Monday, February 15, 2010
Top prospects shine at UA combine
By JC Shurburtt ESPN Recruiting
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- For the second straight year, defensive lineman Derrick Mitchell (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast) showed up at the Jacksonville Under Armour combine and made a statement.
Last March, he emerged as a potential Division I defensive end prospect with an excellent performance as a rising junior. On Sunday at the Jaguars' practice facility, he showed why some are talking about him as one of the top defensive line prospects in the Southeast for the 2011 class.
For the second straight year, DE Derrick Mitchell improved his recruiting stock.
"I think that I performed great today," Mitchell said. "I thought I ran well during the testing. I have been preparing for this."
The 6-foot-5, 285-pounder was impressive during one-on-one drills. He showed excellent footwork and used his hands well to shed potential blockers making it tough on offensive linemen throughout the day.
"I think I've got really good speed," he said. "I mean, I weigh 285 pounds, but I don't look it and I don't feel it."
This fall, Mitchell will play end for First Coast, but he potentially projects as big, athletic interior defensive tackle in college. Alabama recently joined a host of schools that have offered early. Others include Florida State (where Mitchell's father played basketball), Clemson, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida International, among others.
Like Mitchell, Florida commit A.C. Leonard (Interlachen, Fla./Interlachen) is a blend of size, speed and athleticism. Leonard, who recently transferred to Interlachen from Ribault High in Jacksonville, worked out at tight end on Sunday and said that's where the Gators plan to play him in college.
"(The combine) overall was pretty fun," he said. "I had a good time coming out here and competing against the talent that was here."
The 6-4, 240-pound Leonard moves well for a prospect his size and proved it by running a blistering 7.13 L-cone shuttle, which is used to measure a prospect's change-of-direction and quickness. During one-on-ones, he ran good routes and displayed good hands at times.
Leonard made an unofficial visit to Florida for the Gators' junior day on Saturday and remains firm with his commitment.
But Leonard and Mitchell weren't the combine's only top performers. Here's a look by position at other standout players.
Quarterbacks Kevin Sousa (Lake Nona, Fla./Lake Nona) is a tall, athletic passer who impressed the coaches both at the combine on Sunday and during a skills session Saturday. Sousa has a big arm and is an above average athlete.
The 6-4, 200-pound Sousa was impressive during the one-on-one drills and also during 7-on-7 work. He showed the ability to throw a nice deep ball and also hits the short routes well. The coaches at the event believed that his best days are in front of him and schools like Miami (verbal offer), Notre Dame, Kentucky, Michigan, Illinois, Oregon, Tulane, Florida Atlantic and Florida International all are showing interest. He had nearly 2,500 yards of total offense (1,500 passing and 989 rushing) last season for his high school team.
QB Kade Bell might be a little undersized, but has the arm, head and bloodlines to be a D-I QB.
Kade Bell (Neptune Beach, Fla./Fletcher) has a lightning-quick release and a strong arm. He also showed the ability to make good decisions during one-on-ones and 7-on-7 work and is a good athlete (7.17 in the L-cone). Bell is the son of Jacksonville University head coach and former Florida and NFL quarterback Kerwin Bell. Auburn, Illinois and South Carolina are among the programs showing early interest.
Keep an eye on Class of 2013 prospect Dominique Allen (Richmond Hill, Ga./Richmond Hill). Allen has excellent size and a big arm. He threw several beautiful deep balls where he hit his receivers in stride. It will be a while before he starts to get serious attention from college programs, but if he continues to develop on the potential he showed at the combine, it would be a surprise if he didn't when his time comes.
Running backs Thomas Smith (Apopka, Fla./Apopka) had a solid day. The 5-11, 205-pounder threw up 18 reps of 185 pounds in the bench press, had a broad jump of more than nine feet and ran a 7.38 L-cone. Smith is a bigger back who had a rushed for 1,651 yards and 27 touchdowns as a junior. Multiple programs are showing him interest, including Florida State, his favorite school growing up.
Kion Williams (Interlachen, Fla./Interlachen) was another back who was impressive. During one-on-one drills, he showed off his ability in the passing game. That's a skill set that has some schools looking at him as a slot receiver/running back combo and why he believes he will probably end up in the slot on the next level. Williams claims an early offer from Florida and was at the Gators' junior day on Saturday.
Karl Barr (Orange Park, Fla./Orange Park) could end up in the slot in college, thanks in large part to his speed. He ran one of the top times at the combine in the 40-yard dash Sunday with a 4.45. He also worked out with the receivers during 7-on-7/one-on-one drills and performed well.
