SOUTHFIELD - Rising linebacker prospect Jamal Lyles isn't planning to attend Michigan State's camp on Saturday, but he wants a scholarship offer from the Spartans. Thus he used Day 1 of the Sound Mind Sound Body Camp on Wednesday at Southfield High as a means of showcasing himself. Detroit King RB/athlete Dennis Norfleet excelled in the wheel route drill, turning on an extra gear or two as he accelerated up the sideline. However, the coach running the drill, an otherwise strong-armed assistant from Eastern Michigan, left the pass short. "Let it go deep!" Norfleet said while trotting back to the end of the line after making the catch. "Deep!"
Lyles, of Southfield Lathrup High, was easily the most impressive senior linebacker during SMSB drills on Wednesday. He was good in pursuit drills, pass coverage, and pass rush. At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, he showed range, fast feet, and the ability to start, stop, cover ground and close quickly while maintaining form and balance.
Lyles noticed Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio and linebackers coach Mike Tressel watching him closely on Wednesday.
"I'm pretty excited about hopefully getting a Michigan State offer," Lyles said. "They have been following me around the whole day and I feel like I have been performing well, so I will probably know before this week is over about an offer."
Lyles said he planned to check in with Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi after the camp.
"I probably won't make it up there to Michigan State on Saturday (for camp) because we have a team 7-on-7," Lyles said. "But today was a big day. I've been waiting to perform and show my talents. It felt good to come out here and perform well."
Lyles reports offers from Iowa, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Stanford and MAC schools.
"I feel like I'm better now at reading as a linebacker because I have more experience as a linebacker," Lyles said. "Last year was my first year playing that position. And I feel like I am better at using my hands and I have gotten stronger and have added more weight. I want to keep getting stronger and adding more weight."
Lyles' bench press is up to 315, an impressive figure for a long-armed linebacker who just finished his junior year of high school.
On Wednesday, he turned in the only interception of the day by linebackers in coverage drills against wheel and option routes. On the interception, Lyles shut off a running back to the outside, got on top of him, walled him off, might have grabbed a little shirt in the process, and then owned the air space as the ball arrived, jumping high for an interception.
Lyles played quarterback and wide receiver on offense last year and showed effortless ball skills in closing out the play.
"I'm used to catching the ball and finishing plays," Lyles said. "When I got the interception, it was like a big play in front of a lot of great coaches and great players. I'm not sure who I was going against on that play. They said it was a pretty good player so I felt good about it."
Reporters weren't sure either. There is no numbering system or roster reference material for observers.
Whoever the running back was, Lyles utilized the matchup to put a spotlight on his own skills.
"I pressed him and then he turned it upfield, so I pressed him out of bounds and then I tried to get the interception," Lyles said.
About a half hour later, with dusk and a light drizzle descending on the practice fields at Southfield High, Lyles looked long, strong and fundamentally sound with nice pass rush exhibition. On one play, he beat a pass protecting running back with a fake to the outside, following by a devastating shoulder club and counter move back to the inside for a TKO and an easy route to the QB.
"Most players trying to pass protect are over-pursuing to the outside so I hit him with an outside move and then came back inside and used my hands to get to the quarterback," Lyles said.
Samuels Presides Over WR Meeting Room
Michigan State defensive line coach Ted Gill presided over the defensive line meeting room at the SMSB Camp, and Spartan wide receivers coach Terry Samuels served as the chalk talk speaker for receivers.
Samuels urged the campers to "manipulate the university as a resource."
He advised them to sit in the front row when in class, ask professors for their business card, and ask successful people around town about their majors.
"When you walk away from the university in four or five years," Samuels said, "walk away knowing that you used the university and that the university didn't use you."
As for athletic pointers, Samuels gave the campers a brief clinic on stance, take-off, release moves and reading a cornerback's alignment and leverage. He stressed the importance of overlooked concepts such as warming up your hands prior to practice and games.
"Get your fingers warm and ready," said Samuel, who joined Michigan State's staff in February. "You catch with your finger tips, not your palms. Get your fingers warm and loose. They are the shock absorbers when catching the football."
Samuels got into the mechanics of release moves, down to the importance of having the knee over the toe, and shoulder over the knee when exploding.
"I am not the foremost authority," Samuel said. "I just have some experience."
Pretty Darn Fleet
Norfleet wanted to show just how fleet he could be on that play, rather than having to ease up and wait for the ball.
But he finished the play anyway. Prior to the snap, Michigan State linebackers coach Mike Tressel alerted Spartan head coach Mark Dantonio that Norfleet was next in line and about ready to take a rep. Dantonio was speaking with a high school coach at the time, but paused to watch Norfleet closely.
The 5-foot-9 Norfleet has offers from Michigan State, Tennessee and Cincinnati.
Norfleet didn't get a chance to match up with Jamal Lyles on this day, but it's possibly they may see each other on Day 2.
