- Bill Conley
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Athletes traveled from as far away as Tennessee and West Virginia to take part in the Nike Combine at the River's Edge Indoor Sports Complex just outside Cincinnati, Ohio, on Saturday. Although the indoor field made for a soft and slow track, there were some outstanding performances. Several of the more highly touted athletes lived up to their reputations and a number of young players put themselves on the radar for the future.
Two stood alone
There were some very talented football players who took part in Saturday's Nike Combine, but two emerged as the premier athletes of the event:
Jordan Hicks, OLB, junior, West Chester, Ohio/Lakota
Hicks proved he is as athletic in person as he is on film. He topped the 100 mark in his total SPARQ rating (102.66). Hicks showed he has the speed, change of direction and leaping ability to warrant all the national attention he is receiving. His nearly 37-inch vertical and 36-foot, 6-inch power ball toss to go along with a 4.54 40-yard sprint were impressive on a soft indoor field.
Hicks could very well be the most explosive linebacker in the 2010 class. He is fast for his position and has tremendous acceleration. If you want to bring a guy off the edge, Hicks is your man. He is quick off the ball and will not be denied getting to the running back or quarterback. Hicks is being recruited by national powers such as Ohio State, Texas, Southern Cal and Florida. Besides his physical talents, he has a winning personality and is a great leader.
Spencer Ware, athlete, junior, Cincinnati, Ohio/Princeton
Ware is an amazing athlete. He looks like a linebacker or thick strong safety but plays quarterback for the Vikings. He is effective both through the air and on the ground, he had nearly 3,000 total yards and just under 30 touchdowns in 2008. Ware proved how much of an athlete he is by posting the top SPARQ score Saturday with a 115.86. His 38-foot, 6-inch power ball toss and 37 ½ inch vertical proves he has strength and power in both his upper and lower body.
Although Ware most likely won't play quarterback at the next level, there is no doubt he will be an all-around weapon for any college program. Ware is being recruited by schools such as Wisconsin, West Virginia, North Carolina State, Cincinnati, Duke and of course the home-state Buckeyes.
Other junior standouts
Mo May, athlete, junior, Sylvania, Ohio/Southview
This multiposition athlete had an outstanding overall performance, putting up a SPARQ rating of 100.41. May proved his versatility by putting up impressive scores in most of the combine events. His vertical jump of 39 inches is just what coaches look for in a defensive back or wide receiver. May also tallied a 38-foot power ball toss to prove he is strong in the upper body. He had a very good shuttle time and his 4.68 40-yard dash on a slow track helped him end the day as one of the top athletes to perform. Although May has no solid offers going into his senior year, he has very solid athletic skills. It will be interesting to see if his athleticism can be transferred to performance on the gridiron.
Jake Rollo, WR, junior, Sherman, W. Va.
This three-sport high school athlete traveled from the Mountaineer State to display his talents in Cincinnati. Despite leaving for the event early in the morning, Rollo was fresh and energized. His 4.55 40 was the second fastest of the combine, and his 37-inch vertical jump makes him a wide receiver worth watching this fall. Rollo's overall SPARQ rating of 105.12 made him one of the top three athletes of the entire combine.
Rollo pulled in 52 receptions and nine touchdowns as a receiver for Sherman High last season, and he is dangerous to the opposition on special teams -- he brought back two kickoff returns for touchdowns. There is no doubt; Rollo is one of the top athletes to watch in the state of West Virginia.
Kevin Schloemer, OT, junior, West Chester, Ohio/Lakota West
Schloemer is one of many special athletes playing for coach Larry Cox at Lakota West. This early University of Cincinnati commit is light on his feet for a 260-pound offensive lineman. He can shuffle his feet and change direction fluidly, which gives him good his pass-protection skills. He also possesses solid upper-body strength and his 47-foot power ball throw Saturday was the very best of all the competitors. There are few offensive tackles as athletic as Schloemer in the Class of 2010.
Impressive young guns
Kaleb Ringer, LB/RB, freshman, Clayton, Ohio/Northmont
The nephew of Michigan State running back Javon Ringer is already well on his way to making his own mark as a freshman. This 5-11, 208-pound linebacker and running back put up striking numbers in the shuttle and 40 for a ninth grader. Ringer ran a 4.13 and a 4.85, respectively, in the two events. Kaleb looks upon his uncle as a real role model because of his humility and determination in fighting through injuries to excel. It will be exciting to follow this other Ringer in the coming years.
Shaquille Washington, WR, sophomore, Maple Heights, Ohio
Washington transferred to Maple Heights from Cleveland Glenville and is making an early impression. Although he is not the biggest player -- at just 140 pounds -- he is definitely a quick and agile athlete. Washington recorded the event's best shuttle time -- a 3.96. He also had a very solid 4.7 40 on the soft track. Washington also plays basketball and runs track. It looks like Maple Heights boasts a talented all-around athlete.
Chris Baker, CB, sophomore, Cincinnati, Ohio/Colerain
Baker put up a high SPARQ rating (94.26) for a sophomore. His power ball toss of 35-feet, 5-inches, 4.6 40, 33.6-inch vertical and 4.27-second shuttle shows he has a ton of athletic talent. This 5-foot-9, 170-pound cornerback had more than fifty tackles this fall and also displayed his skills as a punt and kickoff returner. Baker is another talented athlete to play in one of the Buckeye state's best football programs.