A year ago, a little over 700 kids came out for the NIKE Combine in Philadelphia. This past weekend, that number was closer to 1,000 with some of the most talented athletes seen anywhere on the combine tour this year. Based on both combine performance and college potential, here's our look at the RISE 7 from Sunday's Nike Combine in Philly.
Dexter Bridge, Conestoga (Berwyn, Pa.), Wide Receiver
It's fun to see a player come out to a combine and dramatically improve his numbers from the previous year. That's exactly what happened with Bridge who went from a 57.18 SPARQ Rating in Philly a year ago to a 99.45 SPARQ Rating this past weekend. Bridge clocked a 4.60-40, down from a 4.88 a year ago and his 4.06 shuttle time, 4.90 a year ago, was one of the best in the combine. As a junior, Bridge caught 42 passes for 692 yards and 12 touchdowns and is holding offers from Illinois and NC State.
Damiere Byrd, Timbercreek (Sicklerville, N.J), Wide Receiver
Byrd had the camp buzzing after running the fastest 40 time ever run at a NIKE Combine. Byrd clocked a 4.26-40 but maybe even more impressive, an hour after finishing all his testing, when asked to run another 40 to verify his initial time, he clocked a low 4.3 with limited warm up. Byrd has seen a nice bump in his recruitment lately and has over 10 scholarship offers from schools like Syracuse, South Carolina, Stanford, Iowa, Louisville, Maryland and Rutgers. He called Oregon and Florida his two dream schools right now.
Brandon Cottom, Council Rock North (Newtown, PA), Running Back
Cottom made a huge jump in performance from the same combine in Philly a year ago. After scoring a 69.30 Rating last year, Cottom finished with a 106.17 Rating and was easily among the most physically impressive athletes in attendance. The 6-2, 222 pound running back has a college body right now and could end up on either side of the ball, as he also plays linebacker part time. Cottom rushed for 1,300 yards and 14 touchdowns last season and currently has offers from Duke, Syracuse and Rutgers and has attended Junior Days at Syracuse and Rutgers already.
Eric Fiore, Whitehall (Whitehall, Pa.), Running Back
Fiore didn't come in to the combine with a big name but left with the third highest SPARQ Rating in the camp, top five overall for the entire tour and an invite to the NIKE Football Training Camps later in the spring/summer. Fiore measured in at a rocked out 5-9, 192 pounds and clocked a 4.45-40, 4.16 shuttle and threw the power ball 38 feet for a 116.58 Rating. On the field, the running back ran for 1,100 yards and 17 touchdowns in just eight games last season and his performance in Philly should definitely put him on the map for the college recruiters.
Chris Hutton, Paul VI (Haddonfield, N.J.), Wide Receiver/Defensive Back
Hutton had the top SPARQ Rating at the combine with a 117.27 score. Hutton has good bloodlines as he's the nephew of former Notre Dame safety Ron Israel and St. Louis Ram cornerback Steve Israel. Ron is his trainer and was on hand cheering Hutton on who really shined with his 4.00 shuttle time and 40' power ball throw. The athlete plays both ways for Paul VI but missed half the season a year ago with a back strain and starting his entire sophomore year. He attended Syracuse's Junior Day and will camp with Penn State over the summer.
Maika Polamalu, Pottsgrove (Pottstown, Pa.), Linebacker
When your last name is Polamalu, there is going to be lofty expectations but the Pottsgrove standout more than lived up to the hype in Philly. Like so many others, Polamalu raised his numbers from a year ago considerably going from a 73.65 SPARQ Rating to a 95.55 this year. He improved his 40 from a 4.86 to a 4.70 and threw the power ball 38 feet. Penn State, Temple and Villanova have offered the athlete, who has the versatility to play multiple positions in college. Linebacker or safety look like his best bet.
Miles Shuler, Long Branch (Long Brach, N.J.), Athlete
Shuler was one of the last participants to come through the testing and the talented athlete lit up the combine with a 116.82 SPARQ Rating. His rating was good enough for second best in the event and top five for the entire tour thus far. Shuler had a 99.69 Rating in Philly a year ago so much was expected and he didn't disappoint. He had a camp best 41.6 vertical jump and ran back to back 4.48s in the 40. Shuler has 10+ offers on the table including Stanford, Michigan, Boston College and Northwestern with the Wildcats looking like the early team to beat.