Cutting a tenth of a second off a 40 time. Turning in a 40-plus inch vertical leap. Making big plays on the field. Any one of those three things will often help a recruit get noticed more. Do it at Hargrave Military Academy’s annual combine and it can instantly change a recruit’s life.
That’s what happened when over 200 coaches come to watch over 40 Division I recruits compete against one another in Chatham, Va., Monday.
Many little-known players suddenly found themselves getting swarmed by coaches and others who already had several scholarship offers gained many more.
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Here’s a look at the select group who boosted their stock the most, along with quotes from the recruits themselves and Hargrave offensive coordinator Ryan Sulkowski:
BRANDON ANDERSON (5-11, 160)
This cornerback doesn’t ever have to worry about being overshadowed by other Hargrave defensive backs again. He dazzled in the individual tests and in the seven-on-seven drills, running a 4.41 and making a pair of interceptions. Coaches from Central Florida, Memphis and Syracuse all made sure to talk
with the prospect from Dublin, Va.
A Coach’s Take: “I heard about him all day long from other coaches. He has been overshadowed by some other guys like Lionel Mitchell.”
CURTIS BRINKLEY (5-10, 180)
One of the biggest names at the start of the event got much bigger. After turning in a 4.35, this super athletic running back from Philadelphia, Pa., quickly received scholarship offers from Connecticut and Ohio State and heavy interest from Maryland, N.C. State, Toledo, South Carolina and others. Ranked the No. 12 all-purpose back from the class of 2004, he committed to Syracuse last year. Hargrave’s staff almost always encourages its players to honor their commitments, but since this prospect from the Northeast had re-opened his recruitment before he arrived at the private academy they made an exception. A Syracuse assistant made sure to chat with him, but West Virginia may have turned into the front runner.
In His Own Words: “I wanted to see if I could get some more offers and motivate some of my other teammates. I have run a 4.4 consistently, so I had an idea I could go lower. I see a lot of freshman doing well this season so I really want to play early and I want to play running back, too. That matters to me and I tell coaches that straight up.”
PAUL CREWS (5-11, 170)
This cornerback from Henderson, N.C., has gotten faster and quicker. He turned in a 4.35 (his previous best was a 4.5) and recorded a 4.09 in the shuttle test – each the lowest times of any defensive back. More importantly, he is academically eligible after earning a qualifying SAT score last week. A year ago, Florida State, North Carolina, N.C. State, Tennessee and Virginia were all showing plenty of interest. FSU and Tennessee have stopped inquiring, but Georgia and several others recently started. Expect others to follow.
In His Own Words: “I’m two steps ahead of where I was when I got here. I’m a smarter player and I understand coverage better. The in-state schools have the jump for me right now. I’d like to stay close to home.”
Coach’s Take: “We saw Paul first at North Carolina’s East-West game and originally we didn’t think he would be able to raise his GPA over a 2.0. But after looking at his core classes we realized it was above a 2.0 and he was able to get a 1010 on his SAT. He is D-I eligible now.”
GREG HURT (5-9, 190)
Few if any recruits had more coaches approach them than this safety from Elkin, N.C. Several ACC schools are interested along with Ohio and Division I-AA Southern Illinois. He has a compact frame and is one of the strongest players on Hargrave’s roster. He ran a 4.53 and also delivered the biggest hit of the seven-on-seven drills, plowing over tight end Brandon Lang, who is committed to Georgia.
In His Own Words: “I wanted to raise my game to another level when I came here and I have had to because the level of competition is so much better than in high school. I grew up a North Carolina and Virginia Tech fan. I would say those two are equal right now.”
CHRISTIAN JOHNSON (6-4, 305)
Most of the lineman at Hargrave have long been committed, but a handful of coaches are very glad that this offensive guard from Alexandria, Va., isn’t among that group. He performed well in one-on-one lineman drills, going up against several highly-ranked defensive lineman. Kentucky, who has made a scholarship offer, made sure to watch the big man.
Coach’s Take: “He visited Kentucky and a lot of other I-A coaches like him. Cincinnati and Akron absolutely love him. I had some I-AA coaches tell me he could start for them right away.”
RAJIV LUNDY (6-0, 175)
Looking for an shutdown corner? Many coaches who are think they found one after watching this prospect from Willboro, N.J. He ran a 4.53, but a pair of acrobatic interceptions in the seven-on-seven drills were what impressed coaches most. He earned scholarship offers from Cincinnati and Memphis and interest from Georgia and Virginia Tech.
In His Own Words: “Getting my college education is the most important thing to me.”
Coach’s Take: “Rajiv has one a great job helping himself out. He has been overshadowed by Lionel Mitchell and Brandon Anderson.”
DEANCO OLIVER (6-1, 185)
Mention this receiver’s name to most D-I coaching staffs a year ago and they would give you a blank stare. Now, many of their eyes light up and they begin to salivate. A second run in the 40 showed why. After turning in a disappointing 4.59 on his first run, he bounced back with a 4.46. Georgia commit Jamar Bryant (4.41) was the only receiver with a lower time. Not surprisingly, Georgia is interested, along with Central Florida, Florida, Syracuse, Tulane and others. Syracuse and UCF have offered
In His Own Words: “My speed has improved a lot and so has my knowledge of the game. Academics and getting playing time are important to me. Location is not a factor.”
CHUB SMALL (5-9, 190)
He entered the combine as a low-level D-I recruit and left as a big-time prospect. That’s what happens when a relatively unknown running back runs a 4.33. Many of the coaches asked that he run again and he proved it was no fluke, turning in a 4.34 for an encore. Coaches from Alabama, Florida, Memphis and Tulane all made sure to talk with him soon afterwards.
In His Own Words: “I’ve had to step up my game here. It’s a whole different level from high school. I don’t care what position I play in college. I just want to know that I fit in with the players and coaches and that they are good people.”
Coach’s Take: “He is one of the players I have really been pushing hard this weekend.”
MARCUS VAREEN (6-1, 190)
This receiver from Winston-Salem, N.C. had his own personal campaign manager during seven-on-seven drills. William Wall, a defensive lineman who has committed to Virginia Tech, walked up and down the sidelines, yelling for coaches to watch his roommate and good friend. Vareen didn’t need the help. Nobody made more big plays, including a pair of spectacular deep catches. He also ran a 4.47 and he is academically qualified. A work ethic that is considered among the best on the team helps, too. Clemson, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee are all showing interest. That’s an impressive list for a prospect who didn’t even show up on the recruiting radar a year ago.
In His Own Words: “I’d like to stay in North Carolina, or maybe go to South Carolina. I don’t want to do a lot of traveling.”
Coach’s Take: “Marcus is very quiet and humble. He doesn’t show much emotion.”