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Recruiting: Underclassmen stand out at Columbus football camp

| Saturday, May 3, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Clairton's Lamont Wade looked like a freshman at last weekend's Rivals football camp in Columbus, Ohio.

But he didn't look like a ninth-grader.

“He looks like a college freshman, really,” said Adam Friedman, the mid-Atlantic recruiting analyst at Rivals.com. “I was very impressed with him. When you first look at him, you don't think he's a freshman. He isn't super tall, but the kid is really built well.”

After watching the 5-foot-9, 182-pound cornerback battle older receivers in one-on-one drills, Friedman ranked Wade seventh on his list of best defensive performers at the Columbus camp, one of 16 regional events organized this spring by Rivals. Montour hosted one last year. As the region's closest workout this spring, Columbus drew more than 200 high school players to Dublin Coffman High School.

Yet, Wade wasn't overshadowed.

“Lamont's very willing to take on the bigger, stronger, older receivers,” said Friedman, who included Wade as the only 2017 graduate on his list. “He took instruction from the coaches and asked questions to make sure he was doing the drill the right way. That's impressive to see from a freshman.”

The WPIAL could have several national-caliber recruits in its 2016 and 2017 classes. Six players earned recognition from Rivals last weekend and only one was an upperclassman.

Woodland Hills sophomore Miles Sanders, a 2016 graduate already with a Pitt offer, was named the top running back at the camp.

“The younger classes in Western Pennsylvania are looking much better than this year's class or the past year,” Friedman said. “Western Pennsylvania prospects seem like they're getting better. The top-flight talent is really coming back to the area compared to where it has been.”

The only WPIAL junior recognized in Columbus was Baldwin lineman Sterling Jenkins, a 2015 graduate. Jenkins was labeled a top offensive performer and earned an invitation to the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge in Baltimore from June 6-8. The 6-8, 308-pound tackle said he'll announce his college commitment Tuesday. Alabama offered him recently, but his favorites were Penn State and Ohio State.

Other WPIAL standouts used the camp to draw attention.

Clairton sophomore Aaron Mathews was labeled the No. 1 underclassman not named on the offense or defense lists. Aliquippa sophomore Kaezon Pugh and Gateway freshman Robert Hainsey also made the underclassmen list. Mathews (6-5, 187) worked out at receiver. Pugh (6-1, 203) practiced as an undersized defensive end but could move to linebacker. Hainsey (6-3, 252) is a lineman.

“It remains to be seen if the top prospects can get to the Robert Foster/Tyler Boyd level,” Friedman said. “But you're talking about a significantly good class. A lot of those prospects are bunched up right now when you think about where they could be ranked. If the top one can get to that (elite) level, the other ones won't be far behind.”

Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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