With the NCAA completely shutting down recruiting camps and combines, and most state athletic associations making it nearly impossible for players to workout with their high school staff or for schools to host a combine of their own, there had to be a solution (longest sentence ever). According to Football Scoop, the Penn State football program has come up with that very solution.
PSU has put out a combine webpage (with a presentation), a Twitter handle and an instructional video on how to get accurate combine type data to send out to coaches. This is definitely going to help the colleges get their jump on the 2021 and 2022 classes but also helps players get noticed. Obviously the colleges would rather time and measure you themselves. But their process gives you an accurate way to at least try it at home.
PSU Virtual Combine
Above, you can watch their 37 minute instructional video. If you are a prospect, or the relative of one, have them watch it. It will be vital during the pandemic to get their name and abilities out to the public.
Height and weight
Obviously programs want to know your true height and weight. In Bruce Feldman’s book, Meat Market, he discusses Ed Orgeron’s skepticism regarding reported heights and weights (and just about any other tangible fact) of prospects. He wanted them at Ole Miss, on site, being weighed and measured.
Hand size, wing span, and arm length
Another set of measurements programs are getting at their combines is the hand size, wing span, and arm length of prospects. Hand size is obviously a key component to receivers and catching the football, QB’s and holding onto the ball (especially in bad weather), running backs and fumbling, and even with offensive linemen and defenders with grip.
Wing span and arm length show coaches the almighty word the worship: length. Coaches want guys with long arms to keep defenders at bay, to bat down passes, or to block kicks.
As a football coach, I haven’t given bench press much attention since around 2012. I don’t feel like it accurately portrays anything about the game of football. If I’m really good at being flat on my back and pushing 225 off me I’m a terrible football player. Do I think it’s a good lift to add in once a week? Sure. But to focus my combine or programming around it? No. The typical high school for college combine has players bench press 185 pounds for reps (NFL Combine is 225).
Broad and triple broad jump
Like I’ve said in many of the recruiting pieces I’ve done by position, the broad jump is a great way to test an athlete’s explosiveness in the power angles. The power angles are the ankles, knees and hips and the ability to drive from a standing position to jump out and land shows how much power you have in your lower body. It’s a low risk way to see who can run through tacklers, or drive through ball carriers. The triple broad shows the ability to replicate that movement and explosiveness over a short amount of time.
40-yard dash and pro agility
The “40” has its merit. Do I think it’s the be-all / end-all? No. But analysts are finding that for offensive and defensive linemen the better the 40-yard time the longer their careers typically last. It’s showing an overall sense of health and wellness in big men.
Obviously for wide receivers and defensive backs it has merit. For running backs, linebackers, quarterbacks and tight ends (often called big skill or mids) it’s negligible. The NFL has data dating back decades and they don’t want to screw that up by not logging 40’s for a season.
I would prefer to know an OL/DT’s 10-yard time, a DE’s (any rush, edge, pass rushing D-End) 20-yard, a “big skill’s” 30-yard and a little skill’s (WR/DB) 40-yard time.
The pro agility, aka the 20-yard shuttle, has some merit, too. Again, it’s a closed-ended drill that has no read and react quality to it. So it’s basically a test that you can practice for and “game” as opposed to the game of football where no play is ran exactly the same way twice.
Again, the NFL has their data and thus it continues as part of the equation although most people with drafting power in the NFL really don’t even care. It’s more about a baseline to show you came prepared rather than a test of who is the best football player.
What would I prefer? To test guys on Kurt Hester’s Combine 2.0 drills. Let’s get guys pushing sleds, running in zig-zags, on curves, and having to stop and change direction. Remember, the NFL coaches do some better drills, too.
For the PSU flexibility test, they don’t do the old sit & reach from PE in the 5th grade. Instead, they have players squat on camera both facing directly at the camera, and to the side. This allows coaches to see how the ankles, knees and hips move- and also whether the participant’s heels come up off the ground on a squat. Remember all of my complaining about Issiah Walker Jr.’s (read here) inability to keep his heel down in his stance? That’s the major concern they’re looking for here.
PSU also has players start on their knees (no, this is not a joke I’m trying to make) and then pop up and jump vertically again.
What this means for Miami
Is this virtual combine system from PSU flawless? Absolutely not. But 10% of something is always better than 100% of nothing. If I’m in the recruiting offices of a college football program I would like to have some data to sort through besides what comes from the high school coach’s or player’s mouth or Hudl.
If Miami has the season they need to have in 2020 (if there is one, of course), Manny Diaz and his staff will need to have a head start on the schools like Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, Auburn, and LSU who come in and cherry pick the top 3-4 players at every position from South Florida. Miami has done really well in Jacksonville and especially at Oakleaf High School as of late, a football staff can’t let COVID and the long distance hamper their efforts.
Prospects,— Penn State Football Virtual Combine (@PSUCombine) June 9, 2020
Colleges may not be able to have you on campus this summer for camp, but we still want to see you perform.
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