Posted by Bryan Fischer
PALO ALTO, Calif. -- Football is a sport played in the elements and the hundreds of top athletes from all over the West Coast got a dose of rain, wind and hail during Sunday's Nike Training Camp on the Stanford campus. Here's a few of the top performers on the defensive side of the ball:
Many expected Stanford commit Aziz Shittu to show up and replicate what he did at the LA Nike Camp but he didn't end up coming. Considering the terrific talent at offensive line, the group along the d-line did pretty good at the camp.
The position group MVP, Melvin looked and played like Shittu-light. He was quick off the line and had a good array of pass rush moves. He's uses his hands well and can really get up field. He's not tall but he's still got good size and should be able to garner multiple BCS offers in the near future.
The class of 2013 defensive end had another nice camp and looks ready to play college ball already. He's quick and has a pretty good spin move. Ruiz is flexible and can probably play at either end or tackle but based on what he showed, could use his superior quickness to overwhelm guards and centers inside.
One of the weaker groups at Stanford, there were still a few bright spots. Underclassman Michael Hutchings from nearby powerhouse De La Salle High certainly could be one to watch as he looks like he's a senior headed to college and not into his junior year in high school.
Still getting into the hang of playing linebacker, Santini was very good in open space and excelled during the 7-on-7 portion. He had a great diving interception, which he caught one-handed after tipping the ball. He's the requisite size for a linebacker and it will be interesting to see what he can do with the pads on. He's already received a lot of interest but some tape at linebacker could mean some big offers headed his way.
Starr was one of the highest regarded linebackers at the event and he didn't really disappoint. He's good in space and is quicker than one would think given his size. He can improve his strength a bit as he might have trouble with some bigger running backs and offensive linemen.
From top to bottom, this was probably the best group at the camp. Having elite talent certainly helps but there were high caliber guys all over, which made watching drills much more fun than other camps.
A rising junior, Johnson displayed skills of a much more experienced corner. He was quick and could change direction on a dime. He did a good job of staying close to his man and then sinking off to help when he read the quarterback. He's not the tallest corner on the field but he is the most aggressive and has the swagger all good corners have.
A Boise State commit, Rios really impressed with his footwork, especially his backpedal. He got caught out of position once or twice but recovered nicely. He's got good quickness and was very savvy while playing corner. There's no question he's a BCS-caliber guy and it might be hard for the Broncos to keep him.
Shepard doesn't have much to prove as he's already one of the top corners in the country. He had a lingering shoulder injury so he played wide out instead of corner and flashed his speed by blowing by some other defensive backs. He's got a good build and is very agile, performing very well during cornerback drills. Shepard's backpedal is smooth and he keeps his center of gravity right where it should be.
Like Shepard, there's not much for Thompson to prove but he exceeded expectations Sunday despite being limited with a bit of a tender ankle. Well developed, he looks like a physical safety at the next level but has the agility to play corner as well. He does a good job of changing directions and is a someone who can contribute early at safety, corner, wide out or running back based on his skill set.