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March 1, 2005

Ready to impress

Last year, Harrisburg (Pa.) Bishop McDevitt quarterback Jeremy Ricker was one of the youngest players on the combine circuit, showing his stuff at the NIKE Camp in State College, Pa. and at combine for top players in New Jersey. Clearly one of the best quarterbacks at both events, Ricker is ready to show he's made even more strides since then.

"I'm really excited about continuing to show what I can do," said the now 6-foot-3, 205-pounder. "I'll be going to the NIKE Camp at PSU again and then to the Blue Chip Combine at Rutgers on May 2nd. That's the one I'm most excited about because I'll be competing against the best."

Last year Ricker was introduced to the combine world in January at the U.S. Army All-American junior combine in San Antonio.

"I was pretty nervous about that one because it was the first time I'd be going against top players in that setting," said Ricker, a Rivals100 member. "Now I'm kind of used to them and know what to expect after going to three last year. The level of competition is good, especially in New Jersey, and it showed me I could compete. It wasn't easy, but it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be either. It motivated me to work even harder and improve, but I knew I could play at that level."

College coaches are sure about that as well. Ricker already has more than 20 written offers from some of the top programs in the country. While he's staying open to all the schools interested, there are a few that stand out.

"I am keeping my options open, that's for sure," he said. "If I were to name a few schools that stood out a bit they would probably be Notre Dame, Miami, Maryland, Florida and Michigan. But I could easily add UCLA, Cal, Southern Cal, Texas, NC State, South Carolina and a bunch of others in there as well."

Ricker went to junior days each of the last two weekends.

"I was at Virginia two weekends ago and it was good," he said. "There were a lot of players there though so I didn't really get to talk to the coaches as much. I spoke with Mike Groh for about 1/2 hour and just said goodbye real quick to Al Groh.

"Maryland was a lot less crowded and I got a good feel for coach (Charlie) Taffe. We spoke for around 1 1/2 hours about a lot of different things. He's a motivator, which I like. He has a great personality and he gave me some pointers. I also spent about an hour with coach (Ralph) Friedgen. I was a little nervous about that because I had never met him, but he was great. He was easy to talk to. A lot of head coaches ask you some tough questions and really don't talk to you, but he did."

Ricker also met some players.

"I hung out a bit with Vernon Davis and I already knew Jordan Steffy," he said. "We also swung by Jamie's room (ex-teammate Jamie Thomas."

While playing time would be available immediately at a school like Maryland in search of a top quarterback, the Ricker family wants to take things slow.

"Jeremy is one of the few kids out there who wants to redshirt his first year," said Rob Ricker, Jeremy's dad. "We don't want him thrown in there and have him get tossed around. A quarterback can lose his confidence that way if he's not ready. We saw a little of that with Marcus Stone at NC State."

Stone is a former teammate of Ricker's and was the quarterback for Bishop McDevitt ahead of Jeremy.

"I learned a lot from him while he was the starter my freshman year," he said. "I got to sit in meetings, watch how he does things and we became friends. I also learned you can't fire the ball every time you throw it. Marcus has such a great arm that he had trouble slowing it down. If I hadn't watched him, I could have had the same issue."

Ricker has had few issues through his first two seasons as a starter, completing nearly 65-percent of his passes for more than 3,000 yards and 37 touchdowns (against only 14 interceptions). All of this while being held back a bit by a running offense. After all, it's not every team that has a LeSean McCoy in the backfield.

"Having LeSean as our running back obviously means we're going to run the ball a ton," he said. "I understand that. Even when he was banged up last year (ankle), we still stuck to the gameplan. Every once in awhile I wonder what it would be like to throw the ball 30 or 35 times a game instead of around 20, but having LeSean in the backfield also opens up a lot and has allowed me to work on things like play action."

Ricker and McCoy are both very good friends and will be competing at the Blue Chip Combine on May 2nd along with three of their top teammates (Jason Kates, Aaron Berry and Tucker Baumbach. The two have talked about playing in college together, but it's not a package deal.

"It's kind of a thing where if it happens, it happens," he said. "It's not like one of us would pick a school to play with the other, it's too important a decision. But if we both happen to like the same school, then all the better."

In the meantime, Ricker is just taking things as they come.

"I know it's going to be a long process and how important it is," he said. "Sometimes it hits me that I'm going to be a senior next year and that I have to keep pushing and working even harder to get better. One thing I won't have to worry about is motivating myself. I'm always trying to get better."

College coaches from all across the country will see just how much better Ricker is come May 2nd.

"Like I said, I can't wait," he said. "I'll be ready."

College coaches and top prospects interested in more info on the Blue Chip Combine can e-mail mike@rivals.com


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