Monday, February 23, 2009

Pro Day Rewind


As we head toward the end of the 2009 NFL Combine, we do so knowing that many of these players will be getting another chance to shock and awe the scouts at their individual school’s Pro Days. An athlete might have struggled in Indianapolis but could recover his momentum with a second look. On the other hand, a guy can just as easily fritter away all the buzz he gathered at the Combine by not being ready at his Pro Day.

Over the course of the next six weeks, this column will follow the ups, downs, and occasional sideways movement of the NFL Draft Class of 2009.

Now you may be asking yourself is it time for a Pro Day Rewind Column when the Combine isn’t even finished?

Well, not every future NFL star is working out in Indianapolis. Every year, athletes who weren’t present at the Combine end up in the NFL anyway, some to eventual fantastic effect. For examples, please see Welker, Wes and Parker, Willie from 2004.

And of course, there are some players every year who choose not to compete in Indy. Whether it's because of an injury or a concern about losing momentum, these players leave scouts wanting and needing more.

Today’s column is focused on the players who are not performing during the Combine, for whatever reason. For these athletes, their Pro Days are even more vital.

1. WR Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech (INJURED): During his medical examination, the seventh ranked player on the NFLDB Big Board was diagnosed with a small stress fracture in his foot. The news put the kibosh on any plans Crabtree had to work out in some capacity at the Combine and sent scouts scrambling for their notebooks as they tried to determine what, if any, impact this might have on his value.

Crabtree has announced he will delay the surgery until after his Pro Day, which is scheduled for March 26th, and work out on that day. Opinions range widely on whether this could cause more injury and whether he needs to run at all. Clearly he feels the need to perform and that the benefits outweigh the risk. March 26th will be a huge day for the Texas Tech receiver and worth watching. Some teams will downgrade him over the injury and a poor showing, or further injury, could really hurt his draft stock.

2. OT Andre Smith, Alabama (PERSONAL CHOICE):
Nobody hurt themselves more this weekend than the big tackle from the Crimson Tide. First, Smith stood up and explained to the assembled media and scouts that he would not be participating in the Combine because he was not in proper shape. That candor might have actually won him points had he not gone missing Saturday morning. While there seems to be some confusion about the complete chain of events, he ended up heading to Atlanta to train and nobody seemed to know about it.

Smith, sixth on the NFLDB Big Board heading into Indianapolis, already had some red flags prior to this weekend. He was suspended for Alabama’s Bowl game for reasons he wouldn’t quite clarify and there had been some reports that he was out of shape, confirmed perhaps by his decision not to work out in Indianapolis. Leaving the Combine, even if it was to work out, was a poor choice and Smith may have been given some very bad advice.

He will need to be on point for Alabama’s Pro Day which is just two and a half weeks away, on March 11th. He won’t easily slide from the first round, but another bad day from Smith will certainly push him down the draft ladder and cost him a lot of money. Teams who have already begun to be concerned by his choices may write him off entirely.

3. QB Matthew Stafford, Georgia (PERSONAL CHOICE):
As the top ranked quarterback on most analyst’s boards, Stafford didn’t have much to gain by doing much more than cheerleading on Sunday. However, as one of the knocks against him by some evaluators is occasional sloppiness and lazy fundamental execution, not working out isn’t really putting that doubt to rest.

Still, if you’re the top Bulldog, why not do your work on March 19th in the most comfortable setting possible with familiar receivers and your teammates and coaches looking on? Stafford may lose some of the lead he has now before then, but if he has a sharp day, he will solidify his standing.

4. TE Ryan Purvis, Boston College (NOT INVITED): Purvis, the tenth ranked tight end on NFLDB’s tight end rankings, may have suffered from a down senior year but in 2007, he was a safety net for 2008 Offensive Rookie of the Year, Matt Ryan (not to be confused with Overall Rookie of the Year, Joe Flacco.).

While Purvis is a sure-handed receiver and made strides as a blocker this past season, there are questions about his speed, ability to get separation and upside. Purvis may not be a finished product and he’ll need to show the scouts some shine on Boston College’s Pro Days, March 12th and 13th.

5. LB Frantz Joseph, Florida Atlantic (NOT INVITED): This physical linebacker will actually get an early chance to impress as his Pro Day falls on February 26th. Joseph had a productive career and can make plays, but lacks top end speed and ideal size. He’ll need to come out hard on Thursday and prove that he can hang with the big boys. Joseph has to make a lasting impression on scouts, since it will have to serve him until April and hopefully convince teams to bring him in for a private workout between now and then.

We’ll be back next Monday with a look at the few Pro Days taking place this week and a preview of what to watch for in the coming month.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Smith Not Short On Confidence

Alphonso Smith, corner back from Wake Forest, stated he is the number one defensive back in the draft. To help develop his game, Smith has squared off against a pair of Super Bowl wide outs in Anquan Boldin of the Arizona Cardinals and Santonio Holmes from the Pittsburgh Steelers thanks to personal connections. He didn't give up a touchdown his entire senior year (and quoted the last time he did was his junior year against Florida State), but states that holding the all-time ACC interception mark (21 career) is most important to him.

Toughest receivers he's faced? Former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions, as well as Maryland’s Darrius Heyward-Bey, and North Carolina’s Hakeem Nicks.

His confidence goes beyond himself, as Smith proclaimed that former teammate and linebacker Aaron Curry is the best defensive player in the draft because of his knowledge of the game.

"By far. It's not even close...a lot of people don't know this but he is probably the smartest person in the draft," Smith said of Curry. He also referred to Curry as a "humble beast" because of his polite, yet misleading demeanor.

Stay tuned for more from the NFL combine.

Combine Confidential: Harvin To Sit Out Drills

University of Florida WR Percy Harvin said during his NFL Scouting Combine interview that he will participate in the 40-yard dash and the bench press but will not participate in any of the position drills. Harvin said during his NFL Scouting Combine interview that he believes he would not have any problems if a team asked him to play in the Wildcat formation because he played it in high school and college.

Combine Confidential: Pat White To Try WR

West Virginia QB Pat White said during his NFL Scouting Combine interview that he would love to play quarterback in the NFL but would be open to be a wide receiver or a returner if a team asks. He said some teams believe he can play quarterback while others think he will play another position. White ran the 40 in 4.49 seconds on Sunday.

White will be participating strictly as a quarterback in Indianapolis, but says he plans on doing wide receiver drills at his Pro Day back in Morgantown at the University of West Virginia.

The former Mountaineer had previously refused to play wide receiver while participating at the Senior Bowl, where he was Offensive MVP playing exclusively as a quarterback.

On Location: On The Down Low

Running back PJ Hill played at Wisconsin under the “brats and cheddar” diet and was often criticized that his shape through the hips wasn’t exactly running back-friendly. Hill admitted almost sheepishly that by season’s end he was approaching 240 pounds, and eventually resisted the ill-fated label of “fat kid at camp” when he arrived at his pro workout facility Performance Management Professionals.

“That’s a big surprise for a lot of people,” Hill joked as he announced his size, which is now down to a cruiser-weight of 222 pounds. “My agent told me a lot of teams were saying I was coming in big and lazy…I was always a big back. I just wanted to show them [teams] that…I was a hard worker, I can get toned, I can work hard, lose weight.” If all works out according to plan, Hill expects his 40-time to be in the low 4.5’s or in the 4.4’s. That would be the right type of gain for Hill.

Michigan defensive end Tim Jamison weighed in at 256 pounds, a number that clearly surprised some. His playing weight exiting Ann Arbor was 263 pounds so this could be a potential sticking point as we march towards the draft. Is he defensive end or an outside linebacker? Or a ‘tweener? Where will he be in April and will teams know enough in advance to gauge him appropriately as a future NFL baller?

On Location: Ian Johnson - Bigger is Better

Ian Johnson, the running back from Boise State, is another player who used the time from the end of his college career until the Scouting Combine to bulk up as he prepares to play on Sundays. Joking that he doesn’t care to have pro teams remember him as the ‘guy who proposed right after beating Oklahoma’, Johnson sounded determined to show how much he has changed his body and approach to running with the football. An addition of 14 pounds should make him thicker, yet he is hoping to run a 4.42 or lower. Furthermore, he has dramatically upped his bench, making a significant jump from 12 reps. He fell a bit short of his goal of 28 or 29, throwing the bar up 26 times, which was still good enough for fifth among the running backs (including two fullbacks who were ahead of him). It should be interesting to see his numbers fall – certainly he will be a case of the numbers game correlating potentially to a higher draft slot.

