EDMONTON — Generally regarded as the top receiver heading into the CFL Combine presented by New Era, Clark Barnes felt the glare of eyes on him when he got onto the field this week.
“First day, a lot of guys were telling me they wanted me in call outs and were asking me if I could give them some some tips on what I do off the line. I didn’t give them any secrets,” the Guelph Gryphons’ receiver and returner said with a grin. “But yeah, you could definitely feel (the attention), definitely.”
Barnes didn’t take part in activities on the final day of the Combine on Sunday, due to some tightness from a lingering hamstring issue. That won’t hurt his stock ahead of the CFL Draft on May 2. His performance at the Combine certainly didn’t hurt it in any way, either.
He ran a 4.53-second 40-yard dash in testing, finishing second behind York’s Gabriel Appiah-Kubi. His 39-inch vertical was fourth-best among Nationals and fifth overall, while he was fourth overall in the broad jump (10′ 4 3/8″).
“I don’t think Clark lost any stock in what he’s shown on film,” said Pete Costanza, the Toronto Argonauts’ receivers coach and pass game coordinator who spent the week coaching the receivers. “I think a lot of the guys all were competing on that top level there. It’s hard to single one guy out saying he was the best this week. But you know, he definitely didn’t hurt himself.”
Barnes may garner the attention off the top, but the combine provided a glimpse at a receiver class that’s got more than its share of talent.
Ottawa’s Daniel Oladejo and Willy-Pierre Dimbongi, Concordia’s Jeremy Murphy, Saskatchewan’s Daniel Perry and Alberta’s Jonathan Rosery all caught passes and praise this past week from coaches, media and other players. Only Barnes was in the winter edition of the CFL’s Scouting Bureau rankings.
“There were definitely three or four guys that improved their draft stock by what they did the last three or four days,” Costanza said.
Oladejo was certainly one of them. After not being selected for the East-West Bowl and failing to crack the Scouting Bureau rankings, the five-foot-10, 192-pounder was determined to use the Combine as a means of getting his name out. He certainly accomplished that feat. He was named one of Marshall Ferguson’s 3 stars on Friday and was named the coaches’ pick for top offensive player on Sunday.
“I think he was the largest riser of the week in the receiver group,” Ferguson said of Oladejo’s work this past week.
“I mean, shoot, you watch him and every rep that he takes he’s giving his best, going 100 miles an hour,” Costanza said of Oladejo. “When you got a guy that’s out there competing and playing like he is, of course guys want to go against him and you’re going to get the best out of it.”
“That was definitely my mindset coming in,” Oladejo said of getting his name out there.
“(There) wasn’t a lot of coverage around around my declaring for the draft and things like that. I didn’t go to East-West, my name wasn’t really out there. But to get this opportunity to come in here and kind of let people know what I’m about other than what they’ve seen on film or heard about me, that was really the option I was looking for. I definitely appreciate the opportunity to come in and increase my draft stock.”
Ottawa REDBLACKS’ offensive coordinator Khari Jones spent a lot of the practice sessions studying the receiver group. The extended look that the new format of the Combine provided gave Jones some in-depth knowledge of the receivers.
“They’re able to show a few different skill sets and things that maybe their team didn’t ask them to do. That was a nice thing for me, because I think some of the guys, where I had some ranked might have grown a little bit, some might have fallen a little bit, depending on what I saw out here.”
“It’s a great group of young men, they worked their tails off honestly, the entire week,” Costanza said.
“They had long days going for them in the morning until late at night, 10:30 (interviews with teams) and they came and showed up to work every day. I’m really proud of them. I thought that just getting a chance to work with them daily one-on-one is the most important thing as far as seeing how they learn, how they retain things and how they apply it on the field.”
“To get this opportunity to come out here and meet these guys and compete with them…this is the highest level it gets at our level. It’s a great, great experience,” Oladejo said.