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Monday, March 4, 2013
NUC Baton Rouge: New names to watch

By Gary Laney

ZACHARY, La. -- Most of the big, proven names from Louisiana skipped the National Underclassman Combine in the Baton Rouge suburb of Zachary Sunday.

With Nike recently having had its SPARQ combine in New Orleans and Under Armour events coming up, many top names passed on working out on Zachary's artificial turf.

Tight end Jacory Washington (Westlake, La./Westlake) stayed in street clothes until one-on-one drills. Running backs Sione Palelei (Gonzales, La//East Ascension and local favorite Forrest Town (Zachary, La./Zachary), who finished third out of some 1,500 participants at the recent SPARQ combine in Houston, were there in street clothes as well.

Martell Hawthorne
Martell Hawthorne's opened eyes with his performance at the NUC Baton Rouge.
We've covered the performances of big names such as LSU commits Washington and Devin Voorhies (Woodville, Miss./Wilkinson County), but there were more names worth keeping an eye on, including the younger brother of a current Alabama defensive back. Here are a few of them:

2014 WR Martell Hawthorne (Lake Charles, La./LaGrange): Hawthorne measures at 6-foot-3 and over 190 pounds, so there wasn't much question about his physical stature.
But he helped himself by running 40 times of 4.56 and 4.62 on a slippery turf. Those are the kind of times that will help him go from a relative unknown to a highly regarded prospect.

2015 CB Xavier Lewis (Reserve, La./East St. John): Many of us were hoping to see Washington go up against fellow LSU commit Voorhies in the one-on-one drills, but that didn't happen because Voorhies performed on offense.

We still got to see a great matchup because of Lewis, who looked great matching up with Washington. He possesses speed and the ability to quickly change direction, which could make him an elite prospect in 2015.

2014 RB Dontrell Hilliard (Baton Rouge, La./Scotlandville): The top performer at the recent New Orleans Nike Football SPARQ Combine showed flashes of his athleticism Sunday with a 4.5 40-yard dash and a combine-best 9-foot-9 standing broad jump.

2014 RB Sione Palelei (Gonzales, La./East Ascension): Palelei crossed town to watch and talk about his recruitment, which is aided by family ties. He said he has uncles on the coaching staffs at both Utah, which has offered him, and Wisconsin, which has shown interest. One of the fastest players in Louisiana, Palelei has also drawn the eye of former New Orleans Edna Karr coach Jabbar Juluke, who is now on the staff of Louisiana Tech, which has also offered the speedster.

Landon Collins
LSU could have another shot with the Collins family as Landon Collins' younger brother, 2015 ATH Hakeem, stood out at the NUC Baton Rouge.
2014 RB Forrest Town (Zachary, La./Zachary): In golf, older players try to shoot their ages for a milestone achievement. The academically oriented Town's goal might be to run his GPA. A straight-A student since he was a child, Town recently ran a 4.55 40 at the Nike SPARQ event in Houston, one of the eye-catching results that allowed him to finish third. At Zachary High, GPAs are weighted toward classes that are college prep, so Town has a GPA well above 4.0, approaching his 40 time. Mix the two together, and it's no wonder he's getting interest from Ivy League schools, along with Tulane.

2015 ATH Hakeem Collins (Geismar, La./Dutchtown): The younger brother of Alabama safety Landon Collins looks the part. He checked in at over 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds with a frame that can easily take on more weight. He looks raw at wide receiver, but his frame could turn him into a tight end or even a rush end on defense. There's a lot of work to be done for Collins.

2015 LB Arthur McGinnis (New Orleans/Warren Easton): Another player who is on the short list of guys to watch in 2015, McGinnis looked solid and mature going through drills Sunday. At just over 200 pounds, he can project either as a linebacker or, eventually, even as a defensive end.