Guten Tag!: Names to know at the CFL Global Combine in Germany

This is the one they’ve all been waiting for.

At the end of a three-week European whirlwind, and fresh off a Combine double-header in Italy and Great Britain on Saturday, Greg Quick and his staff will be in Frankfurt on Sunday for the much-anticipated German Combine.

Home to the most robust and competitive league system in Europe, Germany is host to the finest athletes of almost all European nations. Most of the prospects already handed invites to the National Combine in Toronto from the other European Combines play in the German Football League. For this reason, the German Combine will have a whopping 45 prospects in attendance, almost double the total of any other testing event.

In my continuing mission to spread the Global message to the masses, I’ve done my research and watched each of the players in attendance Sunday. Here are 17 names that I am excited to see perform in Frankfurt.

Gennadiy Klevtsov-Adams, RB, Russia, Frankfurt Universe [Germany] (Bemidji State/Simon Fraser)

If there was such a thing as a Global ratio-breaker, Gena Adams would be it.

Born in St. Petersburg but raised in Arizona, Adams rushed for over a thousand yards his senior season at Bemidji State on his way to being named a 2016 First Team Division II All-American. Despite both NFL and CFL tryouts, Adams had to make his way to Europe and has utilized his Russian passport to become a game-changer for multiple different teams.

Adams has elite level speed. That isn’t an exaggeration either. At his Pro Day, he reportedly ran a 4.43s forty-yard dash. For context, only one running back at last year’s NFL Combine ran faster than that. When Adams is able to hit the hole going in a straight line, he is long gone and an absolute blur. He combines that speed with the balance to bounce off contact, the power to run through it and the athleticism to hurdle over it and keep on running.

The 5’9 210lbs back also has familiarity going for him thanks to his two-year stint at SFU prior to transferring to Bemidji State. He has been coached by CFL coaches like Jacque Chapdelaine and has plenty of former teammates on CFL rosters who can vouch for him.

Dustin Illetschko, LB, Austria, Frankfurt Universe [Germany]

If you were to make a list of the best European defensive players, it would be awfully hard to not put Illetschko at the very top. The 6’0 230lbs linebacker notched 144 tackles in 14 games last season, making him the fifth most productive tackler in Germany and the top Euro.

Illetschko has an innate understanding of leverage in pursuit and tracks opponents in textbook positioning, never straying off the near hip. This, coupled with his athleticism to get there, means he’s an exceptional open field tackler. Equally special is his ability to see through the mess of inside runs and sniff out the ball carrier.

At 28, you almost wish Illetschko had been on the league’s radar sooner. He’ll be a great special teamer but has the potential for much more.

Timothy Knuttel, REC, Germany, Potsdam Royals (Seton Hill)

The former number two receiver for Canadian quarterback Christian Strong at Seton Hill (now a member of the Dusseldorf Panthers), Knuttel is an attractive European weapon.

At 6’2 195lbs, Knuttel is an elevator who extends to make the tough catches. Throw it up and Knuttel will go get it, sometimes to his detriment as he needs to learn to keep his feet on the ground. Regardless, he has excellent body control and a capacity to toe tap on the sideline.

Fast and quick out of his breaks, I expect Knuttel to test well and impress in the one-on-ones Sunday.

Evans Yeboah, DL, Germany, New Yorker Lions

The New Yorker Lions have long been the standard of excellence in Europe and Yeboah is the Ghanaian gem in the heart of their defensive rotation. At 6’4 270lbs, he is a physical specimen that can play inside or outside.

Yeboah is an exceptional athlete and while his first step quickness is good, it’s the second step burst he has that separates him from the pack. Yeboah locks out linemen with his long arms and accelerates through his pass rush moves, ripping through their failing grasps with impressive ease. He’s got the speed to reign in an escaping quarterback but also possesses the strength to two-gap in the run game if necessary.

Martin Emos, REC, Belgium/Italy, Dresden Monarchs [Germany]

A dual Belgian and Italian citizen, Emos is shifty route runner with 6’3 205lbs size. That frame and quickness allows him to either separate from or box out defenders with impressive consistency.

Emos has an inherent understanding of space on the football field, leaking into the gaps between zones or running off coverage before coming back underneath. He is also able to contort in impressive fashion in order to make tough catches, sometimes laying out horizontally to haul in a ball thrown behind him.

Berend Grube, DE, Germany, Luebeck Cougars (Thiel College)

At Division III Thiel College, Grube played both sides of the ball effectively as a TE and a DE. That is an eclectic special teams skillset that ought to garner some attention.

Grube is 6’5 255lbs with a quick get-off and active hands as a pass rusher. He isn’t an athletic freak by any stretch of the imagination, but he is a well-rounded football player and positionally sound. When looking to fill a Global spot, teams will want a player who can contribute in multiple ways. Grube is that guy.

