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May 13, 2006

Palo Alto NIKE: D-line dominators

PALO ALTO, Calif. When thinking about West Coast football, defense is hardly the first thing that comes to people's minds.

But a dominating group of defensive lineman, led by Salt Lake Cottonwood defensive tackle Simi Fili and Long Beach Poly defensive end Kenny Rowe, did their best to change that perception at Saturday's NIKE Training Camp at Stanford.

Fili invoked visions of recent first round NFL Draft selection and former Rivals.com five-star prospect Haloti Ngata with his amazing performance. Fili admits he didn't have the best testing numbers, but that hardly mattered when nobody could block him during the one-on-one portion of the camp.

Fili, who came in around 6-4 and 320 pounds, fueled the fire with motivational chants that sparked other defensive linemen like Rowe, UCLA pledge Brian Price, defensive end Kevin Frahm, defensive tackle DaJohn Harris.

"I'm your guy when you need to get people fired up," Fili said after the camp.

"I like to plug the middle up and get after the quarterback. And if I have to yell at some guys to get them into it more, then that's what I have to do. That's my job on my high school team and that's what my job was here today get people pumped and to kick (butt)."

He did both.

But also right up there with him was Rowe, a pass-rush specialist from the pipeline Poly Jackrabbit program. Rowe was around 6-2 and 220 pounds and nobody could stop him off the edge in the one-on-ones. He didn't get beat once in the final portion of the camp, and his technique and style was quite different than Fili.

While Fili was used brute strength and power to get past the linemen, Rowe's game was all about speed. And unlike Fili, Rowe didn't boast after he made a big play. He simply went to the end of the line and waited his turn again.

"That's just how Kenny is," Rowe's mother said. "He hardly says anything. He's business."

Price, who is around 6-foot and 270 pounds, used a combination of both Fili and Rowe's game to have a great camp. He was banged up midway through the camp but the long-time UCLA commit was encouraged to come back out for the one-on-ones and he was simply unstoppable.

Price would use his speed to beat blockers to the outside, and when he needed to he pushed his way inside with strength to get to the quarterback. He was easily one of the most complete packages at the camp.

"I was pretty pleased with how the one-on-ones went," Price said. "I could have done better in other parts of the camp, but the one-on-ones is where everybody is watching you, and it's just you against the guy in front of you. I just had to go out there and take care of business."

Harris of Gardena (Calif.) Serra was already considered one of the elite defensive linemen out West and his resume of offers from USC, Arizona, Ole Miss, Nebraska, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington and Washington State proved that. But for him on Saturday, the camp was all about pride.

He didn't want to have anybody outclass him and he definitely represented.

"I went down to a combine last weekend at Citrus College, and I don't know if I was as respected as I should have been," Harris, who was in the 6-4, 260 pound range, said. "I had to come up here and show them I could do d-end, d-tackle or whatever they want. There wasn't anybody that could stop me.

"I ran a 5.1 in the 40-yard dash, but my speed against the offensive line made it seem like I was a 4.5 guy. That's how explosive I was today. I'm not trying to be cocky or anything, but that's just how it was."

Harris said he built a quick bond with Rowe and Price and he said it might be kind of fun for all of those guys to end up at the same school together. With Price already committing to UCLA, that would mean they all would have to end up in Westwood for that to happen.

"Oh my God those guys are good," Harris said. "I'm going to have snap up some of Kenny's moves. And BP, man, I saw him just go right those some of those guys. I hate Crenshaw, so in order for me to say something good about a guy from Crenshaw, that means he's really good. Those two guys were incredible."

Coming into the camp a lot of the focus in Oregon had been placed on defensive lineman Myles Wade of Portland Benson Tech and he did have a good day on Saturday but both college coaches and camp instructors agreed that Frahm, a defensive end from Portland Central Catholic, was one of the top guys along the defensive line.

Frahm only has an offer from BYU at this point, but there were several coaches watching him intently and he might have moved his way up the charts with several Pac 10 and other national schools after the strong showing on Saturday.

FORCE IS WITH YOU

San Diego St. Augustine quarterback Chris Forcier goes by the nickname "C-Force" and on Saturday the force was definitely with him. Forcier came in around 6-3 and 190 pounds and had a solid day all around, staking a claim to be named the No. 2 quarterback in California behind Jimmy Clausen.

Forcier's competition for the spot heading into the camp was Orange (Calif.) Lutheran quarterback Aaron Corp, who looked great at the Los Angeles EA Sports Elite 11 regional workout back in April. Forcier, a UCLA pledge, did everything he could to impress and he was worked over hard by NIKE quarterback coach Bob Johnson.

"It was a real challenge, and those are things that I need," Forcier said. "I like to be pushed hard and have somebody work with me to help me get better. I had a strong day and I was confident in a lot of my throws. I felt good out there."

Forcier's pledge to UCLA is definitely strong, as he was seen walking around before and after the camp with a white T-shirt with a powder blue and yellow UCLA logo scrawled across his chest.

LEARNING FROM THE BEST

No player in football history is better known for his off-season training regiments than Jerry Rice. The future NFL Hall of Famer played in over 300 games in 17 seasons helping the San Francisco 49ers to three Super Bowl titles.

During Saturday's camp Rice was the guest speaker to the near 700 participants, and to no surprise, his talk focused on the importance of off-season training.

"When you walk out here, it's almost like you're a kid all over again," Rice said.

"These guys are going through exactly what I had gone through and what I went through when I was playing college ball and also when I was playing professional ball.

"You see these different drills and also all the hard work and dedication these guys put into this and it brings back a lot memories. It's almost like a situation where you want to jump in with them. If I had my shoes, I probably would."

Outside of football, Rice said he's currently enjoying retirement and plans to get involved in talk radio and television commentary, but he's also looking into starting a career in acting.

AS SMOOTH AS BUTTER

NIKE Camp linebacker coach Chris Gizzi is never one to talk in hyperbole and slang, but when he began to describe Hayward, Calif., linebacker Austin Stafford he couldn't help himself.

"That kid is as smooth as mother's butter," Gizzi said.

Stafford came into the camp as a guy that had been mentioned by a few coaches, but hardly was somebody that was burning up the list with major scholarship offers.

But the Stafford, who was around 6-3 and 210 pounds, had a day to remember at the camp.

He was great in drills and then in the one-on-one competition he was exciting to watch, making several big plays in pass defense.

"The Stafford kid is on the money," Gizzi said.

"He's got it. He'll put 30 pounds on him and have a big, big upside. He's the real deal."

At this point, Stafford said he does not have any scholarship offers. But you can probably count on that changing after Saturday.

"There were a lot of really good linebackers in this camp, guys like Steve Sloan, Jordan Campbell and Gavin Cooper," one Pac 10 coach said. "But if you give me three guys like that Stafford kid, then I would win a lot of games."

For complete coverage of the Palo Alto NIKE Training Camp, log on to StudentSportsFootball.com.



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