Big Talent at L.A. Nike Camp

Quarterbacks Blake Barnett of Corona Santiago (Left) and Josh Rosen of Bellflower St. John Bosco were invited to The Opening after outstanding performances at the Los Angeles Nike Football Training Camp.

Quarterbacks Blake Barnett of Corona Santiago (Left) and Josh Rosen of Bellflower St. John Bosco were invited to The Opening after outstanding performances at the Los Angeles Nike Football Training Camp. Photo: Ronnie Flores.

Nearly 400 athletes competed at the 2014 L.A. Nike Football Training Camp and five officially earn invites to The Opening, including four Californians. One player who put himself on the map was wide receiver Aaron Moore of L.A. Cathedral.

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Redondo Beach, Calif. — To the naked eye, the Nike Football Training Camps look about the same each year. Highly-regarded players come out to get tested in football-specific protocols, train and compete while learning from a Who’s Who of football coaches. That hasn’t changed in the 17 years one has been held in Los Angeles.

What has changed is the efficiency in which the events are produced by Student Sports and the delivery of information. In the age of social media, high school football fans can quickly find out who stood out among the athletes.

The annual NFTC tour is also a springboard to The Opening 2014, a six-day event for 162 of the nation’s best football players held at the Nike World headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., July 5-10. A good performance at an NFTC can turn into an invite to The Opening and five players got theirs after spectacular performances on Sunday.

Defensive back D.J. Morgan is one of many talented underclass players that should help St. John Bosco of Bellflower remain among the state's best teams in 2014 after a historic run to a state title this past season.

Defensive back D.J. Morgan is one of many talented underclass players that should help St. John Bosco of Bellflower remain among the state’s best teams in 2014 after a historic run to a state title in 2013.

Actually, there were four players who received invites, as QB Blake Barnett from Santiago of Corona, a Notre Dame commit, had his number called after a spectacular showing at the L.A. Elite 11 regional. Sunday just made it official and another invited quarterback who will join him in Oregon is Josh Rosen of defending CIF Open Division champion St. John Bosco of Bellflower. Rosen, last year’s Cal-Hi Sports State Junior of the Year, had plenty of eyes on him coming into Sunday’s NFTC and did not disappoint.

Rosen was named QB MVP of the L.A. NFTC, displaying a live arm and good all-around mechanics for the position. He also has an infectious personality which makes others players gravitate towards him. Rosen remains uncommitted for college with UCLA the reported leader in the clubhouse.

St. John Bosco had some others who turned in solid performances at the NFTC, particularly juniors-to-be Sean McGrew (RB) and D.J. Morgan (DB). Morgan is a rangy 6-foot-2, 180-pound defensive back whose best natural position is safety. He excels at playing the deep ball and knows how to go for it at its apex.

“I feel like I played really well,” Morgan said. “There was a lot of talent and I felt I learned how to play more physical with receivers.”

McGrew, last year’s Cal-Hi Sports State Sophomore of the Year for a 16-0 club named State Team of the Year, drew curiosity because he excelled at running back for the Braves while surrounded by one of the most talented senior classes in state history. Evaluators wanted to see him in a camp setting going against other elite talent and McGrew more than held his own. The 5-foot-6, 164-pounder showed good top speed and a fine ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and get up field. Unofficially, he recorded a SPARQ Rating of 101.85 (4.51 40, 4.18 20-yard shuttle, 37-foot Power Ball Toss, 30.2 Vertical Jump).

“He’s going under 10.9 for 100 meters now and has some real good ability,” said Scout.com National Recruiting Analyst Greg Biggins, a veteran of every L.A. NFTC held. “I don’t know how much he’s going to grow, but as college football changes and becomes more wide open, there is a place for him at the next level.”

Lucier-South Headed North

One player who played to his vast ability and may have been the top overall performer regardless of position was defensive end Keisean Lucier-South of Orange Lutheran. With that being said, he was the only interior prospect to earn an invite to The Opening.

“I’m real honored to get invited,” Lucier-South said. “I’ve been watching The Opening since it started. It’s a really big deal.”

The 6-foot-5, 218-pounder was excellent in reps, performed with a lot of confidence and answered all questions about his football ability. His quickness also helped set him apart. What was even more impressive is Lucier-South just completed basketball season competing in one of the toughest leagues in the state. He mentioned he felt ready to go because of last year’s experience at the event.

