Prospects Shine at Auburn Combine

Comments are featured from some of the outstanding football prospects at a combine held on the AU campus.

Auburn, Ala.--Neither rain, wind or threat of tornados were enough to keep the show from going on at the Auburn Football Combine on Saturday as outstanding high school players from four states came to display their skills on Saturday.

Juniors from Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee participated as college coaches watched the action that was held at Auburn University's indoor practice facility. There were also some impressive performances by players who will be juniors this coming season.

Auburn coaches Don Dunn (left) and Terry Price compare notes during the combine.

After testing was done in the 40-yard dash, standing long jump, NFL three-cone drill, vertical jump and NFL shuttle run, the rain and lightning ceased and position drills were able to be held outside in the afternoon.

Perhaps no group enjoyed that part of the combine more than the offensive and defensive linemen, who were obviously having fun, especially in one-on-one drills that featured a series of challenges. Offensive linemen would request a defensive linemen they wanted to go against and vice versa. It was common for players to request a rematch--or even two.

Morrice Richardson, a defensive end/linebacker from Westlake High, was one of the players who was obviously enjoying himself at the combine. He says he liked the challenge of matching up with other players in both the line drills and pass coverage drills.

"I learned I need to work on my coverage skills a lot," says Richardson, who weighed in at 228 on his six-foot-two frame. "I also want to work on my 40-time and my pro agility drills.

It was a good experience," Richardson adds. "A lot of my teammates were out here and they were able to get some exposure. It wasn't all about me and hopefully they will get some of the same attention from colleges that I have got.

"I haven't got an offer from Auburn or Georgia yet, but I have offers from Oklahoma, Ole Miss and Mississippi State, Georgia Tech, Louisville and Ball State," Richardson notes. "I think that is about it."

Five University of Georgia coaches were among those at the Auburn practice fields watching the action. Head coach Tommy Tuberville was among the group of Auburn coaches taking in the action. "Auburn and Georgia are two of the best teams in the SEC and it was good to see the coaches watching," notes Richardson, whose 33-inch vertical jump was impressive to everyone at the combine.

The defensive standout also says it was fun to work beside and compete against so many good athletes that he had never seen before. "I love competition and I hate losing," he says. "That is the way you have got to be."

Quarterback Steven Ensminger is one of the best all-around athletes who participated in the camp.

The player who made the shortest trip to the combine is Opelika High quarterback Steven Ensminger, who grew up around the sport of football with his dad, Steve Ensminger, the tight ends coach at Auburn University. He had the best vertical leap at the combine, going a very impressive 39 inches and did particularly well in the NFL shuttle run and cone drill.

The Opelika High quarterback says it was a productive day. "I thought this was a really successful camp, one that was really well organized, unlike a lot of other camps. There was a lot of talent. There were a lot of good coaches here who knew what they were doing and that helps a lot to be surrounded by a lot of good coaches and a lot of talent on the field."

The quarterback, who showed a strong arm in the passing drills after running a combine-best 4.03 NFL shuttle, says he liked getting the chance to throw against a variety of different cornerbacks and safeties. "At the high school, we throw against the same defensive backs," says the QB, who measured 6-2 1/2, 186 pounds. "It is good to get out and throw against some different defensive backs and different coverages."

At regional rival Central High of Phenix City, another of the top QB prospects in the state of Alabama will be showing what he can do. Earl Alexander, 6-4, 203 pounds, was obviously one of the best athletes at the combine and will be a player who attracts plenty of Division I recruiters to his games this fall.

"The combine was real nice," Alexander says. "I really enjoyed it. It was a chance to get out and show some of my talent. It was a chance for people to see me and expose me a little bit."

The quarterback says he was impressed with the quality of athletes at the combine. "We have some really good receivers in this area," he says with a smile. "I wish I had some of these guys at my school. It was a lot of fun throwing to them."

Alexander displayed a lot of smoothness when he ran drills and he posted a very impressive time of 4.55 in the 40-yard dash. "The time kind of shocked me when they told me," he says. "I knew I had it in me. It was a matter of getting my takeoff right and staying low. I was really happy with the time."

