I started to consider throwing my money and car keys to him and running, but then he asked if he could pump my gas. As it turned out, it is a state law in New Jersey that you cannot pump your own gas.
After avoiding what I thought to be a car-jacking, I continued on to my hotel. I was staying in nearby Whippany. I am not sure if this is customary in all of New Jersey or just Whippany, but apparently you can't make a left turn anywhere. They have turnaround areas where you make a right turn and loop around to go the other way. It was very frustrating for me, but apparently this is cost-effective as New Jerseyans save thousands of dollars that other states pay replacing left turn signals.
Anyway, enough about the drive, let's talk about the event. It was pouring rain all day on Sunday as a big storm rolled in. The storm probably cost the event some players as there were only roughly 150 athletes at the combine.
We kicked things off after registering all of the players by measuring their heights and weights and taking pictures. After that, the players stretched together before separating into five groups for testing, including the 40-yard dash, the 20-yard shuttle, the 3-cone drill (aka the L cone drill), the vertical jump and the broad jump. I roamed around to all the different stations between the testing locations. A few people stood out to me, which I will speak about. Keep in mind that the numbers that I heard are not necessarily the official times as those results will be posted on the Scout combine page by Wednesday night of this week.
I watched the 40-yard dash, especially focusing on some running backs as Penn State is obviously in the market for a few of them. One running back who was expected to be in attendance, Greg Wannamaker, did not make it to the combine but that didn't mean that some other running backs did not impress. North Dartmouth, Mass., product Jordan Todman was impressive, running times of 4.43 and 4.47. There was also a pretty good smaller running back in David Zapata from Hornell, N.Y. He turned in a 40 time of 4.48 as I was watching. Zapata is only about 5-foot-7, 170 pounds, but he has pretty good speed and quicks that you will hear about later. There was also a 2009 running back prospect from River Hill High in Maryland by the name of Michael Campanaro. Campanaro (only around 5-10 160 pounds) ran in the 4.4's and seemed to have a lot of quicks to him as well. Finally, the last impressive 40 time that I saw was from defensive end Leon Mackey from Newark, Del. The 6-6, 275-pound Mackey picked them up and put them down to the tune of a 4.7. The guy is just plain jacked, not an ounce of fat on him.
Next, I moved over to the shuttle drill to watch Zapata and Todman to check out their lateral movement. Zapata tore it up in his first run, turning in a time of 4.03 in the shuttle. His second run he slipped a bit and I am not sure what he ran. Todman slipped both times he ran the shuttle, including a face first dive across the finish on his second run. Still, Todman's best time was a 4.55 shuttle despite some slippage.
In my opinion, both Zapata and Todman are worth a look in a down year for running backs. Obviously, Zapata has some size issues at only 5-7, but he really reminds me of an even smaller Mike Hart with his jump stepping abilities. Watch Zapata's film at this link.. Todman was also very impressive with a bit bigger body than Zapata. Todman was probably 6-foot and about 190-200 pounds, if I had to guess. I got the chance to speak to both about Penn State after the combine. Zapata holds no offers right now, but is getting letters and said he would definitely be interested should Penn State come calling. Todman is being pursued pretty hard from Boston College, but he said that he likes Penn State a lot. In fact, in talking with Todman's guardian, he indicated that they have sent film to Penn State and are awaiting some feedback. The plan is to attend the combine in State College later this spring, but they are awaiting word from the coaching staff first. Todman gave his film to Scout.com's Bob Lichtenfels, so I would expect Scout to have film up on him pretty soon.
Last, I watched a little bit of the 3-cone drill. I didn't end up watching the broad jump or vertical jump because the numbers are pretty easy to read when the results come up later this week. The 3-cone drill had a lot of guys slipping, so it was hard to really get a read on who was doing well. I did notice West Windsor High cornerback Jonathan Blassingame run a 6.85 3-cone performance that was one of the best on the day. Blassingame is no small cornerback, either. I missed his 40-yard dash performance so that will be very interesting to see, but he could be a sleeper at the cornerback position. Other than Blassingame, no one really stood out that I saw in the 3-cone drill, but take a look at the results posted later in the week to see how some others performed.
After all the testing was done, the players broke up by position. The offensive and defensive lineman went to their own field across the hall to smack each other around while staying out of the way of the other groups. Everyone else was on the first field working on position drills.
I started out watching some of the running backs again. They started with some simple drills getting set in the backfield and bursting through the line at the snap. The speed of Zapata and Todman was apparent in this drill. After that simple drill, they worked on running pass patterns to the flats with a few quarterbacks. Both Zapata and Todman got out to the flat in a hurry and showed some skills hauling in the football.
Next, I moved on to watch the defensive backs. Scout.com instructor Don Cox really had these guys working. He had pairs of defensive backs dropping into their coverages about five to seven yards and then fired a pass about as hard as he could at one of the two defensive backs. Cox was pretty intense. He had guys dropping to give him 20 pushups for missed interceptions. In fact, if a guy bobbled the ball too much he had them doing 10 pushups.
There were a few guys who were pretty impressive on the day from the defensive backs. Archbishop Carroll safety prospect Geoffrey Prather was an impressive physical specimen. He was only average in coverage, but had a lot of qualities about him that I liked. The first, Prather looks like he's playing like a guy from The Longest Yard. He plays with a mean streak as though the football is his and you better not dare touch it. Prather is huge for a defensive back at 6-foot-2 and at least 200 pounds. He seems to want to play defensive back, but I think his college position will be weakside linebacker. He is average in coverage for a defensive back, but as a linebacker he would be great in coverage and has the size and power to easily convert.