“Today the coaches mentioned I really improved my first three steps and hands,” Lucier-South said. “When I went to O-Lu (Orange Lutheran) as a freshman, it was mainly for basketball. My coaches said my future was football and that I would really be a good player, but my freshman year I didn’t believe them. I didn’t start to see it until my sophomore year.”

Meet Aaron Moore

The L.A. NFTC is always a launching pad for at least a few players and this year was no different. Last season, the breakout performers were Denzel Fisher (via Centennial of Compton and headed to UCLA) and defensive lineman Rasheem Green (via Serra of Gardena who attended the L.A. NFTC for the second consecutive year on Sunday). This year, the breakout performer came from arguably the camp’s deepest and most talent-laden position.

Wide receiver Aaron Moore from Cathedral of Los Angeles wasn’t a household name on the recruiting trail and didn’t come in with the fanfare of some other wideouts, but earned position MVP by continuously improving as the day went on. Moore was just thrilled to get an opportunity to compete with other elite players while his Cathedral teammate Cameron Haney (a DB) teased him at the end of the event that, “those offers you’ve been dreaming about are going to come.” Moore couldn’t do anything but crack a smile.

“I wasn’t expecting to win MVP,” the 5-foot-10, 166-pound Moore said. “It was good competition here and I was just trying to do my best. This is the first Nike event I’ve been to and my first camp. What got me MVP was my route-running and I wasn’t letting DBs jam me. My intensity level was there.”

The receiver who received an invite to The Opening was actually a player who attended the prestigious event last season. Christian Kirk from Saguaro (Scottsdale, Ariz.) was explosive out of his breaks and in the testing element unofficially recorded the second highest SPARQ Rating at the camp. The 5-foot-11, 197-pounder, last year’s L.A. NFTC MVP choice among wideouts, recorded a 4.54 40, a 4.37 20-yard shuttle, a 37-foot Power Ball toss and a 40.5 inch Vertical Jump for a 116.58 SPARQ Rating.

Other wideouts who impressed included Jaylinn Hawkins of Buena Park (good feet with the ability to bring the ball in), Jordan Nathan of Monrovia (strong frame who caught the eye of renowned wide receiver coach Tom Shaw) and Equanimeous St. Brown from Servite of Anaheim (a long strider who excelled at getting separation).

John Houston Punches Ticket

The fifth player to lock down an invite to The Opening was linebacker John Houston Jr. from Serra of Gardena. Houston played with a ton of confidence and on his first drop during the Half Skelly drill, he set the tone by promptly picking off a pass attempt. Houston Jr. also showed he could cover downfield. Combine that ability with a 6-foot-3, 211-pound frame and you’ve got quite an impressive package.

2014 L.A. Nike Camp Position MVPs

Offensive Line — Fred Ulu-Perry (St. Louis, Honolulu, Hawaii) 6-3, 307 (2015)
Defensive Line — Keisean Lucier-South (Orange Lutheran) 6-5, 218 (2015)
Linebackers — Ben Humphrey (Mater Dei, Santa Ana) 6-2, 202 (2015)
Running Backs — J.J. Taylor (Centennial, Corona) 5-5, 158 (2016)
Defensive Backs — DeChaun Holiday (Mission Hills, San Marcos) 6-2, 207 (2015)
Wide Receivers — Aaron Moore (Cathedral, Los Angeles) 5-10, 166 (2015)
Quarterbacks — Josh Rosen (St. John Bosco, Bellflower) 6-4, 2015 (2015)

Editor’s Note: There was also an L.A. Nike Football SPARQ Combine on Saturday at Cerritos College. The SPARQ RATING champion of the two events (there was testing at the NFTC) was linebacker Byrce Youngquist from Los Osos of Rancho Cucamonga. On Saturday, the junior-to-be recorded a 123.54 SPARQ Rating (4.54 40, 4.09 20-yard shuttle, 38-foot Power Ball toss, 37.9 inch Vertical Jump). To see the complete unofficial results from the L.A. NFSC, CLICK HERE . For more recaps and information from the L.A. NFSC and NFTC, please visit StudentSports.com.

Ronnie Flores is the managing editor of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at ronlocc1977@yahoo.com. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonMFlores


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