Roughly 300 rising seniors packed the stadium at Ragsdale High School in Jamestown, NC for the fourth of five Shrine Bowl combines to be held this year. The combines have become an integral part in the selection process for the prestigious all-star event.
While previous combines this year have showcased eye-popping speed, the times at Ragsdale were a bit slower with just a handful of prospects timing under 4.5-seconds in the 40-yard dash.
Easily the fastest was blistering-quick WR T.J. Graham from Wakefield High School. The son of track guru Trevor Graham, he smoked the track with 4.30 and 4.36-second 40-yard dashes. At 6-0, 166 pounds, Graham also notched an impressive 35-inch vertical and had seven reps of 185 pounds on the bench press.
Graham's recruiting has been slow to take off despite his reputation as being one of the fastest players in the nation. He didn't put up big numbers as a junior at Wakefield and there has been basically no film available to send to division one colleges- due, in part, to a coaching transition during the off-season. With Chip Williams, formerly of New Bern High School, now the head coach, Graham should get the help he needs to land the interest of college scouts over the coming months. For now, NC State continues to look like a strong contender. However, Graham indicated that he will almost surely stay close to home- mainly because his father wants to be able to come to his games- so the first local school to offer could end up with a huge advantage.
NC State verbal commitment Tobias Palmer from Northwood High School was probably the second fastest player in attendance Saturday. He ran consecutive 4.42-second 40-yard dashes while measuring in at 5-10, 156 pounds. His 4.48-second shuttle was one of the day's best given the slippery gym floor at Ragsdale. One caveat with Palmer is that Florida State has started to showing increased attention since his commitment to NC State and that may be something to watch over the coming months.
LB Jonathan Williams from Northern Vance High School is a player that was invited to NC State's spring game last weekend. Pack Pride has been unable to reach him to date but Williams represented himself well on Saturday. He measured in at a solid 6-0, 220 pounds and ran a respectable 4.84-second 40-yard dash when compared to the other times at the event. Williams also posted a solid 28-inch vertical jump and had 21 reps of 185 pounds.
Kickers usually don't get a lot of attention but Josh Conrad from South Granville High School was a standout on Saturday. The three-time all-conference selection was consistently accurate for 40 yards and in and nailed kicks from 50 yards as well. Conrad could challenge for one of the spots on the Shrine Bowl roster. At 6-1, 160 pounds, Conrad has a long frame with the potential to fill out giving him quite a bit of upside for the next level. His best attribute is how consistently he hits the ball on placekicks.
LB Terrell Manning from Scotland County was the headliner of the event and he certainly didn't disappoint. Checking in at 6-3, 202 pounds, he ran 4.66 and 4.69-second 40-yard dashes. Equally impressive was his 32-inch vertical and 16 reps on the bench press.
Manning attended the combine Saturday at the request of Shrine Bowl coaches. He seemed to be fully recovered from an earlier ankle injury that slowed him somewhat at a previous combine. Nothing much has changed on the recruiting front although he did indicate to Pack Pride that the process has started to take it's toll. He continues to list Clemson, South Carolina, NC State, Alabama, Florida and Virginia Tech as the main schools on his list although realistically, it's unlikely any team has been completely eliminated at this point.
Combines always seem to reveal players that haven't made much of a splash on the recruiting scene. One such prospect on Saturday was Brad Banks from SW Guilford High School. If his numbers were any indication of his talent, Banks will likely see increased attention from college scouts during the May evaluation period. He measured at 6-2, 178 pounds and ran 40-yard dashes of 4.54 and 4.51-seconds. Banks also recorded an impressive 35-inch vertical jump.
OL Justin Ward from Rockingham County has been a fairly major topic of discussion during the spring although his numbers Saturday weren't the best. At 6-4, 284 pounds, Ward ran 5.62 and 5.91-second 40-yard dashes. He recorded an 18-inch vertical jump and had 16 reps of 185 pounds.
One offensive line prospect that is likely to blow up over the summer is Michael Via from NE Guilford High School. His frame and build is very reminiscent of Landon Walker (Clemson) and Hutch Eckerson (South Carolina). Via is extremely well built and ran a solid 5.12-second 40-yard dash. He also had a 26-inch vertical jump and 20 reps on the bench press. East Carolina and Georgia Tech have offered but inside word has Virginia Tech being the team to beat should they offer.
S Ed Gainey from Mt Tabor High School certainly didn't do anything to hurt his stock on Saturday. At 6-0, 172 pounds, he ran 4.52 and 4.54-second 40's. Gainey paced the combine with a 38.8-inch vertical and had a solid showing of 13 reps on the bench press. Wake Forest and NC State are leading the way for the standout defensive back.
DT Anthony Garner from Jordan-Matthews High School has been a huge topic for Wolfpack fans so far in 2007. He checked in at 6-1, 295 pounds on Saturday and ran 5.28 and 5.33-second 40-yard dashes. Garner recorded 24 reps on the bench press but said he cramped up which prevented him from getting more. NC State continues to lead the way but Virginia Tech has picked up their interest and have indicated they may be offering in the near future.
Next week, the Shrine Bowl Combine tour will conclude at Snow Hill and Pack Pride will be on hand for all the results.