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May 4, 2006A lot of people already think Columbus, Ohio, is the best place to see a college football game. This Friday afternoon, Columbus will also be the best place to see some of the nation's top future college football stars as around 500 players from all over the nation will be on hand for the NIKE Training Camp at Ohio State's football facilities.
The camp which runs from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. is expected to attract most of the top talent in the Midwest, along with players from as far away as Utah, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Georgia and Tennessee. Around 500 players are expected at the event, making this the biggest stop so far on the NIKE Camp tour.
The list of top prospects is rather large and there isn't one position that is seemingly more loaded than the other. However, a lot of the hundreds of college coaches expected to be in attendance will definitely spend a lot of time evaluating the defensive linemen.
That's where Detroit Cass Tech defensive tackle Joseph Barksdale, Hilliard (Ohio) Darby defensive tackle Antonio Jeremiah, Columbus (Ohio) Beechcrof defensive end Julian Miller and Chicago Simeon defensive end Martez Wilson will be working out.
Barksdale, who is 6-foot-5 and 305 pounds, has already established himself as one of the nation's top defensive tackles. With offers form Miami, Michigan State, Michigan, Minnesota, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Tennessee and numerous others, the camp is going to be a great opportunity for Barksdale to show why he's nation's best.
"This camp will be a good opportunity to test myself," Barksdale said. "There will be a lot of good players there, and I've been working hard and getting ready for the camp. It's been a good chance to see where I stack up."
Jeremiah is a rare physical talent that easily ranks as one of the top interior linemen in Ohio. The 6-foot-5, 290-pounder was one of the top heavyweight wrestlers in Ohio this winter and his football game has already attracted offers from the likes of Boston College, Cincinnati, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisville, Syracuse and West Virginia.
"Antonio is a very athletic, mobile boy for his size that can dominate the line," Darby coach Paul Jenne said. "He basically creates a huge bubble in the offensive line with his size and strength. He also has the ability to run things down."
Miller is a long, lean pass rushing machine.
The 6-foot-5, 222-pounder is explosive off the end of the line and his long arms should make him really exciting in the one-on-one portion of the camp. With offers from Cincinnati and Illinois on the board, watch for him to impressive quite a few coaches on Friday and walk away with even more.
Wilson has been one of the most exciting stories to follow in the Midwest this spring. Many schools didn't know about him early on, but he's emerging as a serious candidate for the top player in the state of Illinois.
With offers from Illinois, Kansas State, Michigan, Notre Dame and Northern Illinois, a strong camp could put him in contention for that top spot. Either way, he's expected to dominate and shoot up the national charts after Friday.
"I just love being able to go out and show people what I can do," Wilson said. "I love to compete."
The quarterback position is expected to attract a nice group of players from all over the map.
Phillip Bates from Omaha (Neb.) North will get a chance to show that he's not just a great athlete but also a very good quarterback. Clay Belton of Clayton (Ohio) Northmont has had a very strong spring and the left-handed quarterback could add even more offers with a strong Friday.
After a strong performance at the EA Sports Elite 11 regional workout in Los Angeles, Michigan State pledge Keith Nichol hopes to prove he's one of the nation's best again.
The running back spot is missing a few of the top rusher in Ohio, but it more than makes up for it with a lot of depth from other states.
Chicago Hubbard superstar Robert Hughes (6-0, 220) is slated to be there on Friday, and he's already considered one of the top players overall in Illinois. He did a great job at last year's NIKE Camp and he's hoping to run a lower 40-yard dash time.
Racine (Wis.) Park running back John Clay is a truly national running back with the ability to take the ball to the house on any play. His explosive skills should fit him well at the NIKE Camp, and with a good day of testing he could be one of the candidates for camp most valuable player honors.
Des Moines (Iowa) Lincoln running back/defensive back Jordan Bernstein has quickly shot up the charts this spring and most are saying he's clearly the top player in Iowa for the class of 2007. He'll get a chance to prove that on Friday against other elite kids from the Midwest.
The camp should also be a chance for Highland Park, Mich., running back Darius Johnson to show people how he tore through opposing defenses this past year. His name is still more known regionally, but he could take his game national after Friday.
Indiana star running back Darren Evans hopes to have a good camp and improve on his 40-yard dash time. Evans is one of the top handful of players in Indiana for the class of 2007.
A good group of receivers and tight ends will be highlight by players like Mark Dell of Farmington Hills (Mich.) Harrison, Dom DeCicco of Jefferson Hills (Pa.) Thomas Jefferson, Taurian Washington of Orchard Lake (Mich.) St. Mary's and Martell Webb of Pontiac (Mich.) Northern.
It'll also be a chance for many people to see Wes Kemp of St. Louis DeSmet Jesuit, who is already being called the top player in Missouri for 2008.
The offensive line group doesn't look as deep as in past Midwest NIKE Camps, but guys like Stuart Hines of Bowling Green, Ky., Jayson Palmgren of North Kansas City, Mo., and Nick Schepis of Cuyahoga Falls (Ohio) Walsh Jesuit should make it a good camp.
Linebackers will be highlighted by guys like Chris Colasanti of Birmingham (Mich.) Brother Rice, Andrew Dailey of Massillon (Ohio) Washington, Jer'Male Hines of Cleveland Glenville and Brian Smith of Overland Park (Kan.) St. Thomas Aquinas.
Defensive backs will showcase the talent of guys like Lamark Brown of Hazelwood West, Brian Gamble of Massillon Washington, DeMarcus Grady of East Grand Rapids, Mich., Marcus Thomas of Chicago Morgan Park and Nate Oliver of Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward.