Posted by Bryan Fischer
FORT LAUDERDALE - Once again, the South Florida region continues to amaze with the sheer amount of skill position talent available. Although it’s a particularly good year for Florida linemen, several unknown skill position players from the region jumped into the spotlight after the Nike Sparq Combine in Miami on Saturday and the National Underclassman Combine (NUC) in Fort Lauderdale on Sunday.
Coming from out of nowhere, outside linebacker Justin Horton posted the best Sparq score in the nation on Saturday with a 115.95. The Clermont (Fla.) defender ran a 4.58 in the 40 yard dash at 6-foot-2, 207 pounds and was easily the talk of the combine.
“I had gone to a previous combine and I just wanted to come out here and grab a better score,” Horton said. “I didn’t think much of it until I came over and everybody started getting excited. I really didn’t know what to expect today.”
The impressive Sparq score is an indicator of Horton’s athleticism and he certainly looks the part of an outside linebacker at the next level. Although he played mostly at defensive end last year, he racked up 65 tackles and hopes to have an even bigger season in 2011 by playing some linebacker. With only a little interest from schools such as Louisville and USF, expect coaches from around the South to be asking for Horton’s highlight tape this week.
Coral Springs (Fla.) defensive end/linebacker Cameron Smith posted a slightly lower 94.50 Sparq score but certainly looked the part of a Division I player. Although he doesn’t have any offers, several schools are showing interest.
“I want to play (defensive) end,” he said. “Most schools are looking at me as defensive end or outside linebacker. I’ve got a couple of letters, a lot actually, from Boston College. I’ve had some from Iowa State, USF, awhile ago I had some from Miami, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Duke.”
Smith displayed nice side-to-side movement and after racking up double-digit sacks as a junior, could be primed for a breakout senior year if the combine is any indication.
Sophomore quarterback Akeem Jones stood out from the crowd of skill position players on both Saturday and Sunday. Already receiving interest from the likes Miami, Florida State, Florida and Rutgers, Jones has been a hot name in recruiting circles after making the 7-on-7 travel team South Florida Express two weeks ago.
Recording an 81.12 Sparq score at the Nike Combine, the 6-foot-3, 190 pound Jones showed off his arm at the NUC, throwing a very catchable ball with good accuracy on short to intermediate throws. Jones didn’t play much during the season due to injury so he’s using camps over the summer to get better on the field for his upcoming season.
“I got hurt the fourth game of the season, broke my ankle in three places. I wasn’t able to play the rest of the season,” Jones said. “Right now my mindset is I just want to win a state championship. I want to get my team to that next level and see how I’m going to lead them there. I want people to say, ‘look at how he set an example for a lot of kids.’ That’s my goal.”
Jones looks like a taller version of former Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor with his throwing motion and strong arm. He won the NUC Leadership Award and was almost like another coach on the field by helping out his receivers and correcting their alignment on plays during the one-on-one portion of the combine. Expect to keep hearing Jones’ name as he travels around the country to other camps and competitions.
Speed is the name of the game
South Florida produces some of the fastest players in the country and both camps had two players turn in blazing 40 yard dash times.
At the NUC combine, Hollandale (Fla.) running back Jared Sanders blazed a 4.37 and 4.40 (hand-timed) in the 40 yard dash to grab the fastest man award. A bit small at 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds, Sanders could be a slot receiver in college despite playing running back in high school. He was a terror to cover in one-on-one drills and had better hands than most, if not all, the wide receivers competing.
Sanders has had some interest from Miami, Illinois and FIU and could see even more schools start to take a look as the summer goes on.
Miami (Fla.) receiver John Green was the fastest man at the Nike camp, running a 4.46 (electronically-timed) 40 yard dash, which was the fastest time in the nation among all Nike combines this year.
“My fastest 40 is a 4.33,” he said. “I play slot receiver, kick returner and this year I’ll be the starting safety.”
Also a track star, Green has no offers but is being shown interest from coaches at Florida State, Kansas, Kansas State and Duke but says he hopes to hear from Miami soon. He plans on attending camps at Florida State and Kansas among others.
Burton takes Overall MVP award at NUC
2012 cornerback Adrian Burton attended both combines and made his name known at both of them. Posting a 98.46 Sparq rating at the Nike combine, Burton was hampered by a bit of fatigue from being in the sun all day and still managed to run a 4.67 in the 40 yard dash. He did much better on Sunday at the NUC, running a 4.51 and showing off impressive coverage skills in one-on-ones.
“It felt good to come out here after recovering and show that I am a D-1 prospect,” Burton said.
Burton was very fluid and excelled in press coverage against the top competition at the NUC. He took home Overall MVP honors and is seeing his recruiting pick up as of late. In-state programs like Florida and Florida State have shown interest but Miami is recruiting Burton the hardest. He recently went to the Hurricanes’ Junior Day and expects an offer to come from the staff shortly.
“I went to the one versus North Carolina,” Burton said. “I loved it, it felt just like home. Coach (Al) Golden is a real good coach, he’s really interactive with the players. I feel real comfortable there.”
As one of the top corners in Miami, expect to keep hearing Burton’s name pop up during the summer.
2012 Quarterback MVP: Chase Bender from Cardinal Gibbons HS.
Running back MVP: Bo Ellis, a 2013 running back from Miami Gulliver Prep who ran a 4.57 in the 40 yard dash.
Defensive back MVP: Deshawd Tucker from Hollandale HS, he has interest from Miami, Oregon, Wisconsin and FIU but no offers at this time.
Wide Receiver MVP: Davaunte Robbins, who ran a 4.55 40 yard dash.
Combine King and Fastest Man: Jared Sanders.
Overall MVP: Adrian Burton.
Top Nike Sparq Scores
Top Sparq Rating: Justin Horton
Top 40 Yard Dash: John Green
Top Vertical Jump: Billy Crook (QB, Naples, Fla.)
Top Agility Shuttle: Kevon Caffey (RB, Miami, Fla.)
Top Power Ball Toss: Pedro Sibiea (DE, Homestead, Fla.)