So fittingly, it was an Arizona native that stole the show.
The headliner was Avondale (Ariz.) Agua Fria defensive end Everson Griffen, who started the morning off with a 4.6 then a 4.46 forty, and never looked back. Griffen continued to shine in the testing, but when it came to the positional drills, and then the one-on-ones, Griffen showed why he may very well end up as the top defensive end in the West. Griffen was convincingly named the MVP of the Combine.
"I shocked myself when I ran," said Griffen. "But it was something I worked hard to do. It was a lot of fun going up against these guys. That's what it is all about."
His Cactus State counterpart, Tucson (Ariz.) Salpointe tackle Kristofer O'Dowd also had a fine showing. O'Dowd ran a 5.0 forty, then turned it on in the one-on-one's himself. In fact, the highlight of the camp may have been the four times that Griffen and O'Dowd went up against each other, with the matchup ending in a stalemate, each winning twice.
The offensive and defensive linemen put together some of the most entertaining battles of the day, with the one-on-one's being highly intense and very loud.
Stockton (Calif.) St. Mary's guard John Nisby should start seeing the offers begin to roll in, if Sunday was any indication. Nisby showed a great push and extension and stoned his guy at the line of scrimmage. Nisby is a prototypical guard, and as the drills went on, he was the top guy in the one-on-one's.
Palisades (Calif.) tackle Mitchell Schwartz had a solid showing, beating Griffen during some matchups. Schwartz looks trimmer and much more aggressive since we saw him at the U.S. Army Combine in January, and is poised for a solid senior season. Palmdale (Calif.) tackle/guard Hayworth Hicks was another lineman who we felt was in much better shape, and his footwork has improved immensely. Hicks went undefeated in the one-on-one's.
Los Angeles (Calif.) Cathedral guard/center Ruben Delgado, who participated last year, showed a mean streak, and was as tough as anyone there. We think Delgado upped his stock greatly on Sunday. Other offensive linemen who stood out were Merced (Calif.) Michael Chambers, Redlands (Calif.) Brant Martinez, Santa Fe (Calif.) St. Paul's Jose Perez, Bellingham (Calif.) Sehome's Steven Ayers, South Jordan (Utah) Bingham's Derek Tuimauga and Santa Fe (Calif.) Springs' Albert Hernandez. Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame tackle Charlie Carmichael was in attendance, but because of track, didn't participate. However, Carmichael looks very good physically and is easily one of the top five linemen in the state.
On the defensive side of the ball, there were plenty of standouts right behind Griffen. If Griffen is now the top defensive end in the West, than Long Beach (Calif.) Poly's Kenny Rowe is 1A. Rowe, already a five-star, and holding double-digit offers, looks thinner compared to most defensive ends, but as soon as the ball is snapped, his speed is too much for the offensive tackles he goes up against. Rowe is very quick off the line of scrimmage, and will be a standout pass rusher in college.
Los Angeles (Calif.) Verbum Dei's Akeem Ayers was hurt on the first one-on-one, spraining an ankle, but tested well, and looked excellent in the drills. Glendale (Ariz.) Ironwood defensive end William Yancy proved Griffen isn't the only defensive end in the state, showing quick burst off the line. Yancy looks like he'll end up as an outside linebacker in college, as does Ayers. Other ends who we liked were Mira Costa (Calif.) Manhattan Beach's Alex Probasco and San Marcos (Calif.) Mission Hills' Jamaar Jarrett, only a 15-year old sophomore, but a physical freak, and a leading candidate for the top defensive end in California for the class of 2008.
Inside, Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw's Brian Price was dominant in the one-on-one's before having to bow out when a cyst on his cheek was ripped off and he bled profusely. Price, who had never ran a forty before, clocked a 5.1 and a 5.0. Etiwanda (Calif.) tackle Marcus Austin also had a strong performance inside as did Moses Lake (Wash.) B.J. Guerra, Carson (Calif.) tackle Mackey Mailo and Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame's Aaron Thomas.
The quarterbacks were led by San Diego (Calif.) St. Augustine Chris Forcier, who was off the charts in his testing, putting together, what one longtime observer called "the most athletic performance by a quarterback in all my years." Forcier ran a 4.44 forty, jumped 10 feet in the broad jump, clocked a 3.97 shuttle, a 6.89 in the L-cone drill and jumped 33 inches. In the drills, he showed his nice, strong arm, and had nice touch.
Spanish Fork (Utah) quarterback Griff Robles also had a nice day, with a great arm and good footwork. Redlands (Calif.) East Valley's Ronnie Fouch was probably the most polished quarterback in attendance on Saturday, and Fouch, after a very efficient junior season, looks to be recovered from a separated shoulder. He measured at 6-1 and looked to be gaining weight. Fouch is one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the region.
Monrovia (Calif.) David Potts had his second strong performance during the spring camp circuits, and it should be only a matter of time before schools start offering Potts, who is quickly moving up the ranks in the quarterback hunt after a good spring.
Stockton (Calif.) St. Mary's quarterback Pete Murdaca and Hillsboro (Ore.) quarterback Cory Bean both had good days along with Seattle (Wash.) Rainier Beach's Jermain Delgado. A sophomore, Carson (Calif.) Dominique Blackman, who transferred from Gardena, looked incredibly raw, but has size and a good arm, that with the right coaching could translate into an excellent quarterback.
Moving into the backfield, Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw running back Raymond Carter and Monrovia (Calif.) James Davis were the two standouts. Carter, who committed to UCLA in March, is behind Marc Tyler as the best running back in Southern California, and he didn't disappoint during drills, continually slipping by guys in pass plays, and showing good hands. Davis, like teammate David Potts, has had an outstanding spring, and he had an outstanding day on Sunday, being nearly impossible to stop and showing great cutting ability. Compton (Calif.) Dominguez running back Brandon Johnson, one of the Southland's top backs, had a good day before suffering an injury late in the afternoon.
