Long, Gholston show why they're the top defensive linemen
By Todd McShay
Updated: February 25, 2008
The top two defensive ends, Virginia's Chris Long and Ohio State's Vernon Gholston, cashed in at this year's NFL scouting combine.
The position-specific drills were where Long did his best work, showing outstanding body control, fluid hips and sound technique. While Long's 40-yard dash time of 4.78 seconds is hardly jaw-dropping, it is competitive for a 6-foot-3, 272-pound end, especially considering his 10-yard split was among the best at his position. Long's 34-inch vertical and 10-feet-4-inch broad jumps also ranked among the top-three defensive linemen.
While Long is the better all-around prospect, Gholston unquestionably turned in the most spectacular overall combine workout on Monday, including all defensive linemen and linebackers.
The 6-3, 266-pound wide-end/rush linebacker prospect ran the third-fastest 40-yard dash time of the defensive linemen. More importantly, his 1.49-second 10-yard split (first 10 yards of the 40-yard dash) was the lowest time run by a defensive lineman. Gholston bettered Long's broad jump by an inch and his vertical jump by an inch and a half. The Buckeye standout also tied Wolverine OT Jake Long for the most reps (37) of the standard 225-pound bench press.
For comparison purposes, here's a look at the best marks turned in by defensive ends competing in the 2007 combine:
• 40-yard dash: 4.65 (Gaines Adams, selected No. 4 overall by Tampa Bay).
• 10-yard split: 1.49 (Brian Robison, selected in fourth round -- 102 overall -- by Minnesota).
• Bench/strength: 33 reps (Charles Johnson, selected in the third round -- 83rd overall -- by Carolina).
• Vertical jump: 40.5 (Brian Robison).
• Broad jump: 10-1 (Brian Robison).
At the end of the day, Long and Gholston simply verified during the combine workouts what they've shown on film the past couple of years. That should be good enough to land Long a spot in the top-four picks and Gholston a spot in the top-seven picks of the upcoming draft.
Georgia DE/OLB Marcus Howard (6-1, 237), who recorded 3.5 sacks against Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl, ran the fastest 40 of the defensive linemen (4.47). Just as importantly, he looked very athletic and comfortable in space during cover drills and showed his explosiveness when he recorded a 34½-inch vertical.
Purdue DE Cliff Avril has had one of the best all-around workouts off the day, including a 40-yard dash time of 4.57, which was the second-best of the D-Linemen. Avril's 6.91 time in the cone drills was among the top three and his experience at linebacker shined through during cover drills.
Auburn DE Quentin Groves ran second-fastest 40 (4.57) of all the defensive linemen and Michigan's Shawn Crable (4.64) ran the fourth-fastest. It was an important showing because both are undersized and may have to move to outside linebacker to succeed at the NFL level. However, Crable, who actually lined up at linebacker while at Michigan, appeared stiff and displayed marginal ball skills during cover drills.
The small-school standout of the day is Clark-Atlanta DE/OLB Curtis Johnson, whose top 40-yard dash time was 4.69 seconds. Johnson also looked explosive and fluid changing directions during cover drills, which is important considering he must move to OLB in the NFL.
Clemson DE Phillip Merling, who is currently considered an early-to-mid first round prospect, did not work out due to a tight groin and he only had 17 reps on bench press.
LSU DT Glenn Dorsey showed up for the first two days of medical testing and interviews but was not in the dome for workouts on Monday. He reportedly left town early because he was never planning on working out in Indy and was also dealing with a recent death in the family.
USC DT Sedrick Ellis is considered a top-10 prospect but he surely didn't test like one on Monday. Outside of a very good bench press (34 reps), Ellis failed to live up to expectations running a disappointing 5.24 40 and recording a disappointing vertical jump. Those numbers just don't stack up against 2007 first round pick Amobi Okoye, who put up 29 reps on bench, ran a 5.06 40, recorded a 30-inch vertical and recorded a 9-foot-3 broad jump. So the bottom line is Ellis failed to gain ground on Dorsey. However, don't expect his stock to drop too much because he had an excellent Senior Bowl week and at times appears dominant on film.
