JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- While a good portion of the country battled cold and record snowfall, the weather in Jacksonville was perfect for some football. Comfortable temperatures and sunshine made for good testing conditions at the Jaguars' practice facility as over 200 prospects competed in the Under Armour combine. There were some prospects in attendance who have already started to carve a name out for themselves in the 2011 class, but at this early junction in the evaluation process, there were also some kids in attendance working to get their name known.
Here are a few of the standout performances from Sunday's event.
One prospect who consistently tested well and impressed was Chris "Juice" Johnson (Ocala, Fla./Trinity Catholic). With a thick build, the aggressive safety displayed good strength and upper-body endurance by pumping out 29 reps of 185 pounds on the bench press. He also tested well in the shuttle, clocking a solid 4.37, and in the 3-Cone drill, charting a 7.37. In the much hyped 40-yard dash, the athletic defender posted a 4.45. With an offer already from South Carolina, interest is growing for Johnson, who could also develop into a linebacker. He said Florida State, Oregon, South Florida and Florida, whose junior day he just attended, are showing interest.
The top quarterback in attendance was Kevin Sousa (Orlando, Fla./Lake Nona), a physically impressive looking signal caller with good raw tools. He's an under-the-radar prospect, but has a thick and muscular build. A good athlete who can be a dual threat, Sousa displays the tools to be a passer first. He has a strong arm and puts some zip on the ball. He's played predominately out of the shotgun, so he needs to keep working on his footwork and mechanics, but has a solid release and nice upside. His performance Sunday showed he is a kid to keep an eye on.
First Coast performance
The local program, led by head coach Marty Lee and defensive coordinator Fred Culver, seems to be stacked with talent this year and was represented well at the combine on Sunday. Defensive lineman Derrick Mitchell (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast) had the best showing of the group. With solid size and the frame to pack on more weight, the high school defensive end will likely develop into a college defensive tackle. He performed well in one-on-ones during the competition portion of practice. With a solid get-off, he did a good job of using his hands and trying to be active with his weapons to help him work past blockers. He said he felt one of his strengths was his ability to use moves as a pass rusher and it is, but he does need to work on being a bit more decisive at times and not trying to make too many moves in a rush. He says he has offers from Florida State, Clemson, South Carolina and Georgia Tech, among others and the the versatile defensive lineman is someone to keep an eye on in the 2011 class. DE Chris Terry (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast) also performed well in one-on-ones. While he doesn't have Mitchell's fanfare, Terry showed he too can be active with his hands and is able to apply pressure off the edge. It would be nice if he was an inch or two taller, he has a frame with solid reach and the room to add more bulk. Mitchell will grab most of the attention, but Terry proved he could be a solid prospect in his own right. ESPNU 150 Watch List running back Eric Beverly (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast) was also in attendance. It can tough to evaluate running backs in these settings from a competition standpoint, but the Florida State commit was active in the passing drills and spent time split out showing his versatility. Also keep an eye on promising 2012 wide receiver prospect Chris Black (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast).
Gators at it again
After hauling in the No.1 class for 2010, the Florida Gators are trying to lock up top talent for 2011 and already landed a promising big athlete in A.C. Leonard (Interlachen, Fla./Interlachen). A bit of a jack-of-all trades in high school, he might even see time at quarterback this season to get the ball in his hands. In college though he will likely fit best at tight end or defensive end. He competed at tight end during the competition portion and proved that could be a nice fit. He is quick out of his stance, is good at using his hands to separate from defenders and quickly get into his route. He ran a good electronic 40 time (4.89), but his very impressive 3-cone drill time of 7.13 could have the coaches in Gainesville thinking defensive end might not be a bad fit either. Overall, Leonard is a kid who looks the part and offers nice versatility as a prospect.
One of the exciting aspects of this time of year is finding the diamonds in the rough. The talent pool is deep and players can slip through the cracks for numerous reasons, but every spring some prospects emerge and safety Tyler Osorio (Orlando, Fla./Celebration) could be one of those. He possesses good height, a wiry build and really impressed in testing. He created an early buzz by posting a 40-inch vertical and continued to test well throughout the day. The safety who also took some reps on offense in the competition, clocked a good 7.23 in the 3-cone drill and a 4.55 40. The under-the-radar defensive back has received some letters, but interest remains tempered at this point. He missed some time last season with injuries and his ability to translate those testing scores into production on the field remains to be seen, but Osorio, who also runs track, peaked our interest and is someone we look forward to studying his film.
Sousa grabbed the spotlight, but he was not the only interesting signal caller in attendance. Kade Bell (Neptune Beach, Fla./Fletcher) has marginal size for the position, but comes from a good background (his dad is former Florida quarterback and current Jacksonville University head coach Kerwin Bell) and made an impression on the field Sunday. He has a quick release and reminds us some of Clint Trickett, a 2010 prospect who was undersized, but showed a competitive streak and signed with Florida State. ... The offensive line was not a star-studded group, but Garrett Clark (Daytona Beach, Fla./Mainland) performed well in one-on-ones. He needs to add bulk, but the guard prospect showed the ability to be active with his hands to punch and mirrored well. In a rep against Mitchell, he held his own and was able to contain him. ... A linebacker to keep an eye on is Isaiah Bruce (Jacksonville, Fla./Providence), a physically impressive player who tested well in the shuttle with a 4.39 and clocked a 4.85 40. ... A promising 2012 linebacker prospect was Sha'keel Rashad (Jacksonville, Fla./Episcopal). He has a great frame with a good wing span for his build. He held up well in coverage drills and is a player to watch down the road.
Craig Haubert is the recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. and has more than a decade of coaching experience.