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*One of the greatest things about traveling to and putting on all the NIKE Camps each year is watching players come out of nowhere and make names for themselves each year. One such player that did that a year ago as an underclassmen was Marvin Austin, and the Washington (D.C.) Coolidge DT made quite a name for himself indeed.
It was at the NIKE Camp in State College last April, and a whisper slowly crept its way throught Holuba Hall on the campus of Penn State - "Who is that big kid in the tights that keeps yapping, and is he any good?"
Yes, Austin, at 6-3, 299 pound that day, certainly did turn heads by wearing simply a pair of black tights and his NIKE Camp shirt, and also turned heads by telling everybody that he was the man and wouldn't be stopped that day. The only difference is, Austin, unlike many high schoolers that show up to camps talking big, actually backed it up.
The big fellow amazed this onlooker by clocking a 4.83 in the 40 and also put up 30 reps of 185 on the bench, good for an impressive 67.48 SPARQ Rating. Austin also dominated in one-on-one drills, as he was simply unblockable with his quick burst off the line, strength and impressive competitive nature.
He left the NIKE Camp that day with a buzz and that buzz has only grown into a roar since then. Austin finished his junior year with 76 tackles and seven sacks despite constant double and triple teams, also playing O-line as his team went 9-3. He's already received offers from the likes of Tennessee, Georgia, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and NC State to name a few, and should have his pick of colleges by the time everything is done.
In addition to the schools who have already offered, Austin says he'd like to hear more from programs like Southern Cal, Miami, Notre Dame and Penn State. However, he's still very early in the process and is just taking it all in at this point.
"No one really stands out right now as they are all on the same plain since I'm still a junior," he said. "I'm just mostly looking for a school that looks out for me academically and can give me exposure on television. I don't think distance will play much of a factor since I'm a really independent guy and I'll go wherever the right school is."
Austin isn't the only impressive Class of 2007 lineman at Coolidge, as 6-5, 285 pound offensive tackle Lamar Milstead also has reeled in a handful of early offers from similar programs and should be one of the top recruits in the area along with Austin. Also watch for quick 5-9, 185 pound DB Wayne Ouzts to emerge in the next few months.
*Coach Jesse Hicks has done a remarkable job at Milledgeville (Ga.) Baldwin over the past four years, building the program from a winless team to a squad that went 10-4 this past fall and advanced all the way to the Class 4A state semifinals. Although the Braves will say goodbye to seniors like Maurice Hurt and Carson Hill, the 2006 season could be the best one yet at Baldwin.
The Braves return a high school version of the Indianapolis Colts' "Triplets plus one" next year, welcoming back four superb skill players on offense. The attack, much like how the Colts are keyed by Edgerrin James on the ground, will be led by 5-10, 190 pound RB Darius Marshall, a 5-10, 190 pounder, who Hicks calls, "The best damn back in the state of Georgia!"
Marshall, who claims 4.5 speed in the 40, carried the Brave offense on his back last fall, rushing 276 times for an even 2,300 yards and 30 touchdowns, while also adding 280 yards and two touchdowns receiving, on his way to Class 4A first team all-state honors. He was also productive as a sophomore, running for over 1,200 yards and 13 TDs.
Hoping to ease the burden on Marshall's back next fall is a passing game headed up by the strong-armed 5-11, 190 pound Patrick Spears. Spears is a two-year starter that has thrown for over 3,200 yards and 29 TDs over the past two campaigns. Spears will throw to the tremendously athletic Wayne Bonner, a 6-3, 180 pounder who had 765 yards and 10 TDs receiving as a junior and according to Coach Hicks has a 40+ inch vertical jump, and 6-3, 175 pound Markell Smith, who was no slouch either in '05, finishing second on the club with 560 yards receiving.
*It might be tough to find and team in Kentucky with more talent returning next year than coach Kevin Wallace's Bowling Green team. The Purples went 13-2 in 2005, falling one game short of a state title, and return three players that received all-state honors as juniors.
6-5, 275 pound two-way lineman Stuart Hines leads the list of returnees, and might even end up being the top recruit in Kentucky of the Class of 2007 by the time the dust settles next Signing Day. Named first team all-state by both the AP and the Louisville Courier-Journal, Hines has it all as an offensive tackle and will be an impact player on the next level. Kentucky has already offered.
The Purples' defense will be led by the disruptive 6-2, 230 pound Tucker Smith, who was also an all-state selection after totaling 99 tackles, 7 tackles for loss and three sacks while splitting time between DE and LB as a junior. Also bolstering the BGHS defense is 6-0, 195 pound LB Chris Tucker, who tallied 117 tackles and four sacks last year, and 6-1, 170 pound cornerback Ryan Beard, who picked off seven passes in '05.
Also back is all-state RB Avery Hibbitt, who carried 176 times for 1,572 yards and 29 scores a year ago. A diverse weapon, the 5-10, 175 pounder also caught 17 passes for 389 yards and five scores.
*As we've made note of before in this blog, next year seems to be an outstanding year for DBs in the state of Michigan, and another one to watch out for is 5-10, 170 pound Chris Rucker out of Detroit Country Day. Rucker earned Junior all-state honors this fall and has a best of 10.6 in the 100 meter dash. He got a taste of the NIKE Camp last year and while his 40 time was just 4.73 on a very slow track, he looked explosive in drills and should be a candidate for early offers over the next six months.
*Kirk Ferentz has made a living at Iowa of hoarding the local talent and developing it into NFL ready product five years later, especially with offensive linemen. One player Iowa may look at next year along with other schools is 6-6, 270 pound offensive tackle Lewis Field. Charles City (Iowa) coach Steve Stallsmith says of his big man, "Lewis has started for me at right tackle since his sophomore year and I really think he'll be recruited by everybody in the Big Ten at least. He's got great hands, a good work ethic and is a smart kid with a 4.0 GPA." Field graded out at 87% as a junior.
If you are a coach or parent that would like to get a top junior involved with the NIKE Camps, NIKE Combines or Elite 11 Quarterback events, or featured on the Junior to Watch Blog, email Brian Stumpf if you are located in the Eastern or Central part of the country ([email protected]) or Greg Biggins ([email protected]) if you are in the West.