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May 19, 2004

Breaking down the Iowa City NIKE Camp

IOWA CITY, Iowa - Everybody knows that if you want to find skilled players, you go to states like California or Florida. But everybody also knows that if you want to find some good quality offensive linemen then you look toward the Midwest and the Midlands Region.

So it's no surprise that La Porte (Iowa) Union offensive lineman Matt Pipho dominated the Iowa City NIKE Training Camp this past Sunday and came away with camp most valuable player honors.

"The camp itself was pretty fun, and my favorite part of the camp was the speed work," Pipho said. "I definitely will take away some good ideas on improving my overall speed, and I'm going to add some of those exercises into my workout routine."

A better Pipho?

That could be scary for Iowa defensive linemen that get in his way, because Pipho is already an extremely talented prospect and he proved it Sunday with a dominating performance.

Pipho, who measured in at 6-foot-6 and 256 pounds, tested off the charts with a 5.19-second time in the 40-yard dash, a 4.66-second time in the shuttle and a 31-inch vertical. Then Pipho took his game to the drills and the one-on-ones, where he continued to impress with great footwork and amazing explosion off the ball.

What also was impressive about Pipho, who still only has one scholarship offer from Stanford, was his great frame. From first glance, it looked like he was rather thin for a tall lineman, yet he carries his weight rather well and should easily be able to add another 20 or 30 pounds of muscle in college. He also has long arms, which allowed him to lock on defensive linemen in the one-on-one portion of the camp.

"Matt is a very physical lineman, both offensively and defensively," Union coach Mark Hubbard said. "He comes off the ball real well for his size. He is still just developing."

And that's what makes Pipho an even more intriguing prospect. He is already very talented, but his best football is still way ahead and as he continues to get bigger and stronger the sky is the limit for him.

However, Pipho wasn't the only big and talented prospect at the Iowa NIKE Training Camp. Here is a Rivals100.com breakdown of each of the positions.

Quarterbacks
With the Elite 11 Regional quarterback workout after the camp and Rivals100 selection Jake Christensen working out, he kind of stole some of the thunder from the other quarterbacks that worked out during the actual camp on Sunday.

Yet with Christensen it is easy to see why he can steal some thunder.

Christensen looked a little shorter than the self-reported 6-foot-2 - honestly he was more like 6-feet even - but that still doesn't knock the kid's ability to be a big-time quarterback prospect. Christensen exhibited a great arm, was amazing with his fundamentals and made very accurate throws.

Christensen ran a 4.89 second 40-yard dash in his only documented testing time last winter at the U.S. Army All-America Combine in San Antonio, but it was easy to see that his football speed is more than acceptable. Even though scrambling wasn't the main focus of the camp, Christensen did show very good ability to roll out and throw on the run.

There were other quarterbacks that looked ready to take their game to the next level - especially fast-rising Indiana quarterback Dustin Sherer of Westfield Hamilton Heights.

Sherer, who just picked up an offer from the Iowa Hawkeyes the day before arriving at the camp to go with scholarships from Indiana and Illinois, had maybe the strongest arm at the camp. His arm strength reminded some of Kyle Orton, who was a NIKE Camp discovery. Sherer was a little awkward in some of his some of his mechanics, but he made up for it with his arm strength and ability to nail the open receivers.

There is talk that Pittsburg, Kan., quarterback Kerry Meier might be the top player in the Sunflower State for the Class of 2005 and with only one other player known to have an offer it's probably true. And Meier didn't do anything to disappoint on Sunday.

Measuring in at 6-foot-2 and 203 pounds, Meier ran a very good time of 4.6 seconds in the 40. That's a great time for a quarterback, but even better when you consider only 15 other players at the camp had better times.

Meier, who is the younger brother of Tennessee Titan tight end Shad Meier and Kansas State quarterback Dylan Meier, has picked up early scholarships from Texas A&M and Kansas. And he looked like he would be a perfect fit for teams like A&M, Kansas or K-State - where his brothers played at - where the quarterback is able to make plays with his arm and his feet. Meier was accurate with his passes and his mobility will be enough to make him a successful college signal-caller.

Coming into the NIKE Camp, most people had Marshall, Mich., quarterback Evan Sharpley ranked as a top 10 prospect in the state of Michigan. After the camp, it would be hard to keep him out of top five because he really impressed with his 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame and attention to details.

Sharpley didn't posses the strongest arm in the world, but everything else about his game was impeccable. His drops were perfect, he had great mechanics and a very fluid throwing motion. With scholarship offers already on the table from Iowa, LSU, Wisconsin, watch for even more to come because once you see Sharpley in person it's easy to become a big fan of his game.