What’s up with PSU Ends? Their Weight

Aaron Maybin – We knew he was going to come into the draft as a DE/LB hybrid due to his size, but Maybin seems to have focused on adding bulk to take on his future role in the NFL. Maybin’s college days saw him wearing smaller sizes, but he feels better prepared moving forward at a heavier weight.

“I came in and gave them [teams] what they wanted to see. For most people they wanted to see me put on some weight,” Maybin said. “I had played my last year at Penn State around 230…so I went to work and put on 20 pounds and I feel good right now.”

Further, Maybin says his weight will possibly change again based on the system he joins.

“I will stay at this weight until the draft and based on what system I [get drafted in to] I will either move up or down based on what they want.”

Despite his increased bulk, Maybin affirms that he remains an athlete and describes himself as someone who brings, “athleticism, hard work, and desire.” One year of college stats isn’t much to hang your hat on, but it seems Maybin is doing (adding weight) and saying the right things to keep everyone’s brows raised.

Maurice Evans – Evans, like his former teammate, Maybin trained at Power Train Sports in Lancaster, PA, and beefed up from 252 lbs to a stalky 274 lbs (6’ 1”). When asked if he felt size would be a problem at the next level, “No, when you turn on the film I can play.”

His muscle gain seemed serendipitous, “That’s the way it put on a couple pounds of muscle.”

Saturday, February 21, 2009

On Location: WR Notes From Indy - II

WR Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech:
Training: Michael Johnson Performance
Teams Met With: Lions, Seahawks, Texans, Rams, Saints

WR Darius Heyward-Bey, Maryland:
Teams Met With: Eagles, Titans, Niners

WR Kenny Britt, Rutgers:
Will work out.
Training: API
Teams Met With: Panthers and half a dozen others
Pro Day: March 23

WR Derrick Williams, Penn State:
Will work out
Teams Met With: Colts, Cowboys

WR Louis Murphy, Florida:
Will work out.
Has spoken with Cardinals, Panthers and Cowboys.

WR Ramses Barden, Cal Poly
Will work out.

WR Aaron Kelly, Clemson:
Will work out
Training: XPE
Pro Day: March 24

WR Brian Hartline, Ohio State:
Will work out.
Training: At Ohio St.
Pro Day: March 13

WR Mike Thomas, Arizona:
Will not bench.

WR Austin Collie, BYU:
Will work out.
Teams Met With: Colts, Rams, Browns, Cowboys, Falcons, Dolphins, Redskins, Chiefs, Rams
Pro Day: March 11.

WR Jarrett Dillard, Rice:
Will work out.
Teams Met With: Jags, Redskins, Packers, Browns, Bengals, Titans

WR Marko Mitchell, Nevada:
Will not bench
Pro Day: March 25

WR Brooks Foster, UNC:
Will not run.
Pro Day: March 17

WR Taurus Johnson, South Florida:
Will work out.
Teams Met With: Lions, Browns, Dolphins, Texans, Jags, Steelers

WR Percy Harvin, Florida:
Will be doing all drills at the combine, but will not run any routes until Pro Day.

WR Quan Cosby, Texas:
Will be doing all everything but the vertical at the combine.

As reported by Justin VanFulpen

On Location: RB Notes From Indy - II

RB Knowshown Moreno, Georgia:
Will work out.
Training: Michael Johnson Performance

RB LeSean McCoy, Pitt:
Has been sick and lost 10 pounds but still may try and go.

RB Michael Goodson, Texas A & M:
Will work out.

RB James Davis, Clemson:
: Will work out.

FB Jason Cook, Ole Miss:
Will only do bench due to knee.
Spoken with Rams, Browns, Falcons, Bengals.
Pro Day: March 26.

As reported by Justin VanFulpen

On Location: QB Notes From Indy - II

QB Drew Willy, Buffalo:
Will be doing all drills at the combine.
Teams Met With: Bengals, Steelers, Bears, Bucs, Bills, Lions

QB Mike Reilly, Central Washington:
Will be doing all drills at the combine.

QB Brian Hoyer, Michigan State
Will be doing all drills at the combine.
Teams Met With: About 20-25 teams

QB Stepen McGee, Texas A & M:
ut: Working out at School

QB Pat White, West Virginia:
Will be doing all drills at the combine.
Miscellaneous: Willing to play quarterback and wide receiver

QB Rhett Bomar, Sam Houston State:
Will work out.
Training: CES
Pro Day: March 24.

QB Cullen Harper, Clemson:
Will work out
Training: Athletes Performance
Teams Met With: Texans, Niners, Redskins.

QB Jason Boltus, Hartwick:
Will work out
Teams Met With: Vikings, Browns, Jags, Lions and Rams

QB Hunter Caldwell, Louisville
Will work out

QB Chase Daniels, Missouri
Will work out.

As reported by Justin VanFulpen

On Location: LB Notes From Indy

LB Aaron Curry, Wake Forest:
Will be doing all drills at the combine.

LB Gerald McRath, Southern Miss:
Will be doing all drills at the combine.
Teams Met With:: Packers, Lions, Jaguars, Falcons, Texans, Bengals

LB Tyrone McKenzie, USF:
: Will be doing all drills at the combine.
Teams Met With: Rams, Panthers, Bengals, Jaguars
Fells like he could play all three linebacker positions

LB Scott McKillop, Pittsburgh:
Will be doing all drills at the combine.
Teams Met With: Lions, Chargers

LB Jasper Brinkley, South Carolina:
Will be doing all drills at the combine.
Teams Met With: Titans, Patriots, Falcons, Jaguars

LB Josh Mauga, Nevada:
Will not workout here at the combine.Teams Met With: Lions

LB Marcus Freeman, Ohio State:
Will be doing all drills at the combine.
Teams Met With: Browns, Jets, Colts, Cowboys, Seahawks

LB James Laurinaitis, Ohio State:
Will be doing all drills at the combine.

LB Jason Phillips, TCU:
Will be doing all drills at the combine.
Teams Met With: Jaguars, Cowboys, Cardinals, Falcons, Raiders, Packers

LB Zack Follett, Cal:
Not going to bench, but going to do the other drills.
Teams Met With: Cowboys, Browns, Bengals, Bill, Ravens, Packers, Chargers, Raiders

LB Darry Beckwith, LSU:
Will be doing all drills at the combine.
Training: API
Teams Met With:: Chargers, Cowboys, Seahawks, 49ers

LB Rey Maualuga:
Teams Met With: Cardinals, Saints, Chiefs,

LB Brian Cushing, USC:
Teams Met With: Giants, Jets, Bucs

LB Morris Wooten, Arizona State:
Will be doing all drills at the combine.

LB Kaluka Maiava, USC:
Will be doing all drills at the combine.
Teams Met With: Lions, Raiders, Packers

LB Anthony Felder, California:
Has Hamstring issue, depending on how he feels he will make that decision.

On Location: DL Notes From Indy

DE Maurice Evans, Penn State:
Will be doing all drills at the combine.
Miscellaneous: Up to 274 pounds, after adding muscle mass from training.

DE Conner Barwin, Cincinnati:
Will be doing all drills at the combine.

DE Brian Orakpo, Texas:
Will be doing all drills at the combine. Working out both as a defensive end and linebacker, as some teams beleive he is a 3-4 Outside Linebacker.
Talked to: Cardinals, Dolphins, Redskins (Spoke with him as a LB)

DE Paul Kruger, Utah:
Will be doing all drills at the combine.

DE Cody Brown, UConn:
Will be doing all drills at the combine.
Miscellaneous: Has talked to the teams that play 3-4 defense because several teams see him as a 3-4 Outside Linebacker

DE Aaron Maybin, Penn State:
Will be doing all drills at the combine.
Training: Power Train Sports Performance

DE Brandon Williams, Texas Tech:
Will be doing all drills at the combine.

DE Pannel Egboh, Stanford:
Will be doing all drills at the combine.
Teams Met With: Packers, Vikings, Broncos, Jets, Bengals, Chargers, Browns

DE Tim Jamison, Michigan:
Will be doing all drills at the combine.

