PHILADELPHIA -- The 2011 Nike SPARQ Combine tour continued at the NovaCare Center, home of the Philadelphia Eagles. More than 860 prospects packed the indoor facility to test and compete. While there was not a blazing battle for the fastest 40 time at this event as there was a year ago, several top underclassmen and an offensive linemen who went where no big man had previously gone in the SPARQ Rating annals highlighted the event.
Top rising senior
Chris Muller, OL (Boyertown, Pa./Boyertown Area)
Just one day after Ben McGowan (Centerville, Ohio/Centerville) became the first-ever offensive lineman to top 100 in the SPARQ Rating at 100.53, Muller, a hulking 6-foot-5, 289-pounder with offers already from Rutgers, Boston College, Virginia and Temple, did him one better, finishing with a 102.18 rating. Muller excelled in all four tests, posting amazing numbers for a player of his size at 5.07 in the 40, 4.59 in the shuttle, 40 feet in the power ball toss and perhaps most impressively, 30.1 inches on the vertical.
Rising senior honorable mention
Faton Bauta, LB (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla./Dwyer)
Bauta, who earned Class A all-state honors this past fall in New York at Poly Prep, just recently moved with his family to South Florida where he'll enroll at state-power Dwyer, but was still in the Northeast to come out and compete Sunday. The 6-1, 215-pound Bauta impressed with his strength (41.5 power ball toss) and quick feet (4.28 shuttle). Pitt and Maryland have already offered.
Kevin Gulyas, WR (Allentown, Pa./Allentown Central Catholic)
A very productive pass catcher who is sometimes overshadowed by his quarterback (fellow prospect Brendan Nosovitch who was named the Gatorade Player of the Year in Pennsylvania this fall), Sunday was Gulyas' day to step into the spotlight. The 5-11, 171-pounder ran a solid 4.57 SPARQ-digitally timed 40 and also showed excellent quickness and change of direction with a 4.09 shuttle on his way to a top-10 SPARQ Rating of 96.72.
Savoy Martin, DB (Philadelphia, Pa./Frankford)
Martin was one of the city's true big-play performers during the fall with seven interceptions and also over 300 receiving yards on just eight catches. On Sunday, he put some solid testing numbers to those impressive stats, clocking a 4.65 40, 4.31 shuttle and throwing the power ball 39.5 feet en route to a 93.60 SPARQ Rating.
Sharif Smith, RB (Philadelphia, Pa./Furness)
A starter ever since he enrolled at Furness as a freshman, Smith earned all-public league honors last fall and will enter his senior season with over 3,300 career rushing yards after topping 1,200 each of the past two seasons. Sunday the 5-9, 170-pound back showed excellent all-around athletic ability, clocking a 4.61 40 and throwing the power ball 37.5 feet, finishing with a 91.98 SPARQ Rating. Pitt, UConn and Rutgers have already been in contact with him.
Javon White, RB (Souderton, Pa./Souderton)
White finished with the combine's top overall SPARQ Rating at 108.78, which included the event's top vertical jump at 40 inches as well as very solid times of 4.64 in the 40 and 4.28 in the shuttle. The 5-9, 175-pounder should warrant further evaluation from colleges in the region, because not only did he display great physical attributes, but also had a productive junior season, rushing for 825 yards and nine touchdowns on just 106 carries, while sharing time with a senior.
Top underclassman performer
Tashawn Bower, DE (Somerville, N.J./Immaculata)
Bower rivaled Muller as the most physically impressive (and imposing) player in attendance Sunday. Hard to believe the chiseled 6-4, 224-pounder is just a rising junior, but not only did Bower pass the eyeball test, he passed the physical tests as well, finishing with a very solid 89.67 SPARQ Rating on the strength of a 4.89 40 and 42-foot power ball toss. Bower totaled 52 tackles and eight sacks last fall and is already hearing from BC, Rutgers and Oregon.
Underclassmen honorable mention
Nadir Barnwell, DB (Piscataway, N.J./Piscataway)
Hailing from the high school that produced recent first-round draft picks OL Anthony Davis (49ers) and CB Kyle Wilson (Jets), the 5-9, 171-pound Barnwell hopes to be the next big thing. He played primarily quarterback for Piscataway last fall, helping the school to a group title in New Jersey, but said Sunday he's primarily being recruited as a cornerback and has already drawn interest from Rutgers, BC, Clemson and Oregon. He was solid in every test Sunday, clocking a 4.64 40 and 4.47 shuttle to finish with a 83.07 SPARQ Rating.
