Massillon, OH- With signing day for the class of 2010 just four days away, Ohio's class of 2011 took center stage on Saturday at the Next Level Football Combine, sponsored by United Dairy, at Massillon (Ohio) Washington's breath-taking 80,000 square foot facility.
The running backs and linebackers provided the best competition including an MVP performance by Portsmouth (Ohio) West linebacker Trevon Pendleton, who excelled on both sides of the ball throughout the day.
"I was just trying to get a lot of reps in," Pendleton said. "I now that helps you a lot. I was studying the other guys, looking at what they do, and what I have to do to beat them."
Pendleton was the only linebacker that had success again shifty Cincinnati Colerain back Tyler Williams, the quickest running back at the Next Level Football combine. Pendleton broke up a pass on a wheel route forty yards down the field in their first meeting. Later, he used his body to cut off a seam route by the talented running back.
"I talked to him [Tyler Williams] all day," Pendleton said. "I know he is really fast, and he utilizes his speed really well. So I just tried to jam him at the line and then play his back hip. Then, I just broke on the ball when it was on the air."
Pendleton is looking for his first offer, but he is in communication with several schools.
"I have been talking to Cincinnati, Colorado, NC State, Kansas, Purdue, Wisconsin, Vanderbilt and Iowa. I am going to visit Colorado this spring, as well as Kansas and Wisconsin. I have already visited Cincinnati. I really liked it there. I was really impressed. I watched them play Connecticut. They took me on a tour of everything, all the facilities. It was beautiful. I like it there."
Opportunities picking up for Dukes
Cincinnati (OH) Colerain defensive back Chris Dukes passed the eye ball test as well as anyone at the event, and used his one on one reps to challenge himself against the best of the best, mainly Shaquille Washington, the talented quarterback/receiver from Maple Heights High School.
Dukes is very well built in the upper body, and uses his strength to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage. He has offers from Bowling Green, Central Michigan, and Pittsburgh.
He has interest from several other schools, including Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, two institutions he visited recently.
"I really loved it at Pitt, because it feels like home," Dukes said. "It feels like U-C (Cincinnati) when I am back home, so I really like it up there.
"I really liked Notre Dame when I visited for the USC game. I like the whole environment and I like everything up there."
"What do I want out of a school?" Dukes offered. "The graduation rate. Graduation first, and playing time second."
Dukes left the camp to catch the end of a junior day event at the University of Cincinnati."
He will visit Bowling Green February 13th, and plans to visit Pittsburgh in March.
Washington ready to take next step
Shaquille Washington has already established himself as one of the most explosive players in Ohio. He led his team to the Division 2 finals this season, losing to a talented Cincinnati Winton Woods squad, led by four-star 2010 athlete Dominique Brown.
Washington played quarterback for Maple Heights last season. As a receiver, he struggled catching the ball at the U.S. Army Underclassmen Combine earlier this month. But on Saturday, Washington's hands were as pure as can be. He caught everything, and was impossible to cover in the open field.
"I am looking for a college that is going to use me to the best of my abilities," Washington said. "I will probably be best in the spread offense, where I can play in the slot, and get a lot of touches on reverses. I would love to play on special team too."
Most intriguing player….
And the biggest surprise, because we knew nothing about this young man until today- which exemplifies the value of events like the Next Level Football Combine. Jay Velez. Everything he did on Saturday, he won.
As a linebacker, he showed very good ability to cover smaller and quicker backs in space.
As a running back, he was incredibly smooth getting open against athletic linebackers. Furthermore, he made catching deep passes look easy, something you don't see out of a player with his body type.
"I don't have any scholarship offers yet," Velez said. "I am talking to a lot of schools. I may visit Ohio this month. I may visit Cincinnati too, and I am talking to Purdue."
Velez ran a 4.31 pro-shuttle, and a 5.04 forty- one of the best times for a linebacker at the event.
""I definitely want to be a linebacker at the next level, but I would like to play defensive end," Velez said. "But I am not tall enough to do that. Last year, I played outside linebacker and defensive end, but because of my height, I know I can only be a middle linebacker."
What Velez did not give himself credit for was the exceptional pass catching skills he displayed as a running back.
"I have always had nice speed and have able to catch the ball really well as a young kid," Velez said. "I think being good helps on offense helps me on defense because I can catch the ball. I would not mind playing offense on college."
Howell leads to way for Westerville
Early indications show that the Westerville (Ohio) schools will be busy this year. A handful of prospects from the Columbus area city had solid performances on Saturday, led by Taven Howell, the 6-foot-1 outside linebacker was one of the best looking prospects at the event, physically. In fact, he plays taller than 6-foot-1. He looked good in drills, and won several one-on-one reps. He struggled in space against smaller backs, but, he had his share of wins by using his strength and good straight line speed to overwhelm opposing running backs. Howell is an inside linebacker at the next level. He proved the part on Saturday.