DE: Will Davis, Illinois:
Will be doing all drills at the combine.

DT Terrence Taylor, Michigan:
Will be doing all drills at the combine.
Teams Met With: Chiefs, Dolphins, Steelers

DT B.J. Raji, Boston College:
Will be doing all drills at the combine.

DT Corvey Irvin, Georgia:
Will be doing all drills at the combine.
Miscellaneous: Weight up to 301 pounds, increased from college playing weight of 290-295 from workouts.

DT Evander Hood, Missouri:
Will be doing all drills at the combine.

DT Mitch King, Iowa:
Will be doing all drills at the combine.
Training: At Iowa

DT Jarron Gilbert:
Will be doing all drills at the combine.

DT Vance Walker, Georgia Tech:
Will be doing all drills at the combine.

Combine Results:3-Cone Drill - OL

1. Lydon Murtha, Nebraska, OT – 7.06
2. Xavier Fulton, Illinois, OT - 7.35
3. Max Unger, Oregon, C - 7.39
4. Jon Cooper, Oklahoma, C - 7.46
A.Q. Shipley, Penn St., C - 7.46
6. Jason Smith, Baylor, OT - 7.53
7. Joel Bell, Furman, OT - 7.55
8. Eric Wood, Louisville, C - 7.56
9. Seth Olsen, Iowa, OG - 7.59
10. William Beatty, UConn, OT - 7.62

Combine Results: Broad Jump - OL

1. Antoine Caldwell, Alabama, C - 9'3"
Xavier Fulton, Illinois, OT - 9'3"
3. Eugene Monroe, Virginia, OT - 9'2"
Matt Slauson, Nebraska, OG - 9'2"
Lydon Murtha, Nebraska, OT – 9'2"
6. Brandon Walker, Oklahoma, OG - 9'1"
Joel Bell, Furman, OT - 9'1"
8. Travis Bright, OG, BYU - 9'0"
9. William Beatty, UConn, OT - 8'11"
10. Jon Cooper, Oklahoma, C - 8'9"
Jamon Meredith, South Carolina, OT - 9'9"

Combine Results: Vertical Jump - OL

1. Travis Bright, OG, BYU - 35.5"
2. Lydon Murtha, Nebraska, OT – 35"
3. Brandon Walker, Oklahoma, OG - 34"
Matt Slauson, Nebraska, OG - 34"
5. William Beatty, UConn, OT - 33.5"
6. Xavier Fulton, Illinois, OT - 31"
Jonathan Luigs, Arkansas, C - 31"
A.Q. Shipley, Penn St., C- 31"
9. Andy Levitre, Oregon St., OG - 30.5"
Eric Wood, Louisville, C - 30.5"
Robert Brewster, Ball St., OT - 30.5"
Michael Oher, Mississippi, OT - 30.5"

Combine Results: 40-Yard Dash - TE

1. Jared Cook, South Carolina - 4.50
2. Shawn Nelson, Southern Miss - 4.56
3. Cameron Morrah, California - 4.66
4. Cornelius Ingram, Florida - 4.68
5. Marquez Branson, Central Arkansas - 4.71
6. David Johnson, Arkansas St. - 4.73
7. Jared Bronson, Central Washington- 4.76
8. Kory Sperry, Colorado St. - 4.77

Combine Results: 40-Yard Dash - OL

1. Lydon Murtha, Nebraska, OT – 4.89
2. Jamon Meredith, South Carolina, OT – 5.03
3. Xavier Fulton, Illinois, OT - 5.04
4. William Beatty, UConn, OT - 5.12
Gerald Cadogan, Penn St., OT - 5.12
6. Jonathan Luigs, Arkansas, C - 5.14
7. Joel Bell, Furman, OT - 5.15
8. Eben Britton, Arizona, OT - 5.16
9. Brandon Walker, Oklahoma, OG - 5.17
10. Jon Cooper, Oklahoma, C - 5.18
11. Jason Smith, Baylor, OT - 5.22

Combine Results: Bench Press - OL

1. Louis Vasquez, Texas Tech, OG – 39 Reps
2. Travis Bright, BYU, OG – 34 Reps
Juan Garcia, Washington, C – 34 Reps
4. Alex Boone, Ohio St., OT – 33 Reps
A.Q. Shipley, Penn St., C – 33 Reps
Jason Smith, Baylor, OT – 33 Reps
Robert Felix, UTEP, C – 33 Reps
8. Jon Cooper, Oklahoma, C – 31 Reps
Jamon Meredith, South Carolina, OT – 31 Reps
10. Ray Feinga, BYU, OG – 30 Reps

Combine Results: Bench Press - TE

1. Travis Beckum, Wisconsin - 28 Reps
James Casey, Rice - 28 Reps
3. Dan Gronkowski, Maryland - 26 Reps
4. Cameron Morrah, California - 24 Reps
Richard Quinn, North Carolina - 24 Reps
6. Eddie Williams, Idaho - 23 Reps
Jared Cook, South Carolina - 23 Reps
8. Brandon Pettigrew, Oklahoma St. - 22 Reps
Marquez Branson, Central Arkansas - 22 Reps

Combine Results: Broad Jump - TE

1. Jared Cook, South Carolina - 10'03"
2. Dan Gronkowski, Maryland - 10'02"
Kort Sperry, Colorado St. - 10'02"
4. Richard Quinn, North Carolina 9'11"
5. Brandon Pettigrew, Oklahoma St. - 9'10"
6. Jared Bronson, Central Washington - 9'08"
7. Cameron Morrah, California - 9'07"
Shawn Nelson, Southern Mississippi - 9'07"
9. David Johnson, Arkansas St. - 9'05"
Devon Drew, East Carolina - 9'05"

Combine Results: Vertical Jump - TE

1. Jared Cook, South Carolina - 41"
2. James Casey, Rice - 36"
3. Marquez Branson, Central Arkansas - 35"
4. John Phillips, Virginia - 33.5"
Kort Sperry, Colorado St. - 33.5"
6. Dan Gronkowski, Maryland - 33"
Cornelius Ingram, Florida - 33"
Shawn Nelson, Southern Miss - 33"
Brandon Pettigrew, Oklahoma St. - 33"

Maurice Evans Eager To Put Past Behind Him

By John Sears

The defensive end from Penn State has left school early to start his professional career. “I just feel real confident I’m ready…the decision I made was with my coaches and family.” When questioned about his run-in with the law on marijuana charges, and if he's tired of answering questions Evans states, “It’s old. I’ve learned my lesson and am ready to put that behind me. I now know I never want to be in a situation that would put my NFL career in danger.“

Evans sounds excited about any opportunity to play in any defense, whether it be in an odd- or even-man front, although he states he feels more natural with his hand on the ground. Later on, he admitted being a little smaller would potentially sway him in to a stand up position, but felt confident in doing so.

Speaking of his “smallness”, Evans has bulked up significantly from training. He was listed in the 250-255 range at Penn State and weighed in at 274 at the combine. At 6’1”, his frame is looking a lot like Lamarr Woodley's (6’2”, 265). Woodley, another former Big Ten defensive end and current Steeler, is currently celebrating a Super Bowl victory after an impactful season for the Steeltowners. Speaking of the Steelers, that is one of the teams Evans listed as having contact (unofficial) with. Cleveland, Atlanta, New England, New York Jets, San Diego, Carolina, Tampa Bay and the New York Giants were among the others. There seemed to be a bigger smile when Evans mentioned the Giants which was not surprising considering he's a Brooklyn native. He repeatedly mentioned playing for the home team would be the only rival to his experiences playing in Happy Valley.

So the “Brooklyn Brawler” says he's ready to play anywhere in any system. Evans seems to have his future figured out. Evans' former Head Coach Joe Paterno likes to needle his former player about their shared hometown of Brooklyn. Evans chuckles, “He always tells me [being a Brooklyn guy] how he used to run Brooklyn back when he was younger, and how I’m not really from Brooklyn.”

According to Paterno, Evans may not know how to run Brooklyn, but he’ll be running down quarterbacks in the NFL soon enough.

Stay tuned for more from the NFL combine.

