The transition into the offseason has begun for most of the nation's top recruits following their 2012 campaigns, and the start of the winter combine season is near. It's very near, in fact, with the adidas Who's Next Top 200 Football Showcase scheduled to take place Dec. 1 near Detroit at the Pontiac Silverdome.
This is the third year The Lifting As We Climb Foundation has held a combine in December for top high school football prospects. It doubles as a tryout for the Maximum Exposure 7-on-7 team tryout. Getting prospects transitioned into an offseason workout mindset is one of the priorities for combine director Curtis Blackwell.
"The No. 1 reason why we are holding this camp right now is to let all the young guys who have performed well during the high school season see where they are in comparison to the other guys in the Midwest region," Blackwell said. "From what they find out about themselves at this event, they can come up with a realistic approach on what they need to do for elite spring camps, summer camps and all the 7-on-7 stuff."
With the recruiting process starting earlier and earlier in players' high school careers each recruiting cycle, the importance of offseason performances has increased … and not just for prospects emerging from their junior seasons but those coming off sophomore campaigns, as well.
At this event last year, class of 2014 prospect Damon Webb was in the process of transferring from University of Detroit Jesuit to Detroit Cass Tech and looking to build his name. Webb's obvious athleticism and ball skills earned him Rivals.com's No. 2 top-performer nod coming out of the event and spurred an offseason that saw the 5-foot-11, 170-pounder generate scholarship offers from LSU, Michigan, Michigan State and West Virginia before the start of his junior season.
"That winter training definitely helped with the Maximum Exposure program," said Webb's father, Damon Webb Sr.. "The exposure did grow (after the event), and looking at him day-to-day I could see his confidence grow along with it. He really wanted to get out there, prove himself and compete with the best guys at those venues. It did help, and you can see the offers came."
Last year's event put Webb's name on the map regionally and nationally, and it helped verify strong junior seasons for prospects such as Chelsea, Mich., running back Berkley Edwards, Detroit Cass Tech safety Delano Hill and Walled Lake Western safety Joshua Jones. None of those prospects had offers at this time last year, but Hill and Jones are now committed to Big Ten programs, while Edwards has taken three official visits to BCS schools.
Seeing prospects grow their names and their games is an important aspect of the event, and Blackwell expects the same from the 2012 version.
"This event is basically going to identify this next group of guys -- who's going to be the Berkley Edwardses, the Damon Webbs, the Teo Reddings of the upcoming classes," Blackwell said.
The southeast Michigan location has always brought out the Detroit area's top prospects, but this year's event is expected to welcome prospects from across the Midwest. They include: Rivals250 prospects Dante Booker of Akron (Ohio) St. Vincent St. Mary; Detroit Loyola defensive end Malik McDowell; Drew Barker of Burlington (Ky.) Conner; DeShone Kizer of Toledo (Ohio) Central Catholic; Sturgis, Mich., quarterback Chance Stewart; Lima (Ohio) Central Catholic safety Darius West; along with Webb and his Detroit Cass Tech teammate Deon Drake.
Blackwell expects as many as 400 prospects to be in attendance for the event, which starts at 10:30 a.m.
Awards will be handed out by position and by class in categories such as Fastest Man (40-yard dash), Strongest Man (medicine ball), 1vs1 Champ and Overall MVP.
Registration for the event can be done at: http://www.eventbrite.com/event/4650297164