By: J.T. Powell
The first nationally recognized high school football combine in the COVID-19 era converged at the historic Mitchell Stadium in Bluefield, WV yesterday. This year's combine featured elite talent from across the country. The main story line is a pair of Class of 2022 phenoms and a set of freakish twins.
Blue Chip 22' Offensive Tackle - Zach Rich of Liberty Christian Academy (Lynchburg, Va.) brought home the John Henry Hammer Award for the top participant at the Appalachia Prep Combine after winning a hard fought 1 vs. 1 rep versus his close friend Gunner Givens at the end of Session One. Rice appeared to be in phenomenal shape upon arrival. He moved extremely well during the position period and stepped up to the challenge during the 1 vs. 1 period by recovering quickly after losing his first rep by a nasty inside move by Chase Simmons 21' (North Myrtle Beach, Sc.). Rice was clearly the best offensive linemen in attendance as he is well ahead of his years. Expect Rice to be an early first rounder.
Anyone could have made a case for Class of 2022 DE - Gunner Givens of Lord Botetourt (Va.) to be named the overall MVP after winning all of his 5 reps during the allotted 1 vs. 1 period. Givens came in looking taller and trimmed like a Greek God. He ran notably faster during the 40 and pro shuttle stations. Many have written Givens off as an Offensive Tackle, but he has proved for the second consecutive year at the APC that he is more than capable of playing at the highest level on the defensive side of the football.
The McDonald Twins
The other main attraction or 'attractions' were a set of twins from Salem (Va.) Jorden and Jayden. We have hosted many elite defensive backs since our conception, but none of them have measured or looked anything like these dudes from a physical standpoint. You look at those guys and instantly see them in some NFL uniform. Both are easily 6'4, 215 lbs and ran an 4.73 both runs on Zybek Sports trusted lasers. Jorden and Jayden breezed through position drills and stood out. Turn on their tape and you will have all the confirmation you need.
Due to weather we didn't get an opportunity to see the older QBs throw much. However, during the hour or so our esteemed QB Coaches, Joe Cervantez (IL) and Mason Cox (NC) shared with us their top guys. The first name given was 2021 Tennessee gunslinger - Bryson Grabowski of Copper Basin High School. Coaches got a good look at Grabowski during Session 2, as he volunteered to throw with the younger guys as they were few in number. Unknowingly to the coaches at first that Grabowski was a rising senior, all the coaches were raving about his tight spirals and ball placement. Grabrowski didn't throw a bad ball all day as everything was on the money. There were some other QBs that physically stood out over him, but none matched the arm talent that he possessed in the amount of time we had with all QBs.
Southern Alamance HS (NC) star 2021 QB - David Hines also drew the attention of coaches in a short period of time by posting a couple of blazing sub 4.5 times on Zybek Sports lasers. He also displayed good throwing mechanics and footwork during position drills.
Two younger QBs really impressed. Jakari Nicely 24' (Daleville, Va.) looked like an upperclassmen throwing yesterday. Although his mechanics need polishing, he is a natural talent that doesn't come around too often. Nicely can play anywhere on the football field. Joshuah Keith 24' (Knoxville, Tn.) also impressed coaches by displaying mechanics and arm talent well ahead of his years. Other QBs mentioned were Zane Rupe 21' (Radford, Va.) and Grant Cochran 23' (Princeton, Wv).
The Top RB Award came down between two athletes - Naieem Kearney 21' (Martinsburg, Wv) and Trent Asher (Leslie County, Ky). Kearney separated himself during the the 1 vs. 1 period by presenting a smooth display of route running and catching ability. Kearney was impressive all day and represented his state well as the Mountain State's and now APC's Top RB. Asher clocked the fastest 40 time of the day with a sub 4.5. Asher looked lean, fast, and mature. Another big time RB prospect who was also in the discussion for RB MVP was Isaac King 21' of Monroe High School (NC). King showed sharp cutting ability during drills and posted great testing numbers. King has a confident demeanor and could absolutely play at the FBS level. Other names mentioned were Shawn Mitchell 21' (Bluefield, WV), Amir Powell 21' (Princeton, WV), Tyrell Dobson 22' (Radford, VA) and Zion Powell 21' (Keyser, WV).
The TEs group was much improved with several Power 5 caliber guys. The Top TE and Colt Adams Award winner was David Oden 22' of Porter Ridge High School (NC). Oden measured well at 6'3 and dominated during 1 vs. 1s. Eli Archer 21' (Huntington, Wv) was also in the discussion for the Top TE Award with a solid performance all around and measuring at 6'5. Another TE to check out is Ryan Whetzel 21' (Piedmont, Nc.) Bluegrass underclassmen Bryce Hoskins 23' (Breathitt County was impressive as well.
