Shaon Berry, Bret Cooper and Chris Dombrowski from Junior Rank were on hand at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School this past weekend along with plenty of U.S. Marines for their Philadelphia Combine and about 250-300 prospects from the tri-state area showed up for the event. With outstanding coaches like ex-NFL players Calvin Williams, Fred Barnett, Mark McMillian and Byron Evans (all former Philadelphia Eagles) working with the players the camp was extremely well-organized and well-coached. Mike Sims was also on deck counseling quarterbacks who has coached and consulted for numerous NFL teams and works with signal callers for one of the best in the league, Peyton Manning.
Here is a breakdown of who were thought were the top athletes at the combine this past weekend.
Nate Smith, FS Archbishop Wood HS, 2012
Smith is a prospect I’ve known personally since he moved to Philadelphia from Louisiana and I’ve always been tough on him, but he deserves some love for how he’s pushed himself. He’s gone from a skinny build to a jacked up 195-pound safety after busting his butt in the gym with personal trainer Greg Garrett at Level 40 Training. Cardinal O’Hara HC Dan Algeo even asked him if he had a license for his guns during the event. Nate also looked much more fluid and was quicker than he looked last season when at Washington HS during the 7-on-7 portion of the event and looks like he’s finally fully embraced the safety position, something I didn’t feel he had done before. I’d still love to see him be more aggressive and become a true ball hawk, but the progress he’s making is going to get him more offers as a senior.
Justin Moody, DT George Washington HS, 2013
Moody has been an outstanding player for G-Dub since his freshman year and finally got some early recognition with a sophomore offer from Rutgers. He should have more right now. I watched Sharrif Floyd at the same age and he’s more athletic and a better pass rusher, but just not as physically dominant. There was no better defensive lineman at the Junior Rank Camp then Justin Moody from what I saw during my time there. He was absolutely unblockable and the beauty of it was, he used a variety of moves to get to the dummy quarterback. Justin can overpower you or simply break out a club, swim or rip to get past his defender. He spins and even breaks out somewhat of a hump at times. This is a 265-pound lineman who we’ve seen play linebacker in space against running backs and make them look bad as well.
Brandon Napoleon, QB St. Peter’s Prep, 2012
I watched Napoleon last year live in a scrimmage against Camden Catholic HS and while I thought he had a lot of potential at the position, I wasn’t completely sold on him as a quarterback as I didn’t get to see him throw intermediate and deeper routes. During the season I got to see more and started to warm up. This weekend Napoleon was allowed to let the ball fly and showed off his arm and I’ll be the first to say, this young man can get it downfield in a hurry. The most impressive thing about Napoleon was how he handled himself during 7-on-7 time. He was very quick and decisive in the pocket and didn’t settle for the short pass repeatedly, but at the same time, he wasn’t forcing things just to look good to people. Brandon wanted to learn while he was there and do things the right way. He made a few mistakes, but I thought he came away looking like the most mature and intelligent passer of the bunch and showcased his arm. Everyone knows he’s a tremendous athlete and now we’ve seen his ability to pass the ball is also far above average as well.
Brandon Berry, OLB Cass Tech HS, 2012
Berry is not from my territory, so I’ve never gotten to see him play before, however he looks like he’ll end up at strong safety at the collegiate level to me. A school could certainly take him to play WILL linebacker, but I think you’re wasting a lot of coverage ability. From the eye test, I’d say Berry comes in at about 5-foot-11, 195 pounds and he did a very good job in coverage during the event, especially in the effort department. That’s not a slight, he definitely had his share of plays, but he was simply around the ball a lot which is how I picked him out for an interview. Berry is a bit high in his backpedal, but he closes on the ball quickly, has good lower body explosion going up for the jump ball and his instincts in the secondary were surprisingly good, especially after I found out he doesn’t play safety for his school. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t end up with offers at the FBS level.
D.J. Singleton, SS St. Peter’s Prep, 2012
Singleton wants to play safety at the collegiate level and made a statement this weekend toward that goal as he actually may have been smaller than he was this time last year, at least in weight. His skill set has also changed. Singleton’s backpedal has quickened, his awareness has improved and his closing speed has gotten better. The best thing about him is that he just has outstanding length at the safety position. This is a legitimate 6-foot-2 plus defensive back with long arms and a great vertical that is a pain in the rear end when you throw the ball in his direction. I know plenty of schools are looking for him to bulk up and play outside linebacker, but I’m starting to think that might not be the way to go with him as he looked outstanding this weekend.
Charlie Callinan, WR St. Peter’s Prep, 2013
I really would have loved to see this kid get more reps at wide receiver a he really intrigues the heck out of me. First of all, Callinan is a true 6-foot-4 already and just turned 16 years old. He’s getting in the size area of a player like Tanner McEvoy, but he’s already thicker than him, especially in the lower body. Callinan’s speed was somewhat of a shock as he blew by cornerbacks on occasion and made a few really nice grabs that would have been worthy of highlight material. This isn’t just a big kid on the outside, he brings speed and athleticism to the game along with really good hands and size. Rutgers has already jumped into the mix with an offer for him.
Running backs never get a lot of action in a 7-on-7 or 9-on-9 environment, but two players that did stand out where Kye Morgan of Franklin High School who made some really good catches and Greg Garmon of McDowell High School. Garmon ended up running a 4.40 40-yard dash on Sunday and was probably the elite athlete of the entire combine. Another thing that must be said for Garmon is that despite the fact that he has his pick of the litter when it comes to offers, he’s still paying to perform and push himself which says a lot about him as a competitor.
MOST IMPRESSIVE OVERALL PLAYER
As much as I might come off as a homer being from Philadelphia and pushing his name since he was a 9th grader, Justin Moody just couldn’t be blocked at the event and it went further than that. When you have a defensive linemen who is consistently getting the better of everyone, that’s one thing, but when opponents simply don’t stand a chance, that’s another. The George Washington High School product continues to show his athleticism and versatility at camps and combines and it comes as a bit of a surprise that only Rutgers has offered him so far. Having watched Moody over the years, he will take some plays off as every linemen does, but when he is engaged he can be unblockable and when he’s switched on … you’ve got a violent pass rusher that needs to be triple-teamed because bodies will fly. Bret Cooper, who is now with Junior Rank, is one of the other people who are really on the Philly scene in recruiting and we both pushed Sharrif Floyd coming off his sophomore year when he had no offers. For comparison sake, Floyd was converting from offensive guard and coming off a torn ACL, so that’s how good Moody is looking going into his junior year.