May 14, 2008

NIKE Camp Rewind: Defense was able to attend the Penn State and Ohio State NIKE Camps this past weekend. Numerous top prospects from across the country were in attendance, including Spartan commitment and Rivals 100 LB Chris Norman. has our assessment of many of the players that are on the Spartan recruiting radar.


  • Defensive Line:

    This is a position that Michigan State is looking to address with several of the remaining scholarships they have available. The staff is looking for a few players that can get after the quarterback as well as a few that can clog up the middle. The NIKE Camp had several prospects that fit the bill.

    Canadian Brett Urban is a great looking recruit from a physical standpoint. He is very much in the mold of a Tyler Hoover type of prospect. Look for his stock to elevate considerably after his performance. Urban is still very raw, but he has the frame, the athletic ability and the desire to become a good football player.

    A prospect that liked was Jack Lippert of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. We are not sure if the Spartans are actively recruiting that area, but if they are, Lippert is a name to remember. At 6-foot-4, 248-pounds Lippert has the frame to play that strong-side defensive end spot.

    A local player that impressed was Dylan Farrington of Adrian, Michigan. The 6-foot-5, Farrington has a frame to add plenty of quality size and he moves very well. Look for more on Farrington and his recruitment very soon.

    A defensive tackle that stood out was Jordan Stepp of Indiana. Stepp measured in at "only" 6-foot-0, 285-pounds, but he was virtually unblockable in 1-on-1 drills and his high motor makes him an overachiever. Stepp already has 3 MAC offers on the table and several Big Ten teams are keeping a close eye on him. Spartan DL Coach Ted Gill recruited a short, but powerful DT named Terril Byrd while at Cincinnati. Gill understands that leverage, quickness and technique will beat size any day of the week. Stepp is the type of player that summer camps will determine a lot for.

  • Linebacker:

    The Spartans already have a commitment from Rivals 100 linebacker Chris Norman and he did nothing to hurt his reputation at the NIKE Camp. Norman has a frame that college coaches love to see. He is lean and muscular and is only going to get bigger and better. Norman excels in his ability to close in open space and deliver big hits.

    The Spartans may only add one more linebacker to the class so they have the luxury of being picky. With that said, a player like Barnes would be a great pick-up for any defense. Barnes is extremely athletic and looks like a proto-typical outside linebacker at the next level. Barnes continues the trend of Ft. Wayne producing as much high-level talent per capita as any city in the Midwest.

    Linebackers Will Schwarz and Adam Fenton both had solid moments at the camp. Schwarz has a good frame and could develop into an edge rush type of linebacker. Fenton is more physical and look sot be suited to the MIKE position. Big Ten coaches will be keeping an eye on both players throughout the summer and fall.

    The Penn State NIKE Camp was loaded with high-level linebackers. Ohio State commitment Dorian Bell showed why he is so highly thought of. Dan Mason of Pittsburgh Penn Hills took home the MVP honors and he is going to be a force at the next level. The best looking linebacker in's opinion was Shane Skov of New York. If Jim Harbaugh can hold onto his commitment he has himself a gem.

    One linebacker prospect was looking forward to seeing was Jeremy Gainer of Livonia Clarenceville High School. Gainer has been posting impressive track times this spring and would have likely been one of the top players at the Ohio State camp. Gainer tweaked a hamstring at a track meet last week and wisely decided to skip the NIKE Camp to make sure he is ready for the track regionals and summer college camps.

  • Defensive Back:

    Defensive back is a position that Mark Dantonio knows a thing or two about and he has turned up the notch a bit since taking over at Michigan State. Several players had strong performances at the Ohio State Camp and they are on the Spartan radar.

    Shamari Benton of Brother Rice is looking to add to his scholarship total and most coaches are just waiting to see how well he can cover wide receivers. If his performance on Friday was any indication, Benton should pick up some additional offers when he makes the camp rounds this summer. Benton showed good hips and the ability to turn and run with wide receivers in the drills we watched him in. Benton's hard work in the offseason is definitely paying off.

    A teammate of Benton's at Brother Rice is Kenny Watkins. Watkins has been flying under the radar a bit due to an injury plagued his junior year, but physically he has all the tools coaches want to see. He has good size, runs well and has good ball skills. Watkins will be a player that could really see his stock rise this summer and fall.

    Dana Dixon of Detroit Renaissance was working out both ways at the camp, wide receiver and defensive back. Dixon already has some solid offers and is hearing from Michigan State. We liked him better on defense than at offense. Dixon is a slender athlete and he will have to put on some more mass before he heads off to college, but he likes to compete and will get his chance to earn some Big Ten offers this summer at camps.

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