Springfield (Ill.) Sacred Heart dual-threat quarterback Eric Peterman also impressed on Sunday with a good combination of size and arm strength.

Running backs
With the focus on big bodies at the camp, there weren't a ton of running backs that stepped forward, but there were a few to keep a close eye on this recruiting season.

One such player was Ballwin (Mo.) Parkway West running back Chris Jackson. Jackson, who measured in at 5-foot-10 and 197 pounds, simply had amazing feet and was able to go through the rope drills and bag drills without any hesitation. He also had a collection of spin and juke moves that made it almost impossible to catch during one-on-one drills. Not much was known about him heading into the camp, but he'll be one to keep an eye on for sure after Sunday. There reportedly are some qualifying issues with Jackson, but if he can get those cleared up, he'll be a prospect that should have plenty of colleges to choose from.

Fullback prospect Jake Behrens of Omaha Millard North came in at 6-0 and 219 pounds and looked to be the optimal fullback for a team that likes a good blocker and a guy that can catch the ball out of the backfield. He doesn't have any scholarship offers at this point, but after a 4.3 shuttle, 31 inch vertical and 21 bench-press repetitions, he'll probably earn a few before the end of spring.

Newton, Iowa, running back Derrick Law definitely passes the eye-ball test at 5-foot-11 and 197 pounds. Law clocked a 4.75-second 40, but did excel in everything else at the camp, including one-on-ones and in position drills.

Even though, it's considered to be a horrible year in the state of Kansas, one player that has quietly been moving up the charts in a few coaches' opinion is Wichita Heights back Gary Chandler. Chandler, who was 5-11 and 190 pounds, didn't run a blistering 40-yard dash, clocking in at 4.69 seconds, but he seemed extremely fluid in drills and possessed a pair of soft hands in one-on-one drills. He's a Sunflower State sleeper to keep an eye on.

Receivers/Tight ends
The tight ends were probably the camp's strongest position with blue-chip recruits Zach Potter, Chase Coffman and Trent Flander and fast-rising A.J. Haase on hand, showcasing their size, speed and ability to be big-time playmakers with their pass-catching ability.

It's hard to single out one in this group because all of them had their own strengths that should make them household names with college recruiters this fall.

Potter, who measured in at 6-foot-7 and 258 pounds, didn't display blazing speed with a 5.0-second time in the 40-yard dash, but he did have a pair of soft hands, decent footwork and an incredible body and frame that will certainly make recruiters drool. Some college coaches are quietly whispering that Potter might be an offensive tackle on the next level and seeing him work out it's easy to see that he could project at that position.

Coffman of Peculiar (Mo.) Raymore Peculiar measured in at 6-foot-6 and clocked an average 4.81-second time in the 40. However, he was extremely fluid in the passing drills and had some great hands in one-on-one competition against the linebackers. Coffman, who has scholarships from Iowa, Kansas State and Missouri, doubles as a basketball player and he used his hops and ability to post-up defenders in jump-ball situations to come down with impressive catches time after time.

Flander of West Des Moines (Iowa) Dowling has been talked about as one of the top five players in the state and he didn't disappoint Sunday. Flander measured 6-foot-3 and 222 pounds, and he was extremely physical throughout the camp. His route running was very precise and he had the type of muscle build that you'd expect out of a tight end that's not afraid to mix it up as a run blocker, too.

Even though he's from tiny Boone Terre (Mo.) North County, Haase looked like he's good enough to take his game to the big-time. Haase, who committed early to Iowa State but admitted he's not turning away calls from other college coaches, was impressive in every sense possible.

Haase was at the front of almost every drill, worked hard to get as many repetitions possible and did all of the little things that college coaches crave in a leader. Then he displayed some smooth routes, great explosion off the ball, great hands and was physical when the time came for him to match up in one-on-one drills. Haase might be a relative unknown on the national recruiting scene but watch for his stock to continue to skyrocket after the impressive camp Sunday.

Hazelwood (Mo.) Central tight end Kazeem Alli was another tight end that grabbed attention. With a great frame and decent speed, Alli will be one of St. Louis' top prospects this year.

Receiver Rasheed Ward of Chicago Harper wasn't the tallest pass-catcher in the bunch, but with his ability to make big catches, he looked like a keeper. Ward has some serious wheels and performed well in the individual speed drills. Ward also caught just about everything thrown his way all day. Ward has the athletic ability and skills to become yet another serious game-breaker type of receiver from the Chicago Public League. If things don't work out at receiver, Ward said he would like the challenge of playing corner in the next level.

