TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Position coach Tee Martin said the quarterback crop at Saturday's NIKE Camp was the strongest he's seen this year on the circuit. Georgia commit Zach Mettenberger had a lot to do with that assessment.
Mettenberger, a 6-foot-5 prospect from Watkinsville (Ga.) Oconee County, won the quarterback MVP and routinely connected with his wide receivers on all kinds of routes. The short throws weren't a problem. Neither were the long ones when Mettenberger let the ball rip from his strong right arm.
"Zach is a developed, mature quarterback," said Martin, who won a national championship at Tennessee. "Georgia has a good problem right now. We've seen (Aaron) Murray and we've seen Mettenberger and they're two different deals.
"They're totally different quarterbacks. Zach is a pocket passer. He has great anticipation. He can throw all the routes. I saw him last year and he was a little weaker. He had the tools but he's matured. You can tell he's been working his tail off to get where he is right now."
Murray, Tampa (Fla.) Plant's quarterback who committed to Georgia last month, is a four-star prospect rated as the No. 48 player in the 2009 class. Mettenberger does not hold those credentials but his performance at Saturday's Tuscaloosa NIKE Camp impressed a lot of people.
One of those must have been 2010 wide receiver Markeith Ambles, who will transfer from Griffin (Ga.) to McDonough Henry County for his junior season. Ambles was on the receiving end of many Mettenberger passes and he was one of the best prospects at any position at the camp.
Ambles did not receive the wide receiver MVP - that went to four-star prospect Michael Bowman from Rossville (Ga.) Ridgeland - but the future Henry County standout had a memorable performance. He simply caught almost every ball thrown his way.
Bowman, a 6-foot-4, 200-pound target, did, too. His brother, Adarius, was a standout at Oklahoma State and the younger Bowman is following in the same footsteps. Offers from Arkansas, Ole Miss and NC State are listed. Wide receivers coach Matt James was impressed with both prospects but especially Ambles, a rising junior.
"He was probably going to get the MVP but being an underclassman, I wanted to give it to a senior and it was Bowman," James said. "(Ambles is) very mature. He runs great routes and has great body control. He does a good job moving his feet. He gets a little lazy with his hands when he's got somebody beat and he'll kind of relax.
"I got on him about that a little bit but he has great hands and a great attitude. Some of the kids you work with, they already know they're good and don't think they have anything to learn but he was just really great and he listened."
Wide receiver was probably the deepest and most talented group at the camp. Others who impressed included Mississippi State commit Chris Smith from Meridian (Miss.), Stone Mountain (Ga.) Stephenson's Richard Drake, Buford (Ga.) prospect Daunte Carr and Paducah (Ky.) Lone Oak's Jamarielle Brown, who had 106 catches for 2,201 yards and 28 touchdowns in 15 games last season. Tyrone (Ga.) Sandy Creek's Braxton Lane also had his moments.
Two tight ends had standout performances. Marietta (Ga.) Lassiter's Philip Lutzenkirchen had no problem beating defensive backs with his. He's also a powerful 6-foot-4 target who has offers from Auburn, Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Mississippi State, Stanford and others.
A prospect who emerged at the camp was Henry County's Jim Teknipp, who moved to Georgia from Ohio last season and should pick up more interest as the summer approaches. Teknipp passes the eyeball test and he impressed during the drills. Miami (Ohio) has offered but many others should come by the end of his senior season.
Another Henry County star, four-star wide receiver Jamal Patterson, had some footballs bounce off his hands but his athleticism was evident during 1-on-1 drills. He's rated as the No. 217 prospect in the 2009 class and has already visited more than a dozen schools. Many SEC programs are involved. A 4.5 grade-point average has to interest coaches as well.
There were quarterbacks other than Mettenberger who stood out. They included Frisco (Texas) Centennial's Ryan Mossakowski, who emerged nationally at the U.S. Army Combine, and continues to have impressive performances. Rated No. 117 in the class, Mossakowski lists offers from Alabama, Arizona, Auburn, Clemson, Kansas, Nebraska, Oregon and Texas A&M.
There's nothing small about Henry County quarterback Drew Little. The 6-foot-5, 239-pound prospect has a big, live arm and he was one of the position's best in Tuscaloosa. As a junior, he threw for 3,172 yards and 41 touchdowns and with Patterson, Ambles and Teknipp as targets, Little is expected to have a big senior campaign.
Georgia Tech offered Little when Chan Gailey was the coach but Little no longer has that offer now that Paul Johnson took over the program. He said some SEC and Big Ten schools are looking at him but no offers have arrived.
