On Sunday, over 500 juniors and sophomores participated in the U.S. Army National Combine.
Southern California had a small but solid contingent participating, being dwarfed by natives from the South and Texas.
Still, the talent that SoCal area provided stood out.
Quite possibly the best defensive back in attendance was Fresno (Calif.) Edison cornerback Courtney Viney (5-8, 170). Viney comes from the same program that has produced former Bruin Ricky Manning Jr., as well as Sun Bowl standout Brandon Breazell. Viney didn't get beat the entire time we watched him and was named to the All-Combine First Team. We'll have an update on Viney this week.
Also standing out was tight end Da'John Harris from Gardena (Calif.) Serra, (6-4, 250). Harris was the best looking tight end participating and was also named to the All-Combine First Team. He has great hands and is very physical, looking similar in build to Marcedes Lewis, just three inches shorter. Harris also is a lifelong UCLA fan, and said that the Bruins were his favorite. He participated in the Bruins 4-Day Camp last summer and plans to again this fall. A Harris update will also come this week.
Donovan Warren, a cornerback from Long Beach (Calif.) Poly, just missed being named to the All-Combine team, but more than held his own, using great instincts and quick feet to stay with most of the receivers he matched up against. His teammate, Joey Redding, looked generally good at receiver, but is still raw in both his athleticism and skills. Playing behind Travon Patterson and Terrence Austin, it's understandable that Redding only had just a pair of catches in 2005.
One of the top quarterbacks in Southern California for the class of 2007 is San Diego (Calif.) St. Augustine quarterback Chris Forcier. The younger brother of Michigan quarterback Jason Forcier, Chris looks to be about 6-2, 6-3, but is still very thin. He has a quick release, but kind of a awkward throwing motion. Still, he threw some of the nicer deep balls on the day.
Another quarterback who looked good was Gilbert (Ariz.) Kyle Newhall-Caballero. At about 6-2, 190, he is still somewhat small, but had great touch and good footwork. He threw for over 2,000 yards as a junior, has a 3.8 GPA and likes UCLA along with Stanford, Cal and Notre Dame.
Staying in Arizona, there was wide receiver Kerry Taylor (6-1, 185) from Chandler Hamilton. The son of former NFL defensive back Keith Taylor and the nephew of former 49ers receiver John Taylor, he looked very good in the one-on-one drills. At first glance, he looks like Junior Taylor (no relation) did when he started at UCLA. He has excellent hands and a quick burst off the line of scrimmage, and played with fire, while he was also very complimentary to each of the defensive backs he burned.
Up front, the offensive linemen from Southern California looked generally good for the combine. Standing out was Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame tackle Sam DeMartinis, who looked to be about 6-5 and 260. If the name is familiar it's because UCLA showed some interest his older brother, Tony, in the class of 2004. Their father played for Dick Vermeil on the Bruins 1975 Rose Bowl Champion team and was at the combine wearing a UCLA shirt. DeMartinis was arguably one of the top 10 offensive linemen there. We'll have an update on him this week.
His teammate and bookend tackle, Charlie Carmichael (about 6-4, 275), struggled a bit in the early morning, as did most offensive linemen during the drill, but as the day picked up, Carmichael began to get more comfortable and started to dominate the one-on-one drills. He started out at tackle, but since he likely projects to guard in college, began to work out at guard and that's when he began to look better. We will have an update on him as well this week. Finally, Palisades (Calif.) tackle Mitchell Schwartz (6-6ish, 270), the younger brother of Oregon tackle Geoff Schwartz, whom UCLA also recruited, did pretty well in the second half of the day. Back on the defensive side of the ball, a trio of SoCal prospects did well on the defensive line. Heading the list was Long Beach (Calif.) Poly defensive end Kenny Rowe. The younger brother of Oregon State commit Alfred Rowe, he was tough to guard for most tackles since he is so quick. Though he is about 6-3, he could end up at linebacker in college, but Rowe was impossible to block in the drills. USC is his early leader, but he mentioned UCLA in his top five.
Encino (Calif.) Crespi defensive end D.J. Holt (6-1, 230), the CIF Division X Defensive Player of the Year more than held his own against more bigger offensive tackles. Holt told us that he will probably play some linebacker during his senior year since he figures that is where he will play in college.
Carson (Calif.) defensive tackle Mackey Mailo also did well in the one-on-one drills, but he is still pretty small, maybe 5-11, and about 235. He also did some work at defensive end. In fact, Mailo, Rowe and Holt rotated for the most part at the left defensive end position in their rotation.
The linebacker selection from California was pretty limited, especially with the absence of Colton (Calif.) linebacker Ben Hanna, who was a late drop. Hanna had 145 tackles for the Yellowjackets, playing alongside Allen Bradford. He was involved in a minor car accident earlier in the week, according to his coach, but was uninjured.
In the secondary, Viney and Warren were the two standouts from California.
Other players of note from outside of SoCal, but with interest in UCLA was Tulsa (Okla.) Jenks running back P.J. Adeje-Paul, who has good speed, but is a little undersized (think Chris Markey, about 5-10 and 190). Offensive lineman John Nisby, from Stockton (Calif.) St. Mary's, also looked very good in the one-on-one drills. Tight end Charles Hayes III, from Aurora (Colo.) Eaglecrest, spent much of the day working with the offensive linemen and despite giving 3-4 inches and 50-60 pounds to some of the defensive linemen, looked decent.
On special teams, Anaheim (Calif.) Servite kicker Kevin Goessling was the lone SoCal resident to participate and looked good in the kicker portion of the combine.