After burning through his first 40, a coach in attendance shouted at the QB that Alexander did a good impression of Matt Jones, the former University of Arkansas quarterback known for his speed. That brought a big smile to the face of the Red Devil quarterback.

Alexander says as he prepares for his senior season, he plans to work on the details of playing quarterback. "I am going to try to improve on recognizing my reads quicker, recognizing disguised coverages--just the little stuff you need to do as a quarterback."

Earl Alexander is one of the top prospects in the state of Alabama. He posted a 34-inch vertical jump and did 10 feet even on the standing broad jump, one of the best marks at the Auburn combine.

Offensive tackle Garrett Anderson from Dutch Fork High in South Carolina says being in the mix with lots of talented linemen was good for him. "I learned how to be more aggressive," he says.

Anderson, who runs very well for an offensive lineman, notes that he also learned some of the finer points of pass protection. "It is great to get out and compete with all of these athletes here," he says.

The 6-4, 264 offensive lineman, who received his first scholarship offer from West Virginia, plans to camp at that college this summer as well as Auburn, South Carolina and Florida. He ran an impressive 4.69 on the NFL shuttle and a 28.5-inch vertical jump. Although offensive linemen don't normally need to run 40 yards, she showed good OL speed in that event, clocking in at 4.98.

One of the most impressive athletes at the camp is currently just a sophomore. Quarterback Cameron Newton from Westlake High in Atlanta had the college coaches' attention soon after he began throwing passes in warmup drills.

A 6-4, 208 dropback passer with an accurate and strong arm with a smooth delivery, he says that the camp was a good experience. "I learned plenty," he says. "I learned about the three-step drop and releasing the ball quicker. It was also good having a chance to throw to receivers other than the receivers I throw to in practice at Westlake."

Newton, who says his team runs the West Coast offense, notes that he liked the challenge of throwing against talented defensive backs. "There were a lot of good DBs and receivers to throw to and against so that can only make you better."

Newton showed his agility in the NFL shuttle with a time of 4.53 and did 33 inches in the vertical jump test.

Another sophomore from the Atlanta area was impressive in drills. Tailback Caleb King from Parkview High ran a 4.46 40-yard dash and tested well in a variety of drills. "There were a lot of coaches at the combine so that was good," says King, who notes that he plans to attend a variety of college camps this summer.

King weighed in at 184 pounds on his 5-11 frame. He ran a 4.21 shuttle and did 32 inches on the vertical jump.

Another sophomore, 6-0,182 quarterback/safety Eric Berry of Creekside High in Georgia, matched that 40-time. He did 10 feet, one inch on the standing broad jump and 32 inches on the vertical jump. He also clocked a 4.43 in the NFL shuttle.

Justin Bullard, a safety from Stanhope-Elmore High School, was one of the more impressive in-state prospects at the combine. At 6-0 1/2, 170, he did a 4.3 in the shuttle, a 4.63 in the 40 and 32.5 inches in the vertical jump.

Prospects from Alabama who stood out included 6-3 1/2, 212 defensive end J.D. Lott from Briarwood Christian, 6-7, 278 offensive tackle Heath Batchelor from Hayleyville, 6-3 1/2, 283 DL/OL Jemarcus Ricks from Colbert County, 6-2, 230 defensive end Bryant Turner from Daphne and 6-0, 199 wide receiver Darian Stewart from Lee of Huntsville.

David Cone, a 6-6 1/2, 200 QB from Statesboro, Ga., was one of the more impressive offensive players at the combine. He did a 29-inch vertical jump.

Among the others who stood out in drills are 6-1 1/2, 278 defensive tackle Matt Key from Strom Thurmond High in South Carolina and variety of players from Georgia. That group includes 6-1, 191 receiver Michael Strickland from Walton High, 6-1, 198 safety Chris Drayton from Lakeside-Evans, 5-11, 207 quarterback/athlete Mario Fannin of Lovejoy, 6-2 1/2, 292 offensive lineman Steven Singleton from Buford, 5-9 1/2, 156 cornerback Waylon Kimble from South Cobb, 6-2 1/2, 214 running back Bo Harris from Heritage, 6-3 1/2, 344 offensive lineman Maurice Hurt from Baldwin High and 6-5, 235 defensive end/offensive tackle Kiante Tripp from Westlake.

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