UNIVERSITY PARK - Saturday's Nike Football Training Camp at Penn State's Holuba Hall did nothing do answer the questions about why more colleges - including the Nittany Lions - haven't offered Penn Hills slot receiver Corey Jones a scholarship.
"I've got four offers,'' Jones said. "Now that people know me a little bit more, I'm getting a little bit more recruiting, but I've got four offers. I've got Kent State, Kansas. I've got West Virginia, and I've got Toledo.''
In a camp strong at receivers - including four-star prospects like Eugene Lewis, Joel Caleb and Corey Smith - Jones was named his positions outstanding player.
Jones wowed all the scouts in attendance with his exceptionally quick feet and great hands. Even people whose jobs depend on accurately evaluating football talent were impressed.
"The guy is sweet,'' former Colorado coach Dan Hawkins, who was working with the quarterbacks and receivers, said. "He's got great feet. He's got great acceleration. He can get in and out of his cuts. He's got great hand-eye coordination. He's a little bit quote-unquote undersized, but the guy can play. The guy can get open.
"It looks like he's pretty good.''
As Hawkins said, size seems to be the one question mark in Jones' game. Listed at 5-foot-10, 165 pounds, Jones is probably closer to 5-8, 150.
Don't tell any of his fellow campers Jones isn't big enough to play at a big-time college. His game looked a lot bigger than his listed size.
"I'd never seen him before, but he's a great athlete, and I'll tell you, he's got great hands,'' Lewis, who has around 20 Division I offers, said. "He's definitely someone the school should be looking out for, too.''
Jeannette's highly recruited safety De'metrious Cox knew all about Jones coming into the camp. The two are teammates on a seven-on-seven all-star team.
"He's little,'' Cox said with a smile, "but he's probably the best overall offensive guy in the state.''
One of the most anticipated battles in the one-on-ones was between Jones and North Point, Md. cornerback Marchez Coates. Coates, who has had a terrific spring on the camp circuit, won the initial exchange, using his size to rough up and eventually know down Jones. In the rematch, though, Jones took Coates deep and hauled in the pass despite outstanding coverage.
"He's pretty fast, but I kept up with him,'' Coates said. "He's pretty good.''
Jones didn't feel he performed as well as he could have, but he thought he helped make his case. Cincinnati became the fifth school to offer him a scholarship earlier this week.
"I'm kind of happy about it. I think I performed well,'' Jones said.
Jones said he hasn't heard from Penn State, which surprised him because he thought the in-state colleges would contact him first. The Nittany Lions are believed to be interested in bringing two receivers in with this recruiting class.
Jones said he won't hold Penn State's lack of early interest against it should it choose to pursue him.
"I'm still waiting,'' Jones said. "I'm just looking to see everything that I'm getting. Later on, I'll probably make my decision.''
It was a good day for Penn State targets and WPIAL players, particularly those from Penn Hills.
In addition to Jones, Penn Hills' Treydon Hester was picked as the top offensive lineman of the camp by the coaches. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh Central Catholic's Perry Hills was the MVP among the quarterbacks, and Upper St. Clair's Dakota Conwell took home honors among the linebackers.
Although Penn State has yet to offer Coates, the Nittany Lions are keeping in close contact with the camp's outstanding defensive back, and they have an offer on the table to Maryland Good Counsel's Ryan Watson, voted the best defensive lineman in the camp. The Lions seem to be in good position with both of them - Coates said Penn State and Miami were his favorite colleges growing up.
DeVante McFarland of Half Hallows Hills on Long Island was tabbed as the best running back. Hermitage, Va. running back Derrick Green, only a junior, was recognized for having the best SPARQ score; SPARQ is a combined score from a number of physical competitions tested at previous camps.
Ye shall receive
Wide receiver was undeniably the strongest position at Saturday's camp. In addition to Jones, Lewis, Caleb and Smith, the event attracted Marquis Bundy from Arizona, and Baltimore Dunbar athlete Deontay McManus worked out at the position.
All but Jones and Bundy have Penn State scholarships on the table, and Bundy was in central Pennsylvania for the camp to follow up an unofficial visit to Happy Valley.
Lewis is considered by many to be a strong lean to Penn State at this point. He said he's already been on campus at least a half-dozen times. A quarterback at Wyoming Valley West High School, Lewis didn't look like he'd have much trouble making the transition to receiver, and looked every bit of the 6-2, 181 pounds at which he was listed, surprising some scouts.
