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May 25, 2010

Next Level Combine hits Columbus

The Next Level Football combine series quickly has become the top event in Ohio for high school football prospects hoping to take their games to the next level.

With three well-attended combines in the books this spring-Massillon, Steubenville and Rocky River-Next Level is ready for another event this Saturday. Grove City Christian High School is the setting this weekend where over 270 registered prospects will be tested in a laser-timed 40-yard dash, shuttle run, vertical jump and broad jump. After the testing portion of the event the athletes move into position-specific skill work and the event concludes with the highly anticipated one-on-ones.

Here's a position-by-position breakdown of some of the top registered prospects and those to keep an eye on this weekend.

QUARTERBACK
Nearly two-dozen quarterbacks have registered for this weekend's event with several other big name prospects not yet confirmed. Of those who have indicated they will compete on Saturday three prospects stick out. Of that group look for Austintown Fitch rising junior Demitrious Davis to have the best shot at pulling out the MVP award for this group and compete for overall honors. Davis attended both the NLF Combines in Steubenville and Rocky River and was among the top performers at each event. Because of his 5-foot-10, 183-pound frame, Davis likely projects at another position in college, but at the high school level he's adequate under center. He possesses the rare athletic attributes that turn an average player into a great one. He excels in a combine setting.

Keep an eye on:

Beechcroft rising senor Sheldon Akin battles the stigma attached to smaller quarterbacks. At 5-foot-11, 170-pounds he's not going to wow college scouts with his size, but if they watch him throw they'll be impressed with his mechanics and ability to get the ball where it needs to go in a hurry.

Westfall rising junior Trent Williams comes in at 6-foot, 175-pounds and already he's drawn interest from Miami (Ohio), Ohio University and UCONN. Look for him to shine in the one-on-ones.

RUNNING BACKS
Nearly 50 running backs have registered for Saturday's event and this group should provide many of the overall MVP candidates. The top MVP candidate in this group is a toss-up between Warren Harding rising senior Demond Hymes and Austintown Fitch's William Mahone, both Next Level Football Combine veterans. With a 4.72-second time, Hymes finished among the top ten competitors in the event at Rocky River and he shined in the one-on-ones. Mahone, a rising junior who already has collected a verbal offer from Cincinnati, turned in strong testing performances in Steubenville and Rocky River and was among the best in position drills and one-on-ones.

Keep an eye on:

Beechcroft rising senior Dai'Ron Glover excelled at the NLFC in Rocky River earlier this month. In fact, based on his testing performance-he finished among the top 10 in three of four events-Glover earned the combine's top performer award (the overall MVP award went to Austintown Fitch's Chris Davis. But considering only testing, Glover was the best.

Hilliard Bradley's Jeffie Johnson was a late scratch for Rocky River and if his track injury is healed he should factor in any discussion of the event's top performers. At Steubenville he claimed top honors in the 40 and vertical jump and finished in the top 10 in the broad jump.

A wildcard here is Indiana rising senior Chris Riley. The 5-foot-11, 166-pound athlete recently moved back to Indiana after a year at Merrill Island in Florida. Riley has plenty of speed and athleticism and has drawn interest from several major college programs.

Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin's Terry Smith is an athletic guy that could excel either on offense or in the defensive backfield. But, he's listed as a running back for this event and should excel in the testing portion of the camp. His athleticism could make him a factor in the overall MVP selections. He rushed for 400 yards and five scores in five games as a running back for the Lions.

Trenton Edgewood rising junior Jeremiah Turner rushed for 424 yards and six scores last season. That performance helped him land interest from programs such as Urbana, Brescia, Tiffin, Seton Hill, Southern Alabama and more.

WIDE RECEIVERS
With 62 wide receivers registered for Saturday's event, this is one of the deepest position groups. But, don't let the depth fool you. The heavy favorite to claim the position MVP, and a leading candidate for overall MVP, is Fitch's Chris Davis. The 5-foot-9, 185-pound rising junior claimed top honors earlier this month at Rocky River and was one of the top performers at Steubenville. Look for Davis to again be in the discussion for overall MVP.

Keep an eye on:

Martell Clark of Lew Wallace High in Gary, Ind., enters the event with 590 receiving yards and eight touchdowns to his credit. He's also a capable rusher and defensive back, having run for 120 yards and picked off three passes last season. At 6-foot-2, 174-pounds, Clark should have an advantage over most defensive backs.

LaSalle rising senior Rodriguez Coleman is an interesting prospect. At 6-foot-3, 185-pounds with 4.6 speed, Coleman has the potential to rise above the crowd on Saturday. Last season he caught 30 balls for 466 yards and scored six times.

Girard rising senior Landon Smith is one of the event's most highly recruited prospects. Already he has garnered an offer from Syracuse to go along with a host of offers from the Mid-American Conference.

Kokomo, Ind., rising sophomore Matt Riley has tons of potential and already has caught the attention of college coaches nationwide. He's the brother of running back Chris Riley.

OFFENSIVE LINE
For some reason offensive linemen tend to pass on the opportunity to attend combines. That leaves a group of about 19 to 20 linemen ready for competition on Saturday. Of that group, Toledo Whitmer rising senior Chris Reaper is the favorite for MVP honors. The 6-foot-4, 255-pounder has drawn interest from several BCS programs and mid-majors.

Keep an eye on:

Grove City rising senior Zach Seagle is no stranger to the combine circuit. He attended the 2008 National Underclassmen Combine and now he turns his attention to Next Level Football. At 6-foot, 260-pounds he has the frame to play on the interior of the offensive line at the next level.

Whetstone rising senior Willaim Nargang (6-foot, 240) has drawn interest from several smaller programs. A big-time performance could increase that interest.

