Sleeper prospects steal the show


SPRING, Texas -- For many prospects, combines are a way for them to get their name on the map, both regionally and nationally. On Sunday at Leonard George Stadium at the Under Armour Combine, Joseph Bryant (Bryan, Texas) did just that.

The 6-foot-4, 198-pound safety and receiver isn't necessarily an unknown to college coaches. He recently received his first offer (Utah), and the interest is seemingly growing by the day, but Bryant is one of the least publicized prospects in the Lone Star state. That changed after a day in which he not only tested well but also flashed big-time playmaking ability with a high-point, leaping interception that drew oohs and aahs from fellow prospects.

"It went pretty good," Bryant said. "I learned a lot of stuff. I had a lot of fun, especially at safety. Receiver, you know, I get a lot of collisions, but at safety I get to hit a lot and run around and that's what I like to do, so it's pretty fun."

Bryant's performance, which included a 4.7 40, 4.66 shuttle. 7.47 L-cone drill and 28-inch vertical, comes on the heels of receiving his first offer.

"I was really shocked, really. I didn't know they [Utah] were really interested in me at first, but I was happy to get it," Bryant said.

The Utes are the first of what is likely to be many offers with the spring evaluation period under way. Programs such as Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Arizona and TCU have made recent stops by Bryan, and it seems like more and more schools are checking in now.

"Pretty much the whole Big 12, a little bit of the Pac-10 and a little bit of the Mountain West," said Bryant, who plans to camp at TCU, SMU and other area programs.

Kempner backs test well

Kempner High in the Fort Bend schools district features one of the top backfields in the Houston area in Julius White and Vedial Johnson and neither disappointed Sunday. White was one of the top testers overall. He measured in at 5-9, 183 pounds, ran a 4.52 40, a 4.49 shuttle, leaped 35 inches and bench-pressed 185 pounds 15 times.

"It was pretty good out here," White said. "There was a lot of competition, and I think I did better than I expected."

White is receiving interest from four programs from the Southwest region.

"TCU, University of Houston, Rice and Tulsa are recruiting me the hardest. I think Rice is close to offering me," he said. "I like the Rice staff. We've got a pretty good relationship."

White plans to camp at Rice, Baylor, TCU and Texas A&M this summer.

Johnson, also tested very well and showed the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. White, 6-0 and 200 pounds, ran an impressive 4.55 40, 7.53 L-cone drill and jumped 27 inches.

"It was good," Johnson said. "It gave us a chance to work on our skills and stuff. I think I did pretty good."

Headed into spring practice, the versatile prospect is yet to receive his first offer, but believes Boise State is a possibility.

"Missouri, University of Houston, Rice, Boise State and a lot more are looking at me. I have been to a junior day at Rice, and Boise State is talking about offering me, so we'll have to see where that goes," Johnson said.

Johnson hopes to camp at Oklahoma State, Missouri, Houston, Rice and Boise State this summer.

White and Johnson were joined by a third Kempner prospect -- cornerback Jamone Greer, who also put together a solid day. Greer measured 5-11, 162 pounds, clocked a 4.45 shuttle, 7.18 L-cone drill and 4.53 40 along with a 34-inch vertical. He is receiving interest from Utah, Texas A&M, Houston and TCU after picking off four passes last season.

Sleeper receivers
There were a number of receiver prospects on hand Sunday who enter May and the summer as virtual unknowns to recruiters. Musa Mahmud (Houston/Jones) may be the most intriguing. Mahmud passes the eye ball test walking onto the field and followed up the measurables with an impressive performance, showing the ability to stick his foot in the ground, create separation and finish plays with an impressive physicality.

Mahmud measured 6-1 and 193 pounds and recorded a 31-inch vertical, a 4.55 shuttle and an impressive 7.38 L-cone (which measures the ability to change direction). One of the true sleepers in the Houston area, Mahmud is hearing from TCU, Miami (Ohio) and Southern University. He will likely be recruited as an athlete with possibilities on offense and defense.

Beaumont West Brook has enjoyed offensive success on the field under head coach Craig Stump, and two of the top returning playmakers for the state-ranked Bruins, Reggie Begelton and Jacobie Brown, were two of the top performers Sunday.