Lewis has more than 20 scholarship offers, with Penn State, Virginia Tech and Maryland pursuing him hardest.
"I'm still taking my time, talking to my family and coaches about the situation. I'm not rushing it,'' Lewis said. "[Penn State's] a beautiful place to come up and visit. It's not too far from home, so, anytime I can get up here, I take advantage and have a good time.''
Caleb, from Midlothian, Va. Clover Hill is another highly ranked wideout who plays quarterback in high school. In fact, the powerfully built 6-3, 200-pounder said his main reason to come to the camp was to show off his receiving skills.
"I think I learned some things. Coach was telling me some things I was doing wrong,'' Caleb said.
Caleb said he liked Penn State "a whole lot'' and didn't have a real leading college yet.
From Akron Buchtel, the 6-1, 175-pound Smith came up to Penn State last year to visit with blue-chip cornerback Doran Grant. Penn State might have a better-than-usual shot at him, because Ohio State hasn't offered Smith, although colleges like Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan State, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Tennesse and West Virginia have.
Smith said Lion assistant Jay Paterno was at Buchtel during the week before the Nike camp.
The charismatic McManus looks more like a linebacker or safety at a very solid 6-2, 210 pounds. However, he caught pretty much everything thrown at him in the one-on-ones, outmuscling corners. He's adamant that he'd like to play receiver in college, and it's possible he'd be an ideal H-Back.
McManus is believed to be favoring West Virginia but seems to have Penn State high in his sights, as well. He was at Penn State, which he said is recruiting him as a receiver, for the Blue-White Game.
"I was pretty impressed. I could see myself here for the next four years. They've showed me a lot of love,'' said McManus, who also mentioned Miami, Oregon and California as the schools recruiting him hardest.
Literally, no one came farther than the lean, 6-4 Bundy. He spent the days leading up to the camp on an unofficial visit but has yet to be offered by the Lions.
"I think it went pretty well. They got to see me, see how I look, see if I could pass the eye test,'' Bundy, who is drawing interest from Arizona, Wyoming and several Ivy League colleges, said. "I got to meet a couple of the graduate assistants and a couple of the players who were working out. It's a little cold, but I'd consider coming here. Coach Paterno is a living legend. He's pretty cool. I always liked Penn State. I play them in the video games.''
Two other rising juniors on whom to keep an eye worked with the receivers at camp: Central Valley's Robert Foster and Cedar Cliff tight end Adam Breneman.
What's in a name
It turns out that Cox's first name actually includes an apostrophe. It appeared that way on the camp roster, and he and his father, Dorsey, confirmed it while packing up their car for the two-hour trip back to suburban Pittsburgh.
Along with Lewis, Cox is considered to be the closest thing to a lock Penn State had at this year's Nike event, although he is sheepish when asked about that.
He does, however, consistently have very positive things to say about Penn State.
"I like Penn State a lot,'' Cox said.
A big, rangy safety with some cover skills, Cox has 17 scholarship offers. He picked up one from Ohio State recently. "Sooner or later, I'm going to have to narrow down the list. Right now, I'm just seeing as much as I can,'' Cox said.
He said he didn't have any plans to attend any more camps or take any other official visits at the present.
Covered like a Coates
Penn State is in the market for some defensive backs in this class, and, although he doesn't have an offer yet, Coates looks like someone who could fit that bill.
He's certainly helped make his case with an extremely strong showing this spring. He's been at five workout camps and been the defensive backs MVP at all five. He was even the overall camp MVP at Five Star VTO.
Nittany Lion assistant Larry Johnson has been staying in touch with Coates, who looks bigger than the 5-11, 173 pounds at which he's listed and has a style somewhat reminiscent of former Penn State corner Alan Zemaitis. Coates said Penn State wants to evaluate him at its camp before deciding to offer. He already was at Penn State for the Blue-White Game.
"I loved it. It was great. I love the fan base,'' Coates said.
Pitt, TCU, Missouri, Boston College, Maryland, Rutgers, Clemson, Ohio, Tennessee and Syracuse are the other schools recruiting Coates right now, but he's hoping to get even more choices by going to North Carolina, South Carolina, East Carolina and Miami this summer.
