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April 18, 2005

Southland stars

LOS ANGELES - The defensive back lined up toe-to-toe with him and gestured for him to come on. He smiled, licked his lips and clapped his hands together. In the blink of an eye he was gone, blasting past the defensive back with a power move. With a quick fake outside and then a dart to the inside, he was wide open. By the time he was done beating helpless defenders time after time at Sunday's NIKE Training Camp at the University of Southern California Long Beach (Calif.) Poly receiver Terrence Austin proved to everybody that he's next.

He's the next great player to come from Poly, one of the most storied talent-producing programs in the nation.

Austin, who measured in at 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, clocked a 4.5-second time in the 40-yard dash and had a blistering 4.0-second time in the shuttle. But it was in the one-on-one drills that he sent a loud and clear message to everybody in the Southland and in the nation.

"I don't want to sound cocky, but I wanted to come out here and show everybody that I'm one of the nation's best receivers," Austin said. "I did it."

Everybody there agreed that Austin was something special

"He was hands down the best receiver at the camp," NIKE receiver position coach Matt Jones said. "He was so explosive in one-on-ones, and he had a great day."

Austin wasn't surprised that he had this much success on Sunday. Despite not being in "football shape" because he's running track, the explosion onto the national scene was something a long time coming.

You see Austin spent last season behind five-star receiver DeSean Jackson.

He still managed to haul in 39 receptions for 640 yards and eight scores, but Jackson, the five-star receiver that signed with Cal, was the man at Poly last season. Austin watched Jackson's every move and soaked up every bit of knowledge that he could from him.

"I compare myself to him," Austin said. "I watched everything that he did last year. When he'd work out, I'd follow his steps and do all the drills that he would do. We're similar in size, and we're both fast. Last year, DeSean was the focus of the team and was the go-to-guy. Now that he's gone, it's my time to shine."

College coaches coming to Poly in the spring evaluation period will see a lot of Jackson in Austin. They're both similar in size, body frame and both are quick as a water bug. Austin said he's probably best at getting separation between himself and defensive backs.

"I'm really quick off the line, and I know how to use my upper-body strength to get past the defensive backs in the passing game," Austin said. "I was kind of bored out here today because some of these defensive backs weren't giving me much of a challenge, but I wanted to send a message that I'm one of the best receivers in the nation, so that's what kept me going."

Jackson's teammate Travon Patterson will help Poly form a deadly combination at receiver this year. Patterson is shorter than Austin, but he's just as quick and has similar ability to get open. Along with Austin, Patterson dominated the one-on-one drills.

"I think Austin and me are going to make people forget about DeSean," Patterson said with a smile. "There is no question that we're really proud to be following in his footsteps and the footsteps of all the other great Poly players. They've laid the way and showed us how to do things the right way.

"We both just kept working hard, and we wanted to show today that we're some of the best receivers out there. I think we're going to be able to carry that tradition and keep it going."

Heading into the camp on Sunday there was plenty of talk that Colton, Calif., linebacker Allen Bradford might be the best player in the Golden State. He didn't do anything to dispel that train of thought by earning camp most valuable player honors.

While he was shorter than the 6-foot-2 he was listed at, he didn't come up short in anything else he did. Bradford, who did measure in at 5-foot-11 and 219 pounds, clocked a 4.54-second time in the 40, a 4.44 in the shuttle and had 25 repetitions in the bench-press.

He was also extremely impressive in drills and then he dominated the one-on-one portion when he went head-to-head against a talented bevy of running backs. There were plenty of physically impressive looking prospects at the camp, but there was nobody that had the total package like Bradford.

Who cares if he's 5-11? That simply doesn't matter because he showed to everybody there that he's a great football player and a truly elite national recruit.

"Some people said I was too short," Bradford said. "I feel like I showed everybody today that I'm up there. I know that somebody is going to say something because of my height. But what you can't measure is my heart."

Rivals.com recruiting analysts Greg Biggins and Rick Kimbrel both agreed that this year's talent in California for the offensive line was something that hadn't been seen in a while and Sunday's camp proved their point perfectly.

UCLA fans should be pumped about getting an early commitment from Walnut, Calif., offensive tackle Sean Sheller. The 6-foot-5, 255-pounder was still a little lean but he has a great frame and his footwork was unrivaled in the camp. He also displayed a very good first power punch in one-on-one drills, and it looks like the Bruins have landed themselves a good one.

Mark Jackson of Columbus (Ohio) Brookhaven came a long way to Los Angeles to check out USC and also showcase his talent against players from outside the Midwest. He's probably glad he did now. Jackson had one of the best camps of anybody, and his physical frame gives a college coach plenty to work with. Jackson admits that he still has some room to go with his technique, but the building blocks are there for him to be a solid offensive line prospect on the next level.

Cleveland Jones of Los Angeles Dorsey was highlighted by the defensive line coaches as the best in the group, but there were also quite a few other prospects that looked impressive.

Josh Holmes of San Diego Point Loma was a very hard worker and did everything and beyond in all of the drills. He has a little baby fat that will be lost once he gets to the next level, but there is plenty of positive tools to work with there and there is a good shot he will be under consideration for four-star status.

Devin Johnson of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., also impressed with an amazing first step in one-on-one drills and during drills. Johnson looks more like an outside linebacker now with his frame, and he did appear to have the quickness to play the position in drills, so there is no doubt he will be heavily recruited.

C.J. Gable worked out with the receivers and you could tell he was a little raw when it came to his route running-ability. But there is no questioning his physical make-up and ability. Running a 4.5-second time in the 40-yard dash, Gable showed game-breaking ability in one-on-one drills.

Along with Gable, Austin and Patterson, the receiver position appeared to be one of the most loaded in the camp.

Milwaukee (Wis.) King receiver Lance Kendricks came a long way from home to make a great impression, and that's what he did all day long. With hands that clamped on to the ball like a bear trap and a frame that makes him look like he's already in college, he was easily one of the best players overall at the camp.

San Diego Westview receiver Daniel Lofton, the son of former NFL great James Lofton, ran routes all day that would have made his father proud. His precision routes and cuts to the ball proved that he's one of California's best receivers. His 4.52-second time in the 40, too, didn't hurt.

At tight end, Mission Viejo, Calif., standout Konrad Reuland looked the part of a blue-chip prospect at his position. However, John Reese of Upland, Calif., and Howard Croom of Long Beach (Calif.) Woodrow Wilson were also dominating.

One of the top players overall in Nevada put his name on the national map with a strong showing at defensive back. Jashaad Gaines of Las Vegas was a physical force with a strong upper-body and great footwork that earned him raving reviews from the defensive back coaches. Poly cornerback Vincent Joseph and Los Angeles Crenshaw cornerback Darian Hagan Jr. were also impressive throughout drills.

For expanded coverage of the Los Angeles NIKE Training Camp, you should check out StudentSportsFootball.com. Access to StudentSports.com requires an additional membership. Coming Soon! The best is getting better. The Rivals.com Recruiting Database will include all authentic data from this summer's NIKE Training Camp schedule.


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