Over 1,600 athletes tested this past weekend at Nike SPARQ combines held in Massillon, Ohio and Philadelphia, including some outstanding prospects that have already emerged on BCS schools' radars. While several established names came out and validated their status over the weekend, two offensive linemen put forth historic performances in terms of the SPARQ Rating (in its seventh year of existence) and could see a dramatic uptick in their recruitment over the near future because of it.
On Saturday in Massillon, Ohio, offensive guard Ben McGowan (Centerville, Ohio/Centerville) became the first offensive lineman to break 100 in the SPARQ Rating. The 6-foot-3, 300-pounder entered the event as a player who was starting to emerge on his own, recently pulling in his first offers from Bowling Green and Toledo and also having confirmed for Notre Dame's junior day Feb. 26. McGowan said Saturday he'd like to hear more from any Big 10 school, and after posting his 100.53 SPARQ rating, which included a tremendous 4.51 shuttle and 42-foot power ball toss, McGowan should see a significant spike with colleges as news of his performance begins to circulate.
However, before the dust had settled on McGowan's record-setting outing Saturday, offensive tackle Chris Muller (Boyertown, Pa./Boyertown) went out Sunday at the Philadelphia Nike SPARQ combine and did McGowan one better, finishing with a 102.18. An all-area selection last fall, Muller has recent offers from South Carolina and Illinois and is also receiving strong interest to this point from schools like Penn State, LSU, Michigan, Georgia and Michigan State, and is planning on junior days at Penn State and Georgia as well as Rutgers and Purdue. USC and Texas are two schools he's yet to hear from, but would love to get in contact with.
To put McGowan's and Muller's performances in context, we went back over the history of SPARQ testing to pull any other names that even came close to the numbers they put up. Here are some top OL testers over the past few years (note: the rating changed in 2008 when power ball toss replaced bench press, but before then no OL had approached 100).
Collin Andrus (Idaho/Idaho Falls), signed with Idaho State, 96.93
Kyron Samuels (Fairhope, Ala./Fairhope), Class of 2012, 90.30
Ryan Doyle (Wake Forest, N.C./Rolesville), signed with Maryland, 86.37
Abraham Garcia (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./University School), Class of 2012, 85.47
Gavin Willison (Fairhope, Ala./Fairhope), signed with Austin Peay, 90.54
Brent Riley (Atlanta/Lakeside DeKalb), signed with Charleston Southern, 87.48
Brian Bobek (Palatine, Ill./Fremd), signed with Ohio State, 84.39
Tramell Williams (Jacksonville, Fla./Lee), signed with South Carolina, 82.68
Pierce Burton (Sacramento, Calif./Rio Americano), signed with San Jose State, 99.93
Kitt O'Brien (Walton, Ind./Lewis Cass), signed with Ball State, 97.35
Sam Womack (Las Vegas/Bishop Gorman), signed with Navy, 95.55
Charles Siddoway (Eugene, Ore./Sheldon), signed with Cal, 93.75
While McGowan and Muller both hope to see their stock soar after their big outings, here's a recruiting rundown of some of the other top prospects in attendance at the Nike combines over the weekend.
Dwayne Stanford II, WR (Cincinnati/Taft)
He has offers from some of the top programs in the country including Alabama, Texas Tech, Purdue and Ohio State, Tennessee, Cincinnati, Florida State, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Pitt and Purdue. Stanford mentioned the Crimson Tide, Bearcats and Dawgs as schools showing the most interest and he's hoping to hear more from Oregon and Miami. Stanford, who also has an offer from Xavier for basketball, will take unofficial visits to Alabama, Georgia and Ohio State over the spring/summer.
Bri'onte Dunn, RB
He committed early to Ohio State but in today's world of recruiting, do early commitments even mean anything any more? They do to Dunn, who showed up in Buckeyes gear from head to toe and said he's rock solid to Ohio State, has no interest in checking out other schools and will only take one official visit this fall and that's to Ohio State. The reason he committed early was to get the process over with and behind him, and he doesn't want to be contacted by any other schools.
William Mahone, RB (Youngstown, Ohio/Austintown Fitch)
He has offers from Boston College, Bowling Green and Michigan State and is also hearing from USC, Oregon, Virginia, UCLA, Syracuse, Stanford and Texas A&M. Mahone said Penn State is close to offering and Texas is his current leader. He will take in junior days later this month at Michigan State and in early March at Cincinnati.
De'Van Bogard, CB (Cleveland/Glenville)
He picked up his first offer from USC and was just offered by the hometown Ohio State Buckeyes last week. Michigan and Tennessee are showing heavy interest as well but this one could turn in to yet another Trojans-Buckeyes battle. Bogard said he's hoping to take a visit to USC in the spring and has already been to Ohio State numerous times.
