February 14, 2009

All-Star Showcase

LOCUST GROVE - The weather didn't exactly cooperate and the field turf at spanking new Strong Rock Christian Academy Stadium was a tad more than slick.

Still, that did nothing to dampen the spirits of 148 young players from across the state that converged for the Cast-Sports Underclassmen Showcase.

Three players with Georgia offers - defensive end Garrison Smith (Douglas-Atlanta), wide receiver Antonio Goodwin (Washington) and safety Alec Ogletree (Newnan) - were among those taking part.

"This was just an opportunity for these kids to come in and display their talent and our job is to see what we can do to help find them schools to play," Combine coordinator Derrick Crudup told UGASports, the only media organization covering the day-long event. "This is just a way for some of these kids to get their foot in the door, a chance to further their education."

Although most of the top juniors only came to have their pictures taken in uniform for recruiting databases, players like Smith said the opportunity to spend time with some of their peers was worth the trip a along.

"That's the cool part," said Smith, who also has verbal offers from Florida, Auburn and Georgia Tech. "I know some of these guys, but it's nice to able to come to something like this and get to know them better."

No all of the highly-recruited juniors stood on the sidelines while their sophomore counterparts when through their respective drills.

Henry County's Markeith Ambles was watching the action when he suddenly got the itch to join the fun.

So, shortly after his photo session, Ambles ambled up to the line of wide receivers and took part in the one-on-one drills.

"I just like to compete, so when I saw the other guys out there I just had to jump in," Ambles said. "It was a little hard when you don't have a lot of chemistry with the quarterback, but it was alight."

Ambles doesn't have an offer yet from Georgia, but he does from almost a large number of other schools, including Alabama and Southern Cal.

Goodwin played with recent Georgia signee Branden Smith at Washington High last year and indicated he wouldn't mind teaming up with him again.

"I have an offer from Georgia and that's great," said the 6-foot-2, 170-pounder, who also holds an offer from UAB. "I'm not close to making up my mind but do like them (Georgia) a lot."

Of course, many of the youngsters in attendance will never play Division I ball. Those are the ones, Crudup said, he and the rest of combine's organizers are definitely interested in giving a hands.

"We try to place all these kids in school and so far we're pretty good at what we do," said Crudup, a former star at Oklahoma under Barry Switzer who later played seven years in the NFL. "We've been at this for 14 years now and we have an 81 percent success rate when it comes to placing kids."

Crudup's next combine, one of three put on throughout the year, will take place in his hometown of Baca Raton.

"We've always gotten a lot of support from the high school coaches and that obviously makes a big difference in what we're trying to do," Crudup said. "Again, we just want to place these kids, get them to graduate and after that be able to use football to further their education."

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