The opportunity to shine was certainly seized by some of the skill position players during the on field portion of the 2011 CFL Evaluation camp this weekend.
Top rated linebacker, Henoc Muamba continued to prove why he is the most highly rated player at his position.
Muamba had an interview with every team in the league, including the Winnipeg Blue bombers -- twice. The Bombers of course hold the number one pick in this year's CFL draft.
“I knew I was athletic enough. I came out here and wanted to show them I could be physical,” said Muamba. “I’m pretty satisfied overall.”
The St. Francis Xavier product showed he has the versatility to drop back in pass coverage, while also being physical enough to rush the passer. Muamba looked very light on his feet, showed fluid hips and changed directions with ease during the individual position drills.
“One of my nicknames in university is A.O. cause I am able to play all over,” said Muamba. “I like covering running backs, but I also love the physicality of the game and like being in the box.”
Another linebacker Jeff Hecht looked solid in the field drills. He stuck around to participate in the defensive back drills – trying to show some versatility-- and did not look out of place. Hecht lined up across from the highest rated receiving prospect, Anthony Parker a number of times and was right in his hip pocket.
Speaking of Parker, he certainly lived up to the hype.
“I can catch the ball well and I think proved that today,” said Parker. “Once I’m able to get on top of guys I’m fast enough to separate once I have made a stick one way or another.”
Questions were abound over the weekend during the team interviews about Parker’s performance in the 2010 Vanier Cup – where he dropped a number of footballs.
“One of the primary questions I was asked this weekend was, ’what happened in the Vanier’?,” said Parker. “All week I kept telling people it was one of those days. It doesn’t matter if you’re Jerry Rice or who it is you just have those days.”
Part of being a good athlete in any sport is how you handle and bounce back from adversity.
“The biggest thing is the rebound, do you come back and have the biggest performance of your life,” said Parker. “That is what I was trying to prove out here.”
Parker certainly cemented his status as a top-level prospect, showing he has the athleticism to play at the CFL level. The talented receiver catches the football naturally, he plucks it out of the air and rarely lets the football get into his body.
Parker's teammate Matt Walter also impressed standing out amongst a small group of running backs. He showed good speed in the 40 and good footwork in all of the drills.
Another pass catcher also had a big day as Marco Iannuzzi from Harvard showed he hasn’t lost his abilities on a Canadian field.
“One of my big attributes was getting separation,” said Iannuzzi. “The DBs came out strong so it was a good battle.”
Andre Clarke was one of those defensive backs that came out strong. Clarke made his name known after laying down the fastest 40 of the evaluation camp at 4.50 seconds and was able to translate that speed to the football field with a solid showing in the crossover drills with the receivers. The York Lion made smooth transitions out of his back pedal and added a knock down during the one-on-one session.
“I could always do better, but I’m just excited for being one of the top performers,” said Clarke.
Iannuzzi felt one of the big question scouts had about him was his ability to get off press coverage.
“I think I was three for four [getting] off the press. I think I showed them what I could do.”
Iannuzzi showed well during the one on one period and caught the ball naturally.
“I have been taught really well and I guess fundamentals just sort of ground into my brain,” said Iannuzzi.
With the evaluation camp weekend in the books teams will further evaluate the players who jumped out and made an impression in Toronto in preparation for the upcoming CFL draft.