Dallas NFTC recap: Defense
Which defensive players stood out at the Dallas NFTC?
Unsual cold April weather didn't stop over 300 quality prospects from across the south from convening at DeSoto's Eagle Stadium for the annual Dallas Nike Football Training Camp.
Jefferson talks offseason, recruiting
Calling Malik Jefferson dominant would be an understatement.
At the high school level, the Mesquite Poteet outside linebacker is a man among boys. Last season, Jefferson racked up 105 tackles including 24 for loss and seven sacks. Heading into his senior year, Jefferson is the highest ranked defensive player in state.
And he proved why by winning the LB MVP and earning an invitation to The Opening at the Dallas Nike Football Training Camp.
“I had fun. It’s always good competing against everyone in the area. It was a great experience with great coaches,” Jefferson. “I’m really happy about getting the invitation (to The Opening). I just really had a good time.”
While Jefferson enjoys receiving individual accolades, he remains humble and would much rather talk about his team. Jefferson helped Mesquite Poteet reach the 4A Division II state quarterfinals in 2013. In his final year, he’s hoping to take the Pirates to new heights.
“We’re going to be good. Honestly, it’s all on us seniors. We all have to take leadership roles. We have a lot of young guys, so we kind of have to be there for them like dads,” Jefferson said. “We’re young, but we’re going to have some experienced linebackers, so we won’t be too shabby.”
This offseason, Jefferson’s main focus has been improving his speed and hip movement. In between training and school, Jefferson has also found time to make a few unofficial visits.
Texas and Texas A&M are considered early favorites to land Jefferson, but he made it clear that he has no leaders and said he also enjoyed his trips to TCU and Texas Tech.
“I had fun at Texas Tech. I went up there with DeAndre (McNeal) as well, and we really enjoyed ourselves up there,” Jefferson said. “Their young coaching staff is the most impressive part of Texas Tech. That can be a good and a bad, but I really like them.”
“Seeing Coach (Gary) Patterson coach up his players is always an awesome thing to see. It’s really important to me that he’s a defensive-minded coach. I thought the campus and the facilities were really nice. I had fun.”
Jefferson has no other visits planned this spring and is not sure when he’s going to make his final decision.
Omenihu flashes potential
One of the most intriguing defensive prospects at the Nike Football Training Camp was Rowlett defensive end Charles Omenihu.
His frame screams potential and if he can continue to add weight, Omenihu, who is committed to Texas, might become one of the most feared defensive players in the Big 12 when it’s all said and done.
Yes, that’s a pretty bold prediction. But consider this, Texas A&M offensive tackle commit Trevor Elbert only lost two battles all afternoon-- they were both to Omenihu.
“I’ve picked up quite a bit of weight. Right now I’m at 6-foot-5, 218-pounds. I really want to be a 230-pounds when we start the season, and I feel like I can get that easy,” Omenihu said. “I’ve been working out hard so my senior year can be the most dominant year I’ve ever had.
“I just want to be the best player on the field at all times, both on my squad and the other squad. I want the offense to have to worry about me every play.”
Last season, Omehinu recorded 50 tackles including 11 for loss and four sacks. He hopes to build on that heading into his senior season. And don’t expect the recruiting process to be a distraction.
Omenihu says he is completely solid to Texas.
“I decided to commit to Texas because of the situation. They’re losing a lot of defensive linemen, and I’m the first defensive lineman they really went after,” Omenihu explained. “They wanted me a lot. I feel like I can strive in their defensive scheme. Why go anywhere else other than Texas and the big ATX?”
Another reason Omenihu committed was because of Charlie Strong and the new coaching staff. Omenihu says he has a great bond with the staff and can’t wait to sport burnt orange.
“I talked to them before I came out here. They are really supportive, and they love what I’m doing for their class,” Omenihu said. “I love how the coaches coach up the guys. I saw practice, and it was really intense. The guys are responsive, and they love it there.”
Since he committed to Texas in February, Arizona State, Mississippi State, Nebraska and TCU have all extended offers. But Omenihu says Longhorn fans have nothing to worry about.
Defensive quick hits and tidbits
- Perhaps the impressive position group at the camp was the secondary. Numerous defensive backs made statement plays and solidified their elite status. Among them were South Oak Cliff safeties Jamile Johnson and Prentice McKinney. Johnson, an Oklahoma commit, is extremely versatile and can play anywhere in the secondary. McKinney, a Notre Dame commit, is tall, rangy and an absolute ball hawk.
- Pflugerville Hendrickson cornerback PJ Mbanasor shot up the charts last month at an astronomical pace and eventually decommitted from TCU. It’s no surprise why so many schools have shown new interest. At 6-foot-2, 185-pounds, Mbanasor has great length and matched up well against some of the taller, more physical wide outs. He was named the camp’s DB MVP.
- One cornerback that should see his offer list grow exponentially in the next few months is Darrell Miller. The Cedar Hill product is an excellent cover corner with amazing instincts. Miller won battles against some of the top receivers at the camp and was simply impressive in one-on-one’s. Miller currently holds offers from Boise State, Houston, Kansas State and Utah.
- If you’re looking for some sleepers, keep an eye on Rockwall-Heath cornerback David Richardson and Arlington Bowie safety Niko Small. Both showed excellent footwork and ball skills. Small holds offers from Louisiana Tech and Texas State while Richardson is still searching for his first offer.
- Whitehouse safety Justin Dunning is an athletic freak at 6-foot-4, 200-pounds. Dunning was one of the biggest standouts at the camp despite just being cleared from a torn ACL. Dunning obviously has a great frame, size and leaping ability, which he used to pull down a couple of interceptions. The Texas A&M commit earned himself an invite to The Opening.
- In the 2016 class, West Mesquite cornerback Bailey Phillips put on a nice show. At 5-foot-8, 165-pounds, Phillips is a smallish, quick-twitch, aggressive corner who loves to get physical with receivers even if they have the size advantage. Phillips already holds offers from Houston, UCLA, Washington State and others.
- As mentioned above, Malik Jefferson was the most dominant linebacker at the camp. But he was the first to admit that he needs to improve his hips. The only drill where struggled at time swas one-on-one’s against running backs. Jefferson says he will get this corrected this offseason with skill-specific training.
- Frisco Wakeland outside linebacker Justice Williams and Fort Worth Southwest inside linebacker Semaj Thomas both excelled in the one-on-one drills against running backs. Williams, who holds offers from Illinois, Indiana, Tulsa and others, showed great sideline-to-sideline speed and didn’t let very many backs get around him while Thomas, a TCU commit, simply wasn’t fooled by flashy jukes or spins.
- Plano East outside linebacker Austin Corbett displayed his athleticism in coverage drills. Corbett batted away a couple of balsl and blanketed some of the camp’s top tight ends. Corbett is flying a bit under the radar and only holds offers from Harvard, SMU and UTSA.
EJ Holland is the associate editor of Dave Campbell's Texas Football and TexasFootball.com.
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