Spaghetti and Meatpies: Names to know at the Global Combines in Italy and the UK

When it comes to scouting trips, someone always has to draw the short straw.

Saturday marks the busiest day of the CFL Global Combine circuit, as Greg Quick and his staff will be split between Bristol, England and Florence, Italy for two simultaneous sessions of testing. While one spot is a bit nicer to visit, not that they’ll be doing much sightseeing, both will have a bevy of prospects with CFL aspirations.

In my ongoing mission to inform the masses throughout the CFL Global evaluation process, I’ve dug into the film and produced a list of 20 prospects competing Saturday that have peaked my interest.

It should be noted that three of the four Austrians listed as participants at the Italian Combine were also listed as invites to Sunday’s German Combine. In the confusing world of language barriers and European football, I can’t tell where they will be testing. Given the size and depth of the German prospect pool, I have chosen to include them on this list to ensure all players get their due.

Aleksandar Milanovic, OL, Austria, Helsinki Roosters [Finland] (Adams State/ Sacramento State)

A three-year starter at FCS Sacramento State before transferring to Division II Adams State his senior year, Milanovic earned All-Conference honours at both levels. In many ways he’s the prototype for a Global prospect, naturally gifted with 6’7 305lbs size which can only be maximized in the sport of football.

Throughout college, Milanovic excelled with a long reach and pure nastiness, imposing himself physically on opponents. Despite his success, he was often hurt by sloppy feet and high pad level. In the four years since graduation, the now 28-year old has developed into a savvy veteran. He still makes a living throwing people out of the club in Europe, but his feet and hand placement has vastly improved. He’s also gotten to show off his athleticism, making some tremendous blocks out in space.

Milanovic will still need to learn how to deal with CFL-quality pass rushers, but he is as close to a pro-ready lineman as you’ll find on a European field.

Kadel King, LB, United Kingdom, Frankfurt Universe [Germany] (St. FX)

In the Canadian Draft, AUS linebackers tend to get no love. That will be a different story in the Global Draft thanks to Kadel King. The Brit who once patrolled the field in Antigonish, finishing 12th in the nation in tackles, has become a key performer in Germany.

At 6’3 225lbs, King has a body made for special teams and long arms used to get off blocks. He can fly sideline to sideline and is a sure tackler in the open field. His length and burst also make him a great pass-rushing weapon off the blitz.

With swagger and aggression, King is a player who will make an impact from day one in kick coverage.

Yannick Mayr, REC, Austria, Dacia Vienna Vikings

Coming from the vaunted Vienna Vikings program, Mayr is a special weapon. Sometimes used as a dual threat quarterback, he’ll stick to being a receiver at the next level and could be a damn good one.

Mayr is a smooth mover with perfect form and long strides. With the ball in his hands, he runs with power and balance. Not yet a polished route runner, Mayr still gets off press in red zone and has exceptional body control. He also plays with impressive intelligence, running the scramble drill in a way not often seen in Europe.

At 6’0 190lbs, Mayr’s size isn’t going to attract any extra attention but he flashes on the field and should test well for scouts.

Glen Mbleg-Toonga, RB, United Kingdom, Dresden Monarchs [Germany]

The United Kingdom is a hotbed for powerful running backs, but none are more prostyle than Toonga. Since jumping to Germany, he has established himself as one of the premier runners in Europe.

Toonga runs with a lethal combination of quickness, power and vision. At 5’11 225lbs, he is stout and runs low to the ground. While other backs make a living by busting homeruns, Toonga grinds down his opponents over time. His ability to read defenders and make decisive cuts has resulted in an average of over six yards per carry.

Toonga’s stockiness will help him should he get a CFL shot, allowing him to adapt to the special teams and blocking role that will be demanded of him.

Keanu Ebanks, OL, United Kingdom, Hildesheim Invaders [Germany]

Keanu Ebanks has all the physical tools you look for in an offensive lineman. Standing at 6’6 290lbs, he’s got tremendous reach and the type of frame that professional trainers and nutritionists can mould into something special.

Ebanks is a mauler once he gets his hands inside, but really shows an aptitude for making tough reach blocks outside thanks to his long arms. He slides well and instinctually knows how to pick up stunts in the passing game but his footwork needs some work. He could truly flourish if bounced inside to guard and has a skillset worth developing.

