The last all-star event of the 2023 cycle took place this week in New Orleans, as the HBCU Legacy Bowl kicked off its second year in existence, compiling an excellent roster of talented prospects from across the HBCU landscape.
What was new this year was the HBCU Combine, which started last season, was added to the front of the week. Last year, the combine was held before the Reese's Senior Bowl, which wasn't good logistically. This year, by adding it to the beginning of the bowl week, it allowed some of the prospects who participated in the game to also participate in the combine.
Now, some of the players who participated in the combine didn't compete in the practices and aren't playing in the game -- and vice versa. Nonetheless, it was a well-attended event by pro scouts, some of whom made draft-day decisions based on some of the results they witnessed at the New Orleans Saints training facility on Monday.
Before we get into the standouts from the combine and the practices, here's how to watch the HBCU Legacy Bowl this weekend:
How to watch
HBCU Combine standouts
DL Jason Dumas: 5-9 276, Prairie View A&M
Dumas played IDL rather well throughout his career at both Southern and Prairie View, so it was shocking to see how he measured at the combine. However, what was good for him was how well he moved through drills and ran in the 40-yard dash. It then pushed the idea forward that he get some work in at fullback during the practices, in addition to his interior DL work. Needless to say, he was impressive at both spots this week and definitely raised the eyebrows of pro scouts.
LB Ronnie Thomas: 5-9 243, Mississippi Valley State
Thomas was another player who came into the combine as a tweener, primarily playing DL at Valley, but moving like a LB at the College Gridiron Showcase. In fact, he was one of the guys who stood out to me during that all-star event. At this event, it was his movement skills that told you he could be someone who would thrive with his hand off the ground and develop into more of a very good blitzer as opposed to a pure pass-rusher. He's got really good quicks off the ball, which showed up in bag drills.
RB Tyler King: 6-0 185, Edward Waters
Explosive is the first word that came to mind after watching King work out. He's able to get to his top speed quickly, and this was on display during the position workout portion of the combine.
TE Kemari Averett: 6-6 260, Bethune-Cookman
Averett's rather large wingspan (81 3/8 inches), combined with his athleticism, fluidity and ability as a receiver, makes him an enticing prospect. He's had a really good all-star game circuit with how well he performed at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and now at the HBCU combine.
LB Devin Dourisseau: 6-0 208, Langston (OK)
Dourisseau moves as fluidly as a defensive back, and I came away impressed with just how fluid and athletic he was during positional drills. Here's a look at the type of athleticism he brings to the table.
EDGE Andrew Farmer: 6-3 252, Lane College
You'll hear the words "speed-to-power" a lot during this time of the year, which describes an edge rusher's ability to convert his ball get-off to actionable force against an opponent. This is what Farmer was able to show at both the combine and during the week of practice. The athleticism he showed while testing Monday translated to the field in practice Wednesday and Thursday.
WR JJ Holloman: 6-2 215, Tennessee State
Holloman was one of a few prospects this week who wasafter his workout at the combine. Holloman looked sharp in his route-running portion of the morning, and I'm pretty sure that made the New Jersey Generals decide right then and there to secure his potential services for the upcoming season.
LB Jordan Lewis: 6-1 218, Southern
Lewis was one of the more dominant pass-rushers in the FCS during his time at Southern. The biggest question coming into the week was his measurements. At 6-foot-1 and 218 pounds, he is not going to play with his hand in the dirt like he did primarily in college. But because of the way he tested and moved during the off-ball linebacker drills, and subsequently how he started to get better at OLB during the week, his projection forward is much clearer now than it was prior to the combine.
CB De'Jahn Warren: 5-10 174, Jackson State
Warren ran and jumped well at the combine, showcasing his top-tier athleticism. He then went out there during the two days of practice and showcased the coverage ability that made him the No. 1 JUCO CB prospect in the country for the 2020 class. His confidence is sky high, and it matched his performance this week.
WR Jacory Rankin: 5-8 171, Mississippi Valley State
I kept checking down on my roster to see who No. 20 was speeding during each drill and during the receiver portion of the workout -- and it was Rankin. His first-step explosiveness and burst put defenders in a bind. At the two practices, how he tested showed up consistently during the WR/DB 1-on-1s.
HBCU Legacy Bowl practices
Prospects were able to participate in two padded practices this week in front of scouts from the four professional leagues. The players were split up into two teams: Team Robinson, named for the legendary Grambling State coach Eddie Robinson, and Team Gaither, named for the legendary Florida A&M coach Jake Gaither.
QB Glendon McDaniel: 6-2 200, Southern
McDaniel was someone who came into the Jackson State game during the season and raised some eyebrows with his play. I'm willing to bet that his performance there earned him this opportunity, and he made the most of it. I thought he had the most consistent week throwing the football of all the QBs.
RB Emanuel Wilson: 5-10 228, Fort Valley State
Wilson was able to stack another solid week of work in an all-star game, after performing well at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl a few weeks ago. I thought this time around, he showed the full gambit of his ability, but mainly his competency as a receiver out of the backfield.
WR Xavier Smith: 5-9 174, Florida A&M
Smith was the star of the HBCU Combine, reportedly running in the 4.3s. Well, it didn't take long to see that explosive speed, acceleration and quickness during the practices, as Smith was virtually unrecoverable on both days. No one improved their stock more in my opinion than Smith.