Part of the reason that Coates might not be getting many offers yet is that he was playing behind upperclassmen this past season and didn't have much action from which to make a highlight tape to send to colleges. He made a highlight type of play during the camp when he covered a receiver like glue, batted the pass into the air and then still had the sense to recover and intercept it while falling down.
"I like him a lot. He's really competitive,'' Jones said. "He brought out the best in me.''
Another corner with whom Penn State has been involved was Da'quan Davis of Calvert Hall in Baltimore. Davis is the teammate of 2011 Lion safety recruit Adrian Amos.
Off the board?
Two prospects Penn State had been linked committed to other schools in the last few days.
Blake Rankin, the quarterback from Bloomsburg, committed to Rutgers after going to the Scarlet Knights spring game on Saturday. Meanwhile, linebacker James Ross, who is from the same school as Nittany Lion quarterback Rob Bolden, announced for his in-state Michigan Wolverines.
In an odd twist, Ross and Rankin could be linked in a way. Some are reading into Ross's college choice that Bolden indeed may be transferring out of Happy Valley.
Penn State hasn't extended a scholarship offer to a quarterback yet, waiting to see how the potential transfer situations of Bolden, Paul Jones and Kevin Newsome played out. Rankin figured to be near the top of Penn State's list when it did, which should be in the next couple of weeks.
The timing of Rankin's decision also seemed a little puzzling since he was coming off a performance at the Elite 11 Quarterbacking Camp at Penn State on Friday that had him the most impressive prospect on a consensus of the recruiting analysts on hand. He figured to be on the verge of getting more offers.
Of course, Rankin could do an about-face if something does become available at Penn State, or maybe he just didn't like the landscape or feel much interest from the Lions.
Elite 11 happenings
While Penn State still hasn't made a scholarship offer to a quarterback in the 2012 class, it's already got its foot in the door with one of the early top guys for 2012.
BlueWhite Illustrated's Phil Grosz announced on Jed Donahue's Sports PA radio show Saturday morning that he had learned Ashburn, Va. Stone Bridge sophomore Ryan Burns was being taken on a tour of the campus by Nittany Lion offensive coordinator Galen Hall. The 6-5, 218 pound Burns had planned to compete at the Nike Camp on Saturday but changed his mind when the opportunity to have the unofficial visit arose.
He is supposed to be back at Penn State this summer.
Tyrone's Steve Franco was among the group with Rankin, Burns, Hills, Allentown Central Catholic's Brendan Nosovitch, Massachusetts Catholic Memorial's A.J. Doyle, Brunswick, Md's Ian Fisher, Wayne Hills, N.J.'s Kevin Olsen, Timber Creek, N.J.'s Myles Nash and Pius X's outstanding freshman A.J. Long. Old Tappan, N.J.'s Devin Fuller, being recruited by Penn State as an athlete but reportedly set on trying to be a QB in college, was a last-minute scratch.
"It was cool. I got to see how I matched up against a lot of the other elite quarterbacks from around the East Coast. In fact, that was the best thing for me, to be able to evaluate myself,'' Franco said. "I still have a lot of work to do. I thought I did well at the camp.''
Franco said he is hoping to get some Division I offers. He already has Division I interest - Akron, Youngstown State, Pitt, UConn, Rutgers, Bucknell and Kent State have been in closest contact.
Akron is sending an assistant coach to Friday's West Central Coaches Invitational Track and Field Meet to watch Franco perform.
While Chestnut Ridge's Brad Hengst didn't compete at the Elite 11 on Friday, he did participate in the Nike camp the following day. Lions coach Max Shoemaker entered him as a quarterback/athlete.
Franco also had his favorite receiving target there, speedster Nick Patton, who rebounded from running four hours on the artificial surface to win two individual events and a relay on Monday at the Bellwood-Antis Invitational. Bishop Carroll freshman Josh Mock worked out with the defensive linemen.
Forest Hills' D.J. Burkey, Clearfield's Curtis Frye and Beau Swales, Richland's John Rizzo, Bishop McCort's Zach Rugg and Central Mountain's Von Walker were other regional products at the Nike event. Philipsburg-Osceola's Jeff Vroman, meanwhile, was one of the instructors for the offensive linemen.