Kyle LaPorte, WR (Piscataway, N.J./Piscataway)
The 5-8, 164-pound athlete is nearly as highly-regarded as his classmate Barnwell because LaPorte earned second team all-area honors last fall after taking five punts back for touchdowns. He was very quick and explosive by clocking a combine-best 3.90 shuttle and jumping 33.4 inches in the vertical.
Kendall Thomas, WR (Brooklyn, N.Y./Thomas Jefferson)
This 5-8, 151 pound speedster was one of the fastest prospects at the event, clocking a 4.58 40 and 4.16 shuttle and finishing with a 92.58 SPARQ Rating. Thomas missed some time on the field last fall after a school change, but when he was between the lines he made plays with his speed.
Von Walker, RB (Mill Hill, Pa./Central Mountain)
Walker came out of nowhere Sunday to post the event's third-best SPARQ Rating at 106.86, but expect to hear much more about him over the next two years. He played primarily linebacker and safety as a sophomore last fall, totaling 102 tackles, but is expecting to move back to running back as a junior and showed that he has the goods to excel at that position, burning a 4.56 40 and 3.97 shuttle.
Dave Williams, RB (Philadelphia, Pa./West Catholic)
Although he didn't run as well at the combine Sunday as he did a year ago (4.61 to 4.59), Williams improved in all the other tests and finished with the event's fourth-best SPARQ Rating at 105.39. The 5-11, 179-pounder has packed on 10 pounds of muscle to his frame from last year and his strength showed with marks of 40-feet in the power ball and 35.9 inches on the vertical jump.
Down and out
One notable athlete in attendance who could not participate was Archbishop Wood (Warminster, Pa.) RB Desmon Peoples, who is still recovering from an injury late last fall. Peoples, a speedy 5-7, 170 pounder, did manage to earn all-state honors before his injury and the ESPNU 150 Watch List prospect reports offers from Pitt and Rutgers.
1. Javon White, RB (Souderton, Pa./Souderton) -- 108.78
2. Khaleel Artis, RB (Emmaus, Pa./Emmaus) -- 107.07
3. Von Walker, RB (Mill Hall, Pa./Central Mountain) -- 106.86
4. Dave Williams, RB (Philadelphia, Pa./West Catholic) -- 105.39
5. Chris Muller, OL (Boyertown, Pa./Boyertown Area) 102.18
1. Bayvon Young, DB (Fort Washington, Md./Friendly) -- 4.50
2. Brian Regan, RB (Cherry Hill, N.J./Cherry Hill East) -- 4.55
T3. Mark Doe, WR (Sharon Hill, Pa./Academy Park) -- 4.56
T3. Malik Merritt, RB (Skaneateles, N.Y./Skaneateles) -- 4.56
T3. Von Walker, RB (Mill Hall, Pa./Central Mountain) -- 4.56
1. Kyle LaPorte, WR (Piscataway, N.J./Piscataway) -- 3.90
2. Von Walker, RB (Mill Hall, Pa./Central Mountain) -- 3.97
T3. Jamaal James, DB (Piscataway, N.J./Piscataway) -- 4.00
T3. Mubeen Quraishi, WR (Piscataway, N.J./Piscataway) -- 4.00
5. Alan Richards, (Runnemede, N.J./Triton Regional) -- 4.04
Kneeling power ball toss
T1. Tashawn Bower, DE (Somerville, N.J./Immaculata) -- 42 inches
T1. Lakai Robinson, OL (Haddonfield, N.J./Paul VI) -- 42 inches
T3. Faton Bauta, LB (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla./Dwyer) -- 41.5 inches
T3. Matt Felton, LB (Hanover, Pa./Hanover) -- 41.5
T3. Kavon Johnson, DL (Plymouth Meeting, Pa./Plymouth-Whitemarsh) -- 41.5
1. Javon White, RB (Souderton, Pa./Souderton) -- 40.0 inches
2. Keiran Bibbs, DB (Voorhees, N.J./Eastern Regional) -- 39.3 inches
3. Khaleel Artis, RB (Emmaus, Pa./Emmaus) -- 38.6
4. Ulus Jordan, WR (Warminster, Pa./Archbishop Wood) -- 38.5
5. Russell Forchion, RB (Pine Hill, N.J./Overbrook) -- 37.9