CORNELIUS, N.C. – Toward the end of one-on-ones, one camp instructor standing with the offensive linemen told another, “Not a lot of talking going on around here.”
Providence (N.C.) left tackle Bentley Spain (left) is rated the 2014 class' No. 17 prospect by 247Sports. But he had to resort to a sleeper hold to try and contain Milton (Ga.) end Carl Lawson.
“No reason for there to be,” the other instructor replied.
That’s because, as one could have projected, the defensive linemen – ends in particular – proved the position of dominance at Sunday’s Nike Football Training Camp at Hough High School just north of Charlotte, N.C.
A quartet of high-profile prospects took turns wreaking havoc on an offensive line cast that featured two legit 2014 prospects and perhaps one fringe 2013 BCS candidate.
Auburn end pledge Carl Lawson (Milton/Alpharetta, Ga.), end Tyquan Lewis (Tarboro/Tarboro, N.C.), undersized Lewis Neal (Hunt/Wilson, N.C.) and lineman Antonio Riles (Archer/Lawrenceville, Ga.) had their way utilizing a variety of skill sets.
Perhaps the biggest microscope remains on Neal (6-1, 230), whose height and frame alone make him a difficult projection to any other position but linebacker.
In that regard, Neal decommitted Friday as an outside linebacker commitment at Ohio State. The decision occurred in conjunction with a new reported offer from LSU, which Neal said is pursing him as a pass-rushing end.
“I decommitted for personal reasons,” Neal said. “It wasn’t because of anything I heard about the school. It was legit and something everybody would understand.”
Alabama has also reached out to express initial interest and will scout him later this month , Neal said, and he hopes to visit both in order to make a decision by the end of the summer.
Lewis Neal had minimal trouble motoring around much larger offensive tackles.
“Everybody keeps saying linebacker, but I want to be a pass-rusher,” he said. “I know how to cover. But LSU said I’d be pass-rushing 70 percent of the time and the rest covering.”
Lewis (6-3, 220), a speed rusher with an attractive wingspan, cited LSU, Ole Miss, UNC and Clemson as those most piquing his interest.
Riles tabbed Florida and Georgia as his co-leaders, with Clemson a close third and Tennessee in the mix.
Lawson remains firm with Auburn although his parents want him to take some visits, including a summer swing to USC and UCLA.
Turning the Tide
Formerly UNC’s interim coach, Ohio State defensive coordinator Everett Withers’ fingerprints are all over the Buckeyes’ pursuit of several prominent North Carolina targets.
But OSU’s momentum appears to be slipping, evidenced beyond last week’s two decommitments.
The Buckeyes have been in strong shape with Top247 tight end Josh McNeil (Hillside/Durham, N.C.), as McNeil is close friends with 2012 early enrollee linebacker Jamal Marcus.
Running backs stood little chance outsprinting Larenz Bryant to a spot.
Yet for the first time, McNeil publicly identified a leader Sunday, telling 247Sports that Alabama had ascended among a pack including OSU, Florida, Miami and Notre Dame.
Sunday’s camp presented a rare opportunity for a head-to-head showcase between the state’s top two quarterback prospects: Connor Mitch (Wakefield/Raleigh, N.C.) and Riley Ferguson (Butler/Matthews, N.C.).
Consensus held that Ferguson had the superior day, although long-term arguments could be made either side, predicated on what style of offensive system each matriculates through.
Ferguson will visit Alabama in early June and is also considering LSU and UNC, among others.
Mitch (6-3, 213) is regarded as a heavy South Carolina lean and publicly gives the Gamecocks the edge over LSU and Alabama. He said he could visit Baton Rouge for the Tigers’ summer recruiting showcase if he hasn’t made his college decision by then.
“Having coach (Steve) Spurrier at South Carolina is like having two quarterback coaches,” Mitch said. “He’s produced Heisman Trophy winners and been a Heisman winner himself. So it’s kind of cool to see that kind of legacy.”
6-4 Bamberg-Ehrhardt (S.C.) WR Aggadoria Bowers -- cousin of former Clemson standout Da'Quan Bowers -- was one of the more impressive 2014 prospects competing. UNC and Florida headline his reported offers.
The most buzz from the competition drifted to Top 247 linebacker Larenz Bryant (Vance/Charlotte), who lists Florida, South Carolina and Clemson as his top three in no order.
Charlotte Christian defensive back Des Lawrence, a UNC pledge, added a Georgia offer last week but remains firm to the Tar Heels.
Likewise, Clemson defensive back commitment Jadar Johnson (Orangeburg-Wilkinson/Orangeburg, S.C.) said Auburn has been in frequent contact of late, but the three-star prospect is solid with the Tigers. Johnson’s parents are heavy Clemson fans.
On the flip side, UNC safety pledge Korrin Wiggins (Hillside/Durham) looks like he wants to experience some recruiting love amid an increased offer sheet. Wiggins listed a top five of UNC, Clemson, Wake Forest, Ohio State and South Carolina, in order.
One of Miami’s many recent offers dispensed in the area went to Kannapolis A.L. Brown receiver Keeon Johnson. Johnson (6-3, 190) didn’t participate because of a stated hip injury, but he said he continues to weigh UNC, Notre Dame and Virginia equally.
Butler linebacker Peter Kalambayi continues to favor Virginia and Stanford, while receiver teammate Uriah LeMay intends to whittle his top-10 (released last week) to five by June.
As far as sleepers went, Goose Creek (S.C.) DeShawn Evans (6-4, 210), a prep defensive end, worked at linebacker and displayed an agility and rangy frame that could intrigue schools hunting a hybrid outside backer/end. Evans has yet to garner an offer.
There were more than a dozen 2014 prospects who will or already do hold BCS offers. We’ll have a feature highlighting some of those this week, but in terms of recruiting news, it bears noting that both of McNeil’s recognized 2014 prospects identified their top programs.
Receiver Trevion Thompson (6-2, 177), who claims eight offers, listed Florida as his No. 1 above Ohio State and Clemson. Running back Donte Williams (6-0, 210) likes Florida, Ohio State and N.C. State.