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TORONTO — It was a standout first day of the CFL Combine presented by New Era, as the country’s top prospects took part in the vertical jump and bench press at the U of T Goldring Centre in Toronto.
Alberta’s Jonathan Harke led the field with 32 reps on the bench press, while Jacob Dearborn repeated his efforts in the vertical with a 42-inch jump.
Laurier defensive lineman Robbie Smith and Queen’s receiver Chris Osei-Kusi had strong all-around days, backing up their status as projected first-round draft prospects.
CFL.ca’s Marshall Ferguson weighs in with his top three prospects on Day 1 of the CFL Combine.
1. Chris Osei-Kusi | WR, Queen’s
With top receiving prospect Justin McInnis sitting out this weekend’s testing, someone had to step up and Chris Osei-Kusi answered the bell. The Queen’s receiver didn’t have the best year statistically but impressed scouts with not only his physical traits but his personality and demeanour.
“With 19 reps, Osei-Kusi set the standard for physicality at the receiver position in this combine and draft,” said Ferguson. “We already know he’s going to run a good 40 time and can catch the ball smoothly — adding the bench press to his resume won’t do anything but help.”
Ferguson said the six-foot, 192-pound receiver could easily be a first round pick come the May 2 CFL Draft.
“I talked to a couple of scouts and he interviewed crazy well,” said Ferguson. “He was asked by one scout in an interview Friday to explain his decreased production in 2018. The scout was fully expecting him to answer by blaming his quarterback or his coach, but Osei-Kusi explained that when certain teams decided to roll coverage his way, he just played his role and did anything he could to help the team.
“He’s tested well, he interviews well, he’s an engaging personality and he looks like a first round pick.”
2. Robbie Smith | DL, Laurier
Already the CFL Draft’s projected sixth overall pick by Ferguson (Mock Draft 1.0), Robbie Smith lived up to the lofty expectations on Saturday, putting up strong numbers in both the bench press and vertical.
Smith’s 36-inch vertical was the best for a defensive lineman since Stefan Charles (37 inches) in 2013, while his 23 reps on the bench press were better than his draft comparable and fellow Laurier graduates Kwaku Boateng (15) and Ese Mrabure (17).
“The thing I was impressed about with Robbie Smith is he was competitive in the bench with interior defensive linemen like Connor Griffiths from UBC and Vincent Desjardins from Laval, which I didn’t expect,” said Ferguson. “With his length and athleticism, being able to match those defensive tackle type bodies was unexpected and a really good sign of the work that he has put in to this point.”
Ferguson believes Smith can close the deal on being a top prospect with a strong performance in Sunday, particularly in the 40.
“I’d love to see Robbie Smith have a great 10-yard split to show that he has power and quickness,” said Ferguson. “If that happens he could work himself into the first round comfortably.”
3. Jonathan Harke | OL, Alberta
While it wasn’t a combine record, Jonathan Harke did what he needed to with 32 reps on the bench press to lead the field. Harke showed he’s strong enough to play offensive line at the next level, setting up an important Sunday of testing at the University of Toronto.
“Based on his body type and the position he’s going to play in the CFL, he had no choice but to put up a big bench number and he answered the bell,” said Ferguson. “He’s very reminiscent of Stampeders fifth-round pick Justin Lawrence in both style of play and physical ability.”
Continuing coverage of the combine will be available on CFL.ca starting at 10 a.m. ET on Sunday.