Begelton, checked in at 5-11, 174 pounds and recorded times of 4.5 in the shuttle, 4.65 in the 40, a very impressive 7.15 L-cone drill time and a 36-inch vertical. On the field, he caught everything thrown his way. Louisiana-Lafayette is showing the most interest, with Texas A&M also taking a look.

Patrick Gant (Houston/CyWoods) turned in a terrific day of testing. Grant, 5-9, 157 pounds, ran a 4.55 40, a 4.31 shuttle, a blistering 7.09 L-cone drill and leaped 31 inches.

Class of 2012 represents

A number of top sophomore prospects were on hand, led by one of the top young linebackers in the Houston area, Kendall Ehrlich (Pearland, Texas). The 6-1, 190 pound Ehrlich posted a 4.65 40, 4.75 shuttle, 7.47 L-cone drill, 36-inch vertical and bench-pressed 185 pounds 16 times. His impressive measureables combined with his impressive play on Friday nights last season for the Oilers has one Big 12 South program already showing serious interest.

"I've gotten letters from Texas A&M, and I went to their spring game," Ehrlich said. "I liked it. The facilities were nice and the coaching staff was nice. I liked everything,"

The Under Armour Combine was the first of many the talented 2012 prospect plans to attend along with a number of one-day camps in the region.

"I'm going to go to a lot of combines like this and college camps this summer. I'm going to go to Texas A&M, LSU and Texas Tech camps. Maybe Baylor too," Ehrlich said.

Safety Jarell Crenshaw (Pearland, Texas/Glenda Dawson) has been turning heads since starting as a freshman for the Eagles. On Sunday, he continued to impress. He flashed his playmaking skills with a diving interception in coverage as well as a pair of nifty pass breakups after turning an impressive day of testing. The 5-9, 171-pounder clocked a 4.61 forty, 4.62 shuttle, 7.31 L-cone drill and 30-inch vertical.

Crenshaw is receiving interest from Houston, Arizona and Texas A&M and plans to camp at all three this summer. He will be the leader of a Dawson secondary next year that will also feature 2012 corner Haywood Jeffries.

The top quarterback prospect on hand was Ben Johnson (Round Rock, Texas/Westwood). The sophomore threw the ball with accuracy and put together a terrific day of testing. The 5-11, 166-pound 2009 second-team all-district selection posted a 4.56 40, a smoking 7.09 L-cone drill, 4.57-shuttle and 10-foot-1 broad jump.

"I'm loving it. It's good competition. I'm just loving it out here at the combine," Johnson said.

Coming off a season in which he passed for 625 yards and ran for 593 as a sophomore, Johnson has already shown his ability on video and college programs are taking notice.

"Texas A&M, Purdue and Houston have sent me some stuff. A lot of schools are starting to come by [Westwood]," he said. "I'm going to camps at Texas, Texas A&M, SMU, TCU and possibly Missouri. I'll be going to a Rice minicamp also."

Short stuff

" Sophomore guard prospect Hank Granda (Houston/St. Pius X) plans to camp at Texas A&M, LSU and Texas. Granda started on the Panthers varsity as a sophomore until an knee injury ended his season. He checked in at 6-2 and 270-pounds.

" Junior receiver Allen McCord Jr. (Houston/Washington) is receiving interest from Louisiana-Lafayette, Air Force, Kansas State, Houston and Iowa State.

" Junior defensive tackle Devante Robinson (Pflugerville, Texas/Hendrickson) is receiving interest from Missouri, Tulsa, New Mexico, Colorado and Ole Miss. The 5-11, 287-pounder, who recorded 28 reps of 185 pounds on the bench press, attended junior day at Tulsa.

" Junior defensive back Lathan Smith (Katy, Texas/Seven Lakes) is hearing from Air Force, Kansas State, Army and others.

Junior receiver Vincent Fuller II (Killeen, Texas/Shoemaker) is receiving interest from Missouri, UCLA, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and others. He plans to camp at Oklahoma State and Texas A&M this summer.

Gerry Hamilton has covered recruiting in Texas and the Southwest for more than a decade. He can be reached at espngerry@yahoo.com.