Kentucky’s Future Stars Combine in Glasgow, Kentucky

While I enjoyed my assignment as special correspondent to the Tennessee Future Stars at the Nashville Combine, last week, for Tennessee Gridiron Scouting, it was nice to get back on familiar territory around my Kentucky family. Ricco Hughes moved the combine, which was initially to be in Bowling Green, down the road to Glasgow, Kentucky, owing to weather concerns. I was able to catch up with Director Hughes and got some thoughts from him concerning the combine today and what were his impressions. Ricco told me…I thought we had a strong day at a lot of positions, especially the o-line/d-line. I was also impressed with the performance of some of the skills. We had some skill guys demonstrate tremendous versatility and I can see a few of them making the team at multiple slots, as opposed to just the position at which they auditioned. I thought, overall, it was a really strong day and another indication of how important it is for Kentucky Future Stars to mine the rich veins of talent laying all over the western end of the Commonwealth.

I would like to single out some performances which appeared exceptional to me. Now, while the kids I feature here would be on the team, were I selecting it, it might be important to point out I am not picking the team. So, in the end, who looked good to me really doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. That being said, I, too, thought the big uglies really shone today. I was impressed with a smattering of the skills, but the big guys seemed to highlight the combine for me. Take that with the appropriate grain of salt, as I am an O-line coach by trade. The following players had exceptional days from my vantage point…

Skill positions…

A very close coaching associate of mine, who is a head coach in Oldham County, Kentucky, and the father of an exceptional member of the Class of 2022 in his own right, was on hand to lend his expertise in evaluating the skill positions. I asked him what he thought of the big QB (6-4, 165 pounds) from Hopkinsville. He said you mean number 403, the 6-4 kid? Yeah, him. What he said after that demonstrated what most observers thought of TreyVon Jefferson and his skill set on full display. The same guy added…Truthfully, I thought he was the best football player at the combine, regardless of position. If you recall, Director Hughes mentioned skill position versatility. He may have been specifically referring to Jefferson who stood out at the combine while playing QB, WR, and FS. I could see him making the team at any, or all three, of the listed positions. TreyVon showed off a strong arm and made all the short, intermediate, and deep throws expected from top-level QBs. His deep tosses, down-field, were well placed and seemed effortless. As for wheels, it was wet in Glasgow, Kentucky after a heavy down pour, much like it was all over the western commonwealth, and the kid ran a 5.24 40 on poor footing. Another QB, this one in the Class of 2023, who had a very good day was Bertrand Kiwaba. Like Jefferson, Kiwaba also showed out in the back four, but for Kiwaba it was at corner as opposed to safety. During the 7 on 7 portion of the combine is where Kiwaba and Jefferson both demonstrated their versatility. Three of the faster kids at the combine were Devan Anderson and Clayton Williams in the Class of 2022 with North Pulaski’s Korbyn Goff (Class of 2023). Anderson, Williams, and Goff all ran near 5-flat forties. Goff’s 5 flat was (to me) even more impressive considering he is a seventh grader who is big and solid enough to double as both a LB and FB (versatility). Like I said, it was really wet out there today, so many of these times would have been faster, though I would have to speculate as to how significantly, had they been run in better conditions on dryer turf. It was a little like running horses in a plowed field.

The Big Uglies…

The two guys I have pictured to the immediate left of this paragraph were the class of the respective lines of scrimmage. Both of these guys played with good leverage, and violent hands, quick-burst get off (for linemen their age), and both had good and active feet. They battled each other all day so I decided it would only be fitting to picture them together. On the left is the King of the Mountains from Belfry, Kentucky, Jacoby Thornsbury, 5-10, 270 pound DT, who doubles as an OT, and to his left is Bret Cooper Junior, All-American OG, William Hughes from Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Hughes, like Thornbury, is a two-way player as he also plays DT back home. William is 5-10 and weighs 260 pounds. His 260 pounds are packed on a wide frame which can hold considerably more weight in the future. Hughes looks lighter than he is, which denotes his carrying a lot of dense muscle fiber on his body. William Hughes, among the linemen in the 250 plus pound class, was the quickest, most fluid moving, and fastest Jumbo player at the combine. Between the two, Thornsbury is probably a more polished d-lineman with a larger repertoire of d-line moves and Hughes looked to be a better and more polished o-lineman. Now, Hughes is considerably faster than Jacoby, but each of them has way more quick-twitch than you would expect from middle school bigs. Hughes, as polished an offensive guard as Thornsbury is at DT, showed as impressive of ability to drop and intercept pass rush as he showed getting his studs in the ground and driving opponents off the line.

One of my favorite sayings in football is mass is mass. There are big guys who are problems because you just can’t move them. A guy who fit that description was Laurel County’s Kobe Burke. Kobe is 6-1 and weighs in at 300, well put together, pounds. Burke has a lengthy and wide frame with long arms which makes flanking him difficult, though certainly easier than running over him. Burke doesn’t run too well but that isn’t altogether uncommon for kids his size at his age. He will get significantly faster as he lifts and gets older. Sometimes young linemen need time to grow into a large frame. I would love to see an odd-front with Burke planted right in the zero technique. It would be interesting to see how Tennessee’s center would go about trying to move this guy anywhere. Burke is what we used to call a two-gap player. It’s not that he is quick enough to cover two gaps, it’s more along the lines of his being so big he takes up two gaps.

I also liked Bowling Green’s Bridger Knee. Knee didn’t have the jaw dropping size of Thornsbury, Hughes, and Burke, but he certainly isn’t small at 5-11 and weighing around 195 pounds. Knee told me he, also, played on both sides of the ball back home, doubling as a DE and an OG. Bridger has a slight frame and looks lighter than he is. Knee has nice length and looks to be, somewhat, of a late bloomer, physically. I have no problem believing he still has significant growing left to do. Oh well, my mother is fond of saying the rose which blooms last often blooms longest. Check back on this kid in a couple years and see how he develops. My guess is one will be very impressed with his physical development.

In the class of 2023 a kid I would make sure to have on the roster is center, Matt Alex Ladd, from Trigg County, Kentucky. Ladd is 5-11 and weighs 250 pounds, and though only a seventh grader, squats in the neighborhood of 300 pounds. This means he has good core strength and can sink his hips and transition out of his stance in the blocking game in both a seamless and fluid manner. Now, this is my fourth year of experience with the Tennessee-Kentucky Future Stars Classic and my second year to cover it. It seems, every year, Kentucky gets to camp, wanting to run Spread out of the pistol, and no one thought to insure there was a player on the roster proficient at a shot-gun snap. Nothing interrupts offensive flow like yack-king the damn snap over the QB’s head. As important as the QB-Center exchange is, it would certainly be nice if we would think to include, on the roster, at least one kid who has performed a snap, before the big game, in live action. Just saying…

The attendance at this combine was really good and quite a few players from today will find their way onto the Team Kentucky Future Stars’ roster when camp opens at Morehead University this summer. The Classic will be played in Kentucky this summer at Georgetown College. As for the combine tour, Louisville is up next week for the Kentucky boys so I will keep you abreast of the combine though I won’t be there personally. I have eyes and ears everywhere! This is Fletcher Long, reporting for Kentucky Prep Gridiron, reminding you to PLAY THROUGH THE WHISTLE!

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