By ANDREW GARDA
Two weeks in the books and Pro Day season is proving to be just as exciting and intriguing this year as it is every year. With Ohio State, Boston College and Alabama taking center stage next week, it shows no signs of slacking off anytime soon.
But before we glance at the new week, let’s take a look at the week that was.
As will be the case from here until the first week in April, there were tons of schools trotting out athletes for Pro Days. Below are some of the schools whose players made the biggest impact or impression last week.
Baylor: Scouts and staff from 15 NFL teams came to Baylor’s workout, and it shouldn’t be surprising to most folks that three were offensive line coaches given that offensive tackle Jason Smith was scheduled to work out. Smith, projected by many to be a top ten pick this April, did position drills but let his Combine numbers stand for everything else. He did struggle some in the push and pull, but overall likely did nothing to dissuade any team thinking about taking him in the first round. He and fellow lineman Dan Gay stayed after the event to work out for the three line coaches representing Jacksonville, Cincinnati and Seattle. St. Louis is slated to work out Smith in private on March 12th.
TCU: Every NFL team was represented at TCU this year and got a bit of a shock when linebacker prospect Jason Phillips revealed he had a torn meniscus in his left knee. Phillips believes the injury was suffered at the Scouting Combine. He underwent surgery on Wednesday and understandably did not workout on Friday and could be sidelined for up to 12 weeks.
With that out of the way, the Scouts settled down to business and were met with another, much nicer surprise. Center Blake Schueter had an eye-opening workout which many are saying may have vaulted him into the latter part of April’s Draft.
Measuring a super-sized 6' 2 3/8”, 290 pounds, Schueter ran the 40 in an impressive 4.7 seconds and jumped a 35-inch vertical as well as killing the long jump, short shuttle and three-cone. For a big man, he can move and while he seems over-sized for an NFL center, he definitely made people sit up and take notice.
Wisconsin: Twenty-eight teams came by the Badgers’ Pro Day, including an offensive line coach from Carolina and a tight end coach from Jacksonville. As I mentioned last week, P. J. Hill needed to have a big day and it’s questionable whether he did that or not. Running a 4.65 and a 4.63 in the 40 didn’t catch him up to an already slower class from the Combine, though he had a nice 37-inch vertical and a respectable 4.24 in the short shuttle. Meanwhile, tight end Travis Beckum ran an outstanding 4.61 and 4.63 in the 40 and added a 38.5 inch vertical and a 9 foot 10 inch broad jump. Top guard prospect Kraig Urbik also put on a solid performance, improving upon his times across the board, improving his 40 by at least seven tenths of a second (5.30 and 5.25) and shaving fourteen tenths of a second off his short shuttle (4.75). Fellow guard Andy Kemp also improved, running a 5.35 and a 5.38, besting his Combine 40 time of 5.48. All in all, it was a great day for the Badgers who did a good job improving upon their numbers and showing the scouts what they had.
Texas A&M: Several players had to step up on the Aggies’ Pro Day and while I was looking forward to hearing some more on running back Mike Goodson, it was quarterback Stephen McGee who really impressed the 17 scouts who showed up. Jaguars quarterback coach Mike Shula showed up as well and ran McGee through his paces. All indications are that he did very well in the positional drills. While he may be a longshot right now, this workout certainly put him on some people’s radar. As for Goodson, he ran a crisp 4.43 and 4.47 in the 40, which bettered his already-fast Scouting Combine time. However, the Aggies are one of three teams that lay a rubber surface over the indoor field turf for players to run on and that tends to reduce the 40 times just a bit. Still, Goodson continues to move up some charts and this Pro Day could solidify him as a late second day pick. Defensive end Michael Bennett also had a solid day, improving upon his Combine numbers in the 40 and the vertical jump.
Missouri: As expected, quarterback Chase Daniel, tight end Chase Coffman, and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin did not work out for attending scouts. Maclin is still nursing a knee injury suffered in Indianapolis but should be ready to go on the second Mizzou Pro Day on March 19th.
Instead it was the defense’s time to shine, and safety William Moore led the way with some excellent positional drills, solid 4.51 and 4.49 times in the 40, and a 6.94 in the three-cone. He also posted a 10 foot, six inch broad jump. Moore continues to be one of the top safety prospects in the Draft. Defensive end Evander Hood also did very well and his 4.45 shuttle, 7.32 three-cone and 35 reps in the bench press keep him at the top of many scouts' and analyst’s list of defensive tackles.
Troy: The group at Troy was led by cornerback Sherrod Martin, who built on his solid Scouting Combine with a great group of positional and workout drills. He was watched by 15 teams, including a pair of defensive back coaches.
Western Illinois: Fourteen teams showed up to watch 11 players, but the focus was largely on linebacker Jason Williams who did well overall on the wooden gym floor where the event was held. His 4.49 and 4.52 40 times were solid, but the slippery floor hurt his shuttle times which hopefully won’t cost him too much given the location and situation.
UNLV: The standout at UNLV’s Pro Day was running back Frank Summers, who ran a 4.63 and a 4.64 40 yard dash as well as a 4.35 short shuttle and benched 30 reps on the bench press.
Liberty: Everyone was talking about running back Rashad Jennings post Scouting Combine and six teams sent staff to check him out again. Jennings topped his 4.58 Combine 40-time with a 4.52 and bested his three cone time by .05 seconds with a 6.79 time. A second guy who took the opportunity to impress the visiting scouts was quarterback Brock Smith who had a very nice workout, including a 4.87 and 4.84 40 and a decent showing in position drills.
Even after that long week, there’s no rest for the scouting groups as another voluminous list of Pro Days await them this week. Here are some of the days and players to keep an eye on:
Alabama (March 11): There are several interesting prospects to watch here, but none will be under more scrutiny than offensive tackle Andre Smith. Smith has to prove that the disaster at the NFL Scouting Combine – the admission he hadn’t been working, the disappearance on Saturday – were mere hiccups and not a trend. If he says the wrong thing in a brief interview or does not look prepared, he could be in for a fall in April.
Boston College (March 12): In an interview on NFLDraftbible’s All Access Football, top defensive tackle prospect B. J. Raji said he would only be doing positional drills at BC’s Pro Day, standing on the numbers from his outstanding Combine performance. Why mess with perfection? Instead, scouts can check out strong safety Kevin Akins and defensive tackle Ron Brace, amongst other players.
Oklahoma State (March 12): Brandon Pettigrew is a guy to watch here, considered by many to be the top tight end prospect. He could benefit by bettering his 40 if he can, but this guy shines on tape so positional drills could be the place for him to lock his ranking up.
Ohio State (March 13): A bevy of talented players will show off for scouts on Friday the 13th, led by running back Chris Wells, linebacker James Laurinaitis and Combine hot-shot wide receiver Brian Robiskie. All three have questions about them and all three will have to come prepared to leave scouts satisfied they know the answers.
Oregon (March 12): I am very interested to see what running back Jeremiah Johnson can do to try and gain some ground on the top ten backs. Johnson is not outstanding in any one area, but might be able to impress scouts by showcasing his versatility.
Of course that’s not all this week holds. Check back next week and every week as we cover the surprises, shocks, and disappointments that Pro Days always bring.
Photo Credit: College Press Box (Baylor, TCU, Missouri), SEC Sports Media, Texas A&M Media Relations Office, OSU Athletics
Monday, March 9, 2009
By ANDREW GARDA