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*The coaches at River Ridge (La.) John Curtis have seen their share of players over the years, so it's not everyday that a player makes this staff gush. Unless that player is the Patriots' 6-0, 190 pound athlete Joe McKnight, who many think is the state's top prospect in the Class of 2007.
"He's as good as anyone we've had," said Curtis assistant Jeff Curtis, who has seen a lot of top-flight talent at the school over the years. "He's up there with (former Curtis/Notre Dame LB Mike) Stonebreaker, (NFL RB Jonathan) Wells, and (NFL RB Reggie) Dupard."
McKnight was a standout as a sophomore in 2004, earning all-district and Student Sports Sophomore All-American honors after totaling 85 tackles on defense and scoring 16 touchdowns in a variety of ways, including 12 return TDs.
He traveled cross-country last spring to attend the NIKE Camp in Los Angeles on the campus of the USC Trojans, and didn't disappoint. Working in amongst the top cornerbacks in the West, many felt McKnight as an underclassmen might have been the top DB in drills, and he tested pretty well too, clocking a solid 4.60 40 and posting a 30.3-inch vertical jump on his way to a 68.36 SPARQ Rating.
One of the biggest indications that McKnight could be destined for greatness? He wasn't satisfied with that showing at last spring's NIKE Camp.
"It was kind of bad because at the NIKE Camp I'd just got off the plane in California," McKnight told PelicanPreps.com. "I think I can do a lot better than that."
McKnight will get his chance this spring as the NIKE Camp comes to his state in Baton Rouge, and will look forward to his attendance after a superb junior season in which he grew bigger, stronger and faster on the field and led John Curtis to its 20th state title in school history. McKnight made several all-state teams following the season and should be heavily recruited after a terrific season in which he did damage at defensive back, running back, wide receiver and kick returner.
*After a season in which he began to gain notice protecting EA SPORTS Elite 11 QB Tim Tebow, Ponte Vedra Beach (Fla.) Nease junior OL James Wilson is now emerging as a big-time recruit in his own right.
Wilson, a 6-6, 310 pounder, earned Class 4A second team all-state honors this fall and is now regarded by most as one of the top 20 prospects in Florida and a potential Hot 100 national recruit in the Class of 2007.
"James is going to be the 'Timmy Tebow' of offensive linemen this year," jokes Nease head coach Craig Howard, who notes that the guard already has many Division I offers at this point, including Florida, Alabama, Georgia Tech, Maryland and Georgia. We'll hope to see Wilson this spring at a NIKE Camp in the South.
*The Frankfort (Ky.) Franklin County Flyers went 10-2 last season under head coach Donny Walker and have big plans for 2006 with the return of their tremendous Class of 2007 QB Kaelin Ammons.
"Kaelin will likely be a serious candidate for Mr. Football here in Kentucky next fall," says Walker. "So far for his career he has 6,800 yards and 80 touchdowns passing, and 2,600 yards with 42 touchdowns rushing."
Last fall alone, Ammons, a 6-1, 185 pounder with 4.5 speed in the 40, hit 190 of 301 attempts for 3,355 yards and 41 touchdowns. Walker says that right now Ammons is receiving mail from several Division I schools and will look to show his stuff at a NIKE Camp this spring. Another Flyer to watch for at camps this spring is two-way, 6-3, 265 pound lineman Nathan Newland, who was an all-district and all-county pick last, allowing no sacks.
*Baltimore (Md.) Catonsville coach Rich Hambor checked in to let us know about two talented Class of 2007 he has coming back next year, 6-0, 265 pound Joe McNamara and 6-1, 275 pound Andrew Woizesko.
"These two linemen were our right offensive line, Joe at tackle and Andrew at guard. We had the state of Maryland's leading rusher last fall (Jared Maybin) with 2,466 yards, and 90% of them came behind these two linemen.
"Joe is also the best long snapper in Baltimore and is highly coveted by the University of Maryland. They both have very quick feet and are currently training very hard to get ready for the NIKE Camp."
Both players earned all-area and honorable mention all-state honors in 2005 as juniors.
*A top returning player to watch next year in Kentucky who may sometimes get overlooked because he plays at 2A Louisville Western is 5-9, 173 pound RB Justin Collins. Collins ran for 1,926 yards and 23 scores while also totaling 662 yards and 11 TDs receiving as a junior, finishing with 2,588 all-purpose yards and 38 total touchdowns on the season. He boasts 4.42 speed in the 40.
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.