2011 prospects impress in Chicago

CHICAGO -- While the Class of 2010 was represented by several sleepers who could find their way to Division I colleges, it was the Class of 2011 that featured the majority of the impressive headliners Sunday at the Chicago Nike Combine, which featured more than 800 potential prospects.

As is the case with all combines, it's all about the numbers and the proverbial "eyeball test." Although many of these prospects put up impressive times and marks, it doesn't mean they are automatically Division I players. Likewise, if a prospect puts up poor marks, it doesn't automatically discount them.

We are the young

Running back Calvin Phillips (Momence, Ill./Momence) could potentially be the top prospect at the event. The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder ran a 4.69 second 40-yard dash, had a 4.54 second shuttle, a 35.3-inch vertical leap and posted a 33.5 in the kneeling power ball toss (used to measure an athlete's strength).

Phillips rushed for 1,426 yards and 24 touchdowns as a sophomore and plans to camp at Illinois this summer as he gets ready for his junior year.

"Basically, I am just trying to improve more and more and build on what I did last year," he said.

Phillips already holds a verbal scholarship offer from Illinois and showed up at the event wearing a Fighting Illini sweatshirt. Illinois is the clear early leader here.

"I like coach Ron Zook because he gets on them if they mess up," Phillips said. "Most of the athletes that they have there are real good."

Wide receiver Keante Minor (East Saint Louis, Ill./East Saint Louis) has good size (he measured 5-11½ and weighed in at 188 pounds) and tested well, posting a 4.6 40 and 38-foot power ball toss. Minor said that Illinois is one of the schools that has caught his eye early.

Minor's teammate, defensive lineman Clint Tucker (East Saint Louis, Ill./East Saint Louis) has Division I defensive tackle written all over him, provided his film checks out. The 6-1, 270-pounder put up huge numbers last season for his high school team, totaling 85 tackles, one interception, a fumble recovery and two defensive touchdowns.

On Sunday, the big guy tested well, running a 4.82 shuttle and totaling a 39.5-foot power ball throw.

Florida, Penn State, Tulsa and Minnesota are the schools he likes early.

"I want to play in a 4-3 defense in college," he added. "I think that's what I am best at."

Running back Josh Taylor (South Haven, Mich./South Haven) had a big sophomore year, piling up more than 1,000 rushing yards and six touchdowns. He had a good day Sunday, putting up a 4.26 shuttle, a 4.76 40, a 35.3-inch vertical and a 34 foot in the power ball. The 5-10, 181-pounder likes Michigan and Michigan State early and camped in Ann Arbor last summer.

Defensive end/fullback Johnathan Green (Milwaukee/West Allis Central) is physically impressive. The 6-1, 237-pounder did not put up eye-popping numbers as far as testing is concerned (a 36 in the power ball was his top mark), but if he has good film, he could become a Division I recruit in the 2011 class.

Defensive end Damon Knox (Muskegon, Mich./Muskegon) measured in at 6-4, 230 pounds and looks the part of a Division I defensive end or perhaps could grow into a defensive tackle in college.

Look out for two-way lineman Joel Hale (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove) in next year's class. The 6-3 ½, 266-pounder had a 40.5 power ball toss and ran a good shuttle at 4.97. Hale likes most of the schools in the Big Ten, including Illinois, early. He plays defensive line for his high school team, but will play both ways next year and may project better as an interior offensive lineman.

Running back Mika'il Mcall (Dolton, Ill./Thornridge) tested well with a 4.43 shuttle and a 41 power ball toss. The 5-foot-10 ½, 192-pounder could be one to watch in the future.

Class of 2010 sleepers

Although he still must be evaluated on film, running back Brandon Bourboun (Potosi, Mo./Potosi) proved he was an excellent athlete Sunday. The 6-foot, 204 pounder ran a blistering 4.08 shuttle, a 4.54 40, had a 45 in the power ball toss and a 34.3-inch vertical.

Looking at his stats from last season, he can also play a little football. He rushed for 2,420 yards and 29 touchdowns for his high school team.

Northern Illinois and Northwestern are two schools showing interest at this time, along with Oklahoma and Missouri.

Jumbo athlete Warren Herring (Belleville, Ill./Belleville East) measured in at 6-2, 233 pounds and ran a respectable 4.84 shuttle. He has the size to play tight end or perhaps somewhere along the defensive line.

Herring holds an offer from Kansas State and is getting looks from a number of other programs.

Look out for offensive lineman Sidney Scott (Hammond, Ind./Hammond). The 6-5, 285-pounder looks the part and while his testing numbers were not eye-popping, they aren't for most offensive linemen (34.5 in the power ball toss was his best mark). However, if Scott checks out on film, he has a Division I frame and good feet. He could be a sleeper from the Hoosier State.

Jamison Wilson (Country Club Hills, Ill./Hillcrest) played linebacker for his high school team last season, posting 75 tackles, but the 5-10 ½, 173-pounder is more suited to play strong safety in college. Wilson said his high school team ran a 4-4 defense last year, but he played against a lot of teams that ran a spread offense, forcing him into coverage most games.

Wilson ran a 4.23 shuttle, a 4.59 40, had a 35.6 vertical and posted an excellent mark of 36.5 in the power ball toss. He is hearing from Louisville, Illinois, Michigan State, Ball State, Minnesota and others and is waiting on his first scholarship offer.

Big Bruce Gaston Jr. (Chicago, Ill./Saint Rita) is a 6-2, 291-pound defensive tackle who looks the part and also showed he had the strength of a high-level Division I prospect by putting up a 44.5 in the power ball toss. He also had a 30.8 vertical (5.23 in the 40 and 5.14 in the shuttle). If his film checks out, Gaston could be a sleeper prospect that emerges.

