Super Soph Steals Show

PITTSBURGH — In a brief experience with A.J. Alexander — an interview session and workout during the Combine Saturday at the UPMC Sports Complex indoor facility — the Altoona High sophomore quarterback displayed Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde tendencies.

On the football field, Alexander has proven to be unpredictable, turning broken plays into long gains. He also displayed the same incredible athletic skills during the recent workout. The 5-foot-10 1/2, 197-pound Alexander had the best 40-yard dash (4.31) and vertical leap (42.5 inches), was among the leaders in the 205-player field with a 4.13-second 20-yard shuttle run, 6.88 three-cone drill and 9-foot-7 standing broad jump.

Off the field, Alexander is quiet and unassuming. It is difficult to believe he's a star in the making. Alexander already is on Penn State's radar even though he still has two scholastic seasons remaining. Clemson, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina State and Pitt have also shown interest.

"I guess,'' Alexander said when asked if a lot of schools have recruited him. "Sometimes,'' he responded when asked if he was pretty fast. But when talking specifically about Penn State, Alexander did not hesitate.

"I like all of the schools, but I've been to a lot of Penn State games,'' Alexander said. "It's real close to home, and I'd like to go there. It would be great to play in that stadium in front of all those fans.''

Alexander is listed as an athlete as far as recruiting gurus are concerned, which means he likely will be successful at any position he attempts. And that's on either offense or defense.

"A.J. is our quarterback right now, but he's a guy ... we want to get the ball in his hands as much as possible and let him use his athletic ability,'' Altoona coach Phil Riccio said. "We'll move him around, just like we did this past season. And you've got to give him the ball whenever you can.''

Three Altoona teammates — sophomore linebacker/running back Alphonso Lewis, junior linebacker Wes Plummer and junior offensive lineman Brandt Clauser — also attended the Combine.

"I think this is a good opportunity for all four guys,'' Riccio said. "All this attention, they've all handled it pretty well. But they're good kids who work extremely hard. Alphonso really came a long way for us this year. He really improved as the year went on, but he's still a little bit raw.

"He's so physical and so quick, though. He's just one of those kids that makes plays. He's always around the ball, and with his size he really opens a lot of eyes. Wes is just a physical kid, especially defensively, and he has a good nose for the ball. He'll knock your block off.

"The same thing with Brandt,'' Riccio added. "He has great feet. He moves well, and he's very physical with good size. He's about 6-3, 270 pounds, and he can really get after it. He can be very physical.''

Lewis, who is listed at 6-foot, 1/2 inch and 178 pounds, has been courted by West Virginia, Pitt, Maryland, Clemson and Georgia as well as Penn State despite being just a sophomore. But he has room to fill out.

"I just got a bunch of letters and stuff from those schools,'' Lewis said. "No one has called me, but I got a lot of letters. I don't want to say which ones are my favorites right now, because I have a lot of time to decide, but I like all those schools. They're all good schools.'

"And it's been a lot of fun, getting all this attention. I just want to do my best to keep it up and keep getting more calls and more letters. It doesn't matter where I play, but if I have a good season as a junior it should really help me out. And I'm going to work hard to make sure it happens.''

Plummer has had contact from Akron, New Hampshire and Marshall, along with the Nittany Lions. But he doesn't have any favorites.

"It would be awesome to play for Penn State,'' Plummer said. "I went to every game this past year, and it was great. I'd love to play for Penn State in that stadium. It's unbelievable, all those fans cheering for you.''

Clauser, who works primarily at guard, has been recruited by Maryland, WVU, Marshall and some other Division I-AA schools, along with Penn State.

"I think it's pretty cool to have all this interest in me, and I'd love to play for Penn State,'' Clauser said. "Coming out of that tunnel, that would be a sweet feeling. So, I'm looking forward to going to camp there this year.''

Penn State has yet to offer any of the Altoona prospects.

of A.J. Alexander.

See Combine Top Fives here.


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