Though much of attention at the Hargrave Military Academy combine was focused on the commitments, most of the coaches there came to check out the still uncommitted talent which included a couple of the top talents in the country like Rivals100 wide receiver Vidal Hazelton and fast-rising running back Keiland Williams. Coaches across the country from Connecticut to Florida and Southern Cal made the trip to rural Chatham, Va. to check out these and other top players. So who raised their stock and why?
Arguably the biggest of the uncommitted players on hand has to be the No. 23 prospect in the country and five-star receiver Vidal Hazelton. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder partcipated in the bench press, putting up seven 225-pound reps, and the 20-yard shuttle (4.43 seconds) and didn't participate in either the vertical or 40-yard dash. Despite that, Hazelton had a line of coaches that came by and visited with him that never seemed to end. We talked to the receiver to see how his recruiting is going and if he's decided on a fifth official.
"I took four visits already to Tennessee, USC, Miami and Virginia Tech. The fifth one most likely will be to Georgia. I'm still going back and forth between Georgia and Florida, but I think it'll end up being Georgia. I'm headed to whoever I pick this weekend for the visit," he said. "I like the winning attitude of both of those schools. I've been to Florida and I like Coach Meyer's offense, it's crazy. The players there like to compete like I do and you can't beat the weather. I can't say too much about Georgia because I haven't been down there.
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"I'll probably also take some unofficials between now and when I decide. I definitely want to get to UVa and maybe Rutgers. UVa is a beautiful place and my cousin went there so in the beginning I went there and I liked it a lot. The whole thing with them is that I felt like they haven't signed a big-time quarterback that I could really communicate with and that's the problem, but I'm still looking at them."
Southern Cal and Miami still appear to be Hazelton's favorites.
"All the visits were good, but out of all of them I liked Southern Cal and Miami the most. I liked Virginia Tech a lot too," he said. "I really liked how the players were and they have that winning attitude."
Hazelton plans to decide at the Army All-American game.
Keiland Williams was the other big-time recruit on display. He put up an impressive 19 reps at 225 pounds and ran an astounding 4.32-second 40-yard dash, which was tied for the fastest on the day.
"I think I did well in the 40, but I had a bad start and I know I could have run a bit better," he said. "In recruiting, a lot of schools have offered including Michigan, Southern Cal and just about everyone in the SEC except Georgia. I already took an official to Ole Miss and I'd rate that trip a 10 because I love the coaches, atmosphere and I know John Jerry and Jerrell Powe who are good friends of mine from here are headed there. I'm also headed to USC on January 13th, LSU on January 20th and perhaps Florida next weekend."
The three-star running back appears to be a strong LSU lean.
"I grew up 45 minutes from LSU so they were right down the road and I have a love for them," he said. "They also have great tradition, great players and are a wonderful school. I'd say I don't have a leader, but I definitely have an SEC bias.
"I do want to check out other schools like USC because anytime a school like that considers you; you have to check them out. I like Florida too because they're another SEC school and one of my favorite running backs, Emmitt Smith, went there."
Obviously Williams and Hazelton were the star attractions at the combine, but another player many watched was four-star offensive lineman Mike Harness who signed with Auburn in February. The Tigers haven't been in touch with him since Signing Day nearly a year ago and now the 6-foot-2, 285-pounder is trying to get his name back out there for offers. He performed well at the combine with a 5.46-second 40, 29-inch vertical and 16 bench reps.
"I've been talking to South Carolina and North Carolina State," he said. "I've set up an official for January 20th to South Carolina. I like that their program is up and coming and Coach Hunt is doing a good job getting offensive linemen into the NFL. I like that they are also showing me a lot of interest. I like North Carolina State too because they're improving, although they haven't offered and I'm not sure about a visit yet. I hope to hear from a lot of other schools including Georgia Tech, who I was going to go to if Auburn fell through. Maybe also Tennessee, Florida or anywhere else that shows me interest."
Nearly a dozen three-star players were also on hand and many of them impressed as well. Certainly the one player that improved his stock the most in the combine came out of nowhere and that was 5-foot-10, 200-pound safety Adam Stewart who had the best vertical at the combine by jumping 40 inches, one of the best 40-yard dash times with 4.39-seconds and one of the best bench marks with 25 reps. Stewart will also be graduating in January. Another hidden prospect was Khalil Conteh who tied for the second best vertical with 39 inches and tied for the best 40-time at 4.32-seconds with Williams. Both players are expected to attract plenty of interest after their performances.
Besides the surprises, quarterback Jarrett Dunston has slowly been improving his stock this season. The 6-foot-4, 225-pounder helped it even more by running a 4.57-second 40-yard dash, benching the day's top mark with 30 reps and showing off a 36-inch vertical. Currently Dunston hasn't received any offers, but Tulane, Eastern Michigan, TCU, Virginia and Maryland have shown interest. Of them, Dunston likes Virginia because of the academics and campus, but confirmed he has no favorites at this time.