Class of 2012 standout Chris Black (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast) emerged at last year's combine and was back for an encore performance on Sunday. It was difficult for the defensive backs at the event to cover him and despite being slowed with a sore leg, he was the class of the receivers at the event.
His teammate, Daron White, is an intriguing prospect. The 5-foot-8, 180-pounder ran a blistering 4.46 40 and though he plays running back for First Coast (he shares carries with Florida State commit Eric Beverly), he probably projects best in college as a receiver. He was impressive during one-on-one and 7-on-7 work.
Jalen Simmons (Kingsland, Ga./Camden County) is a tall, athletic receiver with good hands who had some nice moments during the one-on-one and 7-on-7 work. His high school team is run-oriented on offense (and the Georgia Class 5A champions this past season), but it is clear he has potential.
Xavier Youngblood (Altamonte Springs, Fla./Lake Brantley) is similar to Simmons in that he's a tall target with good hands and athleticism. Rashod Byers (Jacksonville, Fla./Eagle's View) also had some good moments during the combine.
In addition to Leonard, Rusty Scott (Lincolnton, Ga./Lincoln County) had some nice plays during the 7-on-7 portion of the camp. Scott has good size and plays for one of the top smaller programs in the state of Georgia (former Georgia and NFL standout Garrison Hearst played there and most recently, the school produced Vanderbilt tight end Brandon Barden). Scott was an all-area selection for 2009 and caught 15 passes for 263 yards.
Also, Kyle Darlin (Winter Springs, Fla./Winter Springs) caught everything thrown his way. He is a little undersized for a tight end, but said after the combine he played a good bit of receiver in his team's spread offense this past season anyway.
It wasn't the deepest group of offensive linemen, but two prospects stood out.
Thor Jozwiak (Eagle Lake, Fla./Lake Region) has good size and gets after it. He probably projects on the interior on the collegiate level.
Garrett Clark (Daytona Beach, Fla./Mainland) is getting looks from multiple college programs, but no offers yet. He held his own during one-on-one drills and has Division I potential.
Mitchell's teammate, defensive end Chris Terry, was also impressive on the defensive line. He has long arms and was a standout during one-on-one drills. His father played at Georgia and in the NFL for the Carolina Panthers and colleges are starting to show serious interest after he sat out last season to focus on his academics.
Richard Cohen (Richmond Hill, Ga./Richmond Hill) had some nice moments as a defensive tackle, but could end up on the interior of the offensive line in college.
Isaiah Bruce (Jacksonville, Fla./Providence) is a 6-2, 204-pounder with long arms and a good frame. He put up some good numbers testing-wise with a 4.68 laser-timed 40 and a 7.28 L-cone. He also did 18 reps of 185 on the bench press and stood out in drills. Bruce is getting looks from multiple programs, including Iowa State, Michigan State, Notre Dame, UCLA, Indiana and Mississippi State.
Michael McAllister (Timmonsville, S.C./Timmonsville) made the trip down from the Palmetto State to compete. He has excellent size and could end up being a defensive end or even a tight end if he isn't a big middle linebacker in college.
Keep an eye on Class of 2012 linebacker Shakeel Rashad. The 6-2, 205-pounder is young, but showed plenty of upside during testing and drills. He says that Wake Forest, Notre Dame and Florida State are among the programs showing early interest.
Chris "Juice" Johnson (Ocala, Fla./Trinity Catholic) continues to be very consistent in his testing and showed off his strength with 29 bench press reps of 185 pounds. Johnson still is sitting on one offer (South Carolina), but Vanderbilt, Florida State and others are starting to show more attention to the hard-hitting safety prospect.
Jared Henry (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast) was yet another standout from his school. Henry recently transferred to First Coast from Jackson and is a hard-hitting safety who showed good ability in pass coverage during one-on-one drills and 7-on-7.
Tyler Osario (Celebration, Fla./Celebration) is a great athlete. He posted a 40-inch vertical leap and a 7.23 L-cone shuttle on Sunday and also runs track (the 200, 400, 800 and multiple hurdles) for his high school. Osario had 60 tackles last season and says that TCU and Cincinnati are among the programs sending him mail.
Darious Williams (Jacksonville, Fla./Creekside) also had some good moments in one-on-one drills, and in another look into the future, keep an eye on Class of 2013 safety Marcell Harris (Winter Garden, Fla./West Orange). The 6-2, 175-pounder had multiple interceptions for his high school team this past season.
Devondrick Nealy (Monticello, Fla./Jefferson County) was very fluid in drills and is going to be excellent at cornerback, slot receiver or running back in college. His offer list, which includes Tennessee, South Florida, Georgia Tech and others, speaks for itself.
JC Shurburtt covers recruiting for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.