DEFENSIVE LINE
With 32 defensive linemen registered competition should be fierce for MVP honors. Count Bishop Watterson rising senior Hunter Maynard, a late addition to the roster, as the favorite. The 6-foot-2, 290-pounder holds an offer from Ball State and interest from several major programs. He'll want to test well, but his success certainly should come in the one-on-ones where he should dominate.

Keep an eye on:

Another defensive tackle pushing the scales near 300 pounds, Hilliard Darby rising senior Blake Clowes has attracted plenty of college attention but still waits for his first offer.

Warren Harding rising senior Shaquille Diggs claimed MVP honors at Rocky River and there's no reason he can't do it this weekend. But, at 5-foot-10 and just over 190 pounds, his future probably lies at another position.

Brunswick rising senior Kendrick Dobbins has a long frame (6-foot-4, 210-pounds) but needs to add some weight to really become a viable defensive line prospect. He has the skill, as he showed earlier this month in Rocky River.

Austintown Fitch rising senior Steve Zaborsky was the top defensive linemen at Rocky River, at least where testing was concerned. He also performed well in one-on-ones. His athleticism should again allow him to be one of the top performers.

Look out for Pickerington Central rising junior Adam Cole. The 6-foot-2, 295-pounder racked up 53 tackles as a sophomore and last July he was one of the top performers at the National Underclassmen Combine Midwest Ultimate 100 camp.

Northmont rising junior Jeremy Campbell recorded 36 tackles in his seven starts in 2009. He's undersized at 5-foot-10, but at 230 pounds he should be able to hold his own. He's drawn interest from Michigan State and Idaho State.

LINEBACKERS
Forty linebackers are registered for Saturday's event and many of them make the watch list for MVP honors. Leading the way is Portsmouth West rising senior Trevon Pendleton. The 5-foot-11, 231-pounder doubles as a linebacker and it's that versatility that earned him an early offer from Ball State and interest from several major programs. A combine warrior, Pendleton has impressed at every stop this spring.

Keep an eye on:

Sylvania Southview rising junior Jay Fisher was the top testing linebacker at Rocky River. He posted some very strong numbers and was equally impressive in one-on-ones.

Mason rising senior Erich Myers racked up 50 tackles and a pair of sacks in 2009. That performance has drawn interest from several MAC programs, Syracuse, Kansas and Army, among others.

Bryan rising senior Jeremiah Dietrich totaled 65 tackles as ajunior. The 5-foot-11, 229-pounder has heard from several Division III programs.

Middeltown rising junior Dylan Rowe comes in at 6-foot, 200-pounds. He has drawn early interest from Ball State, Michigan and Stanford.

DEFENSIVE BACKS
The unique skill set required to play cornerback and safety lands many top athletes in the defensive backfield. Of the 46 registered defensive backs many are returning Next Level Football Combine participants. Look for Aurora rising senior Terrence Pegram again to have a say in the MVP voting. The 5-foot-9, 165-pounder was the defensive backs MVP at Rocky River and he was among the top 10 in two of the four testing events. His performance didn't go unnoticed as college coaches intensified their recruiting efforts with him.

Keep an eye on:

Caledonia River Valley rising senior Taylor Gundy also is an accomplished receiver but will work out with the DBs. An injury limited him to just two games in 2009 but still he drew attention from Miami (Ohio), Ohio University, Purdue, Pittsburgh, UCONN and Tulsa.

Beechcroft rising senior Dominik Mensah comes in at 5-foot-11, 170-pounds. With 26 tackles and 10 pass break-ups last season, Mensah is solid in coverage and could excel in one-on-ones. His 4.6-second time in the 40-yard dash at Massillon was that event's top score.

Pickerington North rising senior Tony Traylor, a 5-foot-10, 177-pounder, racked up 44 tackles and seven pass break-ups last season. He's drawn interest from schools such as Cincinnati, Kansas, Indiana, Purdue, NC State and several MAC programs.

NOTE: The prospects listed above are Ohio Varsity's best bets for winning MVP honors at their respective positions. The top performers, which will be posted following collection of all testing scores, are different from the positional MVPs. The top performers only consider testing performance whereas the MVPs are awarded based mostly on performance during position drills and one-on-ones.

OVERVIEW
As mentioned earlier, Next Level Football Combines quickly have established themselves as the top events in the Buckeye state. A quick glance at this weekend's registrants shows a lot of talent will be on hand at Grove City. That collection of talent lends itself to a very competitive environment with many top scores and performances expected.

RANKING THE POSITIONS

  1. Running Back
  2. Defensive Line
  3. Linebacker
  4. Defensive Back
  5. Wide Receiver
  6. Quarterback
  7. Offensive Line

TOP MVP CANDIDATES

  1. Chris Davis, Austintown-Fitch
  2. Terrence Pegram, Aurora
  3. Trevon Pendleton, Portsmouth West
  4. Demitrious Davis, Austintown-Fitch
  5. Demond Hymes, Warren Harding
  6. Landon Smith, Girard

Included among the combine's participants are over 50 out-of-state participants. Most of those prospects were not included in this preview, not as a slight to them but because covering Ohio we just don't have the information we needed to include them in our preview. Should they perform at a high level we'll definitely include them in our post-combine coverage.

Follow all the Next Level Combine-Columbus coverage on OhioVarsity.com by subscribing for a free 30-day trial (enter the code: ohiocombine10 in the space for the coupon code). You'll need to be a subscriber to receive all the great coverage following the event including top performers, player features, position-by-position analysis and more. Also, recruiting is heating up, even for you underclassmen, you'll want to keep your profile up-to-date so college coaches keep seeing your name in the news.

Click here to discuss the event in the Ohio Varsity Locker Room.

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