Friday, February 20, 2009

On Location: Their Personalities – In A Word

By John Sears

A day of interviews for quarterbacks, receivers and running backs. Judging solely on their interview at the combine, here is my one word analysis of their current status:

Wide Receivers:
Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech: Happy-go-lucky
Deon Butler, WR, Penn State: Determined
Darius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland: Ready
Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri: Self-assured
Derrick Williams, WR, Penn State: Relaxed
Jordan Norwood, WR, Penn State: Realistic

Running Backs:
Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia: Humble
Chris “Beanie” Wells, RB, Ohio State: Nervous
P.J. Hill, RB, Wisconsin: Mature
Ian Johnson, RB, Boise State: Chip-on-the-shoulder (out to prove himself)
Javon Ringer, RB, Michigan State: Competitor
LeSean McCoy, RB, Pittsburgh: Brave

Matt Stafford, QB, Georgia: Polished
Chase Daniel, QB, Missouri: Under-valued
Graham Harrell, QB, Texas Tech: Honest
Mark Sanchez, QB, USC: Confident

Stay tuned for more on location from the NFL combine.

On Location: Mike Singletary & Rex Ryan At Indy

Traits from an undersized MIKE and a new head coach

Do you remember in the mid ‘80s the tales of a tackling machine who didn’t blink upon collision with the ball-carrying victim? Considered undersized for playing middle linebacker, Mike Singletary made up for his physical stature several orders of magnitude over with his intensity, culminating in beaming eyes that seemed to read the play out of the quarterback’s helmet before breaking the huddle. It’s no surprise to see the same intensity from Singletary now as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. What’s very telling seeing him describe players he meets at the combine is that the most appealing characteristics from the future pros are those same characteristics that made Singletary a Hall of Famer: “character…mentality…physicality…chemistry”.

Singletary goes on to describe his ideal quarterback: “Accuracy, makes all the throws, smart…[but] what it comes down to is what happens after he makes a bad play, how does he respond? What are his intangibles? Is he a leader?”

Rex Ryan, newly appointed head coach of the New York Jets weighs heavily on character as well. “[Does the player have the] will to win? Love for football? A gym rat? Have passion? Know the history of the game? Want to be a Jet? A team player?” Both Ryan and Singletary seem to be stressing character as the anchoring point of the ideal future draft pick.

So just as we have known Singletary’s eyes to be a tell all, he reads his players the same way, “You want to be able to look in to their eyes to know their ambition. Are they hungry? Do they want to be part of something special?”

For future Jets, be prepared for a history test on the NFL and the Jets and a lot of soul searching for your passion. For those future 49ers, Coach Singletary is watching. Like a hawk. (And yes, he blinks; I saw it once during the interview).

Stay tuned for more from the NFL combine.

Q&A: Hunter Cantwell, QB, Louisville

What is your height, weight and what do you expect to run in the 40?

My height is 6’4” probably 235lb and I am looking to run a 4.9 in the 40

What do you want to showcase at the combine, what is first and foremost in your mind that you want to showcase to the NFL scouts?

I think definitely my throwing ability, the accuracy, the arm strength. I am a good athlete, not a great athlete. I am not going to wow anyone with my vertical jump or my three-cone or L drill. What I excel at is throwing the football and hopefully that will come through in the throwing drills at Indianapolis.

Your position gets critiqued and picked apart more than any other. Of the criticism that you hear, do you think any of it is at all accurate and illustrates some things you have to work on? And which criticisms do you disagree with...

I think after the season a lot of NFL teams/scouts said that my release was too long; it was giving the DBs and safeties a chance to break on the ball. It was giving a “tell”, so to speak, when I was getting ready to throw. I think that’s something I've worked very hard on in this combine preparation, shortening that release. I have a QB coach out (Bob Johnson) here in southern California and we’ve been working really hard on that. I think another criticism that you laugh at is people saying, 'he’s a big guy and he doesn’t move that well'. Like I said before, I am not going to wow anyone with my agility or speed, but I think I’m a better athlete than people give me credit for.

How about Brian Brohm? You had to play behind him for a couple of years, can you tell us if you still talk to him and what do you hear from him about going into the NFL? Was it difficult sitting behind him and not to try to do too much this year because you only had one year to show what you can do?

Playing with Brian, backing him up for those four years was a great experience for me. Obviously he was a heckuva college football player and being able to learn from him and just watching him play...the best thing you can do as quarterback trying to learn is to watch a great guy like Brian play. Being around for his process as he went through the combine, pro day and got his feedback kind of helps me understand the whole situation and what the scouts are looking for. It was tough at times playing behind Brian because going into my senior year, I did want to show that I had the ability to play at a high level and live up to Brian’s expectations. I don’t think that made me press at all during the season, but that is always in the back of your mind.

What do you think your best feature is, your arm strength, your accuracy or your ability to read defenses?

I take pride in all three of those things. The scouts would tell you, from what I have been hearing from them, is my arm strength. It is just something I have been able to do since I was little, throw the ball far with velocity, so I think that is what they would tell you - arm strength.

I am sure in the coming weeks and the coming months you are going to have a lot of questions thrown at you by NFL personnel. What do you tell teams that may be skeptical about picking you because you only had one year of starting experience at quarterback?

That is definitely something NFL teams will look at, and I do have only one year of starting experience, but throughout my time as a backup I was able to play more games. I was able to start four games going into my starting season, so there is a lot more film on me out there, a lot more games started than just one season. I think there have been a lot of guys who have either played only one senior season or played a lower level of competition for one year and still had success, so I think there is precedent for guys who have only played one year.

A guy like Kurt Warner...


Looking back at your career at Louisville, what particular moment really stands out for you?

: I can remember when Miami came in, I guess it was two years ago. I think they were sixteenth in the nation and we were twelfth and even though we were ranked higher, Miami was still getting considerable love. This was the University of Miami of Florida and I remember they came into Papa John Colonel Stadium and we were getting real excited and they came in and jumped on our bird before the game! It almost started a fight on the fifty-yard line. That game was very high energy, high octane from the get go and in the third quarter the game was still in the balance. It was back and forth and Brian was injured, he had a thumb injury and had to come out of the game. I remember going in and on the first play, Coach Petrino had the confidence in me and called a deep post pattern and I was able to hit Harry Douglass, who is now with the Atlanta Falcons. I hit him on the post route and he was tackled at the one and the crowd just went insane. I knew from that point on we were going to score, and we were going to beat Miami. A lot of people weren’t expecting us to win that one, so I think that memory will probably stand out.

We've been talking a lot about getting ready for the combine and a lot of the focus is on the physical, but you are also going to have to take the Wonderlic test and interview with a lot of teams. What have you done to prepare for those things, to take that test, which I hear is kind of strange, as well as speaking to these NFL executives?

The Wonderlic is pretty different. I’ve taken it numerous times actually. When the scouts came in for senior pro day, they would make the juniors take it, so I’ve already taken it once with the NFL. I’ll take it again at the combine and one thing you just got to learn is not to try to answer them all. Answer the ones you know and move on as the time passes. You don’t want to take too much time. It is not something like the SAT or the ACT, something that you can prepare is something you don’t really worry about too much. As far as meeting with NFL GMs and executives, that’s huge, because as a quarterback they are basically giving you the keys to their organization. You want to come across as intelligent and confident, you don’t want to be over-cocky. From what I've heard, a lot of teams will bring in psychologists and analysts, people who study body language. They really do look for everything. I have had some interview preps, but a lot of things my agents have heard is that a lot of guys over-prepare and go in sounding like robots. Everyone has his own set of answers that they give to tough questions, so the good part is about it is going into those interviews you don’t want to sound like a robot, you want to be confident, you want to say the right thing, but you also want your own personality to shine through, so that will be big for all of the quarterbacks at the combine.

What team you would like to land with? (Chat room/Rams fan)

I would love to stay as close to home as possible, but obviously I would be delighted whichever team took a chance on me. Not to pander to the crowd, but St. Louis and the Titans would probably be the two closest to my hometown of Paducah, Kentucky, so I would be excited if the Rams or Titans picked me up.

What was your favorite team growing up?

Kansas City Chiefs

Favorite movie of all time?

Dumb and Dumber or Sandlot

What is your favorite hobby outside of football?

Snow skiing, but I haven’t skied in a couple of years due to the injury factor, so I will go with fresh water fishing.

