top 150 players in July at Nike's headquarters in Beaverton, Ore.
The NFTC in Irving has several candidates who could earn an Opening invite and one player who's already received that honor -- Alief Taylor (Houston) junior defensive end Torrodney Prevot. The 6-foot-4, 205-pounder had 14 sacks last season and has offers from Texas, Oklahoma, LSU, Notre Dame and Texas A&M. Prevot earned his spot in The Opening by dominating at the SPARQ Combine in Houston three weeks ago.
Despite the invitation, Prevot is looking to shine at Sunday's NFTC.
"I love to compete," he said, "and I hear there will be a lot of top guys there. I want to compete against everybody and show the linemen I'm no joke. I'm confident I'll do my best."
One of those linemen Prevot could go up against is Celina (Texas) junior standout Jake Raulerson. At 6-foot-5, 253 pounds, Raulerson has already committed to Texas and was a Class 3A All-State second-team selection as a junior.
"I'm just looking to dominate in one-on-ones," said Raulerson. "That's what it's all about."
The trenches will showcase the most top prospects in Irving. Besides Prevot and Raulerson, there's Texas commits Daeshon Hall, a junior defensive end from Lancaster, Texas, and A'Shawn Robinson, a junior defensive tackle from Arlington Heights (Fort Worth, Texas). ESPNU 150 Watch List prospects Christian LaCouture, a junior defensive tackle from A&M Consolidated (College Station, Texas), and Tim Williams, a defensive end from University Lab (Baton Rouge, La.), will also be on hand.
Another lineman to keep an eye on is Moanalua (Honolulu) defensive tackle Scott Pagano, who's making the trek to the mainland after excelling at the Honolulu SPARQ Combine in January.
The skill positions will feature plenty of talent as well. Junior quarterbacks Tyrone Swoopes of Whitewright (Texas) and J.T. Barrett of Rider (Wichita Falls, Texas) are set to take part in the NFTC after participating in the Elite 11 regional Saturday in Arlington, Texas.
Defensive backs will have their hands full with the receivers that will be on hand, such as Jesuit (Dallas) junior receiver and Texas verbal Jake Oliver, who was named an ESPNHS Underclass All-American after hauling in 108 passes for 1,637 yards and 24 touchdowns last fall. He has 215 career receptions at Jesuit.
Big-play junior wideout Ra'Shaad Samples of Skyline (Dallas) caught 65 passes for 1,369 yards and 19 touchdowns and has offers from more than 25 programs, including Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ohio State, Cal and Arkansas.
North Little Rock (Ark.) junior running back Altee Tenpenny ran for 1,121 yards and 10 touchdowns as a sophomore, but he missed his junior season due to injury. Despite the setback, he received plenty of interest from big-time programs and committed to Alabama in January.
Cedar Hill (Texas) junior athlete and Texas A&M commit LaQuvionte Gonzalez delivered a monster campaign in the fall, catching 105 passes for 919 yards and 11 touchdowns and rushing for another five touchdowns. And Shoemaker (Killeen, Texas) running back Johnny Jefferson, who has run the 40-yard dash in 4.36 seconds, ran for 812 yards and nine touchdowns this season. He recently committed to Baylor after decommitting from Texas A&M.
NFTC tour starts in Texas