In the recruiting climate of today's sporting world, coaches at all levels are hellbent on finding out the latest and greatest in the world of high school football. For that reason, the current cultural atmosphere of college sports requires those in search of the next Barry Sanders to look harder and deeper than ever before in order to find the perfect athlete for their system. Today, the modern recruiting process carries a desire to uncover every aspect of an athlete's life. For college football, high school scouting combines have become so dependent upon nowadays that coaches often finds themselves measuring themselves against their competitors as much as they are the athletes themselves.
On Saturday, May 28 at the University of Akron Fieldhouse, Scout.com (the feeder site to BearcatInsider.com) corralled around 200 of the top high-school football players in the Midwest together to match themselves against the premier talent in the country. But this combine was far more than a mere chance for the corn-fed talents of the offensive and defensive lines this region has become accustomed to sending out to play at the highest level on Saturday afternoons – much more. In fact, athletes from at least 11 states (Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, New York, Florida and Maryland) participated in the event that saw some of the preeminent talent from each position put their skills on display in front of friends and family, reporters, scouts, coaches, the Scout.com staff and, most important, one another.
However, this combine, like all the rest of "shows"that are put on in order to make an athlete known to the recruiting world, was all about college coaches. This was the final leg of the 11-city, countrywide tour Scout.com was on to find and display what it feels to be some of the top football players in the country. Acutally, the football aspects were not put on display all that much during that five-hour session on Saturday. It was more the potential these prospects were able to resonate through numerous measurements, pokes and prods they endured, which are all to be made public for every coaching staff in the country to read, learn and hopefully fall in love with.
Measuring physical attributes in tests such as the forty-yard dash, broad jump, cone drill, shuttle run, and vertical leap (only exercise not in cleats), the soon-to-be educated public would learn just how well these athletes, peers, and, dare I say, rivals fared against one another (look for results on our website). Possibly the two best athletes testing at the combine were Jeff Cumberland (Brookhaven HS; OH) and Dorin Dickerson (West Allegheny HS; PA). Cumberland (6-6 215), who is listed as a DE and TE prospect, is an extremely quick, athletic prospect who could see himself lineup at either position at the next level, even though many scouts felt that the tight end position was where he really shined last season. Known for his skill on the hardwood as well, the ability to use his hands mixed with his tremendous speed in the open (ran the 40 in 4.54/4.47 - unofficial) and leaping ability makes him a formidable prospect on offense, though they should serve him well at either spot. Cumberland is currently debating between Miami (FL), Ohio State and Minnesota, though I would not be surprised to see some other powerhouses get in the mix as his senior season roles on.
Dickerson also established mind-boggling numbers in the athletic drills. Performing especially well in the jumping drills (averaged 37.5 in vertical - unofficial) and having proven himself as a more than capable one-on-one player before the combine, Dickerson's transition to the collegiate game should be a smooth one, especially if he winds up catching or batting-down passes. Already having garnered over twenty offers (Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Pitt, LSU and Cincinnati to name a few), Dickerson's versatility has made him a candidate to play either wide receiver, running back or safety in college. Having played all over the field on offense and defense in previous years (junior season stats: 130 carries/1065 yds and13 TDs; 25 receptions for 517 yds and eight TDs; 48 tackles and three interceptions), the 6-1 195 pound prospect is said to be focusing his efforts on the backfield for his senior campaign.
For athletes such as Cumberland and Dickerson, whose abilities have been documented and well-embraced by coaching staffs across the country, the combine seemed to serve as more of a personal testing ground against some of the premier talent in the country. However, for athletes such as Kevan Smith (Seneca Valley HS; PA) and Jakeem Gregory (Snider; IN) these combines serve as tools to help undermine any question marks coaching staffs may have about aspects of an athlete's portfolio. For Smith, the 6-3 215 pound signal caller with dreams of playing in the Big 10, attempting to undo the damage that was done to his "recruitability" when he suffered a near season-ending injury during his junior campaign. Smith broke a bone in his thumb, but removed the cast (against his father's wishes) to play in the final two games of the season. Though he performed well, throwing for more than 500 yards and seven touchdowns, the damage done hurt his ability to be seen in action by coaches all last season. Performing well against other top-quarterbacks at Akron on Saturday, such as Brennen Glass (Springfield South; OH) and Kyle Foster (Cascade Senior HS; IN), meant proving himself to coaching staffs across the country. With solid numbers in each drill and what I believe to be an outstanding one-on-one workout, Smith certainly made the case that he can be one of the best at his position with a strong senior season.
***Stay tuned for the next part of our series from the Scout.com Akron combine.***