TE Devon McCoy: 6-4 221, Clark Atlanta
McCoy played wide receiver throughout his career at CAU, but this week he was working out as a flex TE. Naturally, he was going to be a highly competent route-runner, but what was impressive was how well he carried and moved with that 6-foot-4, 221-pound frame. McCoy was able to fluidly get in-and-out of his breaks, also showing nuance in his ability to work himself open.
OL Tyler Pritchett: 6-3 305, Benedict
Pritchett doing well in OL/DL 1-on-1s on both days spoke volumes on how consistent his game is and also how talented his game really is. He was one of the bigger names along the offensive line coming into this week and it showed.
DL Camron Peterson: 6-4 275, Southern
I thought Peterson showed a lot of tools in his toolbox as a pass rusher, winning with power, twitch and a combination of both at times. I was equally impressed with him during 9-on-7 drills and team periods.
EDGE Nelson Jordan II: 6-3 250, Alabama State
Every time I looked up, Jordan was making a play. He had some of the best ball get-off of the EDGE guys. Also, his ability to lean, flatten and accelerate to the quarterback were impressive.
CB James Hawkins: 5-9 185, Albany State
Listen, Hawkins had himself a phenomenal week from a coverage perspective. He showcased terrific mirror-and-match skills during the 1-on-1 period. Receivers and quarterbacks tried to pick on him because of his height, but he answered the call every time and was the most consistent DB this week.
CB Keenan Isaac: 6-2 188, Alabama State
Isaac is another prospect who excelled in another all-star game in addition to this one. He's got everything you look for at the position: length, athleticism, ball skills and confidence. He definitely made himself some money during this all-star game circuit, and without an NFL Scouting Combine invite, he had to make sure to maximize this portion of the draft calendar.
CB Rey Estes: 5-11 160, Grambling
Ignore the 160 pounds and focus on the footwork, instincts and how he closes on the defender and ball because that's what I kept noticing all week long from Estes. His week was workmanlike and impressive.
Team Robinson skill position 1-on-1s from Day 1
Team Robinson OL/DL 1-on-1s from Day 1
QB Dion Golatt Jr.: 6-1 221, Bowie State
Seeing Golatt throw in this environment, to me, was good for his projection moving forward. This past season was the first full season as a starter for him, so he's still a player with a lot of upside left in his game. The product he put out there on the field this week lends credence to that thought as well.
RB Alfonzo Graham: 5-8 182, Morgan State
Graham took advantage of this opportunity, first testing well at the HBCU Combine and doing an exceptional job during the positional drills. It was more of the same during practice, capped off by one of the better catches of the week on a deep route during 1-on-1s. Graham showed acceleration to close on the ball and snag it with his outstretched hands for a score.
WR Zach Leslie: 6-3 203, North Carolina A&T
Watching Leslie's tape prior to the event, I wondered why he wasn't fed the football often, since he was always open. This was the case here at both the combine and the week of practice. He's a big-bodied wideout with top-notch route-running skills and the ability to make the acrobatic catch look routine.
WR Antoine Murray: 5-11 189, Howard
Murray did a great job in how he went about his business as a route-runner. From his releases, to the acceleration into his route, to the apex, it was a fluid process and one that saw him have a lot of success during the week.
DE Joshua Pryor: 6-3 242, Bowie State
Pryor was one of the major names coming into the week, and one who has been on the radar for at least two years. It was good to see him settle in on 242 pounds, as he carries it well and moves well at that weight. What was even more impressive to see was him getting back to his disruptive self all throughout the different periods of practice.
DE Isaiah Williams: 6-4 260, Delaware State
Williams showed very good twitch off the edge and had himself one heck of a Thursday practice during which he essentially set up shop in the opposing backfield. Again, the term "speed to power" kept popping up.
EDGE Jermaine McDaniel: 6-2 239, North Carolina A&T
McDaniel's week got off to a great start with how well he performed at the combine. His change of direction skills were the most impressive. He did not miss a beat when tasked with turning the corner. The next day, he was drafted by the New Jersey Generals of the USFL, who once again made out like bandits during their draft. McDaniel then went on to have a stellar week of work.
LB Jahsun Bryant: 6-2 225, Tennessee State
I came away impressed with the level of athleticism shown by Bryant at the position. Playing primarily in the middle all week long, he was getting really good run fits while also excelling in pass coverage. He fits today's mold of what you want at the position.
CB Brandon Barnes-Brown: 5-10 200, Fayetteville State
I don't know what's in the water down there at Fayetteville State, but it keeps producing quality corners who have a well-rounded skillset. Barnes-Brown matched up well vs. different types of receivers with different styles and didn't look out of place. He stayed true to his technique, and it served him well all week long.
S Derrick Tucker: 6-0 202, Texas Southern
Tucker has the "off the bus" look at the position, but showed some versatility as well with how solid he was during 1-on-1s. During team periods, you can see the range and athleticism show itself almost instantly.
Team Gaither skill position 1-on-1s from Day 1
Team Gaither OL/DL 1-on-1s from Day 1
- WR Isiah Cox, Alabama A&M
- OL Robert Lacey III, Tennessee State
- DL Kevin Victorian, Prairie View A&M
- OL Drake Centers, Texas Southern
- OL Jordan Johnson, Prairie View A&M
- LB Claudin Cherelus, Alcorn State
- DL KeShaun Moore, Hampton
- OL Brian Williams, Southern
- OL Jermiah Stafford, Southern
- S Kai Gray, Lincoln (PA)
- QB Larry Harrington, Langston (OK)
- LB Woodly Appolon, Tuskegee
- OL Emanuel Boone, Fort Valley State
- OL Tony Gray, Jackson State