Texas DT Frank Okam weighed 347 pounds but told teams he wants to play at 320 pounds, raising the question why so heavy now? Though the combine is admittedly just one part of the evaluation process, it's a part that can dramatically affect how front offices view a player and Okam shows up 27 pounds heavier than what he says is his playing weight? Making matters worse, there were questions about Okam's work ethic and motor coming into the combine. In addition, he hasn't looked very explosive, recording a vertical jump of just 23 inches and an unofficial 40-time of 5.32 seconds. So outside of putting up 32 reps on the bench, Okam has not represented himself well here.
For all the 40 fanatics out there, Florida DE Derrick Harvey looked like he had a poor workout, clocking in at just 4.81. And his vertical jump of 28.5 inches is troublesome as well. However, a deeper look reveals that Harvey actually had a relatively strong showing on Monday. Though he did run a 4.8 that's just .03 behind Virginia's Chris Long (4.78), he had the same 10-yard split as Long. Remember, the 10-yard split is important when evaluating defensive linemen because it's a good indication of how fast a player can get to the quarterback. In addition, the 271-pound Harvey moved like a linebacker during drills and put up 30 reps on the bench.
Speaking of 10-yard splits, Maryland DT Dre Moore turned in a 1.76 second split. That's impressive initial quickness considering Moore is 6-4 and tips the scales at 305 pounds. In addition, Moore put up 31 reps on the bench, so he has the burst to get into gaps and the upper body strength to shed blockers. A team could be getting a second-or-third round steal if it can light a fire under Moore and polish his technique.
Another defensive tackle who took advantage of Dorsey's absence and Ellis' underwhelming outing was Notre Dame's Trevor Laws. The 6-1 and 304-pound Laws ran a respectable 40 (5.08), recorded a vertical jump of 30.5 inches and showed good power by completing 35 reps on the bench.
Here is a look at some of the top test results from the defensive linemen (Note: players are listed by the positions in which they were grouped at the combine).
Top five 40-yard dash times (seconds)
1. Marcus Howard, Georgia -- 4.48
2. Quentin Groves, Auburn -- 4.50
3. Cliff Avril, Purdue -- 4.57
4. Vernon Gholston, Ohio State -- 4.61
5. Shawn Crable, Michigan -- 4.64
Top five 10-yard splits (seconds)
1. Marcus Howard, Georgia -- 1.53
2. Vernon Gholston, Ohio State -- 1.56
3. Quentin Groves, Auburn -- 1.60
4. Cliff Avril, Purdue -- 1.61
T5. Shawn Crable, Michigan -- 1.64
T5. Jeremy Thompson, Wake Forest -- 1.64
Top five bench press results (reps)
1. Vernon Gholston, Ohio State -- 37
T2. Trevor Laws, Notre Dame -- 35
T2. Ahtyba Rubin, Iowa State -- 35
T4. Sedrick Ellis, Southern California -- 34
T4. Nick Hayden, Wisconsin -- 34
Top five vertical jump results (inches)
1. Vernon Gholston, Ohio State -- 35.5
2. Marcus Howard, Georgia -- 34.5
3. Chris Long, Virginia -- 34
T4. Cliff Avril, Purdue -- 32.5
T4. Louis Holmes, Arizona -- 32.5
Top five broad jump results (feet)
1. Vernon Gholston, Ohio State -- 10.5
2. Chris Long, Virginia -- 10.4
3. Jason Jones, Eastern Michigan -- 10.3 4. Louis Holmes, Arizona -- 10.1
5. Quentin Groves, Auburn -- 10.0
Neither the top inside linebacker (Penn State's Dan Connor), nor the top outside linebacker (USC's Keith Rivers) worked out at the combine on Monday. Connor was sent home because he had the flu, while Rivers, who plans on working out at USC's pro day on April 2, skipped out because of a lingering ankle injury from the Senior Bowl. So the door was open for the other top-tier prospects to gain ground. Surprisingly, two of the top outside linebackers behind Rivers failed to take advantage of the opportunity and may have even fallen down some draft boards.
LSU's Ali Highsmith and Virginia Tech's Xavier Adibi both ran poorly, though Adibi had a slightly better day turning in a 4.73 40-time. That said, Highsmith's times of 4.95 and 5.10 are the most puzzling results of the combine thus far and the reason is his style of play is predicated on speed. So what happened? The 5-11, 230-pounder has either lost a step since adding 10 pounds to his frame, didn't train properly or just isn't as fast he looks on film. Keeping that in mind, scouts will likely go back and reevaluate the film. Making matters worse for both, neither Adibi nor Highsmith benched today.