The only other defensive back that I had a good read on during drills was St. Anthony's High product J.B. Andreassi. Andreassi is about 5-11, 185 pounds and was just blanketing guys in coverage all day. Cox seemed to really notice him, as well, getting fired up as he broke up pass after pass in a later drill. Andreassi was fluid in coverage with good hips. I am looking forward to seeing the results of his 40-yard dash and shuttle drills. He didn't look like a burner, but he could cover for sure.
Next, I jumped on over to watch the quarterbacks throwing to the wide receivers. There were a few quarterbacks that I had in mind to watch going in: Downingtown West's Nolan Kearney and Ballou High's 2009 prospect Emmanuel Yeager. Kearney is a big guy at every bit of 6- 4, 225 pounds. Kearney reminds me a lot of former PSU quarterback Zack Mills. Kearney is probably a little bit bigger, but he throws a nice catchable ball as a lefty and was great at dropping the ball in right where it needed to be. The knock that I saw on Kearney is that he doesn't have lights-out arm strength. I considered him to be pretty crafty. It should be interesting whether Penn State decides to offer.
Yeager is just a great athlete. He isn't a burner as he ran I believe in the 4.8s or 4.9s in the 40, but he is shifty in the pocket. Yeager throws a pretty good ball and has some decent arm strength. He still needs a lot of seasoning, but he is one to watch for next year.
I was also very impressed with Roman Catholic's Chris Johnson. He is absolutely ripped at 6-2, 205 pounds and threw a very nice ball with great athleticism. Should Penn State start slipping with Terrelle Pryor or E.J. Manuel, I would think Johnson would be a great third option at quarterback.
Finally, Jonathan Coppage of Penns Grove, N.J., was a nice surprise at quarterback. I thought Coppage looked athletic all day and threw an outstanding ball all day. His high school stats are nothing spectacular, as his team does not throw the ball as much as some other schools, but Coppage was definitely a sleeper quarterback prospect as far as what I saw on Sunday.
The receivers were not overly impressive for me on Sunday but there were three that stood out. Muhlenberg's Vaughn Carraway was the most impressive of the bunch with great size and good hands. Probably the most impressive thing for me on Carraway was how smooth he was at running routes and getting downfield. He would not be a bad fallback plan for Penn State if guys like DeJuan Miller, Deion Walker and Kenny Tate fall off the board. At this point, Penn State has not offered Carraway, but he does have interest and they have been in contact.
Abraham Lincoln High's Khalif Staten was another name that I had heard a bit about going into the combine so I took a lot of interest in watching him. Staten was a bit shorter than Carraway, only 6-1 or 6-2 if I had to guess, but he was considerably thicker at about 200 pounds. Staten showed good hands throughout the day. He didn't have great speed or separation all day, but he displayed a knack for getting himself between the defender and the ball. I see Staten as a great possession receiver but not really a game-breaking wide receiver.
The last receiver who caught my eye was Ballou High's Ronald Green. Green was a smaller receiver at only about 5- 10, 175, but he had great speed and could really separate from the defensive back. Green might have trouble getting off the line at the next level at first, but if he gets by you it is lights out. Green would be a pretty good fallback plan for the Nittany Lions if A.J. Alexander should fall off the board.
The last drills that I watched on the day were the hogs in trenches. I came over mostly to see Leon Mackey and he did not disappoint. Mackey prefers to play defensive end, but he also plays offensive tackle for his high school. From what I saw Sunday, I'd let him play wherever he wanted. He easily got by whatever offensive lineman he went against in one on one's trying to get to the quarterback. The quarterback was always an offensive lineman holding a bag in his hands. On one occasion, Mackey blew by the offensive lineman in two steps and ran back to the lineman holding the bag. With one shove with both hands, Mackey knocked the lineman holding the bag straight to his back. It was pretty impressive to see Mackey throw down a 300-pound lineman with one shove.
One other impressive defensive lineman was Patterson Catholic's Doug Alston. Alston was easily the lightest of the lineman in attendance at 6-3, 220, but he was just dominating with his speed and quickness. No one could block him all day. Alston was using jab steps and swim moves getting by would-be blockers in roughly two seconds until the competitive Mackey volunteered to step up and play offensive line against Alston. Alston blew by Mackey on the first run with his speed, but Mackey wasn't letting that be his last performance. The two went at it three more times, with trash talking going both ways. Mackey won the second and third matchups, but Alston got the fourth. It was a great battle, but Mackey was very impressive with the quickness that he displayed holding his own against the great speed and quickness of the lighter Alston.
In the end, I would have to say that Leon Mackey was the best in show in New Jersey. I got the chance to talk with him after the combine. He indicated that his only offer thus far was from Pittsburgh, but I would expect that number to change drastically soon. Mackey also indicated that he really likes Penn State and is good friends with incoming Nittany Lion recruit Devon Still. I would expect the Nittany Lions to offer Mackey for sure and if that happens there is a great chance that Penn State could pick up the Delaware defensive end. In fact, Mackey reminded me a lot of current Nittany Lion defensive end Maurice Evans.
Look for more updates coming from the combine as I had the chance to get contact information on all of the guys in my report. Also, I will be attending the Scout.com combine in Pittsburgh May 6, so look for a similar report following that event.
Hopefully, the folks in the Steel City will let me pump my own gas.