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April 4, 2004MIAMI - Even Stevie Wonder could see that the talent at the Miami NIKE Training Camp was a sight to behold.
No matter where you turned Sunday at the University of Miami, blue-chip players were everywhere. Welcome to the city where speed, athleticism and the will to compete reign.
More than 300 of the top prospects in the Southeast were on hand Sunday for the first NIKE Training Camp for 2004. Every position was stockpiled with prospects who will be household names on the recruiting front, and they used the camp to test their mettle.
Yet, a few prospects still managed to stand out above the rest.
Pahokee, Fla., running back Antone Smith ran the fastest 40-yard dash at last year's Miami Camp, and he captured the title again with a 4.25-second time in the 40. Smith, who measured in at 5-foot-8 and 181 pounds, is the first player in NIKE Camp's seven-year history to finish first in the 40 two years in a row.
That recognition was enough to probably earn Smith the top honors at the camp, but when coupled with 29 repetitions in the 185-pound bench press, the decision to name him the camp's most valuable player was an easy one.
"He was a man among boys," Michael Fletcher, the NIKE Training Camp's running back coach, said. "He's better than any of the running backs that we had at last year's NIKE Camps."
Considering that the class of 2004 was considered to be the year of the running back, Smith's accomplishments are even more impressive.
"In my heart, I am the top running back in the nation," Smith said. "I work hard, and even the off days I'm in the weight room lifting and working hard to get better."
If you went by the eyeball test alone, Miami Carol City strongside defensive end Ricky Jean-Francois would have taken the camp's top honors. But he didn't just stop there. Not only did Jean-Francois perform well in the testing phase of the camp, he excelled in the one-on-one drills, where he worked out with the linebackers and then in pass-rush situations.
Jean-Francois definitely more than filled out a uniform.
"I believe in myself and know that I'm a good player," he said. "But I don't listen to everybody because I don't want myself to get messed up and get a big head. It's been tough to stay humble, but I just try to stay focused.
"My mom helps me stay focused. She really helps me with about anything that I have to do."
When it comes admiration on the field, Jean-Francois patterns his game like Jevon Kearse, who is known by fans in the NFL as The Freak. That's the same nickname that man at the camp gave him for his pure athletic ability that Jean-Francois displayed at the camp.
Matching Jean-Francois in the eyeball test was stud linebacker Neefy Moffett of Palm Bay, Fla. Moffett, who measured in at 6-1 and 215 pounds and had the camp's top vertical leap at 39 inches. Moffett, ranked as an early Rivals100 member, took control of the one-on-one positions drills with cat-like reflexes and the ability to change direction effortlessly.
Even though he's ranked as one of the nation's top linebackers, Moffett said he doesn't think about that too much.
"I really don't get caught up in that stuff," he said. "I let people that judge those type of things judge those things. I just go out there on Friday nights and try to make plays and get to the football."
A new feature at the NIKE Camps this year is that each player was ranked on a SPARQ rating scale. SPARQ -- which means speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness -- is the first system designed to capture the overall athleticism of any football player. Spencer Adkins finished with a SPARQ rating of 101.7 with a 4.56-second time in the 40, a 4.30 shuttle, 35 reps of 185 and 35.2-inch vertical. He measured in at 5-11 and 228 pounds.
Even though he showed up late for the event, Orlando (Fla.) Edgewater offensive tackle Matt Hardick proved that he's one of the nation's elite linemen.
In the one-on-one drills, the 6-foot-5, 300-plus pounder showed remarkable ability to move his feet for a big guy. When he locked in on a defender, it was game over, because he would simply use his size and strength to overpower his opponent.
Ranked as one of the nation's top offensive tackles, Christopher Barney of Miami Northwestern also impressed. He looked a little heavy upon first glance, but the way he moved in pass-protection drills showed why he's one of the nation's top line prospects.
"I average like six pancakes a game," Barney said. "But it was a great competition out here today. There were a lot of really tough players, and you had to work extra hard to make sure that you got better, but also not let anybody out there beat you one-on-one."
For expanded coverage of the Miami NIKE Training Camp, you should check out StudentSports.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.