Luke Hegney, REC, Australia, London Olympians [UK]

The first CFL 2.0 prospect from the land down under, Hegney is a physical specimen who could excel in the CFL slot.

A possession receiver with a solid 6’4 210lbs frame, Hegney gets faster with distance and will benefit greatly from the waggle. Thanks to his size and build, he absorbs first contact with relative ease. The Aussie also possesses deceptive wiggle for his size, able to make defenders miss in space with subtle moves.

With his build and skillset, don’t be surprised if Hegney’s football journey takes him from Perth to London to Toronto.

Leon Balogh, DE, Austria, Dacia Vienna Vikings

The third Austrian on this list, Balogh is less of a polished product than the first two but has the same high potential. Listed at 6’4 245lbs, he has the build of a CFL defensive end who could contribute on special teams.

What stands out about Balogh is his long arms, effectively used to separate from tackles and get off blocks. He doesn’t yet possess an effective arsenal of pass rush moves but the weapons are there to be trained. Balogh has a good get-off and decent bend but suffers from a lot of wasted movement that slows him down. That will hurt his testing numbers when he takes to the field in Florence.

David Izinyon, LB/DE, United Kingdom, Rostock Griffins [Germany]

Checking in at 6’1 250lbs, Izinyon is a throwback in terms of size for a linebacker. In many ways he plays like an old school thumper, taking on lead blocks and working through them to make tackles. That doesn’t mean he can’t move, however, and he has proven to be a solid tackler in the open field.

What intrigues me most is Izinyon’s success as a situational pass rusher. His thickness and strength may better translate to being a CFL defensive end, a la Thiadric Hansen. Regardless, Izinyon unique combination of skills will make him highly valuable on special teams.

Montel Patterson, REC, United Kingdom, Dusseldorf Panthers [Germany]

At 5’11 185lbs Patterson wouldn’t cause anyone to double take walking down the street but his unique skillset is key to the Dusseldorf offence. A fantastic mover after the catch, He’s schemed into space with screens, crossers and short curls and allowed to run rampant.

A sudden athlete, Patterson isn’t limited in the route tree either and I expect him to impress in the change of direction drills. His cuts are sharp and he can stop on a dime.
Importantly, Patterson has shown a willingness to engage physically as a blocker, answering one of the question marks sure to be associated with his less than ideal size.

Marcus Urbanski, REC, United Kingdom, Leicester Falcons

If a team is looking for a real Global project, Urbanski is as enticing as they come. A member of the Great Britain national bobsleigh team, Urbanski is all leg power and raw potential.

Watching Urbanski play against British competition is a bit like watching that kid in high school who is just better than everyone trying to tackle him. As a wildcat quarterback, he rumbled and stumbled for yardage no matter the circumstances. At 6’2 212lbs and with Olympic level training, he’s strong enough to break through, pull out of or spin around any tackle.

Urbanski is far from a polished product. He relies purely on raw athleticism. He’ll need to learn how to run proper routes as a receiver and operate within a system, but Urbanski’s upside is too high to pass up.

Pietro Elmi, REC, Italy, Milano Rhinos

Another wide receiver who spends significant time as an option quarterback, Elmi is an absolute track star in the Italian ranks. A smooth runner, he is rarely caught once he gets the edge.

What impresses me most about Elmi is his release off the line. He uses his hands to get off press better than anyone in Italy and often has to throttle down his routes as to not exceed his quarterback’s throwing radius. Elmi still needs to run sharper routes underneath, but at 6’0 200lbs with quickness to spare he’ll attract some serious consideration from scouts.

Lorenzo Dalle Piagge, DE/LB, Italy, Milano Seamen

A long-time veteran of the three-peat Italian champion Milano Seamen, Dalle Piagge is the leader of a deep defensive line group that has all four members at the Combine.

In Italy, Dalle Piagge has been able to win with an impressive combination of power and quickness. Due to his 6’2 230lbs size, he’ll likely need to transition to an off the ball role if given a CFL opportunity but his ability to get off blocks and push around much larger humans will continue to be valuable in a special teams role.

