COMBINE – Gainesville

Eric Sledge, APOPKA

The University of Florida was the perfect destination for the second Florida stop on this year's inaugural The Football Combine. Nearly 200 of the top North Florida prospects were on hand for the two-day event.

GAINESVILLE – When the second tour of the 2004 Combine headed to the University of Florida last weekend, there were many athletes who were out to show that they belonged with the elite in the state.

While Saturday did have many star-quality players on hand, Sunday proved to be the day that onlookers left thinking that this could very well be the season that the state of Florida could exceed the number of Division 1A signees it had this past February.

The highlight of Sunday's camp saw rising junior C.J. Spiller of Lake Butler Union County torch the 40-yard trail with an impressive 4.37 time. Spiller along with teammates Kevin Alexander and Kasey Nobles, South Daytona Beach Warner Christian linebacker Andrew Trowbridge and Madison County speedster Desmond Gee were simply off the charts as many spectators and instructors watched this group of the Class of 2006 serve notice of the talent that is on the rise.

In addition to the rising juniors, the day also belonged to some outstanding rising seniors as well.

Apopka drove the nearly two hours to Gainesville to showcase safety/wide receiver Eric Sledge and defensive back Matthew St. Fleurant. Madison County not only brought Gee, but seniors-to-be Eugene Hayes, tight end Charlie Graham and defensive back Brian Peacock.

Port St. Lucie West Centennial brought a trio of players, which included standout linebacker Jamar Chaney, and running backs Greg Shinego and Jarvis Drayton.

Other players who impressed were St. Augustine lineman Randall Cox, Lake Brantley linebacker Kyle Fowler, Sarasota Cardinal Mooney running back Kyle Horth, Oviedo lineman Andy Lark (40 reps of 185 pounds), Ocala Forest defensive lineman Stephen Parrott and Live Oak Suwannee lineman A.J. Shuler.

Also making an impression on Sunday were Tampa Jefferson safety Dhonovan Simpson, Daytona Beach Mainland lineman Eddie Tabasky, Gainesville Buchholz quarterback Alex Thompson, Ocala Trinity Christian defensive end Nick Butler, Orlando Evans standout nose tackle Vernon Jackson, Tampa Jesuit offensive lineman Mitchell Stanislaus.

"Between last week's players in Miami and this camp, you can see how much talent there is in this state," said Johne' Battle of the MSL Combine. "I am very pleased with the showing we had here in Florida.

Saturday showcased some impressive athletes like Lakeland Kathleen defensive lineman Darrell Lake as well as linebackers Albert McClellan and Trent Newton.

There was also Gainesville defensive back Anthony Bolen and lineman Darias Jones, who dazzled many in attendance with his 380-pound frame.

Other players on Saturday that impressed included Lakeland Evangel Christian running back Rod Coby, defensive back Chris Rogers and linebacker Isaiah Jewell, Chiefland wide receiver/safety Cortez Gent, Tampa Jefferson lineman Frank Gil and running back Alex Suber, Plant City running back Derrick Hallback, Fort Pierce John Carroll linebacker Darius Wilson and Jacksonville Andrew Jackson tight end Michael Hicks.

In addition, Gainesville Buchholz lineman Derek Hickman and speedy (4.5) Sammy Swigger looked good. So did junior-to-be running back James Jamison of Starke-Bradford County and Deland lineman Reginald Odom, and Orlando Evans defensive lineman Xavier Sullivan.

As I walked around and watched timing, drills and one-on-one competition, there were also some other players who caught my eye.

Tampa Riverview quarterback Chris Alexander, Auburndale tight end Cory Powers, linebacker Brandon Hives of New Smyrna Beach, quarterback Kellen Lewis of Jacksonville Mandarin, Jacksonville Raines receiver Travis Prince and defensive back Donsay Hardeman, linebacker Darryl Sharpton, who came all the way from the Miami area (Coral Gables) and quarterback Justin Ross of Tarpon Springs.

As they head to Clark University in Atlanta this weekend, the past two weeks of the MSL Combine were extremely impressive.

Next year, when the Florida stop on this outstanding combine tour comes through, it wouldn't surprise me to see well over 400 athletes at the two sites. Recommended Stories