It actually was a blue-gray mix in the skies above the Blue-Grey All-American Football Combine held on Sunday at Freedom High in Oakley. Sure, it’s not the same as one of the many Nike camps we’ve been to dozens of times over the years, but you get to know the smaller group of players better and see them for a lot more reps. Go inside for a look at a few players who may emerge as D1 college prospects this fall and perhaps a couple more into the future.
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For the big picture of Northern California prep football heading into the 2018 season, perhaps the biggest takeaway of Sunday’s Blue-Grey All-American Football Combine that took place at Oakley’s Freedom High field was the performance of two players from nearby Pittsburg.
The Pirates, who lost in the 2017 CIF Division 1A state final to Narbonne of Harbor City with a multitude of juniors in the starting lineup, were represented by three players. Linebacker Jack Lacy III was the Defensive MVP. Teammate Justin Boyd, who had to become the starting quarterback when expected starter Trae Turner went down with a knee injury just before the first game, worked out mostly with the receivers and clearly was one of the top performers of the day, looking very similar to older cousin A’jae Boyd, who was one of the top senior wideouts in Northern California last season. Lineman Giovanni Spinelli of Pittsburg also was there and was solid all day in his drills and reps at 6-foot-1, 275 pounds.
Lacy was a starter for the Pirates as a sophomore linebacker and was one of the team’s leading tacklers as a junior. The Blue-Grey Combine is a good place for him to go. His defensive teammate, Jacob Bandes, wouldn’t need it because he’s one of the state’s top defensive line prospects, with numerous Division I college offers. But Lacy isn’t a prototype 6-3, 230-pound linebacker that college scouts will always rank higher. He’s under 6-foot tall and pushing 220 pounds at best.
“It was nice and warm today and I just tried to do what I do best,” Lacy said. “Skill-wise, what I wanted to work on the most was one-on-one coverage with some of the faster slot receivers. I see myself eventually as a middle linebacker. It’s the outside guys who tend to be bigger. There are some smaller, quick and physical guys in the middle.”
Lacy and many of his teammates are well aware that there will be high expectations this coming season. A preseason No. 3 ranking for NorCal seems like a lock with the expected No. 1 and No. 2 teams — Folsom and De La Salle of Concord or De La Salle and Folsom (take your pick of that order) — playing each other in the first week on August 17. But Pitt’s schedule is daunting, too. The Pirates will once again travel to Southern California to play powerhouse Corona Centennial and also will meet Sac-Joaquin Section powerhouse St. Mary’s of Stockton.
“This year, I think we’ve beefed up in all ways,” Lacy said. “Mentally, we were not ready to play Centennial last season. We know that if we were to play De La Salle and win in the NCS that it would be the game of a lifetime. Everyone would have to do their job and play perfectly.”
Joining Lacy as an MVP of the day was wide receiver Makai Polk of El Cerrito. He was a late addition to the roster and displayed an explosive combination of size (6-3, 190), speed and quick moves out of the break. Polk, who has played previously at Dorsey of Los Angeles, was selected as the Offensive MVP.
“This was fun and offered some nice competition,” Polk said. “It was great knowing I could come out here and work on my craft. I liked the energy of the coaches and other players.”
Polk had to be cajoled into saying what positions he prefers since he lists himself as an athlete and just said several times that he can play anywhere so a position doesn’t matter. Still, he has played wide receiver and in the secondary on defense in previous seasons and he has D1 college offers, including those from Oregon, Colorado State and San Jose State.
“Some of my goals are to have 15 touchdown catches and 15 interceptions,” he said. “Yeah, I know it’ll take a collective effort for that. But we should be pretty good (as a team).”
Even though the Blue-Grey event is not free (families pay a fee for players to attend), the talent in some positions does feature those who could eventually emerge as D1 college prospects. The smaller number of players on the field (80 to 90 as compared to 300 or more at the more popular off-season, free events) do get quality coaching and get to know their coaches more closely as well. It’s not as much for blue-chippers who already have offers, but for those in that next wider group of players it’s worth the cost.
Head coach Mark McMillian, the former eight-year NFL defensive back known mostly for his years with the Philadelphia Eagles, also uses the event to scout for players who will later be chosen for the Blue-Grey Super Combine as well as the Blue-Grey All-American Game, which will be held at Texas Stadium and broadcast on ESPN.
