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January 2, 2009

Underclassmen put talent on display

SAN ANTONIO - The U.S. Army National Combine on Friday featured the top players in the nation from Florida to Oregon and everywhere in between. In fact, three of the top prospects at the event ended up sharing the same hotel room. Lache Seastrunk, Trovon Reed and Toney Hurd Jr. have not been lifelong friends, but they might as well have been. The three have gotten to be close, attending camps and combines together and training together. On Friday, the three stood out as some of the top players at the event.

Seastrunk, already one of the most highly recruited prospects in the class of 2010, is currently the most heralded of the group. The running back out of Temple, Texas, has made a name for himself with his highlight film, which displays his devastating speed and unique athleticism. Entering the combine, Seastrunk had one primary goal: breaking the 40-yard dash record - just ask his roommates.

"All last night all he kept saying was, 'I gotta get the record. Percy Harvin I'm coming for your record'," Reed said. "He woke up at 5 a.m. this morning to wake up Tony and the second thing that came out of his mouth was, 'I'm gonna get the record.' "

On a slow surface, Seastrunk didn't get the record he was looking for, but his 4.50, 40-yard dash time was one of the top times of the day. While he was disappointed, Seastrunk had plenty of other motivation and focus on Friday.

"I just wanted to come out here and compete," Seastrunk said. "I got both my friends and brothers here and we push each other just to get that extra yard. We're basically family because we're not from the same area but from the same place [Louisiana]."

Originally from Leesville, La., Seastrunk did his part in pushing his friend Reed. Arguably the top wide receiver prospect in Louisiana, Reed had a great day in San Antonio. He ended up running stride for stride with Seastrunk with a 4.50 40-yard dash of his own. He also jumped over 40 inches, the same height as Seastrunk. Also like Seastrunk, Reed had a specific focus of his own coming into the combine.

"I'm trying to get into the game," he said, referring to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. "I know if I beat Lache then I'm in the game because he's in the game. So whatever he does, I'm gonna do better."

Reed's peformance made the statement he was hoping it would. Along with posting one of the fastest 40 times and top verticals, Reed was one of the most productive wide receivers in a combine loaded with wide receiver talent. His route-running, hands and smooth athleticism separated himself among the all-stars.

Both Seastrunk and Reed will likely be able to pick any college when the recruiting process is over, but it looks more and more like one college will be lucky enough to get both elite prospects.

Are the two trying to play together in college?

"Yes sir," the two said in unison.

"We really don't know what schools," Seastrunk said. "We're just trying to decide together and make sure that it's the best decision for both of us."

Wide receiver strength

Looking at all of the positions at the combine, wide receivers had the clear edge as far as overall talent. The group had size, speed and big names and as the day progressed it became clear that there were several names that may be back in San Antonio next year for the Army All-American Bowl.

One player who was as good as advertised was McDonough (Ga.) Henry County wide receiver Markeith Ambles. Ambles already has a slew of offers and showed why during one-on-ones. He was extremely strong off of bump coverage, displayed great hands and runs as smooth of a route as you will find on the high school level.

Kyle Prater out of Hillside (Ill.) Proviso West was one of the biggest wide receivers at the event. The 6-foot-5 Prater makes sharp cuts, gets low in his breaks and has great hands, which is hard to find in that big of a body. He is a major mismatch for any cornerback.

There were some very good wide receivers out of the state of Texas on hand, including DeAndre Perry, Darius Terrell, James Haynes and others. However, the player who really separated himself, not only among the Texans but also among all of the wide receivers, was Ricki Herod Jr.. He has good size and speed and made some spectacular catches on the afternoon. Though he doesn't have any offers yet, he can expect many more to come if Friday's performance is any indication.

From Mississippi, Robert Johnson added to the list of elite prospects. Johnson, out of Hattiesburg (Miss.) Oak Grove, was one of the better looking prospects on the hoof and had a good afternoon catching the ball and running routes.

Locking down Gateway

Good luck to whatever team tries to pass on Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway next season. Two of the best cover corners at the entire event hailed from Gateway and were putting on a clinic on how to lock down receivers.

Orne Bey was the name in the first session that continued to come up with interception after interception and breakup after breakup. He does not have great size at corner, but his speed and quickness easily make up for it. At times, he seemed like the only defensive back taking reps in his group and he kept coming away on top.

In the second session, it was Dayonne Nunley who was seemingly in the pocket of every wide receiver. He challenged all of the top wide receivers he could find and managed to lock down a number of wideouts who were use to having their way with defensive backs. Nunley's acceleration and quickness out of the backpedal had him contesting balls he had no business being near.

Though both Nunley and Bey are small, they form a scary duo at cornerback and would make any college coach happy, much less a high school coach.

Battles in the trenches

While there were some phenomenal skill players competing in the Alamodome, it was the big uglies who had their chance in the spotlight on Friday. There were a number of parents, coaches and fans watching the combine from the stands, and by the time one-on-ones were under way, the intensity of the offensive line vs. defensive line matchups drew the biggest crowd and loudest applause.

The battles were competitive and intense, and as the one-on-ones progressed some grudge matches developed. Maybe the most fiery and alluring matchup of the day, within any position group, was the one featuring Richmond (Va.) King William defensive tackle Nick Acree and Chapel Hill (N.C.) offensive tackle Robert Crisp.

Acree's legend is already growing just because of the size, strength and build of the massive Virginia Tech commit. He has a presence unlike any other player, and he stood out as soon as he walked into the registration line Thursday. While Crisp may not have the flamboyance of Acree, he has the size of a prototypical left tackle. A 6-7, 300-pounder with great length and athleticism, Crisp already has numerous offers and he will likely be one of the most highly recruited offensive line prospects in the class of 2010.

Crisp and Acree began against each other, and before long the two were calling each other out. The battles instigated all kinds of excitement and commotion from spectators and set the tone for a great day of work. Although Acree may have had the slight edge Friday, Crisp did nothing to hurt his stock. With his body structure and feet, the sky is the limit for the big tackle prospect.


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