Spring football isn’t reserved for high school and college programs getting a few offseason practices in as they work towards the following fall.
Not anymore. Not with the endless recruiting calendar getting more and more attention every year.
In today’s football landscape, the spring has also turned into a time when recruiting camps, most notably the Nike Football Training Camps, pop up all over the country, giving prospects a chance to compete against players of similar talent level. Two such NFTC camps came to the Lone Star State over the weekend.
Saturday in Dallas and Sunday in Houston, the top recruits in Texas and a select few from neighboring states competed in one-on-one drills with recruitniks on hand watching each drill with a critical eye. These camps, with more of a 7-on-7 feel since there are no pads involved, are rare opportunities for the elite prospects, some of whom play in weak high school districts, to compete head to head to show scouts how they stack up against their counterparts on an even playing field.
“The NFTC has always been kind of the one event you can count on elite kids attending,” 247Sports recruiting expert Jeff Howe said.
Several Texas targets, ranging from the elite guys like Mesquite Poteet linebacker Malik Jefferson (No. 3 in the American-Statesman’s Fab 55) and Fort Bend Marshall defensive back Kendall Sheffield (No. 4) to up-and-comers like Pflugerville Henderickson defensive back PJ Mbanasor, were among the hundreds of elite kids participating over the weekend.
Howe, who attended both events over the weekend, says two Texas pledges, highly-rated Euless Trinity offensive lineman Patrick Vahe and under-the-radar Rowlett defensive end Charles Omenihu, were players that stood out from the rest of the heralded group.
It’s no surprise to hear Vahe, No. 27 in the Fab 55, held his own among the camp’s standouts, but three-star Omenihu surprised many with his play against some of the state’s top offensive linemen.
“I think Texas could potentially have hit a home run with this kid,” Howe said.
Omenihu, at 6-foot-5 and with an impressive wingspan, has a relentless motor that could make him a steal for Charlie Strong if his weight – currently 220 pounds – catches up. The lowest rated recruit in UT’s 2015 pledge class went into the weekend with a chip on his shoulder, and showed the scouts they may need to reevaluate his rating.
“It was like a test, a hard test, and I wanted to see if I’d pass or fail,” Omenihu told the Statesman. “And I passed going against some of the best.”
The goal for the players in attendance is an invitation to The Opening – a four-day invite-only camp at Nike headquarters in July for only those that performed the best at the NFTC camps. Vahe picked one up over the weekend. Omenihu will have to hope his number is called during next wave of invites.
“The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is The Opening,” Howe said. “In the times of social media and self-promotion, there’s no better way to do it than performing well at The Opening.”
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