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June 18, 2012

MSU camp: Cooper keeps motor running


EAST LANSING, Mich: Rivals.com's Josh Helmholdt takes a position-by-position look at Michigan State's one-day summer camp.

Quarterbacks: Top performer: Tyler Wiegers, Detroit Country Day (2014) Michigan State already has its quarterback in the 2013 class, so it was no surprise that Saturday's camp had a strong underclassmen representation. Wiegers, the 6-foot-4, 190-pound in-state passer, has had a spring full of strong performances, but Saturday's showing may have been his best. He was dropping passes into spots other quarterbacks simply cannot reach. Both his velocity and accuracy were outstanding and he was fully in control of his passes all day long.

Two other quarterbacks of note come from the 2015 class. Chattanooga (Tenn.) Baylor School quarterback Michael O'Connor was throwing in a camp for the fourth time in as many days, but still had a live arm and was showing off his always sound footwork and arm mechanics. O'Connor's performance earned him an offer from the Spartans. Dewitt, Mich., rising sophomore Jake Johnson is really starting to fill out his frame and promises to be a player to watch in coming years.

Running backs: Top performer: R.J. Shelton, Beaver Dam, Wisc. Shelton is already committed to the Spartans and he came out and backed up his lofty reputation with a strong showing on Saturday. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Shelton is an explosive, change-of-pace back. He worked from out of the backfield and in the slot during 1-on-1s and half skeleton, showing natural receiving abilities. What you immediately notice about Shelton, though, is his quickness. He can stop and start and change directions instantly. Chelsea, Mich., three-star Berkley Edwards was probably the most physically put-together back at the camp. We did not see many of his repetitions. Chicago De La Salle running back Mikale Wilbon is another well put together kid at 5-foot-9 and 190 pounds. Besides having a solid running-back build, Wilbon also showed quickness and balance during position drills and promises to be a player to watch in the 2014 class.

Wide receivers: Top performer: Thaddeus Snodgrass, Springfield, Ohio (2014) The 6-foot-1, 170-pound Snodgrass came into Saturday's camp with an offer from Toledo, and emerged with his first Big Ten offer after Michigan State saw enough to know they wanted the rising junior. Snodgrass has great size and is probably closer to 185 pounds. He effortlessly glides around the field and combines the speed to blow past defensive backs with the strength to outmuscle them for jump balls. Another class of 2014 prospect, Ian Bunting of Hinsdale (Ill.) Central, worked out with the wide receivers group, but at 6-foot-7 he is going to be a tight end in college. He has not yet filled out, but has the frame to play at 240 pounds or more in college. Michigan Collegiate's Teo Redding provided the most electric plays of the day, elevating over defensive backs and coming down with several highlight-reel grabs. We have seen the 6-foot-2, 160-pound prospect do that all spring long. Montague (Mich.) rising senior Brandon Moore is an under-the radar kid, but he received a lot of attention from Michigan State coaches and is a good-looking prospect at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds. Canton (Mich.) Plymouth's Jamarl Eiland and East Lansing's Javon Haines also looked the part.

Tight end: Top performer: Dylan Chmura, Waukesha (Wisc.) West The tight end group was unusually strong for a summer camp, with a whole cast of prospects who physically fit the mold of a high Division I tight end. There were several candidates for top performer of the group, but we'll give it to the 6-foot-6, 230-pound Chmura who is coming off an ACL injury that cost him his junior season. There was no brace on his knee, though at times Chmura still looked a little tentative. Yet, his blocking technique was clearly the most developed in the group and he showed very soft hands catching the football. The runner-up very well could have been a sleeper -- Tyler White of Plainwell, Mich. White checks in around 6-5 and 225 pounds and was most impressive catching the football on Saturday. Pete Cender of Howell, Mich., is someone the Michigan State coaches are watching closely, but we have seen better performances out of him in the past. Morris, Ill., three-star Danny Friend bounced between the tight end and offensive line groups. Many schools are starting to see him as a potential tackle prospect. Another sleeper who jumped out was Grand Rapids (Mich.) Christian's Zach Crouch, who ended up with an offer from Central Michigan after Saturday's performance.

