April 04, 2011

LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- Sunday's Los Angeles Nike Football Training Camp was loaded with talent from around California and the West Coast. But several players separated themselves from the masses on the USC practice fields, proving to be on a different level.

Here are the best of the best who competed in LA.

At a loaded camp, no position group had more talent than the defensive backs, which featured elite national recruits. Ishmael Adams took home the defensive back MVP award, but the honor could have gone to any number of prospects.

Adams, a cornerback out of Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian, got the nod due to a really consistent afternoon and a complete effort. He is a stocky, physical cornerback who can play all facets of the game. He's effective in press coverage, has good ball skills, redirects extremely well and can elevate and make plays on the football.

Raymond Ford was under strong consideration for the MVP award as well. He is a wiry, explosive athlete who has fantastic reaction skills and the ability to get off the ground quickly and accelerate to footballs. Though he is skinny, Ford's competitive nature was evident in his ability to play physical at the line of scrimmage. He is the type of cornerback who has a lot of innate ability and an extremely high ceiling.

But few cornerbacks have as much upside as Brandon Beaver out of Compton (Calif.) Dominguez. Beaver was playing with a cast on his hand, but he has ideal size and length at the cornerback position. On Sunday Beaver was remarkably fluid in his movements, showing change of direction, good hips and turn-and-run ability.

Sunday was the third time this spring that we've seen Inglewood (Calif.) cornerback Devian Shelton, and each time he's competed, he's improved at a phenomenal rate. The 2010 season was Shelton's first year playing cornerback. Before that he was a defensive end. Though the lack of polish is evident, his athleticism is even more obvious. He can run and jump, has great size at close to 6-foot-3 and rarely gets beat. Though he has no offers to date, Shelton has received significant interest. At the rate he's improving, there's no doubt that his offer list will grow immensely this summer.

Davonte Neal made the trip from Arizona, but the travel was worthwhile. Already considered one of the top prospects in the country, Neal lived up to his billing. Though he could play several positions at the next level, Neal worked out at defensive back on Sunday and he was nothing short of dominating. He's a physically impressive prospect who looks the part of a safety but has corner cover skills and receiver ball skills. Neal also loves to compete and he proved that he deserves every one of the numerous offers that he holds.

Though Shittu had 15 offers coming into Sunday, this camp was his coming out party in a lot of ways. He was terrific. At 6-3, 280 pounds, Shittu played with leverage and power and was the most explosive defensive tackle in Los Angeles. Shittu's performance was enough to earn him the defensive line MVP.

In the o-line/d-line one-on-ones, Shittu was nearly unstoppable. He combined great quickness, powerful, active hands and great pad level to blow by almost every offensive lineman who tried to slow him down.

On Saturday, Shittu took an unofficial visit to UCLA for the Bruins' spring practice. On Sunday, he noted that among his 15 offers, all schools remain even with the exception of Stanford. He is still determining what seven schools will join the Cardinal in his top eight.

A USC commit, Ruffin has some of the best -- and most intriguing -- film in the country. For his Downey team, Ruffin plays running back, wide receiver and linebacker and excels everywhere. Ruffin strictly played linebacker on Sunday, and he didn't disappoint.

From a physical standpoint, no player had a better build for his position than Ruffin, who is extremely long, filled out and strong but also has room to develop.

Ruffin can run, turn his hips and drop into coverage and he certainly looks as though he's capable of being physical. He's the rare type of backer who could probably project at any linebacker position and could probably even put a hand down and rush the passer effectively too.

Though he didn't compete in the one-on-ones after a slight injury during the 7-on-7 period, Ruffin did enough to cement his status as one of the nation's top linebackers and top overall players.

Another prospect who came to the event with a strong reputation, McCarthy managed to dominate as well. With a 6-5, 300-plus pound frame, McCarthy is a prototypical franchise interior defender. At that size, McCarthy plays with leverage and is very powerful. He's active with his hands, he's very light on his feet and he competes at a high level.

Though he has already proven himself in other settings including the U.S. Army Combine and on Friday nights last fall, McCarthy once again cemented himself as one of the top defenders in America.

If any prospect had an excuse to sit out Sunday's event, it was Simmons. The big offensive tackle has offers from around the country and was perhaps the most highly recruited player in attendance. That didn't stop him from competing though. In fact, one of the most impressive aspects of Simmons' day was the fact that he took more reps than any offensive lineman. Simmons was itching to prove himself and dominate the competition.

Simmons issues a powerful punch at the snap of the ball, then shows effective feet and good balance. Simmons has the ability to play offensive tackle due to his feet and size. If tackle doesn't work out, Simmons could be an even better guard. Regardless, the big lineman is elite and he isn't afraid to go out and prove it.

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