Q&A: Curtis Painter, QB, Purdue

West Lafayette, home to the Purdue Boilermakers, aka “the cradle of quarterbacks”, helped introduce a new era in the Big Ten under coach Joe Tiller, that being the passing/spread offense. Under Tiller’s tutelage, a lineage of quarterbacks have walked in to Ross-Ade and thrown their way into the school and conference record books. Drew Brees, now a perennial MVP candidate with the New Orleans Saints, proved that “system quarterbacks” can succeed in the NFL…Next in line was Kyle Orton, who finished his 2008 campaign with the Chicago Bears with just under 3,000 yards passing and 18 touchdowns. Next to make his splash as a Joe Tiller disciple is Curtis Painter, who sits in the top ten in the Purdue and Big Ten record books after his four years of service with the Boilermakers - 11,163 yards, 67 touchdowns, 60% completion percentage to name a few highlights. Curtis is now focused on the NFL combine and has been kind enough to offer up some time to discuss his preparation.

Curtis, welcome to the NFL Draft Bible’s player spotlight. I hear you are actually out in California training in preparation for the combine. Is that correct?

I am. The training facility is located in Irvine, California, right in Orange County. It is Velocity Sports. So that’s where we do primarily most of our speed and strength conditioning-type exercises. And then we will also have a quarterback coach out here that we work with and he’s doing a good job with that and having a great time.

Are you accompanied by other potential NFL hopefuls as well?

I am. There is about 15 to 20 of us altogether. The other quarterbacks are Mark Sanchez, Patrick White, Tom Brandstater, and Nathan Brown so it’s a good group of quarterbacks you get to go up against every day, develop a nice relationship and friendship’s just fun. It’s a great camaraderie - you get to push each other every day and make great friends in the process.

With Sanchez there, White there, Brandstater there, you pretty much have three different types of quarterbacks you can compare yourself to. I don’t think you’d want to compare yourself as the runner that Pat White is, but it must be fun to size yourself up to all the different styles that are getting ready for the pros.

Yeah, it really is. You have guys like Mark [Sanchez] and Pat [White] who are very highly respected at the next level and it’s great going up against them and some of the other guys you go against and hear about. So it’s great to get a chance to meet them. It’s really fun, you get to go out and compete and develop friendships, which is just great.

So while you are out there, they must have you running a little bit. We have you listed at around 6’2.5”, 222 lbs. Is that still accurate or have you shaved a few pounds off in the hot sun running around doing sprint drills?

: That’s about right, right around 220. And that’s about right – 6’2.5”-6’3”.

Would you consider that a good fighting weight for you, 220?

: Yeah, I think so. I think personally I feel the best right around that weight. I’ve been a little heavier, I’ve been a little lighter, and I think right around there is a really good weight for me. It still allows me to move around fairly well and also to be able to take some hits with a little bit of size. I am pretty happy where I am in that respect.

Do you have specific goals for your 40-time when you get to the combine, anything you’d like to hit that says, “this is good enough” or “puts me in a good range for where I’d like to be”?

I would like to be in the high 4.8’s, right around there. I think that would be a respectable time for myself. I don’t think I am going to be the fastest guy or the quickest guy there, but just being able to go out there and compete and show I have a certain amount of ability you may not see much on film, because I am more of a pocket passer.

Are you planning on doing all the drills at the combine?

I am. I think the only one the quarterbacks don’t have to do is the bench press, so I won’t be doing that. But all the others I will be doing, I’ll be competing and I really look forward to that.

Now you have to have, with your buddies, thrown 225 on the bench back in West Lafayette. Can you give us a little insight there?

My best was 21. I did that, I believe, the last summer or last spring during workouts back in Purdue. Haven’t done it since…still working on strength out here now.

What else are you doing to prepare for the combine. Obviously, as you said, it’s throwing more so than running…and from our view, from the outside looking in, it seems like passing drills and interviews would be the keys as far as impressing the scouts. So what are you doing to prepare?

You’re exactly right, I think the passing drills will be a huge part of it and that’s obviously what we do a lot of on the field. I think it’s great we have so many quarterbacks from so many different systems here, because when we sit down and do some film sessions and get up on the board with each other, you get a lot of different things from different teams across the nation. The interview process is big for us, just being able to get up on the board and talk about your offense and what you know, and just being confident about it, going through these interviews and really exposing yourself and showing them what you know and what you are capable of, football-wise. That’s definitely a huge aspect some people may overlook – they just see what’s on the field and what people produce, but it’s a lot of stuff in the film room.

Absolutely, and I think for quarterbacks that’s essential. I remember I read an article about Drew Brees, and it was talking about some of the training exercises he does – where he is balancing on one ball and has a playing card thrown at him and the guy training him will throw out a defense and he [Brees] has to give him the play that should be called to go against that perfect defense. Obviously the mental acuity, the sharpness has to be there. So you think you have that? What’s in the water in West Lafayette that allows a Brees or an Orton - seemingly everyone under Joe Tiller - to come in from that “college-based spread offense” and be successful? What is it about that training or that offense that has given you that edge?

I think part of it is that obviously these are two great quarterbacks and would be successful anywhere. The offense there [Purdue] is one that allows the game to kind of be in the quarterback’s hands. We’re the type of offense that's going to spread the ball around and get it to a lot of receivers. And I think with that and a balanced running game, it really provides an opportunity for us to be successful. I think that I was very fortunate to get the chance to have some experience early on in my career and start from an early age, and that really helped me in my process of developing that experience level and that continued into my junior and senior year.

What would you say would be your best throws? I would assume from the offense you came from, a lot of 3 to 5-step drops, four receivers running patters – do you have any particular patterns you feel you have mastered?

You’re right. We do a lot of what we call “quick games”, which is a lot of three-step drops and getting the ball out fast – a lot of slants and short out routes. I think those are two throws I do fairly well. And then, on our five-steps, we do a lot of deeper outs, skinny posts, routes like that. You always have the curls and the digs, I think I throw those fairly well. Our offense is like that – we’ll throw some quick, we’ll throw some deep and right in the middle there, and then we’ll hit you with the long one. I think that’s what’s great about our offense – it’s just very balanced and really unpredictable in a lot of ways.

Do you think there is any offensive system/strategy in the pros that meshes really well with what you’ve done under Coach Tiller at Purdue?

Since I’ve been at Purdue we’ve been testing a few different things, a few different looks – we’ve done a little of the option game, we’ve spread it out, that’s pretty normal for us, we’ve had the ability to go to a double tight-end set, which is considered a pro-style offense. So I think just doing a lot of different things through my entire career, when I’ve talked about experience and getting in a lot of games, I guess that kind of helps me be a little more well-rounded. I'd like to think I can step in to any system with a little experience from college and hopefully be able to be successful and make an impact.

How’s the shoulder doing?

Doing good. Had the injury right there towards the end of the season. I think it was really big for me to be able to come back, play the last two games, and I think, play very well. I think my arm felt great. It was very big for me to just get back and show teams, show people it wasn’t an injury that would nag me or continue on. So it’s feeling great, back to normal and I'm happy about that obviously.

Well I think judging by how you finished up the season even though it was disappointing, I think you came out and you took it out on your rival, Indiana. They felt the pain of your healthy shoulder, what did you have, five touchdowns that game, 450 yards?

It was a fun game for us after a season we really didn’t expect or obviously want, but I think you got to give our team some credit. We fought hard even in the Iowa game, we were down by a few touchdowns and we fought hard to get back, to give ourselves a chance to win the game. The IU game, we played well and I think that’s a testament to our team - after a frustrating season, we were able to come back, play well, and end it on the right note.

That was one of the things I wanted to try and glean from you – obviously your season didn’t pan out how you would have wanted it, so do you feel there is anything you can turn into a positive about your senior campaign, personally or as a team, so that anyone that’s been watching you can look beyond the statistics from 2008?

: I think the big thing is that it’s not so much what goes on on the field but it’s just going through that type of season, the stresses of being in some games and losing them, and obviously the injury. You go through a lot, you learn a lot, you build a lot of character just going through it. And I think that, touching on our team, we learned a great deal going through the season and just continuing to fight, and staying positive. We were able to close out the season and I think a lot of teams after a few losses would hang their heads and let the rest of the season go down, but we were able to fight back and end it on a good note. I think you can say that about each person, including myself. I really learned a lot about character and what it’s like going through a tough season.

