There's no question that unsigned sophomores can really help themselves with a strong showing at the combine. As was the case at all three combines this year, a good number of four-year coaches showed up with hopes of finding help for next fall. And fortunately, there were a few unsigned guys on hand as well.
Ht / Wt: 6-2 1/4, 196
Bench: 19 reps @ 185
Notes: Pima WR Aaron Butler was a Southern Arizona High School All-Star in 2001, and he still looked the part of an All-Star at our combine (see testing numbers above). When last we spoke, Butler said he would graduate in July. He was overshadowed at Pima last year by fellow WR Brian Hare, who signed with Purdue.
New Mexico Military
Ht / Wt: 5-10 1/2, 226
Bench: 22 reps @ 225
Notes: Of all the remaining unsigned JC running backs, Kendrick has perhaps the best resume. He was the WSFL Player of the Week for Oct. 26. Johnson, a sophomore from West Columbia, South Carolina, scored four touchdowns and gained 155 yards to help the Broncos to a 62-29 victory over Eastern Arizona. On the season he rushed for over 1,200 yards and 18 TDs. As a freshman he rushed for 1,038 yards and 15 TDs. He's on track to graduate from NMMI in July. At the combine we spoke with head coach John O'Mera, who had high praise for Johnson's abilities.
Los Angeles Harbor
Ht / Wt: 5-8, 165
Bench: 7 @ 225
Notes: I don't think we saw crisper routes -- at any of the three combines -- than those run by Alphonso Williams. He may not have blazing 4.3 speed, but he's cat-quick (4.01 shuttle), demonstrated sticky hands, and used his route running abilities to get open in the one-on-ones. He generated a lot of buzz in Arizona and the following weekend in southern California. His father, who is a former professional player, was on hand to watch in Scottsdale. We think the younger Williams will get picked up pretty soon.
Here are a couple of additional unsigned guys who did pretty well:
Brandon Bell (5-10, 192)
Forty: 4.68, Shuttle: 4.4, Bench: 11 @ 225
Notes: Brandon started the first five games for Mesa last season before an ankle injury slowed him down. He's already got his AA and is currently talking with 1AA St. Peters, Western Carolina, and several other schools.
Vince Leffler (5-9 3/4, 176)
Forty: 4.5, Shuttle: 4.44, Bench: 18 @ 185, Vertical: 37"
Notes: Played offense early in the season and then strong safety late in the year. Prefers receiver. Had approximately 25 catches and 300 yards with 2 TD in his two seasons. Started every game in two seasons. He's open to all offers, but may walk on at Arizona State.
In addition to the guys mentioned above, we ran into a few athletes who had recently locked up deals with four-year programs. Scottsdale long snapper Matt Webb was days away from officially tripping Louisville while Scottsdale WR Shamus McKoy had just been offered by Nebraska. On the Thursday after our combine, Webb got an offer from Louisville -- and he accepted.
FRESHMEN WHO STOOD OUT
Among the freshmen in attendance, four stood out the most.
Ht / Wt: 6-1, 208
Bench: 11 reps @ 225 pounds
Notes: Our kicking and punting coach, Charlie Gorham, didn't have many athletes to work with on May 1. Actually, it was just Brian Steele. I guess if you're only going to have one guy, however, it might as well be someone who will challenge for All-America honors in 2004. Steele is very powerful and his booming, spiraling kicks garnered more than a few looks during the combine. This is a guy you'll probably see on TV in 2005. Scottsdale has a nice little run of quality kickers going. Their KO specialist / punter from last year, John Goss, signed with Michigan State in December.
Ht / Wt: 6-2, 232
Notes: Eastern Arizona HC Kevin Haslam told me before the combine that his DE, Adley Vitoli, was getting serious looks from visiting four-year coaches during spring ball. Seeing Vitoli at the combine it's not hard to understand why the scouts are interested. He has a tremendous upside.
Notes: New Mexico Military offensive lineman Kane Crume (pictured above; black shorts) had a nice day. In addition to being his team's starting center, he's also their long snapper. He's a qualifier and could end up leaving NMMI prior to the 2004 season. If not, then he should be a strong candidate for All-WSFL honors next season.
Notes: In the photo above, CB Patrick Nicks is lined up against LA Harbor unsigned sophomore Alphonso Williams. Hands down, Nicks was the most impressive first-year player at the combine. He demonstrated blazing speed (4.37), terrific explosion in the vertical jump, excellent man-cover skills, and tons of confidence. Also, we found him to be very coachable and wanting to test his abilities versus the top WRs during one-on-ones. Nicks, who started 9 games last season, has a 3.24 GPA. It's definitely worth noting that he was the state 200-meter champion (21.3) in Nevada his senior year. The schools calling him most are: Arizona (most interested; fave), BYU, Michigan State, Nevada, UCLA (letters). He'll get out in December.
Many other athletes stood out in Scottsdale, as well. Look for a follow up piece which will list the top testing numbers by position. Stay tuned!
JCFootball.com wishes to thank an army of people for their help. First and foremost, we thank Scottsdale coach Anthony Buchanan for his coordinating efforts in the weeks leading up to May 1. Also, thank you to SCC's Director of Football Operations, Tim Douglas, who made sure the facility was available and the field was lined -- among other things! SCC trainers Nicole Calderon and Kristin Maland. Special teams coach Charlie Gorham. Eastern Arizona HC Kevin Haslam and assistant coach Josh Darrell. Mesa HC Dan Dunn and his assistant coaches. Just about the entire coaching staff from Scottsdale. Ari Lenett for traveling over from LA and assisting in many ways. It was also nice to meet NMMI HC John O'Mera this year, as well as his father Bob who has come to our combine once or twice before. I'm probably forgetting some people (not intentionally). I'm extremely thankful to everyone who helped out!
And ya' gotta thank all the athletes who participated. Thanks guys and take care!