Linemen, linebackers put on a show
Four-star DT Cooper stars on field, five-star OT Kouandjio steals show off it
BALTIMORE -- A big group came out to M&T Bank Stadium for the Baltimore Under Armour combine, battling through the warm weather to test their skills and, in some instances, to try and make a name for the themselves.
While the stadium was empty, it was easy for this group of prospects to get fired up as they competed on the same field where the Ravens play. The day provided us a chance to further evaluate in person some prospects we were already familiar with, but it also provided a chance to discover some prospects who could be on the rise on the recruiting trail.
DeMatha High School in Maryland has produced many talented players over the years, and this year will be no exception. The school features a strong 2011 class, including defensive tackle Darian Cooper (Hyattsville, Md./DeMatha). He possesses adequate height but carries good bulk, weighing just under 300 pounds. He was not overly impressive testing wise but proved he has a disruptive presence once one-on-one drills began. Cooper is an explosive kid who can quickly get moving and brings good power behind him. He is active with his hands and can quickly get to the shoulder of blockers and violently knock them aside. He did a good job of countering and was the top defensive line prospect at the camp. Cooper has offers from Georgia Tech, Clemson, Michigan State, Illinois and others. He said he hopes to narrow down his list by the end of summer.
Testing to impress
Conner Crowell (Waldorf, Md./North Point) had a strong day. Despite his having several offers, watching him made you wonder why he doesn't have more. Throughout the day, the outside linebacker prospect showed his athleticism. He posted an impressive 4.51 40-yard dash and looked smooth running it. He posted good scores in the short shuttle (4.26) and three-cone (7.39) and notched a 31-inch vertical. He continually looked light on his feet and smooth in his movements. He displayed the ability to combine a physical nature with that athleticism. In coverage drills against the running backs, he was able to quickly get hands on the backs as they came out of the backfield, was physical with them and could turn, run and keep tight coverage. One of the strengths Crowell felt he had as a linebacker was his ability to cover backs in the passing game, and he proved that in drills. He said he has offers from Maryland, Ohio State, West Virginia, Penn State and Connecticut. He plans to visit Penn State and UConn next week.
Making a case
They might not be well known, but a pair of prospects showed they're worth keeping an eye on.
One was Maleek Proctor (Baltimore/Woodlawn), a defensive end/defensive tackle tweener. He showed a good first step and was able to quickly get out of his stance. He was able to consistently attack a half-man and get skinny, and he was tough throughout one-on-ones. He has no offers but said he has received some interest from Temple. He might fit better as a defensive tackle, and while he had a solid day of testing, he lacks ideal height and will need to add good bulk. He did show some good things over the two days and could potentially make a solid swing or wave player at the college level.
Another intriguing prospect was Tyree Darwin (Far Rockaway, N.Y./William Grady), an undersized, but active pass-rushing defensive end. He is a bit of an outside linebacker/end tweener but flashed some good ability as a pass rusher. He was quick off the ball and active with his weapons. He flashes the ability to come off the edge, get to the shoulder and turn his hips to work past a blocker. He lacks ideal bulk and height and takes an unnecessarily wide rush at times, but he flashes some ability and upside as a pass rushing end. He has no offers but said he's looking at Rutgers and Temple.
• Arguably the most impressive figure at the event never left his street clothes. Five-star OT Cyrus Kouandjio (Hyattsville, Md./DeMatha) came down to check out the event. While he did not work out, he still made an impact. The No. 6 prospect in the nation has impressed us on film with his play, but at the combine he also impressed with his size and frame. You can tell on film this is not your typical offensive tackle prospect, but he really passes the eye test when you get a chance to see him. He has great height (6-7), and at about 290 pounds, he carries his weight well and has plenty of room to add more size. Walking into the stadium, he had his back to us and at first glance you wondered if this was an NFL player. His play, his size and frame and his upside make him an excellent prospect.
• A promising 2012 prospect was Ken Ekanem (Clifton, Va./Centreville), who said he already has offers from Duke, Maryland, Boston College and Virginia. He said he was receiving interest at several spots, including tight end and outside linebacker, but he worked out with the defensive line and showed promise there. He tested well, posting a 4.69 40, a 4.46 short shuttle and 7.55 three-cone. He has good size and the frame to add more bulk. During one-on-ones, he displayed good explosiveness and balance and was tough to block. Ekanem, who said he was heading from the combine straight to a Maryland camp, looks like a prospect to watch in the next class.
• A prospect who caught our eye with his physical build was Emmanuel Bawa (Hyattsville, Md./Northwestern), who has a good frame and nice wingspan. He worked out with the defensive line, but his best fit may be as an offensive tackle. His testing also suggested that. He needs to add more bulk, and we would have liked to see him take more reps during one-on-ones and compete a bit more. He said he has a few offers and that Temple has talked about offensive line with him. He might be a bit of project, but Bawa displayed some of the tools to be able to develop into a productive tackle.
Craig Haubert is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. and has more than a decade of coaching experience.