Have you had conversations with Drew Brees or Kyle Orton about coming into the NFL after your years at Purdue? If so, have they given you any pointers ?

: I probably have a little closer relationship with Kyle because I was there my true freshman year while he was there his senior year. So I know Kyle fairly well and I have talked to him a few times. He just gave me some advice early on, before I got out training, and everything just about the whole process. He gave me a lot of information about what would go on in the next few months and I think that really helped out. It’s great to have those types of people. Drew is obviously just a great guy and a great person to mirror. He’s very successful, did a lot of great things while he was at Purdue and now in the NFL. He’s certainly a person you would like to model yourself after and I guess strive to be like.

Anyone you are looking forward to playing against at the next level?

: Not really. I think more than anything it would be fun to meet up with past teammates. There are a few guys on teams throughout the league and guys I haven’t seen in a while. It would be great to play against them. And now some of the guys I met here, it’s been a great opportunity to meet a lot of guys and I think that will be fun when we get to compete against those guys.

Well, Curtis, thank you. All the best down at the combine. I will possibly run in to you - I’ll be down there towards the end of the week through the weekend, so all the best in your training until then and good luck once the draft hits.

Great. Thank you very much, thanks for having me.

Photo Credit: Purdue University Sports Information

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Q&A: Bobby Bowden, HC, Florida St.

Click to Listen to Interview - Hosted by CFI Founder Daniel Mogollon

How much has recruiting changed over the years?

It’s changed. I’ve been in coaching now 55 years, and you can imagine the changes that I’ve seen in five decades. When I first started coaching boys played both ways, you’d only need about 33 kids; that would be three teams (with today's rosters). Also, back in those days you didn’t recruit specialists, you just asked your kids, “Hey boys can anybody punt? Can anybody kick off?” because you didn’t have scholarships to take care of specialists. Well now it’s the other way around, you got specialists for everything. You got specialist catchers, specialist throwers, specialist receivers, specialist kickers, specialist punters, specialist pass rushers, so it’s really gotten more sophisticated down through the years and it’s a lot more competitive.

Are we any better at it? With all the information that is now available, are we any better at identifying the top players coming out of high school?

I don’t know, but that’s the key to it, just what you said - it’s the evaluation. I think the reason we’ve dropped off the last five or six years is we have not done as good a job evaluating talent. Here’s what I mean by that: if you start trying to recruit off of the newspapers or off of the press and you go after all of the five-star guys and four-stars and all that, you can get yourself in trouble. You better evaluate them and see who can do the best in your program. I think we're doing a better job right now, the last couple of years, of evaluating prospects because that is a key.

Are you talking about guys like Fred Rouse (five-star) and a player like Rodney Hudson (three-star)?

Coach (Rick) Trickett, who coaches our offensive line, I remember the first year he came here we had a five-star offensive lineman committed and he came in and said “I just don’t want that kid. I don’t want him, he doesn’t play hard. Give me those three-stars and I’ll make five-stars out of them.” He wants a hungrier football player. That’s not to say that all five-stars are that way, but it can be misleading.

What do you dislike the most about the direction recruiting has headed?

I think it’s the kids making verbal commitments and then changing their minds, and I don’t blame it on the kid. I really wish we didn’t have verbal commitments; you’re putting too much pressure on a 17-year old. He’s getting recruited by men who are 35, 40, 50, 60 years of age and they’re so much more mature than he is and they can talk him into anything. I just really wish we didn’t have verbal commitments, now they can make a quiet commitment but not announce it and then just get it out on signing day, but that’s one thing that kind of gets you.

Does it scare you when you hear of 15-year olds making verbal commitments and all-star games for junior high kids before they even get to high school?

Boy isn’t that something? That is something. In my generation we can’t understand that, we don’t believe that’s good.

Why so?

What does a kid know when he’s 15? He’s going to know a lot more when he’s 17 or 18, and he might change his mind completely. I think the later you can put it off, the better.

How do you feel about your 2009 recruiting class, ranked sixth by

Well, I kid about that. Have you ever heard a coach say they had a bad recruiting year? Have you ever heard a coach say 'boy, we had a terrible recruiting year'? I feel we had a good year and you do because you’re picking up anywhere from 20-25 new guys and it’s got to be good. The question is - what are they going to do two years from now? You nearly have to wait two years before you can really say, “Oh man they were as good as they said they were or they were better than they said they were.”

What can you tell us about defensive tackle Jacobbi McDaniel and cornerback Greg Reid – a pair of five-star recruits – are they expected to contribute right away?

Yes I do. In fact, we’re going to ask them to contribute right away. They are deserving to be named a five-star, whatever that means. As long they come in and work hard and give it everything they’ve got, we definitely think they have the talent to play for us next year, but we got some three stars and whatever else they star down there that we think can play too.

Who is the one that got away?

As long as I’ve been coaching I can name a whole bunch of them. Nobody gets everybody they want, what you hope to do is get your share. Now you take down here in the state of Florida, you’ve got 150 kids signing 1A scholarships. That’s 150; I can’t sign but 20, Florida cant sign but 20, Miami cant sign but 20, that’s 60 kids so where are the other 90 going to go? So we select what we think is the best, that’s why I say evaluation is so important. But you don’t know; that kid that you turned down might end up greater because he’s only 17 years old. He might grow three more inches, he might gain 50 pounds and end up faster and stronger and beat you. Do you remember Tony Dorsett?


Well, I remember trying to recruit him when I was at West Virginia. Instead, he went to Pitt and we had to play against him every year and he was just unstoppable.

That’s funny that you mention him going to a rival cause when I spoke to your former coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mark Richt, his guy was actually Danny Wuerffel. He went to Florida and played against you guys...

We tried to recruit Danny. That year there were three quarterbacks we had pin-pointed and we knew we would only get but one. One was Wuerffel, one was , and the other was a kid up in Minnesota who was real good, I forget his name right now. But anyway, we got Kannel because he committed to us first, then Wuerffel committed to Florida, the other kid I think went to Miami. Kannel did a great job for us, but Wuerffel did a super job in Florida.

Does luck ever play into this? You lose a kid you really want, but the kid you replace him with actually turns out better...

Oh yeah there’s no doubt about it. You get surprises. Let me tell you a pretty good surprise. I don’t if you’re familiar with Gregg Carr.

Yes, the wide receiver who’s a senior, just graduated.

Yes he’s a senior this year. Greg came from North Marion High School and he was kind of a late pick-up for us. We kind of took a chance on him; I don’t know how many other offers he had, I’m sure he had others. So we got him and then when we got him we just thought he would be a down-the-liner, but he came in and started his first year; he started every year for us. That’s why I say you’re just not sure how much they’re going to grow, how fast they’re going to get, or how big they’re going to get, or how bad they want it and all those things factor in.

Brett Favre, whose most famous college victory was probably against Florida St., wasn’t a highly touted player coming out of high school. Do you have any thoughts on Favre and his place in the history of the game now that he’s officially retired?

There’s a great example right there. There’s a great example of a young man that probably wasn’t highly recruited. He didn’t go to Ole Miss, he didn’t go to Mississippi State, he didn’t go to Alabama, Auburn, LSU; he went to Southern Mississippi, which is an excellent school, but not in the SEC or ACC or the big conferences. We played against him as a freshman, I'll never forget that. He started as a freshman against us and we beat him pretty good, I think we might have beaten him by 40 points or something like that. The next year we didn’t play them; then the next year we opened the season with them over in Jacksonville and they beat us. We would have won the national championship that year because we beat Miami that year and Miami ended up winning the national championship. If we would have beat Southern Miss. we probably would have won the national championship, but Brett Favre just cut us to pieces. But don’t forget he also beat Alabama and he also beat Auburn that year, he was just a great quarterback.

How does Everette Brown compare to guys like Andre Wadsworth and Peter Boulware?

I think he’d be close to those guys. Andre was so much bigger. Andre was about 6’5’’ 285 lbs. and ran a 4.6 40 and I think he was about the 5th or 6th guy taken in the draft. Brown would be very much like Boulware, very quick and very fast. It will be interesting to see because Boulware was rookie of the year when he came out. The thing about Brown is he has already graduated and if you can go that high and you already got your degree, you nearly have to come out.

