Nearly 1,000 football players from California lined up to test on Saturday at Laney College in Oakland. A select few were able to catch our attention a bit more than the rest.
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Saturday’s stop of the Nike Football SPARQ Combine tour, put on deftly once again by our colleagues in the Student Sports events division, returned to Laney College in Oakland.
It was a slightly windy day, but the conditions were generally prime for the nearly 1,000 players mostly from Northern California who were photographed, warmed up and then tested in the four standard football testing protocols (40-yard dash, power ball throw, 20-yard shuttle and vertical jump) that create a SPARQ Rating.
At Cal-Hi Sports, we like to get there early, scan the lines for players we might know for photos, watch some of the first groups test and then camp out at the printer where each player’s card is printed. We try to stop most players with a SPARQ Rating in the high 80s and above and track which players are listed first in each of the four main testing elements. We also strive to look for sophomores from last season.
Note that the list below doesn’t include anyone from a high school not in California and that all marks referred to are not yet verified and considered official. A complete list of all results will be posted this upcoming week on StudentSports.com. CLICK HERE to see the unofficial Top 100 SPARQ Ratings from the NorCal NFSC.
Gaige Allen (Kimball, Tracy)
He had one of the top 40 times of the day at 4.57 and nearly reached a 90.00 SPARQ Rating, finishing at 89.76. In Kimball’s 37-28 loss to Tracy last season, Allen had 14 carries for 135 yards and caught a 78-yard touchdown pass.
Blake Bierwith (California, San Ramon)
A 6-0, 218-pound running back who spent much of last season as a backup to D1 recruit Karris Johnson, Bierwith (pronounced Beer-With) had one of the top 10 SPARQ Ratings at 98.49, including a 40.5 foot mark in the power ball.
Luke Bussey (Granite Bay)
What would a NorCal combine be without a Granite Bay player doing well? Last year, running back Johnny Cooley came as an unknown, left with a top score and ended his senior season by scoring the winning touchdown for the Grizzlies in the CIF Division I state bowl game. Bussey could be the same this fall. He didn’t get the 101.97 SPARQ Rating he had at a combine in New York, but still had one of the best of the day with a 97.11, including a p.r. of 36.3 in the vertical jump.
Brendon Cremin (Central Catholic, Modesto)
Although he’s 6-1, 195 and posted a 90.87 SPARQ Rating, Cremin may be best as a kicker. He also had a 37-foot power ball throw.
Elijah Dale (St. Ignatius, San Francisco)
The sophomore running back who helped the Wildcats win the CIF Central Coast Section Open Division crown last fall had a 91.11 SPARQ Rating, which is very good for someone who can come back to the combine next year.
Marjani Ellison (Hayward)
He’d perhaps be our discovery of the day because he had never done a SPARQ test before and turned his card in with a 93.18 score. Ellison is a 6-5, 190-pound quarterback/athlete who had a 4.88 40 and doesn’t fit the prototype (tall, somewhat lanky) of an athlete who normally tests well. He’s also an outstanding basketball player who averaged 17 points per game for the Farmers last season. “I had a dislocated shoulder last year at this time so I wanted to come and see what I could do,” he said. “I love football the most. I just want to keep playing.”
Kyle Evans (Archbishop Mitty, San Jose)
This year’s edition of the Monarchs may be the fastest in school history. Evans is one reason for that. The running back sizzled with a 99.75 SPARQ Rating, which included a 4.66 in the 40, a 38-inch vertical and 4.12 in the shuttle.
Nick Garcia (Freedom, Oakley)
He had the best 20-yard shuttle time of the day, hitting the timer at 4.03 seconds.
Marcus Gilbert (Inderkum, Sacramento)
Another over 90 with his SPARQ Rating (91.65 to be exact), Marcus is hoping for a breakout season coming up for the Tigers.
Chad Hakking (Vacaville)
He’s expected to take over as the Bulldogs’ quarterback in the fall. He is a prospect to watch at 6-3, 212 and with a 93.48 SPARQ Rating.
Kendel Johnson (Central Valley, Ceres)
This quarterback-defensive back has been in the shadow of teammate Ja’quan Gardner (1,562 yards rushing last season), but is another to watch for the Hawks. He had a 34.4-inch vertical jump with a 38-foot power ball and a 91.23 SPARQ Rating.