The Top LB at this year's combine was instate product - Zane Brumfield 21' of Spring Valley High School (Wv.) Brumfield towered over other LBs at 6'5, tested well, and moved fluently throughout the day. Another LB that stood out was Eli Turner 22' of William Blount High School (TN) with a Power 5 build and footwork.
A pair of young star LBs to watch out for are Stephan Zayachkowski 23' (Porter Ridge HS, NC) and Jamel Floyd 23' (George Whyte HS, VA) as both are physical specimens. Coaches raved about both of these kids all day starting with the testing period making it a close call for the Top Underclassmen Defensive Player.
Here is another group that was greatly affected by the weather. We only had a brief moment to spend with WRs making it difficult for us to give a thorough evaluation. However, several kids stood out during the position drills. The first kid that stood out physically and technique wise was returning APC star WR - Rodney McDay Jr. 21' (Asheville, Nc). McDay looked older and more like a Power 5 WR this year. He ran considerably faster on the laser this year running in the upper 4.6 range.
The other standouts in the WRs group was PJ Prioleau 21' (Radford, Va.) who looked identical to McDay during the position drills as the two were well ahead of the rest of the pack just by looking at footwork. Ethan Parsons 21' of Princeton, WV stood out and was the tallest and biggest WR on display. Parsons measured well and tested well. All of the other receivers were a bit raw but a couple have big time potential to be good including Tony Bailey 21' (Mt. View HS, WV) who looked good during this phase and Brandon Wiley 21' (Bluefield, WV).
We won't talk about the twins anymore, rather showcase a few other phenomenal defensive back prospects who briefly had a chance to display their talents. Also at the very top of the group was Brandon Perry 21' (Porter Ridge HS, NC). Perry physically stood out alongside with the twins and was the most polished during the position drills. Perry came in ripped to shreds and posted sub 4.6 laser times during the 40. Other notable prospects were Chandler Schmidt 22' (Cabell Midland HS, WV), Caleb Henley 21' (Christiansburg, Va.) Jaylen Hall (Mt. View HS, WV) and Layton Duke 23' (Piedmont, Nc.)
In the discussion for Top DL MVP Awards were instate wrecking crew - Andrew Vickers 21' (St. Albans, WV) and Chase Simmons 21' (North Myrtle Beach, SC). Both abused offensive lineman all day. Simmons won his first rep vs. Rice and continued to compete hard and loud. Vickers was big, violent and destructive during the 1 vs. 1 period.
Big time 2021 Defensive End - Jonathan Slaughter (Mallard Creek HS, NC) also had a field day against the OL breezing past would be blockers. Trace Mitchell 21' of George Rogers Clark High School (KY) had a noteworthy performance as well. An underclassmen who was especially impressive was Carter Banks 22' (Heritage HS, VA) who was tall, lean, quick, with good hands. Banks is already 6'6.
There were several Power 5 caliber offensive lineman in attendance in addition to Zach Rice. Josh Herndon 21' (Tazewell HS, VA) measured well at 6'5 and dominated his reps. Herndon looks in great shape and is a very tough competitor. Another notable offensive linemen was Derick Flack Jr. 21' (Bluefield, Wv.) who had his hands full with one of the nation's top underclassmen.
Boston College commit - Connor Lytton 21' (Radford, Va.) separated himself from the pack during warmups. Lytton warmed up with 40 yard FGs. He went on to boot a couple 50 plus yarders and hung some punts high in the air. Also very impressive was Braxton Sammons 22' (Wheelersburg, Oh.) who was comfortable kicking FGs 45 yards out and punted nicely.
After averaging 5 snaps from the Long-Snappers, Damien Jackson Jr. 21' (Porter Ridge HS) stole the competition averaging .67 on his five snaps. Jackson was clearly ahead of the competition.
Overall MVP - Zach Rice 22' (VA)
Top QB - Bryson Grabowski 21' (TN)
Top RB - Niaeem Kearney 21' (WV)
Top WR - Rodney McDay Jr. 21' (NC)
Top TE - David Oden 22' (NC)
Top LB - Zane Brumfield 21' (WV)
Top DB - Jorden McDonald 21' (VA)
Top OL - Zach Rice 22' (VA)
Top DL - Gunner Givens 22' (VA)
Top K/P - Connor Lytton (VA)
Top LS - Damien Jackson Jr. 21' (NC)
Top Offensive UC - Jakari Nicely 24' (VA)
Top Defensive UC - Stephan Zayachkowski 23' (NC)
Colt Adams Award - David Oden 22' (NC)
Tony Webster Jr. Award - Zechariah Miller 24' (IL)
For more on this article contact J.T. Powell email@example.com