In the GridIron Classic, a
pair of overlooked I-A wide-outs will garner attention on Team Florida as
DeAndrew Rubin of South Florida and Iowa's Clinton "C.J." Jones both
possess the size/speed numbers scouts look for in a slot receiver and each
performed well as a senior. Linebacker Khalid Abdullah gets a chance to
perform at a higher level of competition after what was a solid week of practice
and a better game in the Cactus Bowl, and the Mars Hill product is starting to
gain more attention from the league. Tim Love of Harding can only hope to
perform as well as his college teammate Floyd Black did at the Cactus Bowl as he
moves up to this level of competition. Another defender to watch is Ken Jones of
South Carolina State. A terrific athlete that made the right move by
returning to college for a fifth season when the opportunity afforded itself,
Jones is a fierce pass rusher who must prove he can play against bigger,
stronger offensive tackles.
Arkansas State offensive lineman Gary
Johnson, a disappointing non-invitee to the Senior Bowl, has a shot to impress
scouts even more after what was a productive senior campaign, while late arrival
Dwight Beard of William and Mary is another small school lineman with a chance
to elevate his draft status. Formerly an offensive tackle, Beard moves
into guard tomorrow and may even get the chance to play center, a position many
think he's best suited for at the next level. Unfortunately, the player
Beard replaces, Chuck Klabo of North Dakota State, suffered a leg injury during
the week and will not play. A solid small school sleeper, Klabo stood to
benefit from a good performance all week.
Team USA on the other hand offers a
lot of small school skill players. Fresh off helping his team win another
national title, Grand Valley State quarterback Curt Anes will have his work cut
out for him throwing against the likes of Vanderbilt's Rushen Jones and Will
Hunter of Syracuse, but he'll have several solid pass catchers at his
disposal. East Tennessee State receiver Cecil Moore is highly ranked and
should benefit from a good game while many will be watching diminutive running
back Ian Smart of CW Post, one of NCAA's most prolific ball carriers last
Unfortunately, the Grid Iron Classic
has not gone off without a hitch this week with all the grumbling and
finger-pointing coming into the game. Sponsored and supported by the NFLPA, the
game has seen several highly ranked prospects have their invitations withdrawn,
to the dismay of many.
In one specific instance a highly
rated linemen (first-day pick) was notified he would be uninvited due to
monetary concerns of the game. After he offered to pay his personal
expenses in order to get pre-draft exposure in front of scouts, the organizers
have yet to respond to him and at last count the number of players that had
their initiations pulled was believed to be in the double digits.
The Paradise Bowl is played
for the second time tomorrow and, although the rosters are filled with fringe
free agent prospects, it also offers a good amount of small school talent.
The Mid West squad offers several
solid developmental linemen including the aforementioned Floyd Black of Harding.
Mammoth Ryan Terry of Miami-Ohio will also play and needs a dominating
performance to jump into the late rounds, while Buck Rasmussen of Nebraska-Omaha
is also a defender to watch. They have a strong receiving core which
features the incredibly productive Willie Ponder of Southeast Mizzu State as
well as David Kircus of Grand Valley State while the quarterback is Eastern
Illinois passer Tony Romo, who's been said to be moving up draft boards.
Another wideout to watch is Jermaine Lewis of Western Michigan, a terrific
athlete that moved from safety last season and has seemingly taken well to his
new position. Lastly, there are two interesting stories to watch from this
side. Running back Arlen Harris transferred to Hofstra from Virginia in
2002 but was ruled ineligible by the NCAA and never played last season. A
nice-sized runner who's been productive when healthy, he stands to gain from
tomorrow. In addition, keep an eye on kicker MacKenzie Hoambrecker of
Northern Iowa who made 89% of his field goals last season, including a perfect
two-for-two from over fifty with a long of 59 yards.
The roster of the West looks more
like a farewell to senior players of Utah's universities rather than a
collection of possible pro talent. Cal-Davis offers a pair to keep tabs on
as receiver Michael Olivia is a nice-sized pass catcher that makes a lot of
plays down the field while Michael Gross offers size on the offensive line and
looks to be a practice squad player. Finally, Casey Fitzsimmons is a solid
tight end that can also long snap, which may find him a spot at the next level.