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April 18, 2007

Big turnout at Spain Park combine

Spain Park head coach John Grass expected to have a good turnout Sunday. He just didn't know how good.

The second-year Jaguar coach, hosting the first Parkside Combine at Spain Park, didn't have to wait long.

Before registration ever ended, he got his first glimpse: A stack of empty cardboard boxes that once contained 300 camp T-Shirts.

"We had 130 pre-registered so I thought we'd have 200-250," said Grass. "I ordered 300 T-Shirts, but I didn't expect 300 (participants). I never would've thought we'd run out."

Three hundred sounded like a safe number, especially considering the weekend's weather conditions. Cold wind gusts, reported to be up to 20 mph, blew through Hoover Sunday in addition to some light rain.

Normally that would pose a big problem. However, when you have facilities that rank among the nation's best, it helps in finding a solution.

Using two gymnasiums, a weight room that rivals some colleges', and two parallel long hallways, Grass and Co. made it work.

All in all 312 high school prospects participated. The prospects were measured, weighed, and then sent through five stages of testing: bench press, three-cone drill, 20-yard shuttle, 40-yard dash, and vertical leap.

College coaches couldn't be in attendance. This is the first year the NCAA has prohibited college recruiters from attending off-campus combines.

As a result, many combines shut down. Grass however, took a different approach. He opened one up.

"We just wanted to do something to promote football," said Grass. "We wanted to give these kids a chance to compete against other kids in the state, and not have to drive to Atlanta to do it."

And compete they did.

Not only were the participants tested, but Grass developed an overall ranking formula that combined the five testing results into one overall score. The idea was to get a feel for each prospect's overall testing ability, and where he stood among the group.

In each drill, the best time (or most reps/highest jump), received 500 points, second received 499, third 498…and so on. The best total of those five scores received "Best in Combine".

After the final drills had finished and the scores were tallied, a familiar face was atop one of the lists: Grass' top DE prospect William Green.

After measuring in at 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, Green put up the best overall numbers of the day for prospects 200 pounds or more.

He ran a 4.68 40-yard dash, had a 4.34-second shuttle, did 13 reps of 185 pounds on the bench press, added a 4.7-second three-cone, and a 33.5-inch vertical leap.

Taking the overall "Best in Combine", regardless of weight, was Harvest-Sparkman ATH Jonathon Richardson.

The 5-foot-8, 183-pounder ran a 4.56 40-yard dash, did 18 reps of 185 pounds on the bench press, had a 4.33-second three-cone, a combine best, a 4.31-second shuttle, and a 41-inch vertical leap, which was also best of the day.

Other top performers included Moundville-Hale County ATH Antonio Johnson, Tuscumbia-Deshler's Dominique King, Andalusia LB Michael Berry, Talladega WR Tae Keith, Tuscaloosa-Central ATH Demario Pippen and Marsellos Wilder, Montgomery-Jeff Davis DE DeMarcus DuBose and RB Ronnie Johnson, Pleasant Grove TE Kedric Murry, as well as underclassmen Michael Sellers of Pleasant Grove, Maplesville-Isabella ATH Norman Craig, Tuscumbia-Deshler QB Chase Blackburn and Jose Mills, Spain Park DL Darrius McMullin and Andalusia (Ala.) LB Nico Johnson.

"It's a good thing for our state, promoting these kids, getting their names out there, and giving them a chance to compete," said Grass. "I'm real pleased with how it went.

"We're looking forward to doing another one next year."

And maybe ordering a few more T-Shirts.


Parkside Combine Top 3 Performers

Bench Press
David Strider, Chelsea (31)
Adam Gillepsie, Decatur (30)
Zac Smith, Ashville (30)

Three-Cone Drill
Jonathon Richardson, Sparkman (4.33)
Marlon Tripp, Midfield (4.33)
Steven Stuart, Sparta Academy (4.34)

20-yard Shuttle
Will Lowery, Hoover (4.10)
Ronnie Johnson, Jeff Davis (4.14)
Dominique King, Deshler (4.15)

40-yard Dash
Cornelius Jenkins, Austin (4.42)
Donald Prince, Aliceville (4.50)
Antonio Johnson, Hale County (4.51)

Vertical Leap
Jonathon Richardson, Sparkman (41.0)
Quinn Hambrite, Central-Hayneville (40.0)
Antonio Johnson, Hale County (39.5)

Best in Combine (under 200 pounds)
Jonathon Richardson, Sparkman (2,468 points)
Dominique King, Deshler (2,449)
Ronnie Johnson, Jeff Davis (2,437)

Best in Combine (200 pounds or more)
William Green, Spain Park (2,409 points)
Jose Mills, Deshler (2,407)
Michael Sellers, Pleasant Grove (2,402)


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