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Odds and ends from Saturday's Nike Football Training Camp

May 3, 2009 - Philip Cmor

For anyone that likes recruiting, attending a Nike Football Training Camps like the one held Saturday at Penn State's Holuba Hall is an absolute must. They can be a little hard to follow with so much going on at once and updated rosters being hard to come by (although ESPN's partnering with the camps has improved media access), but they are free to the public and nowhere will you find so many top-flight prospects in one place.

 

In addition, their family members and coaches and a few Penn State players are usually there watching, too. This weekend, I got to meet the fathers of Nittany Lion football commit Paul Jones and Fox Chapel rising offensive line prospect Miles Dieffenbach, along with the older of DeMatha giants Arie and Cyrus Kouandjio (more on him later) and both of Silas Redd's parents.

 

Arie is 6-foot-5, 320 pounds and has the handshake to match, but even it pales in comparison to that of the thin-framed, about 6-foot Silas Redd Sr. When I told Silas Jr. about my encounter with his dad, who he says is a huge football fan, he laughed and said, "Ah, yeah, the grip of death.'

 

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There were approximately 250 prospects at the camp, which seems to be a little bit down from previous years. That's probably attributable to the fact that college coaches are no longer allowed to attend and there are more and more of these kinds of combines and camps sprouting up each year.

 

However, there were still a ton of great prospects there. It was a veritable who's who of the best guys in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest, including a lot with whom Penn State has offered, known to have been involved or speculated to have interest or somehow linked to the Nittany Lions at one time.

 

Adrian Coxson, WR, Maryland (verbally committed)

Paul Jones, QB, Pittsburgh (verbally committed)

Silas Redd, RB, Connecticut (verbally committed)

Sherard Cadogan, TE, New Jersey (reportedly a cousin of Gerald Cadogan, although I have not been able to confirm this.)

Andrew Carswell, WR, Pittsburgh

Cullen Christian, CB, Pittsburgh (camp's outstanding defensive back)

Miles Dieffenbach, OL, Pittsburgh

Ego "J.R.' Feguson, DE, Maryland (I didn't see him and he wasn't on the roster list, but apparently he was a late addition.)

Sharrif Floyd, DT, Philadelphia

Khairi Fortt, LB, Connecticut

Chris Gill, DB, Connecticut

Robby Havenstein, OL, Maryland

Alex Kenney, WR, State College

Arie Kouandjio, OL, Maryland

Tom Ricketts, OL, Pittsburgh

Dakota Royer, DE/LB, Lancaster

Malik Stokes, QB, Philadelphia

Ray Vinopal, DB, Ohio

Alex Zordich, QB/LB, Ohio

Zack Zwinak, FB, Maryland

 

Other big names in attendance included:

 

Anthony Boone, QB, North Carolina

Brendon Felder, WR/CB, Monroeville

Nick Forbes, LB, Maryland (edged out Fortt for camp's outstanding linebacker)

Javarie Johnson, LB, Washington, D.C.

Jordan Paskorz, DE, Pittsburgh

Louis Young, DB, Maryland

 

Also on the camp roster were Tebucky Jones Jr., Brandon Ifill and Maika Polamalu, although I was never able to confirm their attendance.

 

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I had wondered, though, why a recruit like Jones who had already committed or like Fortt who had close to 30 offers from all over the country would still go to a camp like this. Redd obviously had multiple reasons for being there, as it was obvious he was coming to meet with Joe Paterno and commit to Penn State.

 

I asked Jones' father, Paul Sr., and he said his son just wanted to get the work in -- there was also an Elite 11 quarterback camp following the Nike event. The elder Jones also said Paul Jr. -- who likes to be called "P.J.' -- wanted to get a chance to work with fellow Lion commit Coxson and Penn State target Kenney.

 

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P.J. Jones was very engaging, by the way. He joked with reporters and seemed thrilled with his decision. Redd was the same way. It's always struck me how many of the kids Penn State recruits are so well-spoken and easy with which to deal, and the ones to whom I've talked that they are pursuing for 2010 seem no exception.

 

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Arie Kouandjio would qualify as that type of kid. So would Philadelphia's Floyd, who was all smiles after being named the camp's outstanding defensive lineman.

 

Floyd is around 300 pounds but doesn't look it, and, although he plays with a mean streak, he came off as a very pleasant young man when things were wrapping up. This was my second chance to talk to him, and he's come off the same way both times.

 

Floyd apparently never really followed college football growing up, so all of this is pretty much new to him. He's closing in on 20 written offers and planning to still attend a Rivals combine at Rutgers.

 

Floyd would like to have his list of schools down to a top three by the end of the summer and a college choice by the end of his season.