Where do you think he will play at the next level? Could he move to outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme like Boulware did?

That remains to be seen. I do believe this: with Brown’s character — he's very dependable, very honest, just a good kid with a great desire - he’s probably got those intangibles that will somehow make it.

Was Deion Sanders the best player you ever coached?

I think he’s the best athlete I ever coached, but you throw in Charlie Ward and Warrick Dunn and Derrick Brooks and they played great too. But I definitely think Deion is the best athlete we’ve ever had.

Was Myron Rolle the brightest player you’ve ever coached?

I don’t know anybody you’d put ahead on him, but we’ve had quite a few academic All-Americans here. Myron graduated in two and a half years and won the Rhodes Scholar and what a great thing that was. Our quarterback (Christian Ponder) this year graduated in two and a half years, he was only a sophomore and he had already graduated so he’s got pretty good academic potential also. But Myron was exceptional.

Which player made you say dag-gummet the most?

Maybe Sammy Smith that we had back in the late 80’s. Great football player, but every now and then he’d lay that ball down and I’m sure I’d say dag-gummet.

Photo Credit: Florida St. University

Q&A: Ian Johnson, RB, Boise St.

Click To Listen to the Interview

This week we have the NFL Scouting Combine are you 100 percent?

Oh man, I’ve never felt this good. If you call this 100 percent...this is awesome right now. I’ve never felt this good. Weight is great, body feels great. I’m sad I never played like this before.

So there are no excuses next week at the combine?

I know there’s not much as far as expectations for me so I’m excited to go out and show everyone that they should set the bar a lot higher for me.

In Indianapolis, what kind of weight and height do you think you're going to show?

I’ll be 5’11 cause that never changes and I’ll weigh about 214.

That’s up from your usual weight. Have you put on a few pounds?

Definitely, I probably played the season around 201, so that was at my heaviest. Now I’ve put on a good solid 13 pounds. I weigh 214 and run at 214 and that won’t be water weight.

Now we were doing some research and you were quoted as saying, “I’m super excited because I’m about to show them something they don’t know” referring to the scouts and your speed.

Definitely one of the things I want to show them. One of the knocks on me wasn’t even that I wasn't fast, but it was that I was slow. So I’m excited that it gives me a chance to go up in front of everyone to show not only am I not slow but I’m more towards the other end. I’m not going to say what I’m going to run right now because I want to keep people surprised, but it will be a good little surprise for everybody.

The typical guy goes to the gym three or four times a week maybe for a hour or so. Can you take a tell us how the day goes for Ian Johnson?

Oh definitely. I wake up about 7:15, eat breakfast right away, have a couple of shakes, leave for the facility at 7:30. We start running and warming up at 8:00. From 8:30 to about 11:00 we're in there running, doing our resistance training or speed workout. Then after that, we get a 15-20 minute break and have a snack or a light lunch, come back and then we will lift for another two hours. When I’m done lifting for about two hours I’ll take another 45 minute break. Then we go onto the field and do (position) drills. So from about 8 to 3:30.

Wow, that’s impressive. Do you shut down for the rest of the day or are you out there doing active stuff after a long day like that?

It all depends on how the workout was and how I’m feeling. At the very beginning of the workouts when I first got to San Diego, as soon as I was done I couldn’t even walk to the beach and we were staying on the beach! I was so tired. Now it’s just about being smart and saying hey 'I might have the energy to do something', but I might sit on the beach for 45 minutes or go sit in the house, catch up and maybe ice myself down because no matter what, I have to be healthy for this combine.

At the East/West Shrine game did any teams show interest in you?

I talked with probably upwards of about 15 different teams personally. I mean it was real nice to go out and find out that there are people out there that have interest. So this (Combine) for me is another chance for me to see how much those relationships are really going to be built on. They say 'hey, we liked what we saw at the East/West Shrine game, but you're bigger, faster, stronger than you were even back then.' So I have nothing but good hopes for this (the Combine).

When did you start prepping for the Combine?

We got done with our bowl game on December 23rd. I took a week off, then flew into southern California to start training on the 2nd, so I’ve been training since the 2nd of January.

Wow, that’s about 13 or 14 pounds I’m assuming of muscle mass in a short period of time...that’s a impressive statistic.

I take my training very seriously and I’ve been taking it almost religiously out here. I mean, when I have a goal in my mind, I’ll reach it. My goal was to come to the Combine at 212 and I think I beat that a little early.

Have you had to answer any questions referring to your reps and production going down since the stand out season of 2006?

Definitely had to answer questions. To me it’s easy for me to understand because were not the same team every year. I mean even in the pros where you have guys staying longer than 4 or 5 years, teams change from year to year. Running backs will have a less productive season just because for a team to win, a wide receiver might have to have more catches, other people might have to touch the ball for the team to win. So for me, I just understood that this isn’t the same team - we didn’t have the same offensive line and we needed to switch up who touched the ball in different ways. I just wanted to make this team win and anything I could do to make this team win was what I was all about. And for this year it meant a lot more special teams and not just running the ball. I caught a lot more passes and I’ve done more things on the field than I had ever done.

Have you had to answer any questions regarding your health, and are you nervous about your injuries and answering those questions at the Combine?

No I’m not worried about any of those questions. Lucky for me, all my injuries have only a rare chance of recurring. If you take a look at the doctors' notes about why these injuries happened, one of them would say it’s either a fluke or hey it’s a broken rib. The chances of it recurring after it heals are the same as before, so I’m not any more susceptible to that - it’s not going to keep me from running hard. And the things that I needed to do to keep those injuries from happening, I changed. I needed to put on more weight because I didn’t have enough muscle mass or I didn’t have enough cushion in my body to keep my organs safe. I put on a lot on muscle mass in my rib cage area so I mean I’m 100 percent ready to take on a full load take the beating of a running back and not get hurt anymore.

Do you have the mind-set that you could be a 20-carry back in the NFL?

Oh definitely, my mind-set is 'go out and carry the ball as many times as they feed it to me'. But that’s not gonna keep me from being happy if I go to a team and they say, 'you're going to be a complementary back for a little bit.' I’m going to go out there and give whatever is asked of me and give them no reason to say 'hey well you’ll only be a complementary back'. I want to give them a reason to say 'hey this guy can do it all.'

As a youngster did you have any players you looked up to or tried to emulate when you were on the field?

Oh definitely, I was a huge Emmitt Smith fan. I went from playing him on Tecmo Bowl to watching him live. And it was just something about him that no matter what, he wasn’t super super flashy but he was always productive...he was always just right and I loved him for it.

Now if you get drafted by a NFL team and you play Madden are you going to be Ian Johnson or Adrian Peterson?

First I’m not a huge Madden guy, but if I was to play I’d probably have to use myself at least once just so I can say I did. Hey I could say I played a video game with my name, my number - not like college where it’s just your number - and that’s me, my likeness. After that, I’m more of a first person shooter game guy so that’s what I’d spend my time on.

That’s got to be a pretty cool feeling, that you might be on a John Madden football game.

It’s ridiculous to me because that was never my desire. I just wanted to play football and enjoy myself doing it. Playing at a high as a level as I could and all of those extras are kind of like waking me up - I could be on a football game...I could be getting paid for this. It's so amazing to me.

What do you like to do in your free time, I know that you're married. Is it hard to spend quality time together?

We are definitely real busy. So it’s hard for me to get a lot of quality time but we enjoy ourselves. I spend a lot of my time teaching myself to play piano. If I have a lot of down time I’ll play some video games, watch some TV but my wife and I like to stay active outside of my active football life. We go down to the beach, especially now that were in southern California, we go down to the beach a lot just watch waves and enjoy nature.

Very nice. You guys doing any today for Valentine's Day?

Actually we had to fly into Boise last night and we're flying home to Ocean Side, California in about an hour so nothing too special. I think I got a her a vacation to Boise. That was my present to my wife. (Laughs)

So you can tell the honeymoon is over...

Just a little bit. (Wife in background saying 'some vacation'.)

Would you do away with the college bowl games and have a playoff system if you could change it?

