Commentary

LB Hicks lives up to reputation

Originally Published: March 15, 2009
By Brian Stumpf | ESPNRISE.com

The 2009 Nike Football Combine tour continued Saturday just outside of Cincinnati, where more than 700 prospects from nine states packed the sixth Nike Combine of the year. While several unknowns emerged as names to watch, it was a pair of highly regarded prospects who more than lived up to the hype.

After a junior season during which he earned Division I all-state honors, West Chester (Ohio) Lakota West linebacker Jordan Hicks has been hotly pursued by schools nationwide, drawing offers from the likes of USC, Ohio State, LSU, Texas, Florida and many more. Some pundits even have called Hicks the nation's top prospect at the linebacker position, and the talented linebacker did nothing to dispel that notion Saturday.

Hicks checked in at a chiseled 6-foot-2, 208 pounds then proceeded to post eye-popping numbers in the four Nike Combine tests. Hicks' 4.56 40 would be an outstanding mark on any day for a linebacker, but it was even more impressive Saturday on what was a slow track -- that time ranked third-best out of the 708 total participants. Hicks also clocked 4.54 in the shuttle and posted eye-popping marks of 36.9 inches in the vertical jump and 36 feet, 6 inches on the power ball throw, good for 102.66 SPARQ rating.

As impressive as Hicks was, he was upstaged by another one of the top overall prospects in the Buckeye State, Princeton's Spencer Ware. A quarterback by trade, Ware, who's been under center for the Vikings since his freshman year, flashed the athletic ability that will have position coaches at whichever school he ends up at fighting for the 225-pounder's services.

Ware finished the day with the combine's top SPARQ rating at 115.86, and it's scary to think how high he could've gone on a faster track. His marks of 4.25 in the shuttle, 37.5 inches in the vertical jump and 38 feet, 6 six inches in the power ball toss all ranked in the top 10 on the day in those categories, and his 4.72 40 was very impressive on the slow track. Ware currently holds offers from Ohio State, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Wisconsin, N.C. State and Duke, and that list should continue to grow in the next few months.

Smack between Ware and Hicks in the day's top three SPARQ ratings was a super sleeper from West Virginia who's definitely worth keeping an eye on. At 6-3, 178 pounds, with 4.55 speed and a 37.6-inch vertical jump, wide receiver Jake Rollo from Sherman High seems to have all the tools to play on Saturdays. His 105.12 SPARQ rating turned some heads in Cincinnati, and he's not just a testing phenom. Rollo earned Class AA second team all-state honors last year.

Other prospects who shined on Saturday included a host of Hicks' teammates from Lakota West, most notably OL Kevin Schloemer, an early Cincinnati commit, who posted the day's top power ball throw at 47 feet. Lakota West prospects posted seven of the day's top 45 SPARQ ratings.

See below for the "Workout Warriors" from the Cincinnati Nike Combine:

A quick explanation of the events:
• The SPARQ rating is a scoring system designed to measure football-specific athleticism by combining results in the four combine tests: 40-yard dash, 20-yard shuttle, vertical jump and power ball throw.
• The 40-yard dash at Nike combines are timed using SPARQ digital timing. Not all players choose to test, and some have their marks scratched in individual events.
• The shuttle run at the Nike combine is timed with stopwatches, and players must touch the lines with their hand. Not all players choose to test, and some have their marks scratched in individual events.
• The vertical jump at the Nike combine is measured on jump pads in inches. Not all players choose to test, and some have their marks scratched in individual events.
• The kneeling power ball throw is a test of upper-body and core strength and is measured in feet to the nearest half-foot. Not all players choose to test, and some have their marks scratched in individual events.

ESPN RISE and Scouts, Inc. will have much more from the Cincinnati Nike Combine throughout the week, including top testing results from each event, more standout performances, the recruiting buzz from the combine, an all-combine team and complete results by the end of the week, so stay logged on.