Friday, March 9, 2012 Updated: March 13, 4:25 PM ET
Underclassmen impress in Charlotte
By Brian Stumpf
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The 2012 Nike Football SPARQ Combine tour hit the Mid-Atlantic on Saturday for the seventh event of the spring as over 1,300 participants were tested and competed at the practice facility of the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte. While many outstanding Class of 2013 talents were on hand, several prospects from the Class of 2014 enjoyed equally impressive showings.
Leading the charge for the impressive group of underclassmen performers was Leesville Road (Raleigh, N.C.) athlete Braxton Berrios. The Class of 2014 standout, a 5-foot-10, 170-pounder, played wideout, quarterback and defensive back along with returning kicks as a sophomore on his way to all-area honors. Berrios flashed his athletic ability on Saturday in finishing with the event's top SPARQ rating at 119.52.
After posting a 99.15 SPARQ rating at last year's Charlotte Nike combine, Berrios boosted that mark by 20 points thanks to a combine-best 3.90 20-yard shuttle, a 39.3-inch vertical jump, 37-foot power ball throw and 4.60 40-yard dash. Berrios has yet to receive his first offer but is already hearing from Oregon, Tennessee, Arkansas, South Carolina, Penn State and Ohio State.
Big guard and Class of 2013 star recruit Tyrone Crowder of Richmond County (Rockingham, N.C.) came into the event as perhaps the top prospect in attendance and did not disappoint, as the 6-foot-2, 325-pound offensive lineman clocked a 5.44 40, jumped 25.6 inches in the vertical and threw the power ball 36 feet. Crowder has offers from the likes of Alabama, Georgia, FSU and Tennessee.
Two other prospects from the Class of 2014 from North Carolina also had big days. Charlotte Catholic (Charlotte, N.C.) RB Elijah Hood finished with the day's third-best rating at 99.21; clocking a 4.55 40 at 6-foot, 209-pounds. Hood rumbled for 1,982 yards and 35 touchdowns as a sophomore. Havelock (N.C.) RB Derrell Scott, who's already been offered by North Carolina, South Carolina and ECU, showed why he's a popular recruit by clocking a 4.60 40 and finishing with a 90.36 SPARQ rating at 5-foot-10 ½ and 172-pounds.
Top Class of 2013 Performer
Bra'lon Cherry, WR, New Bern (N.C) This 5-foot-11 ½, 175-pound receiver had the highest SPARQ rating of all juniors in attendance with a 102.54 mark. His strong performance included a 4.56 40, 4.27 shuttle and 35.8-inch vertical jump. He was an all-conference selection last fall out of a program that has turned out its share of Division I prospects over the years.
Class of 2013 Honorable Mention Performers
Kwamane Bowens, WR, Salem (Virginia Beach, Va.) Bowens came into the combine already holding offers from Virginia Tech, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Boston College and East Carolina, and showed why, finishing with an outstanding 92.07 SPARQ rating. The 6-foot-0 ½, 166-pounder ran a 4.64 40 and had a 4.24 shuttle.
Holland Fisher, DB/LB, Manchester (Midlothian, Va.) Fisher, who committed to Virginia Tech a few weeks back, returned to his second Nike combine of the tour in search of raising his numbers from Philadelphia and accomplished that mission. The 6-foot-1 ½, 188-pounder ran 4.72 in the 40 and had a 34-inch vertical on the way to an 89.85 SPARQ rating, up from his 80.46 in Philly.
Keeon Johnson of A.L. Brown (Kannapolis, N.C.) finished with an 88.59 SPARQ rating.
Keeon Johnson, WR, A.L. Brown (Kannapolis, N.C.) The 6-foot-3, 195-pounder finished with an 88.59 SPARQ rating; clocking a 4.73 40 and jumping 34.4 inches in the vertical. Johnson caught 39 passes for 795 yards last fall and has been offered by Notre Dame, North Carolina, NC State, Virginia and others.
D.J. Jones, DL, Carolina Academy (Greenville, S.C.) Jones is an athletic 6-foot-1, 287-pounder who could end up as the biggest sleeper who emerged in Charlotte. Showed very well with a 5.13 40, a combine-best 43 ½-foot power ball toss and a 27.1-inch vertical. Jones finished with a 91.29 SPARQ rating; the third-best rating this year for a player over 280 pounds.
Justin Bridges-Thompson, LB, Spartanburg (S.C.) A high school safety being recruited as a linebacker at the next level, Bridges-Thompson sports offers from NC State, Wake Forest, Pitt and Arizona. This 6-foot-1 ½, 194-pounder finished with an 86.85 SPARQ rating; clocking a quick 4.43 shuttle and posting a big 36.8-inch vertical jump.
Top Underclass Performer Braxton Berrios ('14), WR, Leesville Road (Raleigh, N.C.) Berrios burst on ESPN's radar last spring with big outings at both the Charlotte Nike combine and Duke Nike Football Training Camp. He added to his growing reputation on Saturday with a 119.52 SPARQ rating, which is tops so far for any player outside the Class of 2013. He had over 2,000 combine total yards this past fall and is also a dynamic defensive back and excels in the return game.
Other underclassmen who impressed
RB Elijah Hood ('14), 6-0, 209, Charlotte Catholic (Charlotte, N.C.)
RB Bryce Love ('15), 5-9, 167, Rolesville (Wake Forest, N.C.)
LB Erick Sampson ('14), 5-11, 187, Tennessee (Bluff City, Tenn.)
RB Derrell Scott ('14), 5-10.5, 172, Havelock (N.C.)
OL Bentley Spain ('14), 6-5, 274, Providence (Charlotte, N.C.)
Below is a list of top five performers from each testing category. Stay tuned to ESPNHS.com and the Nike Football SPARQ Combine homepage the rest of the week for more coverage from the Charlotte Nike Combine.
Charlotte Nike Combine Top Fives SPARQ Rating 1. Braxton Berrios ('14), WR, 5-10, 170, Leesville Road (Raleigh, N.C.) -- 119.52
2. Bra'lon Cherry, WR, 5-11.5, 174, New Bern (New Bern, N.C.) -- 102.54
3. Elijah Hood ('14), RB, 6-0, 209, Charlotte Catholic (Charlotte) -- 99.21
4. Paul Robertson, RB, 5-9.5, 186, Lloyd C. Bird (N. Chesterfield, Va.) -- 97.95
5. Erick Sampson ('14), LB, 5-11, 187, Tennessee (Bluff City, Tenn.) -- 95.49
40-yard dash 1. Elijah Hood ('14), RB, 6-0, 209, Charlotte Catholic (Charlotte) -- 4.55
2. Bralon Cherry, WR, 5-11.5, 174, New Bern (New Bern, N.C.) -- 4.56
3. James Linebarger, DB, 5-7, 155, Hickory (Hickory, N.C.) -- 4.56
4. Devin Grimes ('14), DB, 5-8, 159, North Augusta (Warrenville, S.C.) -- 4.58
4. Devan Robbins, RB, 5-11, 166, South Pointe (Rock Hill, S.C.) -- 4.58
4. John Thompson, RB, 5-5.5, 161, Marshall (Richmond, Va.) -- 4.58