Shortly after New Year's Day, Cleveland High School junior Austin Herink is headed for Los Angeles while teammate Austin Massey is going to San Antonio, Texas, along with East Hamilton's Hunter Moore.
National high school football combine time is fast approaching.
Quarterback Herink is going to the Proving Ground combine, which is affiliated with the U.S. Marine Corps Semper Fidelis game. Massey, a sophomore quarterback and linebacker this season, and Moore, a junior quarterback, will attend the U.S. Army's national combine. The Proving Ground combine is Jan. 2-3 in Carson, Calif., just outside Los Angeles. The Army Combine in San Antonio is Jan. 5-7.
Other area athletes who have been invited to one of those national combines are Baylor quarterback Michael O'Connor, East Hamilton tight end Bailey Lenoir, Cleveland offensive lineman Robert McMahan, Walker Valley defensive end/linebacker Tanner Dillard, Polk County running back Zack Miller and Bradley Central receiver/defensive back Dee Crisp and defensive lineman Eduardo Trevino. All but Miller in that group are going to the Marine Corps combine.
Signal Mountain sophomore tight end Harrison Moon is going to a National Underclassmen combine Dec. 18-22 in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
East Hamilton defensive lineman Francisco Rodriguez is playing in the U.S. Army's international game, which is part of its All-American series, and Bradley offensive tackle Austin Sanders is scheduled to play in the Semper Fi game.
The combines offer chances for players to be seen, but the same could be said for Rodriguez in the Army game. An outstanding defensive player, Rodriguez at a shade under 6 feet tall is going to have to sell college recruiters on his speed, strength, intensity and academics. A Tennessee commitment for more than a year, Sanders wants to see how he stacks up against other national prospects.
"I really don't know how I stack up. I haven't really been looking at what anybody else has done," said Moore, who threw for more than 1,600 yards with 17 TDs and two interceptions for a run-oriented offense. "I want to see what's out there, what the competition is like, and I'm hoping to attract some attention."
On a good day, Moore might measure 6-foot-1. He finished the season at 205 pounds, but he is a pure pocket passer.
"I'm not getting my hopes up, because I'm not [FBS/Division I] tall," he said.
"He's come a long way from that first game, but he came in last year and gave us a shot of adrenaline and some moxy," East Hamilton coach Ted Gatewood said. "He had some tools -- he has a strong arm and throws the ball with zip and authority and he can spot-throw. He does a great job of recognizing what's going on, and he understands our system. He knows where, when and what we're trying to do in different circumstances."
Gatewood is equally high on 6-4, 225-pound Lenoir, son of former Tennessee lineman Patrick Lenoir.
"He has a good upside. He's long and tall and I think he'll be a Division I prospect," the coach said. "He has decent speed for a tight end, he has great hands and he blocks well."
There is the possibility also that Lenoir could wind up as an offensive guard or tackle.
Herink attended the U.S. Army combine for sophomores last year and then camps at Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Penn State, Alabama, Tennessee and Nebraska.
"I want to see how I stack up against everybody else," the 6-2, 220-pounder said. "I want to get my name out there,"
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...