Jeremy Graves, WR (Garfield Heights, Ohio/Garfield Heights)
He has early offers from Cincinnati and Buffalo and is also hearing from Boston College, Ohio State, Syracuse and Marshall. Graves is hoping to hear more from USC, North Carolina, Michigan State and Michigan. He will attend junior days at Cincinnati and Ohio State and said the Buckeyes lead the Bearcats and Spartans at the moment.
Adolphus Washington, DE (Cincinnati/Taft)
He has over 25 scholarship offers from schools all over the country and is hoping to hear more from Florida and Miami. Ohio State, Kentucky, Alabama, USC, Oregon, Cal, Florida State, Michigan and Michigan State comprise his early short list, and all have offered. Washington said he talks weekly with Alabama coach Nick Saban and Michigan coach Brady Hoke and will go through the recruiting process before committing anywhere.
Zachary Myers, OG (Miamisburg, Ohio/Miamisburg)
He will take unofficial visits in the summer to check out Michigan, Bowling Green, Northwestern and Oregon. Myers has already visited Pitt, Michigan, Northwestern, Kentucky and Cincinnati.
Darrien Howard, LB (Dayton, Ohio/Chaminade-Julienne)
The sophomore has an early offer from Cincinnati and is also hearing from Oregon, Alabama, Penn State, Illinois, Clemson, Texas A&M and Ohio State. He called Ohio State his dream school and mentioned Alabama and Oregon in his top three as well. Howard said he'll visit the Crimson Tide and West Virginia over the spring/summer.
Leviticus Payne, CB (Southfield, Mich./Southfield)
He has offers from Toledo and Iowa and is also hearing from Michigan State, Michigan, Nebraska, Indiana and Wisconsin. He'll attend junior days at Bowling Green, Michigan State and Michigan and said the Hoosiers and Wolverines could both offer soon. Alabama is his top school followed by Georgia, Iowa and Florida.
Brian Blackburn, QB (Detroit/Crockett)
Th 6-foot-5, 217-pound signal-caller threw for 2,235 yards and 20 touchdowns and rushed for another 1,094 yards and nine more scores as a junior. Most of the Big Ten plus Syracuse, Arkansas and Cincinnati are showing interest, and he said Iowa could be his first offer. Blackburn attended Michigan State's junior day a few weeks ago and is hoping to hear more from Ohio State.
Kyle LaPorte, WR
The sophomore is one to watch very closely over the next few years. He has been a varsity starter since his freshman year and returned five punts for scores last season. Oregon, Rutgers, Temple, Boston College, Penn State and Maryland are showing interest and the Scarlet Knights are expected to offer in the summer. LaPorte will camp at Rutgers, Ohio State and Penn State and he's hoping to hear more from the Buckeyes, South Carolina and TCU.
Desmon Peoples, RB (Warminster, Pa./Archbishop Wood Catholic)
He wasn't able to work out because he's still recovering from the broken foot he suffered in the final game of the season. He will get his walking boot off in two weeks and does have offers on the table from Rutgers and Pitt and attended the Scarlet Knights' junior day. Notre Dame will get a visit at the end of the month.
Brandon Peoples, RB (Abington, Pa./Abington)
The less-publicized but talented cousin of Desmon Peoples earned honorable-mention all-state honors last season after rushing for 1,156 yards and 17 touchdowns. Rutgers, Pitt and Missouri are showing interest at this point.
Kevin Gulyas, WR (Allentown, Pa./Central Catholic)
He had a big junior season catching 78 balls for 1,282 yards and 20 touchdowns and helped his team knock off perennial power Bishop McDevitt in the state championship game. Notre Dame, Missouri, Duke and Vanderbilt are showing interest. Gulyas said he's hoping to hear from Ohio State, where his cousin played, and Kentucky, where his grandfather played.
Nadir Barnwell, ATH (Piscataway, N.J./Piscataway)
Another impact sophomore, Barnwell is receiving early interest from Rutgers, Oregon, Boston College, Clemson, Texas Tech and Villanova. He played quarterback and defensive back last year and threw for 800 yards and rushed for another 400. He said he would love to hear more from Florida, TCU and Miami.
Khaleel Artis, RB (Emmaus, Pa./Emmaus)
He had his coming-out party at the Nike combine in Philadelphia a year ago with an impressive 92.73 SPARQ rating. Artis had another strong day, and his 107.07 rating was good enough for No. 2 in the event. Akron, Vanderbilt, Penn State and Rutgers are showing interest, and Artis plans to attend junior days at Penn State and Rutgers.