Here’s some other players who got their names into the Cal-Hi Sports notebook on Sunday in Oakley:
DB Parker Allen (Clayton Valley, Concord)
With a 4.43 hand-time, Allen was the fastest player of the day. He’ll be a four-year varsity player this fall for the Ugly Eagles. He had more than 80 tackles and three interceptions last season and looked to be a lot bigger than his listed size of 5-11 and 170. The free safety could be closer to 6-0 and 185.
WR Grant Bloom & TE Colby Warkentin
Bloom was an honorable mention BVarsity selection as a junior and was around 4.60 in the 40-yard dash with excellent hands and well-above average routes. Warkentin was the tallest player of the entire group at 6-5 and weighs around 230. He was more known as a defensive end last season with more than 60 tackles (16 for loss) and seven sacks. On this day, Warkentin proved he’s a legit tight end. Just a bit more speed and he’ll break through more than just on this list.
QB Eli Brickhandler (Whitney, Rocklin)
Several coaches noticed Eli throwing the ball and were surprised to learn he’ll only be a sophomore next season. The Class of 2021 prospect actually only played a couple of games on Whitney’s freshman team last season before going down with a knee injury. There was no indication of anything like that on Sunday. He has a solid base, knows the routes well and knows people will laugh at his name immediately. At least Eli isn’t shooting free throws out there.
LB Justin DeWitt & LB Judaea Moon
(Valley Christian, San Jose)
From watching the Warriors over the years, we know that head coach Mike Machado loves big, bruising fullbacks who also can play linebacker. That may be what he has with Moon. He was one of biggest LBs of the group at approximately 245 pounds. He’s just a shade under 6-foot, and had quick feet. DeWitt is seemingly about 6-1, 215 but he was one of the fastest linebackers of the day. Seniors in the West Catholic Athletic League frequently step up after more secondary roles as juniors and these two could do just that next season.
TE Colby Gross (San Ramon Valley, Danville)
There were some legit tight ends on display all day. Gross certainly was one of them. He was a key starter for a team last season that was 9-0 before losing to De La Salle and Pittsburg. Gross (6-4, 235) also already has an offer from Howard University.
QB Trenton Luera (Clovis North, Fresno)
The 6-foot-3, 180-pound junior-to-be was one of the fastest QBs and one of the best throwing the ball. It was hard to pick out which of the QBs was best, but Luera has some size and there are tools there that can be improved. Another QB who was one of the best was Petaluma’s Cole Powers. San Benito’s Slade Wilson had the fastest 40 among the QBs at 4.63 seconds.
LB Christian Posey (De Anza, Richmond)
He was listed as a 6-2, 195-pound TE/DB from Hercules last season. Posey is now at nearby De Anza. He’s also likely bigger than 195, probably in the 210-pound range. That’s why his 40 speed of 4.53 stands out perhaps more than any other time of the day. Posey also knocked away a lot of passes during the one-on-one portion of the combine.
TE Thomas Vi (Liberty, Brentwood)
That Liberty team from last season that was in the NCS Open Division has a lot of returning firepower. Vi probably wouldn’t be on the list of the Lions’ top returnees with no catches and two tackles but he’s pushing 6-4, 210 and can make the catches in traffic with defenders near him. Liberty’s Sione Vaki is the team’s top returnee as WR/DB and is getting top-level D1 offers. QB Jay Butterfield also returns as one of the state’s top junior QBs. If Vaki gets double-teams, Vi could be someone to watch.
RB Tyrei Washington (St. Mary’s, Stockton)
Similar to Brickhandler, Washington is freshman from last season (Class of 2021) that needs to be mentioned. He’s a running back with a low center of gravity who can catch out of the backfield. With the Rams losing some top seniors, Washington could get some carries on the varsity next season.
WR Dimitri Whittington (Antelope)
There were three separate times that Dimitri beat defenders on deep routes and made great catches in the end zone. He only had one TD catch and one TD run last season as a 5-9, 175-pound junior. Look for those totals to drastically come up this fall.
For official results, go the Blue-Grey All-American Combine website on Thursday. This report was just from one person’s viewpoint. Even with the lower number of players, it’s still impossible to see everything.