January 1, 2009

Army combine opens doors for participants

MORE: Combine updates | U.S. Army AA Bowl coverage

SAN ANTONIO − Tom Savage came to the U.S. Army National Combine this time last season hoping to measure himself against some of the nation's top players.

The Springfield (Pa.) Cardinal O'Hara left the combine with the overall MVP award, solidifying his reputation as one of the best quarterbacks in the 2009 class. Savage committed to Rutgers on April 18 and had offers from Michigan, Penn State, Florida State, Tennessee, Miami and others.

The Army combine helped Savage, one of four East quarterbacks in Saturday's U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Now a new crop of juniors will come to the Alamodome Friday in the hopes that their performances will get them more recruiting attention as they compete against each other in one of the best scouting events all year.

"Last year was more of a level stick for me to see where I am and see if I could match up with all these players down here," Savage said.

"Last year I wanted to work on my mechanics and I won MVP last year, so I thought then that maybe I could play in this game. I got my confidence up a little bit that I could match up with some of these guys and they're so fast and everything, so you have to be aware of all that."

East coach Terry Smith said Savage, rated as the sixth-best pro-style quarterback in the 2009 class by Rivals.com, and Georgia commit Aaron Murray are the two best QBs on his squad. Savage has a strong arm and a big body, and Smith compared him to Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Savage, the No. 2 player in the Pennsylvania top 40 and the No. 66 prospect overall, said it was a goal of his to earn an invitation to the Army game by hopefully performing well at last year's combine.

He accomplished it.

"That was one of the goals and the other goal was the level stick to see where I'm at," Savage said. "I knew I didn't have the greatest stats in high school, but I knew if I came out here and competed with these guys I could stick with them.

"I was throwing pretty well last year and I was happy, but I worked hard before that camp to come down here and prove myself, so it worked out."

It worked out for many other prospects as well. Philadelphia Northeast wide receiver Je'Ron Stokes had a solid showing at the combine and received word soon after that he would be invited to play in the Army game.

The Tennessee commit said the combine competition is outstanding because many of the top players from around the country converge on the Alamodome with mainly two goals in mind: perform well enough to increase their recruiting stock and, in turn, that will help them get an invitation to the game.

"It all went into play," said Stokes, the No. 13 wide receiver in the 2009 class by Rivals.com. "You get players from everywhere. They're great player and they come here to compete."

Cheshire (Conn.) Academy receiver Joshua Adams, rated as the second-best player in the Connecticut top 10, said he was not concerned with the Army game invitation when he came down for the combine. He was more focused on turning in a solid performance and getting more recruiting attention since New England is not a football hotbed. Adams, a 6-foot-4, 200-pound North Carolina commit, not only did enough to get more attention from schools but also earned an invite to play in the game.

"I really wasn't thinking about getting the invitation," Adams said. "I was thinking about coming down and doing my thing and doing well. It turned out I did get in and now I have this opportunity.

"It's definitely the place to test yourself. You think you're the best where you're from, but you come down here and test yourself and you really find out. …Seeing Adrian Peterson and Reggie Bush and Vince Young and all of them play in this game, I'm like wow, I could be scoring a touchdown in this game and that would be really big."

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