BUFORD, Ga. -- The Atlanta Nike Football Training Camp is always loaded with the region’s top juniors looking to earn an invitation to The Opening and learn from the professional instructors there. This year the Atlanta NFTC had over 300 prospects from 20 different states in attendance. A number of sophomores also attended, wanting not only the instruction, but to try their hand against the older players.
This year five freshmen were also invited to attend. Two of them, cornerback Khalil Ladler (Stone Mountain, Ga./Stephenson) and defensive tackle Antwuan Jackson Jr. (Ellenwood, Ga./Cedar Grove), made strong impressions on the instructors there.
Ladler stunned former NFL Pro Bowl cornerback Ray Buchanan, who was there coaching the defensive backs.
“He is a natural,” Buchanan said. “Are you sure he is just a freshman?”
A lot of college coaches have asked themselves the same thing. The 5-foot-10, 165-pound Ladler has offers from Georgia, Alabama, Florida State, Tennessee and others.
“It’s a blessing to have all these offers,” Ladler said. “I am just staying humble and working hard. Cincinnati was the latest one. I visited Vanderbilt and Middle Tennessee State recently. I basically like everybody; I have never had a favorite team.”
With three years of high school left it is tough to project how he will develop physically but Ladler thinks he may not be a cornerback in college.
“I really see myself as a safety,” Ladler said. “I’m playing corner right now because at my school we’ve got a lot of juniors and seniors so corner was the only place I could play, really.”
For his part, Jackson Jr. is already bigger than his older brother, ESPN Watch List outside linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams. The 6-3, 255-pound freshman has the size to play on the defensive line and proved it at the NFTC by repeatedly beating offensive linemen in the one-on-one drills. Jackson Jr. received repeated compliments from former NFL defensive tackle Chuck Wiley, who was instructing the defensive linemen. Jackson Jr. has picked up offers from South Carolina, Clemson, Auburn and Missouri.
Allen-Williams committed to South Carolina on Monday and has said repeatedly his younger brother will follow him.
“Me and Bryson have dreamed of playing at the same stadium,” Jackson Jr. said. “He makes his decision first so it is on him. It doesn’t take away my decision. I like playing with him. He’s got a fast motor and that’s what I like about him. I know where he is when we are playing together.”
With three years before he signs, Jackson Jr. will be recruited heavily despite his stated intention to follow his brother.
“I’m also hearing from Georgia and LSU right now,” Jackson Jr. said. “Georgia says they are very interested in me and they like what I’m doing as a freshman. An offer from them would mean a lot to me. I was born in Georgia. I’m a Georgia fan, and I’d like to play for Georgia.”
Jackson Jr. likes LSU as well, and not just the football team.
“I’ve been a LSU fan since 7th grade in baseball and football actually,” Jackson Jr. said.