Randolph, N.J. - The second annual Elite College Combine was held in New Jersey on Wednesday night and was highlighted by an outstanding performance from combine offensive MVP Vidal Hazelton from New York and an equally dominant effort from defensive MVP Phillip Taylor from Maryland.
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Hazelton wowed the nearly 250 college coaches in attendance with what can only be described as a flawless performance at wide receiver.
On the defensive side, no one could stop Taylor, whose bull rush and swim move made even the best offensive linemen look overwhelmed. While Hazelton and Taylor were taking home hardware as the combine's top players, other big names dominated in drills and one-on-ones while, as usual, some sleepers emerged from nowhere.
Hazelton didn't run the 40-yard dash, but did register one of the top shuttle times on the slow field turf surface. But it was in the one-on-one drills where he impressed so many. Coming off a great performance at the NIKE Camp in State College, Pa. Hazelton took things one step further with a display of speed, strength and ball skills unmatched by anyone at the combine.
"He's very strong," said Pennsylvania defensive back Aaron Berry, who was one of the top corners at the event. "You try to bump him and he can knock you off balance. He also runs very good routes and is big and fast."
"He was the best wide receiver out there tonight," said Perez. "He's just impressive in all aspects."
Taylor is a load to handle for anyone at well over 300 pounds, just ask Rivals100 offensive lineman J.B. Walton.
"You expect him to bull rush you," he said. "And that's tough to handle, but when he goes outside or does a swim move, you just don't expect it to be that quick. He's the only lineman who got me tonight."
In addition to Hazelton and Taylor, some other familiar names made a big impression. Pennsylvania quarterback Pat Devlin was named the combine's outstanding signal-caller, followed closely by Jeremy Ricker, who completed eight-of-eight passes in one-on-one drills. Other quarterbacks who impressed included Jersey slingers Darius Bagan, Brett Brackett, Keith McPherson and Michael Roberto. Bagan, McPherson and Roberto were all looking for their first offers. Notre Dame commitment Zach Frazer made the trip, but it was on crutches with what was rumored to be a broken bone in his foot suffered at NIKE in Penn State.
The running back position was loaded, led by Pennsylvania superstar LeSean McCoy, who surprisingly didn't take home the top running back award. That award went to stud Mario Fannin from Georgia, who was also excellent in drills. McCoy was awesome in one-on-one drills, running precise routes and catching passes with ease. Other top tailbacks included Benjamin Tate and Pha' Terrell Washington from Maryland and Kordell Young from New Jersey. Jersey stud Knowshon Moreno showed up, but didn't work out.
Other wide receivers that impressed included Jersey studs Kenny Britt and Andrey Baskin. Britt posted an impressive 4.25-second shuttle and was just too big and strong for the defensive backs in drills while Baskin flashed excellent speed and ball skills. Ryan Lindsey, also from New Jersey, posted the fastest 40-yard dash time with an incredible 4.29-second 40-yard dash on the slippery field turf. Irving Fryar, Drew Gloster and Zach Luckett were also impressive in drills.
While top tight end Joe Torchia didn't participate (flu), there were still a few tight ends who stood out. Big body John Lubischer from Florida caught everything thrown his way while Jeff Minemyer from Pennsylvania and Jack Shields from Massachusetts made some tough catches. For those who like to look to the future, Maryland 2007 stud Devonte Campbell was a bright spot at tight end although many feel his best position is linebacker.
Moving to the offensive line, there were only a few players who did well against a very stacked and talented defensive line. Maryland guard Walton was excellent in showing his quickness and technique while Massachusetts offensive center Brandon Flanagan had a coming out party by winning the outstanding offensive lineman award. New Jersey's Brian Brannigan might have earned some offers with his performance while Maryland's Kenneth Mayfield and Connecticut stud Bruce Campbell also fared well.
On the defensive side of things, two players stood out above a very impressive crowd of defensive linemen. Overall defensive MVP and most outstanding defensive lineman Taylor was not only dominant with his power at 330 pounds, but he showed rare quickness for a big man and a some pass rush techniques that impressed everyone. Taylor was unstoppable in the one-on-ones. Right behind Taylor was Pennsylvania defensive lineman Jared Odrick, who posted one of the best shuttle times at the combine (4.34) at 303 pounds. Odrick was also tough to stop in one-on-one drills. New York defensive end John-Kevin Dolce was impressive for the second straight time (PSU NIKE) while Maryland's Darius Powell was one of the quickest players on either side of the line although undersized.
The linebackers were loaded as well, led by outstanding 'backer winner Akeem Hebron from Maryland. Herbron, who ran a 4.55-second 40-yard dash and covered well in one-on-ones, was closely followed by Pennsylvania linebacker Jeremiha Hunter who participated despite being set for surgery on his broken arm on Thursday. Hunter was the only player who stayed with McCoy in coverage. Maryland linebacker Navorro Bowman was also excellent in coverage and showed better hips than he did at NIKE at Penn State. Unknown Jersey product Chris Dellafave was also very impressive on the evening and very physical while Pennsylvania 'backer Mark Herzlich showed good mobility in coverage for a taller linebacker. Bani Gbadyu from Maryland was undersized a bit, but showed hustle and a lot of skill. Jersey defender Matt Hardison certainly passed the eyeball test and looked good as well.
Finally, the defensive backs were probably the deepest position at the combine and also brought out the most sleepers. Jersey huslter Anthony Ferla made everyone wonder why he doesn't have any offers by winning the outstanding defensive back award, posting a 4.19-second shuttle and a 4.52-second 40-yard dash. He's a very physical player who has improved greatly from his junior season. Maryland's Travon Bellamy and Pennsylvania's Berry showed their two-way ability by defending and catches passes, although Bellamy is clearly better at cornerback and should earn some big offers following his performance. Berry was outstanding on offense, following a great NIKE Camp performance on defense at Penn State on Saturday. Washington, D.C. cornerback LeCount Fantroy wasn't a big name coming into the combine, but his 4.56-second 40-yard dash in the slowest of the timed lanes and solid coverage skills will bring interest. As mentioned before, Lindsey was the fastest player at the camp and could play either cornerback or wide receiver in college. Perez was just too physical and quick for most of the wide receivers (although Berry got him once) and super sleeper Robert Vaughn from Massachusetts had many folks checking their programs. Superstar Myron Rolle from New Jersey was also on hand, but didn't participate.
As some of the players who made the 2004 Elite College Combine such a success, like Brian Cushing, Eugene Monroe and LaMont Robinson looked on, the class of 2006 made this year's version equally impressive.
By Thursday and Friday, look for many of the names above to add to their offer list or simply land those first offers they've been looking for.