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April 18, 2006

NIKE Camp MVP goes to...

The young man stood out just standing in line just before the start of registration for the 2006 Nike Football Training Camp at USC, looking about 6-4 and 250 or 260 with a well-defined physique. The player in question turned out to be sophomore lineman Tyron Smith out of Moreno Valley (Calif.) Rancho Verde and for just the second time in the history of the NIKE Camps, the MVP went to an underclassman.

We rarely invite underclassmen to the NIKe Camps with the exception being if the players fits that 'freak' category. That was definitely Smith on Saturday. His head coach Pete Duffy had been raving about Smith for over a year now and he wasn't lying as the talented lineman was the talk of the camp.

At the camp at USC, Smith worked out with one of the strongest collection of linemen that has come to the event. Among those present were Ryan Miller from Columbine of Littleton, Colo., Martin Coleman from Edison of Huntington Beach, CA and Javario Burkes from Moon Valley of Phoenix, Ariz., all likely top 10 OLs nationally.

At the end of all the linemen drills and the spirited one-on-one battles, however, every coach who worked out the linemen listed the same player as the most impressive of the day and that player was Smith. He actually measured out at 6-4 and 255 pounds and his most impressive testing mark was the 5.10 time he had in the 40-yard dash. On a dry day and on a less soggy running surface, though, it's easy to see that Smith could easily be down into the 4.9 to 5.0 range on some clocks. He also jumped 28 inches in the vertical and did 21 reps on the bench.

In the nine-year history of Nike camps held around the country - one has already been held this spring in Miami with 10 more to come later in the spring - the only other junior-to-be who was ever picked as an MVP was running back Jonathan Stewart when he was still a sophomore at Timberline High in Washington and was MVP at a Nike camp at the University of Oregon.

"It's a great honor, totally unexpected," said Smith, who was informed of his selection on the drive home. "I just came out and worked hard. It's important for me to try to be the best. That's why I called out a few guys during the one on ones, I wanted to make sure I competed against the best players in the camp."

Smith, who also is on Rancho Verde's varsity track team (shot put, discus) and plays basketball (although he was not on the varsity in that sport last season), estimated he's put on about 10 to 15 pounds of muscle onto his frame since the end of the 2005 football season.

While at Los Angeles (Calif.) Fremont, Duffy coached two other national recruits in two way lineman Thomas Herring (USC) and wide receiver Mark Bradford (Stanford). Duffy said Smith is already on a different level.

"Thomas was really athletic but he didn't have near the work ethic or toughness that Tyron has," Duffy said. "Tyron is in the weight room five days a week. He's a great kid who carries a 3.0 GPA. At the college level, I think defensive end might be his best position because of his frame but I had him work out with the offensive linemen today because that's where he's most comfortable and where I thought he would do the best."

Turns out Duffy knew what he was doing as Smith put his name on the recruiting map and will be, at worst, one of the top five recruits in the state by the time he's a senior. USC leads big early with Florida, Washington, Stanford, Texas and Utah also on his early list.



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