Other running backs who had good days were Merced (Calif.) Garrett Turner, Monrovia (Calif.) Tyler Thompson, who clocked a 4.47 despite still recovering from a torn knee, Redmond (Wash.) Logwone Mitz, Compton (Calif.) Anthony Wright, Lynwood (Calif.) Darrell Robinson, Ontario (Calif.) Colony's Omar Bolden and Fresno (Calif.) Edison's John Tate.
The linebackers suffered several last-minute no-shows, yet it was a pair of defensive ends, who have never played linebacker before, but will play there in college, who stood out, as well as a look-a-like of former USC safety Troy Polamalu.
Norco (Calif.) linebacker Jordan Campbell looked like a high school version of Polamalu, and he had an outstanding showing himself, staying with the running backs and the tight ends during the drills, and making an impressive one-handed interception. While Cambell could project to safety in college, being just 6-0, we loved him at linebacker and he left a great impression on several folks.
Encino (Calif.) Crespi's D.J. Holt and Fontana (Calif.) Kaiser's Chris Carter were both all-state underclass selections at defensive end in 2005. Yet both will play linebacker in college, and both showed that it should be a seamless transition, as they both had good days in the drills and one-on-one's. Holt is also a good receiver option, and during drills, made some tough adjustments and used his great hands to make interceptions. Carter was maybe beat once, but that was it.
Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft linebacker Malcolm Smith clocked a 4.44 in the forty and looked good during the one-on-one's. Physically, Smith is very impressive. Pacific Grove (Calif.) John Tyndall came in with little fanfare, but made his presence known and we expect him to have a big senior season. Another Seattle (Wash.) Rainier Beach prospect was Gary Kilcup, who had a good day on Sunday. Sophomore Maurice Simmons, from Compton (Calif.) Dominguez, tested well and will be one to watch in the class of 2008. His younger brother, Marcus, a freshman at Dominguez, was there but didn't participate, and already looks physically impressive.
The tight ends had some impressive names, San Diego (Calif.) Mira Mesa's Nate Chandler, Gardena (Calif.) Serra's Da'John Harris, and Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco's Trent Brown, but it was a sophomore who stole the show.
South Jordan (Utah) Bingham's Austin Holt, who really stood out to us at the U.S. Army Combine in January, looked faster and stronger, and caught everything thrown at him, making two diving catches, and some tough catches against bigger linebackers. Holt could possibly be the top tight end in the West in the class of 2008, if he continues to improve as he has since January.
Upland (Calif.) tight end Devin Mahina, who struggled at the Nike Camp last month, was a completely different receiver on Sunday, making several nice grabs, showing good, fluid running and catching, and tested well.
Chandler and Harris were the headliners coming in, and neither did anything to show that they're not elite players. We still think Harris ends up at defensive tackle in college, but he looks like former USC tight end Dominique Byrd when he plays, and can move well for his size. Chandler looks to be getting thicker and he ran good routes and caught the ball well.
In the secondary, Fresno (Calif.) Edison cornerback Courtney Viney came in as the only committed player, but still played with something to prove and with a chip on his shoulder. Though not the ideal size for a cornerback (5-8, 150), Viney played much bigger and when the day was done, no defensive back drew the praise that Viney did. His positional coach at the Combine, Coach Cox, said he was one of the top five DB's he's worked with around the country. Viney was selected to the All-Combine First Team at the U.S. Army Combine in San Antonio and is a shoo-in for this all-combine team as well. He locked down each receiver he went up against and his instincts are his strength.
Portland (Ore.) Jesuit cornerback Jamaine Olson also had a nice day, not getting beat and showing great footwork and hips. Seattle (Wash.) Vonzell McDowell, the best defensive back in the state also showed well. Santa Fe (Calif.) Springs Romeo Pellum, one of the fastest players there, had an excellent day, playing bigger than his size and pressuring the receivers all afternoon.
Two players who were under the radar but really upped their stock were Fresno (Calif.) Johnny Fields, who will give Viney some cornerback company in the Central Valley this fall and Temecula (Calif.) Chaparral's Jonquil Williams, who, like Viney and Pellum, played much bigger than his size would indicate.
The wide receivers might have been the most talented group and they didn't disappoint.
Gardena (Calif.) Serra's Anthony Boyles was hands down, the best receiver on the day, and he's poised to pass San Diego (Calif.) Mira Mesa's Markques Simas as best receiver in the state. Boyles is so quick off the line of scrimmage, and fast to boot, that he was impossible for the corners to cover. Throw in the fact that he can catch well, and its easy to see why he's worthy of the hype. But Simas was no slouch either, showing his good explosiveness and excellent hands. The two are the class of California, at least at this point.
Merced (Calif.) Carter Todd looked very good on Sunday, and it's a mystery to us why he hasn't been offered. Todd runs very crisp routes and has good hands. Los Angeles (Calif.) Verbum Dei's Reginald Dunn reminds us a lot of former Long Beach (Calif.) Poly's Terrence Austin, in size, look and play. Dunn runs good routes, and he also clocked the best forty of any one there, running a 4.35.
Other receivers we liked were Pasadena (Calif.) Muir's Lance Mitchell, Venice (Calif.) Jonathan Brasfield, Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco's Dale Qualls, Woodland Hills (Calif.) Jeshua Anderson and Los Angeles (Calif.) Verbum Dei's Maxwell Lacy.