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March 16, 2006

Junior to Watch Blog: 3/16

Note: We hope you enjoy this free story on StudentSportsFootball.com. Student Sports produces the NIKE Camps, NIKE Combines, Elite 11 Quarterback events and coverage of these elite events plus top recruiting coverage will be part of our premium coverage all spring and summer. If you haven't subscribed to StudentSportsFootball.com until now, this is a perfect time to start!

NIKE Camp registration information has been mailed out to prospects all over the country and already many are beginning to return their forms and confirm their spots for one of the 12 NIKE Camps across the country. Today the Blog continues to take a look at some of the top returnees...

*Yesterday the blog took a look at one the top prospects in the Palmetto State, QB Willy Korn out of Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes. Another player who could rival Korn as the state's top prospect is 6-5, 230 pound defensive end Cliff Matthews, who's now up to seven offers, with the most recent coming from Virginia Tech. Clemson, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida and Auburn have also offered the rangy rush end, who totaled 66 tackles and nine sacks while also picking off two passes and also catching 17 passes for 282 yards and six scores as a junior. Matthews figures to have a great upside as his rangy frame fills out over the next few years and his 4.8 speed in the 40 and 32-inch vertical jump shows good athleticism. Matthews is also an all-state performer on the hardwood, averaging 17.1 points and 10.8 rebounds per game this winter. He plans on camping at Georgia and Clemson this summer, and lists those two schools as his favorites, followed by South Carolina, Florida and Auburn. Matthews will also attend the April 29th NIKE Camp in Athens.

*The Sunshine State produces so many fine football prospects annually that there are a number of players currently off the radar that will be Division I signees come next February. One such player is 6-2, 170 pound wide receiver Jermaine McKenzie out of Bradenton (Fla.) Academy. The 4.44 speedster had a huge year last fall, catching 33 balls for 650 yards and 10 scores while totaling 41 tackles and four interceptions on the defensive side of the ball, earning all-Suncoast and all-county honors. McKenzie plans on attending a couple camps this summer with his fraternal twin brother Tremaine, a 6-0, 202 pound junior linebacker/safety, to help get their names out, but some schools have already picked up his scent. Auburn was the first to offer earlier this week, and McKenzie list the Tigers amongst his favorites along with Miami, USC, Florida and Iowa. The McKenzie twins will both attend the NIKE Camp in Miami on April 9th.

*It took a little longer than we expected but Camarillo (Calif.) quarterback Samson Szakacsy picked up his first scholarship offer on Tuesday. Szakacsy, 6-4, 190 pounds has been on the radar since his freshman year when he saw plenty of action at Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure. The quarterback transferred to Camarillo after week one of his junior season and made an immediate impact completing 177-241 passes (73%) for 1,959 yards and 23 touchdowns. "Ron Zook just sent a written offer from Illinois," Szakacsy's father Doug said. "This is the first one and Samson is very excited, not just because it's his first, but he likes Illinois as well. Stanford has basically given a verbal offer pending academic clearance but this is the first written one so it's exciting. Zook has said they want to throw the ball and had a good recruiting class last year bringing in a pair of 6-7 offensive linemen and an Elite 11 QB in Isiah Williams. My wife and I had the opportunity to talk to the staff at Illinois last night and they are just unbelievably fantastic people. They said they're going to be following Samson around all summer (i.e. Nike camps, elite 11, etc) until Signing Day." The signal caller said his top eight schools currently are Stanford, Florida, USC, Miami, Illinois, Purdue, Michigan and Penn State. Szakacsy will attend the Elite 11 camp in State College on May 6th and the NIKE Camp the following weekend in Stanford.

*Szakacsy won't be the only top QB at the Elite 11 camp in State College on May 6th, as West Virginia's top signal caller, 6-4, 220 pound Charlie Russell, will also be in Happy Valley that day for both the Elite 11 and NIKE Camps. Russell, out of Morgantown High, is coming off a very successful junior season, in which he led his team to an undefeated season and state 3A title while also earning all-state honors in the process. The smooth pocket passer hit 94 of 159 attempts last fall for 1,861 yards with 19 touchdown passes versus six interceptions. A great student with a 3.92 GPA, Russell would like to major in biochemistry in college and is looking for a solid academic school that is also in a great football town. Russell currently lists his favorite schools as West Virginia, Kentucky, NC State, Tennessee and Michigan, and he has offers from the Mountaineers, Wildcats and Wolfpack already.

*Pennsylvania is known for its long lineage of quarterbacks, from Namath, Montana and Marino, but the Keystone State also produces good lineman by the bushel, and the Class of 2007 figures to continue that trend. 6-4, 296 pound offensive tackle Paul Simkovich is one of the state's best for next year, possessing great size, solid strength (300 pound bench press) and good footspeed with bests of 5.27 in the 40 and 4.88 in the shuttle. Simkovich was a two-way standout at Greater Latrobe last fall, earning all-section honors as an OL and totaling 31 tackles and 4.5 sacks as a d-tackle. Simkovich, who also plays on his high school hockey team, currently lists Penn State, Michigan State, Virginia, Purdue and Pitt as his favorite colleges and the Spartans have offered early along with Akron. Simkovich will attend the May 6th NIKE Camp in State College.

*Jared Williams maybe recruited by most as a cornerback due to his 5-10, 180 pound frame, but the Pittsburgh (Pa.) Perry standout did a lot of damage last fall at running back with his quick feet and breakaway speed. Williams ran for 1,115 yards and 17 touchdowns on just 116 carries last fall while also catching 20 passes for 290 yards and four more scores out of the backfield. He didn't take time off when opponents had the ball either, registering 45 tackles and two interceptions on defense. With bests of 4.4 in the 40 and a 4.0 shuttle, Williams has both the straight ahead speed and quick feet that should allow him to be a standout at cornerback on the next level and the hometown Pitt Panthers seem to think so as well, as they've already offered Williams a full-ride. He likes Virginia Tech, Miami, Florida State, USC and Cal along with Pitt and will attend the May 6th NIKE Camp in State College.

*6-3, 180 pound Steven Howard was one of the more productive receivers in the Tar Heel State last fall, and his size and soft hands have already attracted two scholarship offers. Howard caught 49 passes for 750 yards and seven touchdowns in '05 for Charlotte (N.C.) Olympic, earning all-conference honors in the process. He reports 4.6 speed in the 40 and his height and leaping ability make him a dangerous weapon in the red zone. Wake Forest and NC State are Howard's first two offers and he lists both the Demon Deacons and Wolfpack amongst his favorites along with Miami, Florida and Virginia Tech. Howard will attend the NIKE Camp in Clemson on May 21st.

*Bruising running back Robert Hughes gets a lot of the attention at Chicago (Ill.) Hubbard, but he's not the only prospect there that is receiving interest from Division I schools. 5-10, 220 pound safety/linebacker Darius Purcell has been a starter and all-conference selection since his freshman year and is a key playmaker on the team as well. Purcell starts primarily at strong safety and wide receiver, but has been called on to play quarterback, cornerback, linebacker, and running back over his varsity career at Hubbard. Last fall he totaled 60 tackles and four interceptions, returning two of the interceptions for scores, and also had 670 yards and six touchdowns receiving. Purcell will attend the May 5th NIKE Camp in Columbus.

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.

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