Definitely not, I think the way it’s set up now you would have to push the season earlier into summer. Guys would be playing more games and with the way the college season is, it's already taking a big toll on guys, taking guys out of school longer. College football takes up so much of their time as it is so I don’t think it’s fair to the athletes to play another three or four games. The Bowl (Championship) Series has been good so far. Maybe make some tweaks, but nothing too big.

I’m surprised you answered that way with you guys finished 13-0 (in 2006). I thought you would take the playoff system to be honest with you.

I understand why people would think that. But for us, they treated us well - we got our 13-0, we got our Fiesta Bowl worked for us. There are so many variables that are in college football, it's hard to have a perfect system. So maybe tweak it to where teams get automatic bids, but the system is fine.

If we had you iPod or MP3 player, what kind of music would we find?

You're going to find a wide variety. A lot of little punk bands on there, I came from a punk rock scene in California so that’s where my heart is. You will find a little rap, a little R&B, some Robin Thicke and even throw some Yanni on there.

Last question before we let you go. I heard back in the day that you had a ritual, a pre-track warm up where you would eat a banana with peel and all. Would you like to comment on that?

(Laughing) Close. We had a little deal in high school - the freshmen had to eat a whole entire banana, stem and all. Right before the game, there was no dancing but everyone would chant “banana peel, banana peel!” and we would pick a freshman. He would have to eat it, it started with my class and I continued it...but no dancing.

Very nice. Ian, I want to thank you so much and wish you the best of luck. Hope to see you on draft day holding up a jersey for some team. Best of luck, thank you.

You too, thank you.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Q&A: Mark Richt, Head Coach, Georgia

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What can you tell us about Matthew Stafford and his chances of being a top-ten pick?

Well, everything I’m hearing is he will be a top-ten pick. I think he is worthy of that grade. Very talented guy, he is built to be an NFL quarterback - in my opinion - (he is) six (foot) three-ish, maybe closer to six-three and a half and he’s a trim 230-235 (pounds). He is very strong and durable, he is very agile. His arm is unquestioned in its strength, but also he can make really any throw you would want a guy to make. He is highly intelligent. He loves the game. He’s a humble guy who wants to put the team first, he’s exactly what everyone is looking for. I think he will be a very high pick - if not the first pick.

Have you ever been around anybody who can spin the football the way Matt does?

Well, the guys that I saw spin the football like that were: (John) Elway, (Dan) Marino - really those two - up close because I was a free agent quarterback with the Broncos when Elway was a rookie. We were both rookies at the same time...he stayed about seventeen years, and I stayed about seven days. But I got to see him (Elway) up close, and he was very, very impressive - even though I was supposedly competing with him. And then Marino, the very next camp when I was with the Dolphins, I got a chance to see him throw and he was different than most anybody else I had ever seen. Jim Kelly (college teammate at Miami) was a fantastic passer also. But just pure arm-strength, I think Elway and Marino were those kinds of guys. Stafford absolutely fits into that category.

Do you think Stafford made the right decision to leave, and what’s something – had he returned – that he could’ve improved on?

Well, the thing about Matt is that he had to make the best decision for him and his future. He’s not afraid of a challenge. He felt like he was ready; he didn’t feel like his draft-status could’ve improved much at all from this year to next-year’s draft. I would have had a very difficult time saying, ‘Hey Matt, you need to stay because next year you might be a higher draft pick.’ So it came down to: ‘Do you want to try and stay and win a championship, or do you want to try and win a national award?’ But the reality is if he gets drafted as high as most people think he is (going to be), in order to get enough insurance, disability insurance, at the college level, it would have been impossible to come even close to the money he probably will make on his first contract. It would have been tough for him to stay.

Would you say there is a difference between a quarterback leaving early opposed to another position, like a running back?

I will say this, the running back position is one that, everybody knows, if you hold that ball everybody is going to hit you, and everybody is going to try and tackle you. Every time you run the ball you’re probably going to get hit by two or three defenders every single time. So with Knowshon Moreno’s situation, he would have been exposed more than probably any other (player). He probably would’ve been exposed as much, if not more, than Matthew would have been exposed. Again, from what we heard from the NFL people I talked to, most people felt like he (Knowshon) will be a top pick, but things may change, you know, and he may not get drafted there, but the people that I asked, they told me that. My goal when I talk to these guys is to try and tell them the truth, even if the truth is going to hurt. I’ll say: ‘Hey Matt, they think there might be some things that you could get better at, but quite frankly there’s not much out there in that draft right now and you probably will be the first or second quarterback taken in the draft.' So I’m going to tell him what people tell me, and I can spin it the best way for Georgia, but the one thing that we’ve based all of our relationships on at Georgia is trust and honesty. Now there’s other guys on our campus that were thinking about turning pro and I told them what people were telling me about them, and they didn’t like what they heard so much, and felt like maybe they should stay and improve, and that they could make a big jump in their draft-status from one year to the next. I told them that part too, so we tell them all the truth, so they know your credibility is good and they trust what you say.

Who were some of those guys that maybe stayed, are we talking about Reshad Jones and Geno Atkins, guys like that?

Well Geno was going to stay, period. Geno really never got too interested, he might have been interested, but his mother said, ‘You know what, you’re staying.’ Jeffery Owens had thought about going, even though he got hurt. It just wasn’t going to make sense for him to go to the combine and go through the physicals while he was still rehabbing from an injury, so he realized it was in his best interest to stay.

What’s Owens' status now, how’s he doing in the rehab process?

He’s doing great, he’s excited, you know? I’m excited because I get to hang around him another year. He’s one of the most pleasant guys in the world, he loves the game, he loves to practice, he loves his teammates - he loves Georgia. If he would’ve had a great senior year and would’ve been healthy, I would’ve been happy to see him move on to the next level. But he got hurt, and even though that was very bad, the good news was that I get to be around the guy.

Out of all your guys, did Corvey Irvin help himself the most from the beginning of the season up until this point?

Let me tell you, Corvey came in as a junior-college kid and when he came in, he came at the mid-year and that guy was so far from being ready to play SEC football. But in his defense and Georgia Military College's defense, he was coming off an injury. So he was not in the best shape, he was not as strong as he could be, and he was still trying to figure out what to do and how to do it the ‘Georgia way’. But that kid just started working and he got better, and better, and better. This summer our strength coaches said that guy was the greatest leader we had, the hardest worker we had, and then he actually got voted team captain. There aren’t many junior-college kids who come and play two seasons and end-up getting voted – by their peers – to be the captain of the football team. He just worked, got in-shape, played hard, did it the way we asked him to do it and now he’s really being blessed for it.

Ten of the 12 SEC teams are ranked in the top-25 in recruiting for 2009, is that just life in the SEC right there?

That just the way it goes. You know, we’re all recruiting the same guys; we all get our share, we all at one-time or another might sign a bigger class than another year depending on who’s departing and how long you hold onto the guys you got. That’s just part of life. We always gauge our class by asking, ‘Did we fill the needs we have?’, and we certainly did that, so we’re excited about that. The only positions we didn’t sign were a punter and a kicker, and we’ve got two on scholarship that we believe can do it, so we feel we did a very nice job.

Could we see incoming freshman Marlon Brown have an immediate impact like A.J. Green did last season?

We’re going to allow him to prove us otherwise. He’s going to get a great opportunity to play, just like when A.J. came in and had nine scholarship receivers ahead of him, he was the tenth. By the time the season ended he was not only the number-one receiver in yardage on the football team, but the number one in the Southeastern Conference. We’re going to give Marlon an opportunity, and all of our guys, we are going to flat-out let the best man play. Last year Ben Jones started as a true freshman, Cordy Glenn, our guards – our center-guards – started as true freshmen, of course A.J. ended-up starting as a true freshman. But we’ve had multiple guys, Stafford of course started as a true freshman, and there’s many, many more that we’ll give them that chance, and if they can do it, then they’ll get it.

In your time recruiting, who is the one guy that got away and turned out to be as good as you thought he was going to be, and you really wished you had a chance to coach him up?

One guy that said that he would come to Florida State, if he was the only one at his position, was Danny Wuerffel. We told Danny that we wanted to sign two (quarterbacks) that year, of course we signed Danny Kanell and he had a great career and played some pro ball too. So it wasn’t like Danny (Kanell) wasn’t a good one, but Wuerffel turned out to be a good one too.

Photo Credit: SEC Sports Media