 

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Fortt, meanwhile, has moved up his timetable dramatically. Originally, he was talking about announcing his choice at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January. Now, Fortt is talking about narrowing his list sometime in this month.

 

"That's because his head coach is sick and tired of being his secretary,' Stamford High coach Kevin Jones said.

 

"By the end of next week, we'll have it down to 10 schools,' Fortt, whose offer list includes USC, Florida State and Michigan, said.

 

Fortt said he plans to have his decision made before the start of the season, although he wants to make "at least two' official visits. He said he's been to Penn State five times.

 

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Annandale, N.J., North Hunterdon tight end Kevin Haplea was scheduled to be at the camp, but was nowhere to be found. I managed to reach his coach later in the day and learned that Haplea cancelled because his high school baseball team had a make-up game for Saturday, and he felt bad about already missing several games for recruiting visits.

 

Unfortunately for Haplea, at 1 p.m., his baseball game was postponed.

 

North Hunterdon coach John Mattes also told me that Haplea had about 15 written offers and that he believed Penn State was at the top of his list of schools.

 

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Big names Corey Brown and DaQuan Jones also missed the camp. Brown, the highly-touted running back/wider eceiver from Cardinal O'Hara, had a conflict with track according to Nittany Network's Bill Kurelic, while Jones, the defensive lineman from Johnson City, N.Y., was sustained a track injury days before the camp.

 

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 As soon as I arrived at Holuba, a DeMatha jacket caught my eye along with a mountain of a man that turned out to be Arie Kouandjio. On the advice of his coach, he didn't compete Saturday, but he was there to support his younger and equally massive brother, Cyrus.

 

After talking to them for a couple of minutes, I asked the man next to him wearing the DeMatha jacket if he was the Kouandjios father. He looked at my surprised.

"Am I their father?,' He said. "No. I'm their brother. I'm only 27.'

 

Oops.

 

It was good for a laugh, though.

 

Despite internet rumors that Arie Kouandjio might be close to committing to California, he maintained he wasn't close to a decision and is currently holding 25 written offers. All schools are recruiting him as an offensive tackle, probably for the left side.

 

In case you were wondering, his last name is pronounced "Kwan-jo.'

 

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Kenney, the speedy State College wideout, is another player that some feel might be close to a commitment, in his case to Penn State. Despite a lot of speculation to the contrary, Kenney told me that wasn't the case.

 

"Right now, I'm interested in the schools that are interested in me,' said Kenney, who was enjoying the recruiting process and is up to around 15 offers.

 

Another source of speculation surrounding Kenney was that he might be recruited as a defensive back. Kenney dispelled that notion, saying all the schools recruiting him are doing so for offense. All but one of them sees him as a wide receiver; Pitt is entertaining thoughts about his playing running back.

 

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I had a chance to chat a bit for a bit with a high school coach who has sent some players on to big-time colleges, including Penn State. He offered observations of a couple of kids the Lions have offered.

 

Fortt, he just marveled at the total package. What really seemed to stand out to him about Fortt was his long arms, and he invoked the name of a pretty good one in comparison: Myron Rolle.

 

I pointed out Linganore's Robby Havenstein to him. Obviously Havenstein, at 6-7 and 330 pounds is hard to miss, but this coach said he'd already noticed him and was impressed by how well he moved at that size.

 

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Dieffenbach has been climbing the recruiting charts this spring, and he took another step when he was named outstanding offensive lineman on Saturday.

 

In talking to Dieffenbach's dad, I found out that Miles is now 6-5, 290 and has written offers from Pitt and Syracuse with a host of schools like Penn State, Virginia, Northwestern, UConn, Michigan State and Cincinnati staying in contact.

 

Part of Dieffenbach's appeal is his versatility -- he can play anywhere on the offensive line. He was one of three players scheduled to be at the camp that had already been picked for the Under-Armour All-American Game in January.

 

With limited scholarships available, Penn State has been very selective in offering offensive linemen this year. St. Joe's Prep's Seth Betancourt, early on considered a virtual lock for the Lions, apparently was never fully pursued by PSU and committed to Boston College last week.

 

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There are usually a couple of kids that have flown under the radar so far that use these camps as a coming-out party. I know the Gateway people were happy with how defensive backs Orne Bey and Dayonne Nunley. Greenbelt, Md., Eleanor Roosevelt receiver Abdulai Bangura and Dawson-Bryant, Ohio, running back Frank Delawder also made positive impressions from some of the people with whom I spoke.

 

However, the biggest buzz might have been made by Akron rising-junior defensive back Doran Grant. One coach said following the camp that Grant will be one of the elite corners in the country next year and should be able to write his own ticket to the college of his choice.

 
 

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