Keith Holcombe Shows He Can Play

TAYLORVILLE – I'll be the first to admit it. I was a little leery when Hillcrest linebacker Keith Holcombe swapped his commitment from Mississippi State to Alabama earlier this summer. I hadn't seen him play, and now I have. Ship me some Archibald's BBQ Sauce to pour on my crow sandwich.

While the game itself was not competitive, I saw enough during Hillcrest's 36-7 romp over Northridge to know one thing: Keith Holcombe can play some football. Consider me SOLD. (As an aside, the presence of Northridge alum/current Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri was not enough to fire up his alma mater.)

TOP PROSPECT: This might have been a tougher call had Bo Scarborough not transferred away from Northridge. But the star running back did, and he's now on his third school in the last six months, after going first to Tuscaloosa County and then to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. His teammate, Florida pledge and tight end C'yontai Lewis, landed at Kingwood Christian in Alabaster.

On this night, Holcombe (6-3, 212) was clearly the best player on the field. In just three quarters of play, he racked up (unofficially) eight tackles, caused two fumbles, and had one tackle behind the line of scrimmage. He was all over the place, wherever the ball was, and even demonstrated the ability to drop into the hook zone/flats to cover a tight end or running back on passing downs, when not lined up at a Jack linebacker type position to rush the passer.

"This is my second year at Hillcrest, and Keith was a good player when I got here," said Pats Coach Scott Martin. "He's got great work ethic and attention to detail. He approaches every practice, every workout and every game the same way: with great intensity. He can run a 4.5 forty. What makes him so desirable to colleges is he can play inside the box or on the perimeter."

It appears that, depending on whether or not he bulks up a bit more, Holcombe could be a candidate to play any of Alabama's four linebacker spots, but at his current weight, the best bet is the strong side, or SAM spot. He reminds me of a quicker, more athletic version of former Hoover and Alabama player Cory Reamer.

Last week against Hartselle, (a tough overtime loss for Hillcrest), Holcombe was credited with 10 individual stops and 5 assists. How did he look on film to current Northridge/former Hartselle Coach Mike Smith? "He looked like something I don't have on my team," Smith deadpanned. "It looked to me like he made 20 tackles (against Hartselle). He makes a lot of plays a high school kid doesn't commonly make."

Though he plays with an insulin pump, stamina did not seem to be an issue for Holcombe. He only left Friday's game near the end of the third period because Martin put in his entire second defense.

SENIORS WHO SHINED: Northridge quarterback Tanner Cline is getting some small school looks, but having lost his top two threats in Scarborough and Lewis will hurt his senior film. He's a tough gritty kid. For Hillcrest, quarterback Riley Nix is hearing from a few schools, including the College of Charleston, while Southern Miss has inquired about linebacker Charles Bester, who had an interception and a big hit.

JUNIORS TO WATCH: Hillcrest has a pair who will get long SEC looks: wide receiver Darnell Webb, a long lean running machine, and center Malik Martin, who looks to be around 6-4, 330, not all of which is muscle. He will need to drop some baby fat and improve his mobility, but has time.

For the Jags, linebacker Lee Wicks had a nice open field tackle and two pass break-ups.

SUPER SOPHS: Northridge linebacker Jaylen Landrum delivered some big hits. Defensive backs Roman Payton and Lavest Williams both look to have bright futures due to their coverage skills.

DOUBLE DIP: It's always a good day when one can have lunch at City Café and get ribs to go from Archibald's. Both are fine Northport institutions, and have been in business for many years. Friday is a good day to hit City Café because it's one of only two days each week the menu features stuffed eggs. The other veggies and meats are always good. Archibald's ribs and sauce are, many feel, better than the more well-known (outside Tuscaloosa) chain Dreamland. An argument can certainly be made for Archibald's, which I feel does have the better sauce. I think Dreamland's ribs are tenderer.

NEXT UP: Briarwood at Homewood is a game featuring one of the state's top offensive linemen and Jordan Sims just turned 17. If he's agreeable to a grey shirt, he could land at his dream school in Tuscaloosa, but he'll have many other opportunities should he not want to wait until January to enroll.

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