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April 28, 2013
Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.McKEES ROCKS, Pa. -- With just under 250 prospects on the field, the Pittsburgh stop of the Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour was the highest attended in the event circuit.
Undaunted by the rain and chilly temperatures, the quality depth was spread to most positions, but the quarterback group was among the deepest of any RCS stop.
Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said that from his perspective, the precipitation could actually help his team make decisions.
"You always want perfect conditions in a camp setting but the rain will help give some separation points," he said.
"There are not many teams that play in a dome, so throwing a wet, heavy ball will play a role in college -- especially for teams that recruit in this area having rain and then winter weather. Mechanics play a big role in who can and who cannot perform in the imperfect conditions."
Two players that the analysts had their eyes on were a pair of Ohio quarterbacks: Michigan State commit Chris Durkin, who made the trip from Youngstown (Ohio) Ursuline and Louisville (Ohio) High three-star Joey Duckworth.
Rivals.com Midwest recruiting analyst Josh Helmholdt was paying particular attention to Durkin.
The rain added to his intrigue.
"He is as physically impressive as any quarterback and that is because he looks like a linebacker," Helmholdt said. "But he has a non-traditional throwing motion and so I want to see how he responds here. I want to see how quick his release is and what his ball looks like."
Durkin said that he was not as worried with the weather as much as he was with throwing to a group of strangers.
"Not having timing with these guys is a little bit harder," he said. "I mean we work with our guys just about every day on timing with routes and stuff. So coming here and having to wing it is tough.
"I got one guy here I know by name -- (Darien Townsend from Youngstown (Ohio) Christian School) -- but I am pretty sure I'll stumble across a few more."
With 15 receivers participating with offers, Duckworth said it was a welcomed opportunity to throw with people with whom he was unfamiliar.
"The guys here are that good," he said. "They are the best of the best in the region and they can adjust and I can adjust. I think it will go well because they are really good."
Duckworth missed a lot of time with an injury last year and a limited highlight tape has slowed his recruiting to having a majority of MAC schools early in the process.
His game impressed Helmholdt.
"I have to say he spins it really well," Helmholdt said. "Really, he spins it as well as any kid in the Midwest for this class."
Duckworth said wanted to use the Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour to boost his stock.
"It is always good to compete with the best," he said. "You can see where you stand and give yourself a boost."
The rain and the newness of players catching the ball, Durkin and Duckworth both shared that refrain.
"I want to prove to everyone that I can be the best," he said. "I think that I can be the best and coming to events like this and competing against these guys at the quarterback position gives me a chance to do that."
Who will win over Winovich?
With a decision of late June or early July set for the 6-foot-4, 205 pound prospect from Jefferson Hills (Pa.) Thomas Jefferson, he is being pulled in several directions.
He called Ohio State his dream school. His high school coach Bill Cherpak played at Pitt and has had a majority of his players head to the hometown team. Also recruiting him hard is Saint Clairsville (Ohio) High four-star linebacker and Michigan commitment Michael Ferns.
"Everybody through this process wants to try to give their opinions," Winovich said. "I got to the point where I am intrigued to listen to what everyone has to say but I view it with a watchful eye. I am not too worried about their opinions because ultimately it's going to have to come to me."
Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell said Winovich has the right mentality for making his decision.
"It is difficult for kids when they are being pulled," Farrell said. "When it comes down to it he will just need to circle the wagons and make a decision for him and his family. When he talks to people like Ferns who want him to go play with him, or other people that want him to stay close, it can be tough because they want to keep people happy but it really is something that he has to decide for himself."
What he is hearing is balanced by his own perspective on the schools.
Pitt was the first program to offer him, which holds a special spot. It is bolstered by his coach.
"He is a big Pitt guy," Winovich said. "He has friends down there, so it makes it tough, but he does a good job of staying unbiased and keeping it straight with me. He doesn't tell me I should commit to Pitt just like he doesn't say that I should commit to any other school.
"He has a rule that I have to commit before the season or after it but other than that he doesn't let his opinions of Pitt or Ohio State reflect too much."
Ferns -- on the other hand -- is not going to stay unbiased. Winovich said that his friend is on him frequently.
"I do have some Michigan love going on right now," Winovich said. "They've showed a lot of interest and are really putting on a show to try to get me to commit. I am here with Mike Ferns and he's been pressuring me to commit, too. It is a tough decision."
Ohio State is the lone program without the outside pressure added to it.
"It has always been a dream of mine to go to Ohio State," Winovich said. "I followed them growing up.
"No matter where I go I can't make a wrong decision," he said. "Good players play and I'll find my way onto the field."
More five-star invites
Following one of the deepest stops in the Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour, two more players were invited to the circuit-ending Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge.
Nicholson is ranked as the No. 47 player in the country and is listed as an athlete. It is a spot that Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell feels good at leaving him until further notice.
"He is so versatile and can play offense or defense at the college level," Farrell said. "He is at a great program at [Monroeville (Pa.)] Gateway and I know he has been well-coached. Moreover he is a competitive kid, which we like to see."
Ferns entered the camp as the No. 84 player in the Rivals100 and No. 7 inside linebacker in the country.
Farrell said that at 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, his size is ideal for his position.
"He is the stereotypical Big Ten linebacker," Farrell said. "He is explosive to the football and takes great angles. He is hard-nosed and physically impressive. He is exactly what you expect when you think of a major prospect from this area at that position."
The pair will join the 54 players already invited to the elite camp from the camp series and will be among 100 of the best players in the country.