Alberta’s Harke raises the bar on Day 1 of the combine
TORONTO — The CFL Combine presented by New Era got under way Saturday in Toronto, as Canada’s top amateur football prospects along with 18 ‘Global’ invitees took part in the vertical jump and bench press at the U of T Goldring Centre.
University of Alberta offensive lineman Jonathan Harke had the biggest day on the bench, leading all prospects with 32 reps, four reps clear of second-place UBC defensive lineman Connor Griffiths.
On the vertical jump, Carleton Ravens standout and defensive back Jacob Dearborn followed up his impressive jump at the regional combine last week, leading all prospects with a 42-inch vertical.
“As an undersized guy, I kind of want to show that I can be a bully on the field,” said Harke. “I obviously showed that I have the strength but now it has to come down to technique and stuff like that.
“On Sunday I want to show them that I have the feet, the hips, that I can move but they shouldn’t look at my size and be scared to draft me because I’m five-foot-11,” said Harke. “I’ll take anyone on.”
Dearborn’s leap ranks third among defensive backs in the history of the combine, and sixth among all position groups.
“I was pretty happy with my numbers from last week at the regional combine, felt like I still had a little bit more left in the tank after my second jump last week so I was looking to improve that this week,” said Dearborn.
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For CFL.ca’s Marshall Ferguson, Dearborn gained the most from Saturday’s testing, a week after making a strong impression in Montreal. Ferguson says Dearborn should be on the radar throughout the first three rounds of the draft.
“He’s not really the unicorn type thing where he’s one of a kind — to me he’s like a longer, taller Mike Daly,” said Ferguson. “I’ve watched his film, he plays that way at free safety. I think he is this year’s regional combine home run. He’s forced his way into the conversation despite being a regional combine invitee.
“He can run too. He benched well, he jumped well. It just comes down to whether he looked good in pads. If he can show in the one-on-ones that he can cover and test athletically he’ll be very happy on May 2 because he’ll go before anyone ever expected him to.”
Standing out in both major tests on Saturday was Laurier defensive lineman Robbie Smith. A projected first-round draft pick by many pundits, the 6-foot-2, 242-pound pass rusher had the best vertical for a defensive lineman since Stefan Charles in 2013 (37 inches) with a 36-inch jump.
“I just went out there and I tried to jump as high as I could,” said Smith. “Obviously, I’m very surprised and I’m very happy with the results.”
As the momentum towards CFL 2.0 continued this weekend with 18 ‘Global’ invitees taking part, the international players from five different countries more than stood their own.
German defensive lineman Marc Anthony Hor had the most reps on the bench of all global players with 28, tying him for second among all participants.
In the end, though, it was fellow German and linebacker Theadric Hansen winning the day, his 38-inch vertical topping all Global participants while also putting up 20 reps on the bench — tops among linebackers and tied for fourth among all global players.
“My overall impression of the Global players is their skill-sets are extremely varied because they’re coming from so many different backgrounds,” said Ferguson. “It’s not like the nationals where you see a Jonathan Harke and have exact comparables of the type of player he is. Everybody is different in their own special way and I think the testing results show that there are some major strengths but they’re met by some deficiencies and every player will be a very unique evaluation.”
Sunday is another big day for prospects at the combine, with four major tests, individual drills and one-on-ones on tap.
Continuing coverage will be available on CFL.ca starting at 10 a.m. ET.