ROUND ROCK, Texas - A solid group of freshmen and sophomores from all over the state of Texas traveled to the Round Rock Athletic Complex recently to show their skills at the National Underclassmen Combine. It's difficult to evaluate football talent in shorts, especially when there are more than 100 athletes on the field at any given time. The stars present at this combine, however, literally seemed like men among boys.
The combine was split into two sessions, each fielding around 150 athletes. First, each athlete was measured and tested in vertical, bench press, shuttle, broad jump and 40-yard dash time. Although it can be a useful tool for separating great athletes from the rest, the 40 time can often be a misleading statistic.
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No one proved that more on Friday than the first session's wide receiver/tight end MVP Trey Metoyer, who just finished his freshman season at Whitehouse. At the end of each session, one-on-one drills commenced, where the real football players were given the chance to separate themselves from the workout warriors. Although Metoyer didn't test as well as he had hoped, he was uncoverable in one-on-ones.
"I ran a 4.8 today, although, I usually run a 4.6 at school," said Metoyer. "I would love to go to the University of Texas one day, but I'm open to any school that would want me."
Often times, young athletes fudge the numbers when discussing their speed, but no one questioned Metoyer, as he burned several defensive backs that tested much faster than he did. The one-on-one drill was actually more like a two-on-two, as a running back and wide receiver went against a linebacker and defensive back on each play. Metoyer made one spectacular catch in particular, when the quarterback floated the ball deep downfield where all four players were hungrily waiting. The 6-foot-1 ½ Metoyer leaped above the rest, despite the traffic, and came down with the jump ball to the cheers of all those in attendance.
One athlete who backed up his workout-warrior times with his football ability was Frisco freshman running back Michael Jackson. Jackson was named the first session overall MVP and fastest man, as he ran a blistering 4.38 40 time, a 4.36 shuttle and did a good job in the one-on-ones. Running back coach Randy Davis couldn't say enough about Jackson, saying "he doesn't use his body to catch the ball, has good burst, good focus, and you can tell he takes great care of his body."
Jackson said he really likes the Texas, LSU and Florida because of their great football and track programs.
The biggest standout on the defensive side of the ball during the first session was sophomore defensive end Nehemiah Hicks of Hutto. He definitely passed the eyeball test, standing at a rock-solid 6-3 and 219 pounds, with a great frame to eventually pack on more weight. Hicks displayed long, powerful strides when he ran, and bench pressed 185 pounds 14 times. He has received interest from Baylor, Iowa State and Kansas.
The second session got started late, forcing the coaches to turn on the high-powered stadium lights. The athletes didn't mind, however, as the Round Rock Athletic Complex also doubles as the set for NBC's Friday Night Lights television series.
A National Underclassman Combine record was tied as freshman running back Steven Williams of Round Rock Stony Point ran a blistering 4.30 40 time to the amazement of the coaches. Williams was later named the second session's MVP and fastest man. He also bench pressed 135 pounds 26 times, and recorded a vertical of 35 inches. The 5-8, 165-pound Williams said of his 40 time, "it felt really good to tie the record. I run a lot of sprints, so speed is probably my best asset."
During the one-on-one drills, Williams used a perfectly executed out-and-up move on an unfortunate defensive back, blowing past him to make the catch downfield to the delight of the crowd. Williams likes Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor and Penn State, among others.
Sophomore Jordan Wells, from Round Rock high school, also impressed the fans and coaches alike with his speed and pass-catching ability. The 5-11, 180-pound Wells ran an impressive 4.4 flat 40 time. Last season he took a kickoff return to the house, and he proved to be a fluid athlete on the field on Saturday. During the one-on-one drills, Wells made several tough catches, including one on the edge of the sideline where he used his body to shield the defensive back, despite excellent coverage. Wells likes all of the Texas colleges along with Oklahoma and Florida.
"I like Florida because of their style of play, and because it's by the water," said Wells. "Texas is also great because they have a good football program and they expect a lot out of you. They challenge you."
Linebacker Kurt Killens of Round Rock McNeil and safety Shane Morris of Early both shined on the defensive side of the ball, winning the second session's linebacker and defensive back MVP awards, respectively. Killens has great size at 6-3 and 205 pounds; he bench pressed 155 pounds 29 times, and also showed good speed and quickness in coverage. Although up against smaller, quicker running backs in the one-on-ones, a drill that favors the offense, Killens managed to always stay with his man.
Morris, perhaps the most impressive defense player all day, was all over the field, making two spectacular interceptions on well thrown balls. He also made several pass break-ups, including one where he dove at the last second to knock the ball away.
Other notables from the second session included defensive lineman MVP Daniel Noble of Flower Mound Marcus, wide receiver MVP Joe Sanders of Rockdale, and running back MVP Princeton Collins of Westwood. The 6-5, 224-pound Noble bench pressed 185 pounds 22 times and did well in the individual drills. Sanders, while not the fastest receiver on the field, might have been the most polished. He ran excellent routes, and proved to have the best hands at camp. Collins ran a 4.44 40, and also won the leadership award for his great attitude.