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Bulldogs hold combine at the Madison HealthPlex Performance Center

Bulldogs hold combine at the Madison HealthPlex Performance Center

MADISON --- The Holmes Community College Bulldogs held a combine Thursday at the Madison Healthplex Performance Center to give the Bulldogs an opportunity to go through drills that pro athletes go through to help in their evaluation process.

"We had a team combine to give our players some feedback on our off-season strength and conditioning program," Holmes Head Coach Jeff Koonz said. "It was an outstanding day. The players were fired up and gave great effort and this gave them true and honest feedback on where they are as we wind down the spring phase of our spring fitness and conditioning program."

How much does this kind of day help the players? "There's a lot of controversy on that," he said. "That's probably a good question, and I really don't know. When the guys don't do well and you know they are good football players you throw those numbers aside. We do these events because that's what you see at a pro combine. The kids have seen it on TV and some watched some of the NFL guys training. They want to see how they match up with those guys good or bad."

Drills included the 40-yard dash, bench press, short shuttle (5-10-5), standing broad jump and vertical leap along with some position-based drills.

Bulldogs highlighted in the 40-yard dash included: Sanchez Berry, RB/WR, 4.31; Steven Burdette, WR, 4.55; Desmond Grayson, DB, 4.46; Vada King, LB/DE, 4.69; and Jawaski Webb, OL, 4.84.

"Sanchez is the defending state champion in the 100 meters," Koonz said. "He's so explosive coming out. He's used to coming out of blocks so when you are on a slick surface like we were… he gives so much push coming out that he struggles with the start. He never had a great start all day but you can see how fast he is. We knew he was a great track athlete. As a matter of fact, we have some SEC schools looking at him for track. He does have a love for football, and he is a great fit. Heck, there's some great running backs who did both track and football."

Koonz said Burdette, King, Webb and Grayson had impressive for their positions.

Players who excelled in the 225-pound bench press included: Cameryn Brent, RB, 22 times; King, 25 times; and Webb, 23 times.

"This is a great tribute to Mark Cromwell who is in charge of our strength and conditioning program," Koonz said. "He actually trains guys for the pro combine. His expertise paid dividends for us this spring. Mark is anxious to see who this athletic performance correlates to improvement on the football field."

"When you look at those numbers comparing numbers to guys at four year schools… they were in the ball park with some fifth year seniors. Twenty-five times is legit. We adhered to the NFL protocol. This drill highlights the players who are extremely strong… not only overall strength but muscular endurance.

"He (King) was struggling around 22-23," he added. "He willed those last reps up there. These guys are competitive. That's one of the reasons we did it. Anytime we can put them in a competitive environment it brings out the best in them."

On Brent, Koonz said, "I call him a rolling ball of butcher knives. That shows how strong and explosive he is for that position."

As far as the broad jump, Berry had a leap of 10'2 while Kavonte Younger, a wide receiver, Burdette and Rashod Pittman, a running back, each had jumps of 9'11.

"Younger had a great season for us last year," Koonz said. "He wasn't the go-to guy last season, but we expect him to be this year. He's a sharp route runner and a big guy at 210 pounds."

As for the short shuttle, Younger had a time of 4.1 while Berry and Burdette had times of 4.2. "That tests your change of direction… how quick you are," Koonz said. "Those numbers would get better if we practiced all the time. We practiced for two days so they'd know how to do it. It gives them a ballpark figure and always fun to compete and see how they do."

Koonz and the Bulldog coaching staff was thankful for the opportunity to use the facility in Madison. He thanked Dr. James R. Ramsey, a Holmes alumnus, for his care of the football players who are injured during the season and off-season and manager Greg Centilli for the opportunity.

"He lets us come down there and use the cryotherapy… which is a type of rehab which freezes the body for three minutes at minus 300 degrees and also the hot and cold whirlpools are at our disposal," Koonz said. "We owe that all to Greg because he makes that happen. I want to give a shoutout to the folks at the HealthPlex. We are blessed. That's the finest training facility building wise in the state of Mississippi."

The Bulldogs begin spring practice next week, and Koonz said a lot of time will be spent on basic fundamentals, timing, installing of offense and defense, technique and effort running to the ball.

"We want to give next year's sophomores an edge," Koonz said. "They are the ones who have put the time in. We as a coaching staff believe we do the best job in player development. This is the final phase going into the summer. A lot of these guys didn't get a lot of reps last year. This next season is their turn. That's how we look at it."

He said Holmes will have 40-45 athletes going into spring, which is a good number for junior college football. "We can't go long because we don't have twos and threes at every position," he said. "We have 14 practices scheduled and if we can get 12 really good ones in we'll accomplish what we wanted this spring. We are looking forward to it.

"The morale is high coming off the Graphic Edge Bowl victory and No. 7 ranking," he added. "You can tell the guys are walking around a little bit different. We haven't been in this situation before. These players want to maintain that and build on that. We expect a really spirited competition this spring. We had a great recruiting class this spring. This coaching staff is looking forward to seeing how much improvement we can make in these next four weeks."