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April 5, 2005

Let's get it started

MIAMI - Most people think of having fun in the sun in Miami as lying on the beach or splashing around in the water. But for college football recruiting fans, their type of fun in the sun can be found this Sunday when the NIKE Training Camps kick off with an annual visit to Miami.

Many of the Sunshine State's best players will be in attendance, including Immokalee, Fla., standout running back Javarris James. Each year the visit to Miami allows some of the nation's top prospects to come out and show their stuff.

It all started back in 1998 when players from all over Florida came to the University of Miami for the first ever NIKE Camp held in that state. How good was the camp in terms of talent?

Looking back, it's not hard to see that the talent invited to this camp set the bar for all other events afterward. Two dozen players ended up going to major D-I college including at least four future NFL players such as receiver Andre Johnson (Miami/Houston Texans), running back Clinton Portis (Miami/ Washington Redskins), receiver Antonio Bryant (Pittsburgh/Dallas Cowboys) and cornerback Phillip Buchanan (Miami/Oakland Raiders).

Buchanan, a complete unknown at that point in his high school career, was brought down by his mother and after locking down all the receivers in the drills she was told by one scout, "you son just won a scholarship today." More than that, as his high school coach would later say, "Phillip owes the NIKE Camp a whole lot of money, because it helped put him in the NFL."

If the 1998 camp was the best NIKE Camp ever, then the event in Miami last year would rank in the same echelon.

It was the camp where Pahokee, Fla., running back and Florida State signee Antone Smith burst onto the scene with a 4.25-second 40-yard dash. Smith became the first player in NIKE's eight-year history to finish first in the 40 two years in a row.

Carol City, Fla., defensive end and LSU signee Ricky Jean-Francois also showed why he became a member of the Rivals100 team that day. Not only did Jean-Francois perform well in the testing phase of the camp, he excelled in the one-on-one drills, where he worked out with the linebackers and then in pass-rush situations.

Miami signee Spencer Adkins of Napes, Fla., also blew away the competition in the testing portion of the camp. The four-star outside linebacker finished with a 4.56-second time in the 40, a 4.30 shuttle, 35 reps of 185 and 35.2-inch vertical.

Even though he showed up late for the event, Orlando (Fla.) Edgewater offensive tackle Matt Hardrick, a four-star standout that signed with Florida State, proved that he's one of the nation's elite linemen. In the one-on-one drills, the 6-foot-5, 300-plus pounder showed remarkable ability to move his feet for a big guy. When he locked in on a defender, it was game over, because he would simply use his size and strength to overpower his opponent.

So how will this year's camp stack up against those star-studded events?

"We're excited about this year's camp in Miami," said Brian Stumpf, Director of Player Personnel for the NIKE Training Camps and Student Sports. "There are quite a few elite national prospects that are expected to be there. The one thing about kids in South Florida is that they're not afraid to come out and compete to show everybody why they are the best."

With that in mind, don't be surprised to see almost every national level recruit in South Florida at the event on Sunday.

James, the 6-foot-1, 205-pound superstar from Immokalee, already has scholarship offers from Florida, Miami, Michigan, Oklahoma, USC and Ohio State. He is the cousin of NFL star running back Edgerrin James, and to show how advanced he is, he's already narrowed his list down to a top four with Miami, USC, Oklahoma and Florida leading the way.

Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) Boyd Anderson two-way lineman Charles Deas is one of more dominating prospects in the Southeast. With heavy interest from Auburn, Georgia, Oklahoma, LSU and USC, Deas already attended the NIKE Combine in Miami in February where he ran a 4.88 40-yard dash. He also sports a 360-pound bench press, 340-pound squat and a 21-inch vertical leap.

Lake Worth (Fla.) John Leonard defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis looks on film like he could be one of the nation's best overall at his position, and he should be fun to watch Sunday in the one-on-one battles at the camp. The 6-foot-5, 318-pounder moves like a running back with his nimble pass-rushing technique, and he also plays the run extremely tough.

James' teammate John Paul, a 6-foot-4, 255-pound defensive end, reportedly has scholarship offers from Auburn, Florida and Michigan, but is still kind of an unknown talent from a national perspective because of the lack of film that has been sent out to programs. The NIKE Camp would be a perfect opportunity for him to solidify his name as one of the nation's best defensive ends.

Ellis and Paul could get a chance to go head-to-head against Tampa Jefferson offensive tackle Deron Rose. The 6-foot-5, 310-pound Rose has national interest from programs like Florida, Miami, Duke, Maryland, Texas, Alabama and Michigan and has already reportedly been offered by more than 20 teams.

While there are always high-quality linemen in South Florida, skill is usually what you'll run across the most and Sunday's camp is no exception.

Receiver Sam Shields of Sarasota (Fla.) Booker is one of the most explosive receivers in the South and he could get a chance to hook up with talented dual-threat quarterback Jared Fayson of Tampa Hillsborough as both will be at the camp. Shields has offers from Iowa, LSU, Louisville, Miami, Pittsburgh and Duke. Fayson has offers from Duke, USF and Syracuse.

Brandon Heath of Palm Beach Lakes, Fla., is another elite prospect expected to showcase his skill on Sunday. The 6-foot, 175-pound athlete lists Florida and Louisville as his top two teams and what's so attractive about him is that he can play a number of different positions.

"I will play either position in college, but I prefer defensive back," Heath said. "I compare myself to Sean Taylor because of the way I play. When you're out there playing football you have got to be hungry. My main thing is that I just like to make plays. No matter where I'm at I can make plays. When I'm on defense I love to hit and I love to put my nose on the ball and when I'm on offense I am just able to make people miss."

Proving that it won't be just kids from South Florida, one of the top players in the state of Tennessee is expected to make the trek to Miami for the camp.

Running back Graig Cooper from Memphis Melrose already has an offer on the table from in-state power Tennessee and is getting heavy interest from Arkansas, Ole Miss and Memphis. The 6-foot, 180 pound back rushed for close to 2,000 yards and 19 touchdowns last season and also saw action on defense.

Again this year at the NIKE Camps, a new way to look at the testing results is with the SPARQ Rating. Student Sports and Rivals.com will be using the SPARQ Rating system to evaluate the overall athleticism of football prospects. The player's 40, 20, vertical jump & bench press are used in the formula.

For expanded coverage and official results of all NIKE Training Camps, visit StudentSports.com. Access to StudentSports.com requires an additional membership. Coming Soon! The best is getting better. The Rivals.com Recruiting Database will include all authentic data from this summer's NIKE Training Camp schedule.


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