While the attention on the linebackers will primarily be negative since some of the top prospects didn't live up to their billing, here are eight non-first-round prospects clearly helped themselves on Monday.
• Georgia Tech OLB Gary Guyton -- He put up just 15 reps on the bench, but he's clearly more athletic than first thought. He ran the fastest 40 of all the linebackers (4.47), his 10-6 broad jump tied for first and he recorded an impressive 36.5-inch vertical.
• Kentucky OLB Wesley Woodyard -- There are still concerns about the 227-pounder's ability to anchor at the point of attack but Woodyard has range, as he ran a 4.51 40. And this comes after a strong showing at the Senior Bowl.
• Miami ILB Tavares Gooden -- At 234 pounds, Gooden lacks elite size but showed good speed running a 4.65 40 and explosiveness recording a 35-inch vertical.
• Purdue OLB Stanford Keglar -- Keglar is yet another Purdue player making noise at this year's combine. He showed good explosiveness, recording a 10-foot-6 broad jump, 34-inch vertical and a 4.58 40. His impressive time of 6.7 seconds in the three-cone drill doesn't hurt either.
• Tennessee OLB Jerod Mayo -- He weighed in at 242 pounds and quieted concerns about his size. Unlike Highsmith, he appeared just as explosive running a 4.54 40 and recording a 32-inch vertical.
• Oklahoma ILB Curtis Lofton -- His s unofficial 4.77 40 time leaves something to be desired but he did an excellent job of sinking his hips and changing directions during drills and he completed 25 reps on the bench. More importantly, Lofton masks his lack of ideal speed with excellent instincts so having a low 40-time isn't as important as it is for some of the other prospects here.
• Vanderbilt ILB Jon Goff -- Goff's athleticism is arguably his greatest strength so it was important he have a strong workout and the numbers don't lie. He stepped up with a strong overall performance, running a 4.63 40, putting up 28 reps on the bench, recording a 31.5-inch vertical jump and recording a 9-10 broad jump.
• Nebraska OLB Steve Octavien -- Octavien is a fringe draft pick because he's had problem staying healthy, which means teams are concerned about his durability and uncomfortable with his small body of work. However, teams may be willing to overlook those concerns and take him earlier on the second day following his workout. Octavien ran a 4.67 40, put up 26 reps on the bench and recorded a 9-10 broad jump.
Here is a look at the latest test results for the linebackers.
Top five 40-yard dash times (seconds)
1. Gary Guyton, Georgia Tech -- 4.47
2. Wesley Woodyard, Kentucky -- 4.51
3. Jerod Mayo, Tennessee -- 4.54
4. Stanford Keglar, Purdue -- 4.58
5. Jon Goff, Vanderbilt -- 4.63
Top five bench press results (reps)
1. Stanford Keglar, Purdue -- 29
2. Jonathan Goff, Vanderbilt -- 28
T3. Spencer Larson, Arizona -- 27
T3. Durell Mapp, North Carolina -- 27
T5. Jeremy Lehman, Illinois -- 26
T5. Thomas Williams, Southern California -- 26
T5. Steve Octavien, Nebraska -- 26
T5. Bryan Kehl, BYU -- 26
Top five 10-yard splits (seconds)
1. Gary Guyton, Georgia Tech -- 1.46
2. Tavares Gooden, Miami -- 1.48
3. Jerod Mayo, Tennessee -- 1.51
T4. Stanford Keglar, Purdue -- 1.53
T4. Wesley Woodard, Kentucky -- 1.53
Top five 20-yard shuttle test results
1. Stanford Keglar, Purdue -- 3.98
2. David Vobora, Idaho -- 4.14
3. Ben Moffit, South Florida -- 4.21
4. Larry Grant, Ohio State -- 4.22
5. Bryan Kehl, BYU -- 4.23
Remaining Workout Schedule
Tuesday: Defensive backs (Groups 10 and 11)
Todd McShay is the director of college football scouting for Scouts Inc. He has been evaluating prospects for the NFL draft since 1998.