BlueWhite Illustrated on Sunday reported that Penn State's running back recruiting was going south, but literally, not figuratively - the Nittany Lions made scholarship offers to two players from Tennessee, Jovon Robinson and Jaylen Walton.
Robinson is 6-1, 218, has sub-4.5-second speed and rushed for 1,675 yards and 28 touchdowns this season. Walton is more of a scatback, checking in at 5-8, 165. He ran for 2,235 yards as a junior.
BWI and Lions247.com also reported that the Nittany Lions have offered Stone Mountain, Ga. safety Kyle Fleetwood.
The running back offers are interesting in that Penn State apparently would like to bring in two RBs in this recruiting class, but Hopewell's Rushel Shell seems to have little interest, and the opinions and reports about the interest of McDowell's Greg Garmon and Downingtown East's Drew Harris have been decidedly mixed.
Garmon was on the roster to attend the Nike camp but didn't show up. Will Mahone of Austintown, Ohio, also reportedly was going to try to make it for the camp but didn't; however, Penn State still seems to be in a great position to land him and recently was listed among his 10 finalists.
Both Tennessee back have around 20 offers, including a number from SEC schools.
Checking it out
Bundy was not the only prospect in University Park last week on an unofficial visit. Running back David Jones took in some of the camp on Saturday with his former Westlake, Va. teammate and current Nittany Lion, Devon Smith.
"I'm just on the recruiting board right now,'' the 5-101/2, 180-pound Jones, who's also getting interest from Rutgers and Temple, said. "I've got my senior year coming up and I'll get them a highlight tape and, hopefully, I'll get an offer.
"This is really my first time here, and I love it.''
Jones is a fairly new name on Penn State's radar. Meanwhile, Quanzell Lambert, already a big name in recruiting circles, was in University Park the same time as Bundy.
Lambert is a linebacker from Sicklerville, N.J. Timber Creek, and he's already college-sized at 6-2, 230.
Some fans thought Lambert didn't really have much interest in Penn State because he'd cancelled a couple trips there. However, the interviews about the Lions after his visit were very positive, and he'd do more than ease any pain Penn State might have felt about the loss of Ross; he already has around 20 offers, including those from Alabama, Nebraska, Stanford, Iowa and South Carolina.
Penn State defensive tackle Brandon Ware also stopped it at Holuba during the day. Ware looks to have trimmed down considerably from the more than 330 pounds he was once reputed to weigh.
Unlike in years past, the number of linemen at the camp was slim. Two players with whom Penn State is heavily involved - Baltimore Gilman's Brian Gaia and Fox Chapel's Adam Bisnowaty - pulled out.
However, there were a couple of prospects that have garnered Penn State interest who did attend. Chief among them was Watson, who looks athletic for his size but projects as a defensive tackle. He stood out.
Allderdice's Tyrique Jarrett doesn't have an offer from Penn State yet, but, as the Lions look to fill a couple of more openings on the defensive front, he could come into play. Although 6-4, 334, Jarrett doesn't look much overweight at his size. He's big all over - as one scout described him, "He's a fire truck with legs.''
Pitt is the only school to send a scholarship Jarrett's way, so far.
Penn State has also been involved with camp attendee Tyler Alt, an offensive lineman from Greensburg Central Catholic.
Adding a SPARQ
Nike hasn't done SPARQ testing at its football training camps for a couple of years. Instead, players have gone to big testing camps around the country.
One was held at Coppin State University in Baltimore on April 23, and a couple of area athletes did very well.
Altoona's Ben Mitchell (junior, 6-2, 287) tied for first in the kneeling power ball toss and was named to ESPN Rise's all-combine team for the event as an offensive lineman. He tossed the ball 41 feet.
Hollidaysburg sophomore J.T. Ventura posted the best time in the 20-yard shuttle run, completing it in 4.12 seconds. No one else was within three-hundredths of a second of him.
SPARQ tests those two events along with the 40-yard dash and the vertical jump, then combines them to come up with a score for overall athletic ability.
Big names on campus
Not only did the Nike event attract some big-name college prospects, it brought in some big-name coaches.
In addition to Hawkins, former Pro Bowler Natrone Means worked with the running backs, and longtime New England Patriots center Pete Brock was on hand to work with the offensive linemen. NFL vets Lonnie Marts and Chuck Wiley helped direct the defensive linemen, as did Chris Gizzi with the linebackers.