COLUMBUS, Ohio - In the shadows of The Horseshoe, there were plenty of thoroughbreds on display at Friday afternoon's NIKE Training Camp at Ohio State. More than 500 of the top players from all over the Midlands and the Midwest were on display in what was the biggest and the best camp so far this season.
Coming into the camp the headliners most of the attention was focused on blue-chipper super-stars like Detroit Cass Tech defensive tackle Joseph Barksdale, Racine (Wis.) Park running back John Clay, Chicago Hubbard running back Robert Hughes and Chicago Simeon defensive end Martez Wilson, and none of them disappointed.
All four had great camps and showed why they're shoe-ins for the Rivals100 team.
"I'm kind of disappointed, well I wouldn't say disappointed because I think I did really well and I don't have any regrets," Barksdale, who was dominating in the one-on-one drills and throughout the other portions of the camp, said.
"I'm so competitive that some times I can't help but be disappointed or think that I didn't do as well as I really did. I'm real competitive, and I try to do the best in everything with I do. I put it all on the line today." . And Barksdale more that blew that line up, impressing the more than 250 college coaches from all over the nation.
Clay's day started when he timed in the 4.5-second range in the 40-yard dash. He then carried that over to the drills and then the one-on-one portion of the camp. Clay easily was the most impressive looking prospect at the camp from a physical standpoint, prompting one college to say that he had "softballs" in his calves since they were so large.
"I was pretty pumped," Clay said after the camp. "There were all these great players and all these coaches out here watching your every move. I was kind of nervous, but once we got started and I saw where I stood, I kind of just let my natural talent take over."
And that natural talent is more than enough to prove that Clay is an elite national prospect. There were a few coaches in attendance that said that Clay is such an physically intimidating looking prospect that they wouldn't mind trying him out at outside linebacker.
"That guy could make a million dollars some day in the NFL," one Big 10 assistant coach said when watching Clay go through drills. "If things don't work out for him at running back, then he could easily be a great linebacker with his build and instincts.
"He's a special player no matter where he ends up playing."
Hughes and Wilson came into the camp ranked as two of the top three players in Illinois and both made a strong, strong case for the top spot in the Land of Lincoln.
Hughes was first in the line in every single drill and he went numerous times in the one-on-ones. He attended last year's NIKE Camp in Ann Arbor, Mich., and that experience helped him be ready for a big day on Friday.
"My overall day was really good," Hughes, who rivaled Clay as the most impressive looking prospect at the camp, said. "In the one-on-ones, I caught all the ones that were thrown right, and I scored every time.
"I'm just a big competitor, and if you let somebody in front of you then you're not going to see where you stand. I wanted to set the tone for all the other running backs in the camp, and the knowledge of being at the NIKE Camps before really paid off today."
So did Hughes prove he's No. 1 in Illinois?
"You have any doubts," he asked with a chuckle.
If there are then Wilson might be the only one to raise them. Wilson is a pass-rushing machine that could also easily be one of the nation's top tight ends of receivers because he's that physically gifted.
He did well in all of his SPARQ testing and when he hit the field he allowed his raw physical tools take over. He had amazing long arms that allowed him to get past would-be blockers in one-on-one drills, and while his technique is still a little raw he might have some best tools to work with than anybody else in the nation.
ON THE MAP Des Moines (Iowa) Lincoln defensive back Jordan Bernstine has quickly climbed up the charts all the way to the top player in the state of Iowa with a strong spring. He's now ready to conquer the national charts.
Bernstine ran one of the fastest 40-yard dash times in the camp with a time in the 4.3-second range. He also wowed everybody in the ladder drills during the speed, agility and quickness portion of the camp. His quick feet were something else and it's easy to see why a lot of national teams have started to show him a lot of interest over the past few weeks.
Expect that interest to climb even more now that blew up in front of colleges all over the nation.
"I've had a few good combines this spring, but this camp was my coming out party," Bernstine said. "I think I opened up some eyes today."
Enough eyes that he's definitely a serious candidate for the Rivals100 team now.
GETTING DEFENSIVE There were plenty of offensive stars on display at Friday's camp, but overall the talent was definitely stacked in the defense's favor.
To go along with Wilson and Barksdale on the defensive line guys like Carson Byrd of Trottwood (Ohio) Madison, Antonio Jeremiah of Hilliard (Ohio) Darby, Rob Trigg of Dayton (Ohio) Chaminade-Julienne had very solid days.
Jeremiah had been one of the fastest rising defensive players in Ohio and Friday's performance did nothing to hurt his stock. Still lean from wrestling season, Jeremiah tested well and was very nimble and agile in the drills. He said he had a few tough challenges in the one-on-ones, but in the end he proved that he's right up there, too.
"The camp was a great challenge," Jeremiah said. "I wanted to come out here and test well and I did all right in that department. I wanted to also see where I stood up against the other top players."
So how did he think he did?
"I'm pleased," he said. "I have some things to work on, and I need to get in better football shape, but I think I more than held my own for sure."
Byrd also did well enough to open a few eyes of college coaches.
"I had a few coaches come up and tell me they're going to start calling me now," Byrd said. "They said they couldn't talk to me, but they said come Monday they'll be coming by school to check me out."
The linebacker position was also loaded.
Vincent Browne out of Lisbon (Ohio) Boyd Anderson was the first name that the NIKE Camp position coaches talked about. There is no question that Browne's physical tools have already allowed him to rack up several solid offers, but his performance on Friday could have taken his stock from a mid-level Big 10 guy to a guy that could end up playing upper-level football anywhere.
Andrew Dailey of Massillon, Ohio, didn't run as fast of a 40-yard dash time as he wanted to, but he definitely looked the part in drills and his match up against Hughes in the one-on-ones was one of the highlights of the camp. The match-up ended in a stalemate because the ball was overthrown but Dailey was right there with the super running back.
Jer'Male Hines of Cleveland Glenville ran in the 4.5-second range and it's easy to see why many college coaches are going to flock to Glenville once again. On film, Hines is arguably the top player in the state of Ohio, but he didn't get a chance to stand out as much because his body frame might actually project him as a safety prospect in college.
Either way, the kid's got game and he show flashes of brilliance several times on Friday.
SOPHOMORE STEALS SHOW Boubacar Cissoko might be a hard name to pronounce, but college coaches better get used to it.
Cissoko from Detroit Cass Tech - the same school that Barksdale goes to - was the talk of the defensive back position. While he's not the tallest kid around, his great technique and ability to turn and run had college coaches asking who he was.
When it was discovered that he was just a junior-to-be, the next superstar in Michigan might have been uncovered.
While there were other talented defensive backs in the camp, including names like Ohio State commitment Nate Oliver and Macedonia (Ohio) Nordonia cornerback Jordan Mabin, it was Cissoko that was all the talk.
Not bad for a guy that almost didn't get in the camp.
"I wasn't on the registration list, so I had to ask them to let me get in," Cissoko said. "I'm glad I got in. I didn't know what to expect today. I knew that I had a chance to do well, but this well? I could tell people liked what they saw. I saw a bunch of coaches pointing and talking about me.
"I guess that's a good thing, right?"
It is and the entire camp will go down as one of the best stops in recent history on the NIKE Camp Tour.