Gaston has not gotten any offers yet, but he says he's talked with Iowa, Arizona and Notre Dame.

Twins Antonio Hutchins and Ben Hutchins (Portage, Mich./Portage Northern) were among the better Class of 2010 prospects at the event.

The 5-10, 177-pound Antonio had a 39-inch vertical to go along with a 4.27 shuttle, a 4.57 40 and a 29.5 power ball. He rushed for more than 500 yards last season as a running back, but could project better in the secondary in college. He says Michigan, Michigan State, UCLA, Cincinnati and Wisconsin are some of the schools paying attention to him.

Ben measured in at 5-7, 166 pounds and had a 4.59 40, a 4.23 shuttle, a 39-inch vertical and 33 on the power ball. Wisconsin, UCLA and Cincinnati are paying attention to him.

Running back Travis Mullen (Normal, Ill./Normal Community) put up big numbers as a junior, rushing for 1,556 yards and 25 touchdowns. On Sunday, he put up solid numbers at the combine, running a 4.66 40, a 4.41 shuttle, a 30.2 vertical and a 39 in the power ball toss. The 5-10, 181-pounder says he's been getting letters from Northern Illinois, Eastern Illinois, Illinois and Iowa. He also plays defense and could project as a strong safety in college.

A pair of prospects from Rich Central High in Olympia Fields, Ill., had good days.

Running back Giorgio Bowers measured 5-8 ½, 201 pounds and ran a 4.26 shuttle and had a 31.6 vertical leap. He said he wished he could have done better in the 40-yard dash (4.82 seconds), but had one of the better times among the running backs at the event. Bowers averaged almost 10 yards per carry last season.

His teammate, cornerback Deonte Jackson, had a good day. The 5-9, 168-pounder (official measurement) posted a 4.26 shuttle and had a 36.5 power ball toss.

Linebacker Rickey Simpson (Aurora, Ill./Waubonsie Valley) had a good day of testing. The 6-2, 205-pounder ran a 4.6 shuttle, a 4.8 40, had a 32 vertical and a 36 in the power ball toss. He had 51 tackles a year ago and said that he's been getting letters from most of the schools in the Big Ten and Pac-10 and Louisville. Simpson camped at Michigan last summer and likes the Wolverines.

Athlete B.J. Hendrix (O'Fallon, Ill./O'Fallon Township) played both ways during his junior season, totaling 29 tackles on defense and 130 rushing yards. The 5-9, 172-pounder ran an excellent 3.96 shuttle and got a 29 on the power ball toss.

Ben Eskelsen (Saint Louis/Parkway West) is a 6-1, 242-pound middle linebacker prospect who put up a 39.5 power ball, a 4.54 shuttle, had a 31.8 vertical and ran a 4.98 in the 40. He had more than 110 tackles a season ago and was a second team all-state selection and a first team all-conference selection.

He has visited Missouri, Nebraska, Northwestern and Iowa unofficially and is getting attention from other programs as well.

Running back Kevin Starke (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) put up good testing numbers Sunday. The 6-foot, 180-pounder ran a respectable 4.65 40, a 4.23 shuttle, had a 34.6 vertical and had a 35.5 power ball toss. He rushed for more than 500 yards last season and says that Cincinnati, Michigan State and Purdue are all showing some interest at this point.

Athlete Phil Schmidt (Lisle, Ill./Benet Academy) put up good numbers. The versatile prospect, who could possibly play wide receiver, running back or safety in college, posted a 4.57 40, a 4.4 shuttle and a 34 vertical. He also did well in the power ball toss, posting a mark of 36. Schmidt is hearing from Cincinnati, Northwestern and Notre Dame but has no offers. He led his league in pass break-ups last season.

Quarterback/athlete Jordan Beachnau (Holt, Mich./Holt) measured in at 5-11½, 169 pounds and ran a 4.62 40, a 4.23 shuttle, had a 34.7 vertical and threw 37 in the power ball. He plays quarterback and cornerback in high school, but says colleges are talking to him about safety. He led his team in touchdowns last season and was all-area and all-conference.

Athlete Zachary Zenner (Eagan, Minn./Eagan) made the trip down from the Twin Cities to compete and did well. He measured in at 5-11, 209 pounds and ran a 4.77 40, a 4.38 shuttle, had a 34.6 vertical and a 37.5 in the power ball toss. He plays wide receiver and running back for his high school team, but says he is going to consider a move to safety next season to increase his versatility.

Alvin Fletcher (Muskegon, Mich.) plays defensive tackle for his high school team and is a good one. But the 5-8, 239-pounder will have to transition to fullback to have a shot at Division I-A or linebacker for some of the smaller classifications. He had 38 tackles and four sacks last year, put up a 4.55 shuttle and had a 35.5 power ball.


Kevin Nelson looked the part as an offensive guard prospect … Cornerback Javier Green (Chicago/St. Rita of Cascia) did not play very much last season, but the 5-10, 173-pounder tested well Sunday, running a 4.59 40, a 4.54 shuttle and a 34.7 vertical. … Class of 2012 athlete Jacob Stacey (West Des Moines, Iowa/Dowling) had a good day of testing. The 5-8½, 160-pounder ran a 4.69 in the 40, a 4.53 shuttle and had a 31.7 vertical and a 31.5 power ball. … Quarterback/athlete Jonathan Wolf (Oak Forest, Ill./Oak Forest) posted a good shuttle at 4.41 and had a 37.5 power ball. He could play receiver or defensive back in college. … Offensive lineman Sean Egenolf (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove) is getting attention from smaller, academically oriented schools and is a great prospect for that level of football.