Wayne Drew, DL/LB, United Kingdom, Saarland Hurricanes [Germany]

Another undersized 6’1 230lbs defensive end, Drew will also need to play more of a linebacker role at the next level. He’s a tenacious player that never quits on a rep and will endear himself on special teams.

Drew doesn’t have the quickest get-off but he uses his hands effectively. He possesses the strength to fight through multiple humans twice his size. The tools and potential are there to match his attitude, he simply needs an opportunity.

Andrea Fimiani, QB, Italy, Firenze Gulf

Italy’s leading rusher last season was a former contributor at Baylor. The number two rusher had 1,600 yards his senior season at Toledo. Who was third? 5’9 180lbs Italian quarterback Andrea Fimiani.

Let’s be clear, Fimiani isn’t going to get a CFL shot at quarterback. He is simply an adequate thrower of the football and is problematically small. But this is an explosive athlete when he chooses to take off and could juke his way out of paper bag. I’m intrigued to see how fast Fimiani tests and I’d be interested if he could convert to receiver. Shorter receivers have been successfull already in the Global circuit and Fimiani could continue the trend.

Fimiani will also have a notable CFL name to vouch for him, having played two seasons as the key cog of the Bergamo Lions offence under long time CFL coach and GM Adam Rita.

Igor Timotijevic, DT, Serbia, Milano Seamen [Italy]

A dual citizen from Serbia, Timotijevic is a menace in the middle of the Seamen’s intimidating defensive line. At a stout 6’1 278lbs, he is bigger and stronger than anyone he faces in Italy.

Timotijevic’s game is all about strength. He relies on jacking up opposing linemen and creating penetration. His hand usage is inconsistent and needs development. He shows flashes of quickness, but at his size mobility and speed will be the primary question.

Nevertheless, Timotijevic will always be tough to knock off the line of scrimmage and he is still young enough to grow his game.

Tamsir Seck, REC, Italy, Torino Jaguars (UNC-Pembroke)

A bit contributor for the Division II UNC-Pembroke Braves, Seck has translated his American coaching into Italian success. You can see it in the way he runs routes, using subtle head fakes and varying speed to turn defenders hips.

Seck is an explosive athlete with a great set of hands but he is problematically small, checking in at a pint sized 5’7 170lbs. That’s a difficult hurdle to overcome, but expect Seck to turn some heads in the receiver drills.

William Kodjo Davis, FS, United Kingdom, Allgau Comets [Germany]

There aren’t a lot of defensive backs in Europe with Davis’ 6’2 215lbs size. That alone makes him an intriguing prospect. Add in a physical style of play and he instantly becomes a special teams’ option.

Best suited to the safety position, Davis has been an enforcer in the middle of the field and has manhandled in press when moved outside. That said he looks slightly stiff and a touch slow for his position and will need strong testing numbers to make his case for the CFL.

Edouardo Gobbo, OL, Italy, Verona Mastiffs

At 6’0 295lbs, Gobbo has built in leverage and he uses it extremely well. He’s a low driver who gets underneath opponents and clears space in the run game. Gobbo has tremendous pop and a wicked punch, you can often see the shock waves reverberate through his opponents. Often times, that means his blocks are finished as soon as they are started.

While his success in Italy is impressive, quickness will be a concern with Gobbo and he’s never really been tested in pass protection. Given the relative size of his Italian competition, he will also have to prove that he can handle opponents of his own weight class.

Alessio Antolini, OL, Italy, Verona Mastiffs

The man directly to Gobbo’s left, Antolini is younger, slightly bigger at 6’2 295lbs, and a source of many of the same concerns.

Antolini is also a driver in the run game, with better reach and slightly less pop. He needs to learn to drop his hips and improve his footwork but, at 22, he is ripe for development.

Matt Sharp, DE/TE, United Kingdom, London Blitz (West Chester)

Few people walk the earth with the 6’6 260lbs size of Matt Sharp. Used as a blocking tight end at Division II West Chester, Sharp uses his length as a defensive end in the UK.

Sharp has a long reach but, like many big men, struggles to bend or gain leverage. He would be a project for a CFL team but has a wealth of special teams’ experience to draw from. He relishes work as a blocker on returns, an underrated skillset.

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.