Offensive line: Top performer: Shakir Carr, South Bend (Ind.) Clay We have seen the 6-foot-4, 292-pound Carr several times this offseason and he continues to improve. On Saturday, he was the only offensive tackle to stone explosive defensive end Demetrius Cooper. Carr slid out and met Cooper before could exploit the outside with his speed, then was ready when Cooper countered to the inside. Several MAC schools have already offered Carr, but we expect BCS schools to start taking notice soon. The underclassmen were also well-represented with heavily recruited Jamarco Jones leading the group. The 6-foot-5, 285-pound Jones picked up an offer from the Spartans after his camp showing. He is still raw from a fundamentals standpoint, but his physical tools are rare. Alma, Mich., 2014 tackle Curtis Doyle is another rising junior to watch. He is not as fleet-footed as Jones, but is a big body with good technique. Cincinnati (Ohio) Moeller's Alex Gall, who has a double-digit offer list, also worked out with the group, but really struggled on this day. Six-foot-7, 310-pound Warren (Mich.) Mott's Harris Vrabac was probably the biggest linemen at the camp, and he had a solid showing. Troy (Mich.) Athens' Jalen Thomas looks the part at 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds, and is an offensive tackle to watch this fall.

Defensive line: Top performer: Demetrius Cooper, Chicago Julian Despite working out Wednesday and Thursday at the Adidas Sound Mind Sound Body Football Academy, the 6-foot-5, 220-pound Cooper still looked fresh on Saturday and tore a path through the offensive tackles in attendance. Cooper immediately stands out from the crowd because of his long and athletic frame. He has the speed to blow by all but the quickest offensive tackles and is surprisingly strong at the point of attack despite having a lean frame that will add 20-30 pounds before he hits college.

Cooper's Julian High teammate, Khairi Bailey, also had a strong showing in East Lansing. He is just a step slower than Cooper, but that still puts him several steps faster than most defensive ends. Two other explosive defensive ends who really had strong performances were Groveport (Ohio) Madison's Dawuane Smoot and Erie (Pa.) McDowell's James Conner. When we saw the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Smoot earlier this month, he was being handled by the technically sound offensive linemen he faced, but Smoot's game was at another level on Saturday and he was much more impressive. The 6-foot-2, 232-pound Conner is always impressive and did not disappoint this time around either. There was an interesting mix of defensive tackles in attendance. One we were really interested to see was Cincinnati (Ohio) Winton Woods 2014 prospect Daniel Cage. Cage is a little on the short side, but he knows how to use his height to his advantage. He is bull-strong and stays low, creating upfield momentum and pushing the pocket. Portage (Mich.) Central rising senior Nate Jeppesen worked on both sides of the line, but took the majority of his reps on defense. He is small for the defensive tackle role, but gets a lot out of his frame and is very quick off the snap.

Linebacker: Detroit King class of 2014 prospect Carl Fuller pulled a hamstring in warmups before the camp even began and Eufaula, Ala., 2013 outside linebacker Xavier Woodson also went down with an injury early in the day. Those were the two prospects we were most interested in seeing at the position, and when they went down, we focused on the other position groups at the camp.

Defensive backs: Top performer: Matt Milano, Orlando (Fla.) Dr. Phillips From top to bottom, the defensive backs group was the deepest at Michigan State's camp on Saturday. Leading the group was Milano, a three-star who came all the way up from Orlando to work out for the Spartans coaches. The 6-foot-1, 202-pound Milano is a well-put-together kid who will definitely play the safety spot in college, but when he was asked to come down and check wide receivers 1-on-1 in man coverage, he showed the fluidity and speed to hang with the best. Hillside (Ill.) Proviso West's Jameer Thurman is another safety prospect who surprises with his abilities in man coverage. Thurman is a muscle-bound 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, but he does not play stiff like you would expect when you initially see him. Thurman's stock is definitely on the rise after his performance in East Lansing and earlier this month in Champaign, Ill. Farmington, Mich., safety Isaiah Gourdine is a tall and lanky safety prospect at 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds. He ran hot and cold during his performance. Warren (Ohio) Harding's Jalyn Powell, who has already committed to the Spartans, looked much more comfortable at safety than he did playing man coverage in 1-on-1s. Powell looked a little shorter than his listed 6-foot-1, but he has a thick, athletic frame. When he was roaming the secondary from the safety position, he displayed great instincts and an explosive break on the football. The group of cornerbacks in attendance were led by a pair of Ohio prospects. Solon, Ohio's Darian Hicks came into the event with a Michigan State offer already in hand, and did nothing to hurt his stock. Akron (Ohio) Copley's Aregeros Turner clocked a 4.47 40-yard dash in testing and looked solid in position work despite having just started working at the position after playing running back most of his career.



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