Kyle Kerlee (Hughson)
We love kids like Kyle because he ventured to the Nike SPARQ combine in L.A. and came home with a score “around 68.” At Oakland, after picking up his training and gaining extra motivation, Kerlee stepped up with a 99.90 mark. “I was playing around with my times on the computer and thought I might get to 100. It’s a great day for me, but I still wish I could have gotten to 100 and I just missed.” Kerlee is pegged to be Hughson’s quarterback this fall at 5-11, 185 pounds.
Mitchell Layton (Woodcreek, Roseville)
He had the top SPARQ Rating of the day with a 114.9, which also ranks him among the top 50 so far in the nation. The 205-pound running back had 886 yards rushing last year for a team that plays elite competition in the Sierra Foothill League. Assistant coach Marco Hanan says Mitchell could go to Harvard or Yale and that more offers “seem to be on the verge.”
Sean Lydser (Gunn, Palo Alto)
A 6-0, 203-pound running back, Lydser says he’s hoping to prove that the upcoming season “will not be all about Paly,” referring to Gunn’s crosstown rival. He was a standout Saturday with a 90.57 SPARQ Rating, including a 4.29 in the shuttle.
Jerry Milabu (Heritage, Brentwood)
A senior quarterback for next fall, Milabu blasted upward for a 38.8-inch vertical jump, which was the best vertical jump of the day.
Matthew Ringer (Central Catholic, Modesto)
While the defending D4 state champs are losing Rey Vega and Ray Lomas as top running backs, Ringer hopes to step right in. He posted an outstanding 88.56 SPARQ Rating and with solid size and speed has a chance to do just that.
Jordan Ruelas (Heritage, Brentwood)
After going to the L.A. combine in March, Ruelas put his pedal to the metal and was “aiming for 90” for his SPARQ Rating on Saturday in Oakland. He got 101.64, one of the highest of the day. The 6-1, 185-pounder said his best scores came in the vertical jump (36.8 inches) and in the shuttle (4.18).
Leonard Skattebo (Rio Linda)
The 6-0, 260-pounder is an interesting prospect because his best skill is blocking as a fullback for junior-to-be running back Marcel Brown. “He’s my guy and I love blocking for him,” Skattebo said. At the same time, he is athletic enough at his size to have gotten a 97.80 SPARQ Rating. He also rushed for nearly 800 yards himself last season and had nearly 100 tackles on defense.
Ben Schrider & Lorenzo Logwood (St. Mary’s, Berkeley)
Watch out for Schrider, a 6-3, 200-pound tight end who was just a sophomore last season. He racked up an 87.75 SPARQ Rating with 40-foot power ball and 4.29 shuttle. Logwood, who will be a senior running back this fall for the Panthers, logged an 85.86 SPARQ Rating.
Aaron Short (Rodriguez, Cordelia)
A sleek wide receiver who finished in third-place on Friday night in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I 100-meter dash finals, Short came back out on Saturday morning to compete and had the fastest 40-yard dash time at 4.47 seconds. He also hit 92.91 for his SPARQ Rating.
Alex Talladino (Enterprise, Redding)
He came through the line later than the other two standouts from Redding listed below, but turned heads with a 39.5-foot power ball throw and a 91.89 SPARQ score. Talladino plays tight end.
Nick Tomasin (Enterprise, Redding)
As a 5-11, 207-pound sophomore, Tomasin racked up a team best 152 tackles last season, which also was among the leading reported totals in Northern California. He had a 79.41 SPARQ Rating and still has one year to improve.
Zane Ventimiglia (Shasta, Redding)
Perhaps the highlight of the day was Zane heaving the power ball, complete with the appropriate sound effects, a whopping 45 feet even. It not only was the best of the day but also is top five for nation. He also had an 89.01 SPARQ Rating.
Connor Wilson (Chino Hills)
A 6-1, 225-pound senior-to-be linebacker, Wilson hopes to follow in the path of recent Huskies going to major colleges such as TE Jack Austin (Cal) and DB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (Oregon). He shined Saturday by posting the second best SPARQ Rating among California players at 102.00. “I was aiming for the 90s so this is great,” he said. “I was second team all-league as a linebacker last season and was first team as a DE when I was a sophomore.”