Auburn commit Raymond Cotton, from Fort Meade (Md.), also impressed at quarterback. Savannah (Tenn.) Hardin County's Will Gilchrist and Ringgold (Ga.) prospect Zach Fairfield performed well, too.
"It was the strongest (group so far)," Martin said. "The best I've seen. We had about six to eight kids who will play somewhere."
Many running backs had solid showings but none were better than Zac Stacy from Bibb County (Ala.). Stacy had no problem shaking linebackers during 1-on-1 drills and he had a strong performance all day. He won the MVP award. Stacy said UAB has offered and he's receiving interest from Auburn, Kentucky and Vanderbilt.
Not far behind Stacy was Atlanta Carver's Demond Dennis, who lists offers from Alabama, Auburn and Miami (Ohio). No one had better 1-on-1 moves at the camp. He was incredibly shifty and tough to track down.
Chamblee (Ga.) prospect Warren Norman was among the top running backs. Norman had 28 total touchdowns last season. Other outstanding backs were Hoover (Ala.) recruit Andre Shields, Memphis (Tenn.) Kingsbury's Gabriel Hunter, Evergreen (Ala.) Hillcrest's Derek Smith, Douglass (Ga.) recruit Michael Patrick, Shepherdsville (Ky.) North Bullitt's Dalton Cissell and 2010 recruit Storm Johnson from Buford (Ga.).
On the defensive line, Montgomery (Ala.) Carver's Brandon Moore, a 6-foot-5, 315-pound recruit, earned the MVP award. Alabama, Auburn, Clemson and many other schools have offered. Position coach Marty Spaulding was especially impressed with Moore's willingness to compete in 1-on-1 drills.
"I coached him in the individual drill which is a run defensive line drill and he was not the best hitter," Spaulding said. "He was eager but in that drill he would have scored near the top but not at the top. As a competitor in the 1-on-1s, you would coach him, he would listen, he would try it and he just got better and better. We were out there for so long, he had so many reps and he's undeniably the best potential defensive lineman college-wise."
Others who stood out during the camp including Pinson (Ala.) Clay's Quinton Dial, who lists offers from Alabama, Auburn and Florida, Harvest (Ala.) Sparkman's Anthony Orr and Leeds (Ala.) recruit Randan Carnathan. Georgia Tech commit Emanuel Dieke, a 6-foot-7, 205-pound prospect from College Park (Ga.) North Clayton has the size to make a difference in college.
"I'm almost 6-5 and I'm looking way up at him so this is a very, very tall boy with tremendously fast feet," Spaulding said. "He knows what to do with them."
Lithonia (Ga.) Martin Luther King's Joel Kight, who said he's hearing from UCF, UAB and Miami (Ohio), earned MVP honors at linebacker.
Many other prospects stood out at that position including Georgia commit Chase Vasser, Stone Mountain (Ga.) Stephenson's Nigel Mitchell-Thornton, Southern Miss commit Will Martin, White Station (Tenn.) prospect Fred Harvey and Dunwoody (Ga.) sleeper Jerry King, who has no offers yet. Position coach Chris Gizzi said it was difficult picking an MVP.
"We had so many guys," Gizzi said. "At times, it's like that guy is playing like the MVP. This is such an arbitrary thing. We see a guy for four hours and to say he's better than all these other guys isn't necessarily what the MVP means.
"It's all around, from pillar to post, this guy did that much better than the others. We can say the same thing about (Morgan) Cole, Vasser, Mitchell-Thornton, Harvey, (Derrick) Webb, (Cole) Tischer, King, (Josh) Carter. Those guys I just mentioned they're all going to get a shot to play (in college)."
Atlanta Carver's Darren Myles, who has offers from some of the nation's top programs, won the MVP award among defensive backs. His athleticism and versatility impressed position coach Eugene Jackson. Memphis (Tenn.) Whitehaven's Chaz Moore, a 2010 prospect, also had a solid showing.
Other top defensive backs included Southaven (Miss.) Horn Lake's Tremayne McKinley, Leeds (Ala.) prospect Tony Threatt and Prattville (Ala.) recruit Zach Brownell. The position would have been stronger but Gadsden City (Ala.) prospect Dre Kirkpatrick and Atlanta Washington's Branden Smith did not show. Kirkpatrick is rated No. 13 and Smith is No. 51 in the Rivals 100.
On the offensive line, Ashland (Ala.) Clay County's Jeremy Simmons earned MVP honors. Two other standouts were Atlanta Westlake's Chance Warmack, a powerful 6-foot-4, 331-pound recruit with an Alabama offer, and Auburn (Ala.) prospect John Sullen, who has multiple offers and is listed at 6 feet 5 and 330 pounds.
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