MSL/The Insiders Combine: Cincinnati

MSL/The Insiders brought their traveling combine to the Queen City on Saturday. The workout mainly consisted of several under-the-radar type players and some very promising youngsters, along with 3 kickers who put on a show. Coach John Battle and the entire MSL staff run a great combine, everything well organized and professional.

The MSL/Insiders Combine is very similar to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. The only differences are that MSL doesn't give a Wonderlic test, medical evaluation, and the bench press is 185 lbs. instead of the NFL 225. The thing that makes MSL unique is their partnership with the NFL Coaches Association. Several of its members were on hand to help during the testing and to talk to the young men during breaks in the combine.

The combine attracted players from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and as far away as Florida.

Three junior quarterbacks seemed to stand out for various reasons. Josh Febus (6-0, 195 Dublin-Coffman, OH) looked to be the most polished of the signal callers. He has a body like a LB and the arm of a QB. He is fundamentally very sound, nice releases, accurate, and gets his feet set properly. Febus transferred to Coffman-Dublin from Mount Vernon.

QB Tyler Dennis (5-11, 185, 4.7, West Holmes, OH) - Very sound fundamentally. Son of a coach and plays like it. Very fast and quick, needs to work on arm strength. Shows natural leadership abilities.

QB Dallas Richardson (5-11, 180, 4.6, Carrick, PA) - Very raw and athletic. All he lacks is solid coaching on his technique and fundamentals.

There were several running backs on hand. However, one showed skills above all the rest, sophomore Elijah Griffin (5-9, 175, 4.5, Westerville-South, OH). Elijah ran a 4.55 forty, 4.42 shuttle, and did 21 reps of 185 lbs. He actually ran a 4.1 shuttle but didn't touch the line and had to run it again. Griffin is a nephew of former two-time Heisman Trophy winner and Ohio State Buckeye star Archie Griffin. Elijah was on another level compared to the rest of the backs. He cuts on a dime, has quick feet, ability to make people miss, catches the ball well out of the backfield, nice acceleration, and has the power to run through you.

Wide receiver William Lewis (6-4, 205, 4.65, Scott County, KY) and Richard Quinn (6-3, 215, 4.65, Maple Heights, OH) are two guys that were head and shoulders above the competition, both literally and figuratively. The only downside is that both are still raw and learning the game. Quinn is being recruited as a TE and WR and has the frame to add on extra weight.

On the offensive line, a sophomore from Smyrna, TN, Alan Smotherman (6-2.5, 265, 5.0), was the one who caught the eyes of most of the people from the Insiders including: Mike McCammon - InsidetheVille, Rod Gidle - InsideKentucky, Dave Berk - OhioPrepScene, and myself. Alan was very smooth and fluid during all the drills. He ran a 5.00 forty and did over 20 reps on the bench. If this young man keeps growing and progressing the way he has, look out because he may be one of the best lineman in the nation next season.

Gary Schussler (6-3, 270, 5.3 Chardon, OH) opened some eyes right from the beginning when he vertical jumped 28". He did over 20 reps on the bench and showed decent feet during the drills. He asserted himself well during the one-on-one drills. Teammate David White (6-3, 300, 5.3) showed some tenacity during the drills and the one-on-ones. The thing that impressed most about White is his lateral foot speed.

The prospect that came out of nowhere and was unbeaten in one-on-one drills was Kaleb Renfro (6-1, 270, 5.3, Meridian, IL). He was easily the most fundamentally sound of the lineman. When taking on bigger opponents, he was always lower and locking on them, burying most in the ground.

Moving over to the defensive side of the ball, one DL stood out, Ryan Custer (6-4, 300, 5.4, Troy, OH). Ryan was the biggest of the lineman, a solid 300 lbs. He is a little raw as a DL, often trying to use straight power and bull rushing instead of using technique.

At LB, Austin Spitler (6-3, 225, 4.6) was easily the most impressive of the group. He was the strongest at the combine, benching 185lbs. for 31 reps. He showed quick feet during the shuttle and agility drills. He has all the tools to be big time. A sophomore LB from Trotwood, Michael Baker (6-0, 205, 4.6), showed some flashes of being a force in the future.

The star of the combine, as far as position players goes, was an easy choice, CB Jovanni Chapel (5-10, 185, 4.49, Trotwood, OH). Jovanni is only a sophomore but has a college body right now. He arrived late and promptly laid his backpack down and vertical jumped 31". He then went upstairs and pushed out 20 reps on the bench. He ran a 4.7 forty on the slow surface at Nippert Stadium. He then went on to run an 11.4 in the long shuttle, the fastest time at the combine. During the one-on-one drills, Jovanni had everyone on lockdown. He then caused a stir when he called out, "Give me the biggest you got." Jovanni wanted to prove he could handle the big guys, so William Lewis, the highly touted WR from Kentucky, stepped up and Chappel put the clamps on him. Lewis couldn't get free. He then gave that patented superstar smile and gave Lewis a pat on the back and said, "Good try." The most impressive thing is that Jovanni carries a 3.8 GPA at Trotwood, OH.

In the morning, the field belonged to the kickers and punters, which quickly formed into a battle between Chris Ludwig of Lockport, IL and 2 Pennsylvania kickers: Anthony Piccirilli of Hopewell and Patrick McAfee of Plum High School. McAfee left his high school prom at 1:30 am and he and his father made the 5-½ hour drive to Cincinnati to compete.

"My girlfriend was a little upset with me," said McAfee.

Ludwig showed well drilling field goals from 45 yards and in. McAfee was in the zone drilling kicks from 65 yards and in, with distance to spare. Kickers aren't used to having all the attention but when Patrick stepped up to kick the whole stadium stopped to watch his powerful leg. He may have put himself into position to be the best kicking prospect in the entire Atlantic region, perhaps in the nation.

Piccirilli, who prefers kicking off and punting, showed a strong leg booting field goals from 50 yards. During the kickoff portion of the combine, he and McAfee buried most of the kicks in the end zone. Anthony was punting consistently form 45-50 yards with 4 second hang time.

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