Saginaw Soph Gearing Up
Rising sophomore running back Keyon Addison of Saginaw High has the look of a future all-stater. At about 5-11, 175 (and growing) he displayed the fantastic change of direction and one-step explosiveness that enabled him to become an impact player last fall as a freshman.
On Wednesday, he turned Detroit Cass Tech linebacker Laron Taylor around and inside-out by selling the out cut and then breaking it off with a blazing burst up the center seam, becoming wide open for a deep ball. Whether or not the QB delivered the ball is immaterial. Taylor's jets were undeniable.
It was that type of elusiveness which enabled him to rush for 136 yards on 10 carries last fall against Midland High.
Don't Sleep On Knapp
Portage Central offensive line prospect Kyle Knapp continued a spotless spring and summer with a nice performance on Wednesday. Three and a half weeks after earning o-line MVP honors at the Columbus NIKE Camp, Knapp again pitched a shutout against all comers at the Sound Mind Sound Body Camp.
Rivals.com's Josh Helmholdt reports that Knapp stood strong on Wednesday against NIKE Camp standout David Perkins, a Notre Dame commitment from South Bend Washington High.
Knapp has close ties with the Michigan State staff and plans to camp at MSU this weekend. He has camped at MSU several times in the past.
MSU already has commitments from two offensive guard prospects and is looking for offensive tackles at this point.
Knapp might not have the size (6-4, 265) to play on the edge, but he merely keeps winning and winning and winning this spring. Meanwhile, his coach-ability and attitude are impeccable. He is always the first one in line, the most intent listener in huddles, and hustles back to the end of the line after every rep. He goes hard on every rep, past the whistle.
He may not have the best DNA on the recruiting watch list, and evaluators can't help but question how high his ceiling of potential may be. But he has the look of a guy who is going to play winning football for someone, somewhere at some level. Michigan State is going to continue to evaluate him, and Knapp just might force his way into the scholarship offer discussion if he keeps 4-pointing these camp tests.
Midland's Elmer Wows 'Em
Midland High rising junior Steve Elmer was the talk of the camp, at least on the big man side of the field, following Wednesday's drills. At 6-6 and nearly 300, Elmer put his excellent size to good use with tremendous footwork. The quickness and precision of his slide steps were beyond his years and frame. He scooted with expert quality in repeatedly frustrating Michigan commitment Matthew Godin, to the point that Godin shoved Elmer out of frustration after one rep.
Elmer's pass protection slides were even more impressive when considering he was moving in tall grass on a slightly bumpy surface on the Southfield High practice field.
In addition to foot quickness and balance, he also showed the upper body strength and hands to fend off good challenges. He traded power barbs without flailing or getting off balance or out of position. He was a rock.
Elmer's mother is a Michigan State graduate. In an interesting Rivals.com AMP piece filed by Helmholdt and Rivals.com's Greg Ladky, Elmer states that he grew up a Spartan fan.
Elmer will camp at Michigan State on Saturday, and Michigan on Sunday and Monday. He will camp at Notre Dame next week. He already has offers from Mississippi State and Wisconsin, and is showing the form of a potential Top 100 recruit.
This And That
Helmholdt also reports that Detroit Consortium's Stephon Hall turned heads with a good performance on Wednesday. Helmholdt noticed that Michigan State coaches were watching him closely on Wednesday. Helmholdt says Hall (6-3, 262) is "emerging" with "the look of a high Division 1 prospect."
Highly-touted Michigan State recruiting target Danny O'Brien of Flint Powers did not attend Wednesday's session. Flint Powers has not yet finished the school year. He may attend a portion of Thursday's session, following Powers' half-day of school.
Heretofore running back prospect Coy Brown of Wakarusa (Ind.) Northwood worked out on Wednesday as a linebacker. The 6-foot, 227-pounder camped at MSU, and other places, last summer as a running back. He has an offer from Akron at that position
On Wednesday, the big-armed, beef-chested Brown looked forceful and natural as an inside linebacker prospect.
He is listed as having 4.7 speed, a 345-pound bench and a 33-inch vertical.
At 6-foot, 220, his frame and musculature are very similar to 2011 Ohio product Kaleb Ringer. Whether or not he can begin attracting heavy scholarship interest remains to be seen. But he had a quality day on Wednesday at the Sound Mind Sound Body Camp.
Michigan State's entire staff attended the Sound Mind Sound Body Camp. They are not expected to attend on Thursday ... It is believed that Michigan's entire staff attended on Wednesday as well ... MSU head coach Mark Dantonio stayed for the entire day ... In addition to various coaches from MAC schools, an assistant from Northwestern University was also in attendance, as was Syracuse assistant Tyrone Wheatley. Coaches from Iowa and Ohio State were not present, but they are expected to attend on Thursday.
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