Jean-Claude Madin Cerezo, REC, Spain/Germany, Hamburg Huskies (Northern Colorado)

If there ever was a poster boy for CFL 2.0, it would be Madin Cerezo. Born in Spain and raised in Germany, he played college football in Mexico before earning a spot at Northern Colorado. After college he returned to Germany to play professionally and is now looking to earn a spot in Canada.

Cerezo is a strong receiver with quickness and some elusiveness after the catch, but what will truly excite teams is the 6’2 215-pounders special teams’ ability. He excelled in kick coverage in the FCS, making eight tackles in just nine career games. He can also reportedly longsnap, an added bonus in the form of injury insurance for any team that acquires him.

Jason Harris, REC, Germany, Berlin Rebels

Young, big and physical, Harris is a prospect ripe for development by high quality coaches.

At 6’4 and 210lbs, Harris is a long strider with a deceptive amount of wiggle to generate separation. His physical frame helps him get of press with subtle hand usage and push-off. Harris oozes potential and has clearly not yet reached the pinnacle of what he can be. That’s what CFL 2.0 is all about.

Aleksandr Posunko, DB, Ukraine, Rostock Griffins [Germany]

Likely to measure in at less than his listed 6’0 190lbs, Posunko doesn’t have ideal size but is worth making an exception for.

Posunko’s strengths are as a zone defender. He reads and reacts well, with fluid change of direction and disciplined eyes. He isn’t afraid to get physical either, coming downhill to help in the run game. That will help his case for a special teams’ role.

Posunko should stand out in the testing on Sunday and earn serious consideration due to his athletic attributes.

Féli Manoka, REC, Belgium, Dusseldorf Panthers [Germany]

A former Cegep star at College Montmorency, Manoka returned to Europe and became a thousand-yard receiver.

Manoka is a long, galloping strider who makes up ground quickly. He’s a strong route runner who freezes defenders with sharp cuts and separates off the line with a good release. At 6’3 190lbs, he’s got good size and a big catch radius that will help him stand out.

Lane Acheampong, OL, Germany, Potsdam Royals

A lot of Global linemen are undersized. This is not the case for the 6’2 320lbs Acheampong, who might actually need to cut some bad weight to truly excel.

Acheampong is a nasty mauler who takes every block right to the whistle. He uses his imposing size to bully the often undersized defenders he faces and frequently gets five or more yards of vertical displacement. Athleticism is the big question mark here, as Acheampong’s feet are especially slow and could be exploited in pass protection.

Justin Rodney, RB, Germany, Frankfurt Universe

Rodney doesn’t have great size at 5’7 170lbs and lacks refined vision as a runner, but his athletic traits will stand apart from other prospects. He is well known in Germany not as a football player, but as a frequent contestant and winner on that nation’s version of American Ninja Warrior.

You can see that strength and explosion on the field. Rodney’s powerful legs make him tough to tackle and his speed is obvious. There aren’t many 5’7 athletes alive who can hurdle a standing defender and Rodney is one of them.

Philipp Haun, REC, Austria, Danube Dragons

At 5’11 185lbs, Haun isn’t as tall as the other receivers on this list but he’s equally talented and productive.

Haun is a smooth, on-his-toes runner with great long speed. His route running isn’t quite as sharp as some others, but he is still adept at subtly creating separation. Haun also has a great set of hands, easily picking errant balls off the turf.

Alexander Thury, QB, Austria, Marburg Mercenaries [Germany]

If there was to be one European quarterback stick at the position at the next level, my money would be on the Austrian.

Thury has simply adequate size at 6’1 200lbs and doesn’t have a big arm, but he is an excellent anticipatory thrower. Thury can excel on quick timing throws, has great mobility in the pocket and puts the ball exactly where it needs to be. These attributes allow him to compensate for his other limitations.

Florian Bierbaumer, REC, Austria, Graz Giants

Throwing to Bierbaumer is extremely easy, just aim high. At 6’6 210lbs, the Austrian has special length that is very difficult for his opponents to combat.

Bierbaumer is a bit of a lumberer and lacks polished route running ability, but he makes up for it by wearing baseball mitts all the time. He’s got a tremendous set of reactionary hands and has even been known to make a OBJ-like one-handed stab every now and again.

Alexander Haupert, QB/P, Germany, Saarland Hurricanes

At 6’2 190lbs, Haupert is more of a pure pocket passer, though he does have decent mobility. He throws an easy ball to catch with nice ark but lacks any significant zip.

What intrigues me most about Haupert is his leg as a punter, something that he doesn’t advertise as much but really caught my eye on tape. A booming kick or two on Sunday could make all the difference for his CFL chances.

Florian Eichhorn, TE/FB, Germany, Cologne Crocodiles

Eichhorn is a unique and versatile weapon that can be lined up in the backfield, as a tight end or in the slot. He has a good set of hands and is able to run fairly good routes for a man of his size.

Standing 6’2 245lbs, Eichhorn is a powerful player who thrives off of big blocks. He’ll be a valuable special teams’ contributor and could see package work at the next level.

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