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Friday, January 3, 2014
Army Bowl combine notebook

By Damon Sayles

SAN ANTONIO -- The day before the U.S. Army All-American Bowl featured several athletes who could be playing in the 2015 rendition of the game. The U.S. Army National Combine took place Friday, and several ESPN Junior 300 athletes, as well as rising 2015 and 2016 standouts, gave the Alamodome crowd a small taste of what to expect throughout the spring circuit of various camps and combines.

Bama loss doesn’t deter 2015 pledge Thompson

Deionte Thompson
Deionte Thompson is all for Alabama despite the Crimson Tide's upset loss to Oklahoma in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
ESPN Junior 300 defensive back Deionte Thompson (Orange, Texas/West Orange-Stark) showed all in attendance why he is committed to Alabama. He performed well in skills training, as well as 1-on-1 sessions.

But with everything going on, the No. 76 player in the ESPN Junior 300 fielded questions about Alabama’s loss to Oklahoma.

“It was obvious that they didn’t come to play [Thursday],” Thompson said. “OU came to play, and OU got the win.”

And then Thompson put a cork on any potential rumor: “I’m still attending Bama. Nothing’s changed.”

Thompson, a 6-foot-2, 173-pound athlete listed as a safety, is the No. 4 player nationally at his position. He participated in 1-on-1 drills as both a receiver and defensive back. He committed to the Crimson Tide on Feb. 23 during an unofficial visit.

2015 DE Dean shines, names early top five

National combines give all the chance to see players a smaller audience already knew about. Defensive end Daytrieon Dean was one of the big stories of the day.

Dean, a 6-3, 260-pound defensive end, won several of his 1-on-1 battles and showed that he’s on a mission to be considered one of the nation’s defensive linemen. Dean has offers from Arkansas and Ole Miss, and he’s got interest from Mississippi State, Oklahoma State, Memphis, Arkansas State, Alabama, Nebraska and Harvard.

Dean also announced an early top five at the combine, consisting of Arkansas, Ole Miss, Oklahoma State, Mississippi State and Arkansas State.

“It’s the relationship I have with some of the coaches and the players,” Dean said. “I know two guys from Arkansas who play D-line at Oklahoma State. At Arkansas State two years ago, we had some guys there who came from my high school. Arkansas, there are a lot of guys from my high school there. I’m just looking for a friendly atmosphere and a place where the coaches won’t sell me short.”

Dean said he plans on attending a junior day at Arkansas, but other junior days could be in the works.

Younger brother of Longhorns LB shines

There’s a lot of high expectation for 2015 offensive lineman Wyatt Santos (Van, Texas/Van). For starters, he’s the younger brother of Texas Longhorns linebacker Dalton Santos, a former Under Armour All-American. Additionally, he’s one of the top linemen in East Texas, an area that produces quality athletes each year.

Santos experienced his first national-combine atmosphere on Friday, and the 6-2, 331-pound interior lineman held his own against some of the best defensive linemen of his class in 1-on-1s.

“Everybody out here is the big man at their campus. I loved it,” Santos said. “I’m so blessed to compete against these guys. It was a chance to show what we could do against great competition.”

Santos has major interest from Texas, TCU, Oklahoma and Arkansas, and he’s looking for Texas to be the first school to offer. Santos can play either guard or center.

Santos also used the advice of his older brother to prepare for Friday’s event. In short, “play and relax.”

“He just said to go out and play hard,” Santos said. “There’s going to be great competition. Everybody is going to be ‘that guy’ at their school, so just go out and show what you can do.”

Jacket tells all: 2016 RB’s favorite?

2016 running back Kameron Martin (Port Arthur, Texas/Memorial) already has offers from Baylor, Texas Tech, Utah and Akron. He wouldn’t mind getting a fifth offer from one particular school. Check out his jacket for additional clues.

Martin showed up at the U.S. Army combine wearing a Texas A&M jacket. He said if the Aggies were to offer, it would be a tough sell for other schools.

What it wouldn’t be, however, is a slam-dunk decision.

“A&M is like a favorite, but there are a whole lot of schools I also like,” Martin said. “I like Florida, Texas, LSU, Texas Tech and Baylor. But I do like A&M. If A&M were to offer, they’d definitely be one of my top schools.”

Texas is a school that seems to come up more and more for Martin, who has a solid relationship with former Longhorns running back star Jamaal Charles. And while he doesn’t mind the Charles comparisons, Martin said he’s hoping to pattern his game like another hybrid player in the backfield.

“I like to play running back and wide receiver. I kind of want to be like [Oregon’s] De'Anthony Thomas on the college level,” he said.

2015 TE learning from Bama-bound teammate

Playing alongside an ESPN 300 receiver and an Under Armour All-American has been beneficial for 2015 tight end Carlos Robinson (Monroe, La./Ouachita Parish). The rising tight end said he has learned a lot from Cameron Sims, who commmitted to Alabama.

“I’ve been watching him go up and get the ball and just be physical for the most part,” Robinson said of Sims. “Basically, you’ve got to work hard.”

Robinson put the advice to good use at the combine and showed that he’s a player to watch for the upcoming spring. At 6-3 and 215 pounds, Robinson has a good build for a flex tight end. He also showed that he has nice hands during 1-on-1s.

Robinson has Louisiana Tech and Tulane interest, and he’s attended camps at Louisiana Tech, Auburn, Ole Miss and Mississippi State. He said an offer from Louisiana Tech could be in the future.

“I want to be with a team that works together and studies hard in the film room,” said Robinson, who added that Louisiana Tech would be a great fit for him.

WR Castille one to watch in Texas

You never want to see a player injured -- especially a star player -- but for 2015 receiver Xavier Castille (Rockwall, Texas/Rockwall), an injury to one of his good friends might have been a blessing in disguise.

Castille saw much of the offensive load shifted his way when ESPN Junior 300 Chris Warren III went down midway through the 2013 season with a torn ACL. Warren was having a monster season, but when he was sidelined, many people had the opportunity to see what Castille could do as a receiver and a Wildcat quarterback. He further showed his skills at Friday’s combine, making life difficult for defensive backs in 1-on-1s.

“It opened so many doors for me, but in the long run, I wanted to have him back,” Castille said. “He [Warren] is such a good running back, but he did open some doors. Still, I can’t wait to have him back so we can go for this state championship.”

Castille shined at camps during the summer, participating at Baylor, Texas A&M and Tulsa. He’s hearing from all three schools, as well as Arkansas, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Colorado and Washington.