Two other receivers to keep an eye on are Chicago Morgan Park standout Orlando Moore and Sioux City, Iowa, sleeper B.J. Steed. Steed, honestly looked more like an athlete or a defensive back with his amazing frame and great change of direction. He didn't have the top end speed that you're looking for in a receiver, but he definitely passed the eyeball test and is worth a look. Moore proved once again that he'll be one of the top receivers in Illinois with a very solid camp.

Offensive line
Pipho might have been the headliner at offensive line, but there were several other prospects that look to be high-level candidates after a solid camp on Sunday.
Keep an eye on Marion (Iowa) Linn-Marr offensive tackle Andy Kuempel. In many people's opinions, Kuempel had just as impressive of a camp as Pipho. He a long frame that allows him to get great leverage on opponents.

Tall and very athletic, Kuempel has the makings of a very good offensive line prospect. Kuempel also showed flashes of much bigger and better things to come on the football side of life, even though some project him as one of Iowa's better basketball prospects. Kuempel's frame and overall athletic ability is exceptional.

Spencer, Iowa, standout Ben Wampler and Travis Meade from Iowa City (Iowa) West were two other names to keep an eye on. Milwaukee (Wis.) Vincent center Adrian Battles also looked good.

Defensive line
If tight end was the top position in the camp, defensive line was right behind it - especially with the state of Iowa's top player, Alex Kanellis has, leading the way.

Not only was Kanellis able to be easily coached and didn't need to be told to do things twice, Kanellis had amazing footwork, a solid and very sturdy frame and great explosion off the ball. Kanellis was a little light because he is still gaining weight after slimming down to 215 pounds for wrestling season, but by the time he's hitting football he should be around 255 again. He could easily be in the 6-4 and 265-270 range in college and still keep that great explosion.

North Chicago teammates Demectric Fowler and O'Brien Schofield probably saw their already hot stock move up quite a bit with their performance at the camp. At 6-4 and 235 pounds, Fowler definitely passed the eyeball test and looked good throughout the entire camp. Schofield, who impressed with a 6-4, 220-pound frame, had an explosive first step and a never-say die attitude in the one-on-one drills.

Defensive end Brent Gritton of Lincoln (Neb.) East looked very good despite a nagging hamstring pull. He measured in at 6-1 and 226 pounds. Morgan Park defensive end Sam Porter also impressed - just like he does on film - with a sturdy frame, great technique and some brute strength.

Linebackers
Linebacker Rahkeem Smith of Villa Park (Ill.) Willowbrook has been a name that nobody has been talking about on the recruiting front, but they should be. Smith was one of the most physically impressive players at the camp, and even though he didn't run as fast as he would like to, he showed a great ability to cover receivers and close on the football in one-on-one drills.

Bettendorf, Iowa, linebacker Pat Angerer measured in at 6-0 and 200 pounds and pumped out 23 reps of 185 pounds, which was one of the better marks of the camp. In drills, Angerer looked physical and was able to use his strength to muscle up defenders in passing drills.

Other linebackers that opened up some eyes included Glen Ellyn (Ill.) Glenbard West star Conor Gillen, Morgan Park standout Phillip Brown and Hazelwood Central outside linebacker/safety Frank Burrell.

Gillien wasn't the fastest player on the field and wasn't the biggest, but he did everything right in drills and displayed a great nose for the football. Brown was a player that looked great on film coming into the camp and he's added even more muscle mass to his already solid frame. Burrell is projected as a safety or an outside linebacker by most college teams and he showed the ability to quickly break on a ball on Sunday.

Another Kansan worth mentioning was Lawrence, Kan., backer Ian Handshy. Handshy measured in at 6-0 and 205 pounds and clocked a 4.56-second 40-yard dash. With his size, he might have to be a defensive back in college, but he has the tools be a good college prospect.

Defensive backs
The defensive back crop was extremely thin, but a few that stood out included St. Joseph (Mo.) Central safety Justin Thornton and Flint (Mich.) Montrose safety Aubrey Pleasant.

Pleasant did not work out because of a pulled hamstring, but he definitely passes the eyeball test. With his size and frame, he could project at either of the defensive back spots. Thorton, who was taller and more slender, was impressive in one-on-one drills and showed why he's already picked up a scholarship offer from the Missouri Tigers.

For expanded coverage of the Iowa City NIKE Training Camp, you should check out StudentSports.com. Access to StudentSports.com requires an additional membership. Coming Soon! The best is getting better. The Rivals.com Recruiting Database will include all authentic data from this summer's NIKE Training Camp schedule.


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