Speaking of quarterbacks, 6-foot-5, 220-pounder Tim Jones is a quarterback/athlete who will be graduating from Hargrave in December and has received quite a bit of interest. He helped his cause in the combine with a solid 4.61-second 40, 33-inch vertical and 17 reps on the bench. Jones has not received any offers to date, but is getting interest from Western Michigan, Western Carolina, North Carolina State, North Carolina, Virginia and South Carolina.
Three other skill position players to watch included 6-foot-3, 235-pound fullback Cedric Hickman, 6-foot-4, 230-pound tight end Cody Slate and wide receiver Joseph Nairn. Both Slate and Hickman will be graduating in December. Hickman ran a solid 4.52-second 40-yard dash and benched 12 reps, while Slate ran a lightning-quick 4.47-second 40-yard dash, recorded a 37-inch vertical and did 12 bench reps. Nairn ran a solid 4.5-second 40, added a 33-inch vertical and benched 11 reps.
Slate holds offers from Kent and Marshall. He took his first official to Kent State just before Thanksgiving and really enjoyed it and liked what they had to offer. He's also planning to head to Marshall this weekend and potentially Illinois on December 16th.
Hickman has received even more interest. He took his first visit to Connecticut last weekend and says they are his No. 1 team until he takes another visit. He's planning to head to North Carolina State this weekend for an official.
Nairn is good friends with Hazelton and though he hasn't received any offers, he's gotten interest from Western Michigan, Penn State, Marshall, Western Carolina and Miami.
"I visited Miami for the Virginia game a couple weeks ago and it was very exciting," he said. "I visited Penn State earlier this year for the Purdue game and I like that they love their football there. I'd say right now I favor Marshall, Miami and Penn State. I plan to start setting up officials in January."
There were also a couple of standout performers on the offensive line including Andrew Farr and Brian Kelly. Farr posted respectable numbers in all the events which included a 5.2-second 40, 25.5-inch vertical and 19 bench reps. The 6-foot-4, 290-pounder is leaving in January and already has offers from Eastern Michigan, Middle Tennessee, ECU, South Florida and Central Florida among others.
"I'd say my top schools are ECU, South Florida, Middle Tennessee and Eastern Michigan," he said. "I haven't met the coaches, but they seem nice and it looks like a great campus and a good atmosphere. I just took an official to ECU and liked it a lot. Their coaching staff, facilities and players are amazing. This weekend I'm headed to Eastern Michigan for an official visit. I'm also receiving interest from Maryland who was very impressed with my tape and said they'd love to offer me soon and have me for an official."
Kelly posted similar numbers to Farr including a 5.1-second 40, 25-inch vertical and 10 bench reps. The 6-foot-6, 300-pounder hasn't been offered a scholarship, but is receiving interest from schools including Maryland, Florida State, Marshall and Tulane.
On the defensive side of the ball, defensive end Ernest Hodge posted good numbers including a 34.5-inch vertical, 20 bench reps and a 4.64-second 40. So far the 6-foot-2, 245-pounder has received offers from most of the MAC including Ohio, Akron, Kent, Western Michigan and others. He's already taken two officials to Kent and Ohio the last couple weeks as he prepares to leave in January.
"I liked both visits, they were really nice and the coaches were cool and all the players were really great," he said. "I'd rate my visit to Ohio a nine and Kent an 8.5. I don't know who I'm looking at for the other officials."
Three linebackers are also noteworthy including Mario Harvey, Doug Wilson and Horace Hubbard. Both Hubbard and Wilson are expected to leave in January.
The 6-foot-0, 220-pound Harvey posted the second fastest time in the combine with a 4.35-second 40. He added 17 bench reps and a 30.5-inch vertical. Certainly that impressive 40 should help him receive more interest in the coming weeks, but currently he's received mail from just Morgan State and North Carolina A&T.
Wilson ran a solid 4.65-second 40-yard dash, added a 32.5-inch vertical and 15 bench reps. He's just started receiving interest from Carson Newman and Tulane, although no offers have come his way.
The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Hubbard ran a decent 5.3-second 40 and added 10 bench reps and a 28.5-inch vertical. He's received offers from schools including Minnesota, TCU, South Florida, Ohio and Central Florida.
"I already took an official to Ohio and Frank Solich is up there and it's a great place. They've got fresh coaches and a great opportunity," he said. "I'm planning to take an official this weekend to TCU and then one next week to South Florida. I know TCU had a solid year and their ranked something like 13th in the nation. I know they are also a really good school. South Florida had a pretty good year too and their coach just got a contract extension. I'm not sure about my final two visits, but I'm looking at Minnesota a lot. I like that they're a big-time team in the Big Ten which is a great conference and they have good academics."
Of course much of the focus at the combine was on the big name uncommitted talents, in particular Hazelton and Williams, but as usual some new names emerged and will be on the radar of top schools soon enough.