Star-studded NFTC stop in Orlando
Nation's No. 3 and No. 4 recruits in ESPN 150 among the participants
As some of the nation's best underclass football recruits continue to work for invitations to The Opening, the scene shifts to Orlando on Sunday for the Nike Football Training Camp at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
With such a great location for the event, it's no surprise that some of the region's top athletes will be descending on Orlando in hopes of catching the eye of evaluators and earning a trip to Oregon this summer.
One of those athletes, Crescent City (Fla.) junior defensive lineman Caleb Brantley, is looking forward to the opportunity. Rated the nation's No. 18 recruit in the ESPN 150, Brantley has committed to Florida.
Craig Haubert, national recruiting analyst for ESPN, on the Nike Football Training Camps:
Why they matter
NFTCs provide a great platform to become more informed as an evaluator, with the opportunity to see a large number of prospects go through drills and compete in one location. They can help cement a prospect's status if he's already highly rated by confirming what was seen on film. The camps can also be a good place for under-the-radar prospects to get more exposure and warrant further evaluation.
Why you should pay attention
The NFTCs attract a good number of high-profile prospects, the ones recruiting fans most want to hear and learn about. Not often in football do you get a group of top prospects in one setting and see them go through drills and compete. It helps supplement your film evaluation.
What he looks for
As an evaluator, having a large number of prospects in one place allows you to put them through the eye test to get a more accurate feel for heights and weights. It can also be helpful to see how the players compete against one another. We look at not only performance and the execution of skills, but also at who takes coaching well, who tries to take as many reps as he can and who tries to challenge himself against the best. But just because a prospect does well at the event doesn't mean that's all you need to see.
This past fall, Brantley tallied 101 tackles (35 for loss), five sacks and four forced fumbles. Crescent City struggled to a 3-7 record but won two of its final three games.
The 6-foot-2, 294-pound tackle has motivation on the mind after just missing out on a five-star rating by ESPN.
"I'm looking forward to dominating and getting this fifth star and an Opening invite," he said. "And I'm just going to go out and represent the Gators."
Brantley's devotion to his new SEC school is well documented. He made his decision on Jan. 28 during Florida's Junior Day, becoming the second player in the Class of 2013 to pledge to the Gators. He even signs his texts with a hashtag -- #GatorNation -- and says he is looking forward to showing what kind of recruit Florida coach Will Muschamp picked up.
Brantley has plenty to show everyone at the NFTC why he's one of the nation's top recruits.
"All the doubt that people have about me, man, that fuels me," he said. "I can't stand people who doubt me."
Brantley is one of several high-profile recruits who will be at the Orlando NFTC. Junior Laremy Tunsil, the nation's No. 3 recruit in the ESPN 150, and Vernon Hargreaves III, the nation's No. 4 recruit, are both scheduled to be in attendance.
Tunsil, a 6-6, 280-pound offensive lineman from Columbia (Lake City, Fla.), is one of the nation's most sought-after recruits. The five-star recruit told ESPN's DawgNation earlier this week that he was planning on taking visits to LSU, Alabama, Ole Miss, Oklahoma and USC. He plans to make his decision on Signing Day -- Feb. 2.
Last season, Tunsil's Columbia squad advanced to Florida's Class 6A regional semifinals before falling to Bartram Trail (St. Johns, Fla.), 27-24.
Hargreaves, a 5-11, 181-pound defensive back from Wharton (Tampa, Fla.), is also uncommitted but told ESPN's GatorNation last month that he was waiting on offers from Alabama and LSU. Those offers eventually came, and the two BCS title game participants have to be considered among the favorites for the nation's premier shutdown corner.
But don't count out South Florida -- Hargreaves' father, Vernon, is a special teams coordinator and defensive ends coach for the Bulls.
Hargreaves says he's looking forward to this weekend's event.
"It's a chance just to get more exposure and have some fun with my friends," he said.
This offseason, Hargreaves is looking to improve his speed. He says he's joined the track team at Wharton and will be working all summer on becoming more explosive.
Getting better in all facets of his game will hopefully help him lead his team on a postseason charge this fall. Last season, Wharton made the regional quarterfinals in Florida's 8A classification but lost to Dr. Phillips (Orlando), 35-14.
"My goals are getting deep into the playoffs, and I want to help some of my teammates get recognized by colleges," he said.
Others scheduled to be in attendance on Sunday include Sandalwood (Jacksonville, Fla.) junior defensive end Demarcus Walker, Armwood (Seffner, Fla.) junior safety Leon McQuay III and Bishop Kenny (Jacksonville, Fla.) junior wide receiver Ahmad Fulwood.
All three players are rated in the ESPN 150 -- Walker is No. 24, McQuay is No. 34 and Fulwood is No. 44. Walker and McQuay are currently uncommitted, while Fulwood has pledged to Florida.
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