Off and Running
Feb 25, 2007 -
In one sense, the NFL Scouting Combine is winding down as the weekend comes to an end. By Tuesday morning, all of the players will have completed their workouts, and most of the offensive players will be out of town by Sunday night.
In another sense, however, Sunday morning was when the week in Indianapolis really kicked into high gear. Once the wide receivers started stretching their legs at 9:00 a.m., preparing for the most anticipated set of 40-yard sprints of the combine, the scouts in the stands perked up quite a bit.
The 2007 receiver class, thought to be the strongest since the impressive 2004 group that produced Larry Fitzgerald, Roy Williams, Lee Evans, Michael Clayton, Devery Henderson and Bernard Berrian, didn’t disappoint. Even Georgia Tech’s Calvin Johnson, the consensus top player of the group, elected to work out and proved his confidence was well-placed, clocking in at 4.35. In all, eight receivers posted times below 4.4, including Washington State’s Jason Hill and Virginia Tech’s David Clowney, two players who were on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers-coached North team in last month’s Senior Bowl.
The receivers were split into two groups and paired with groups of quarterbacks. Below are the top 10 official 40-yard dash times for each group:
Player School Time (secs.)
1. Yamon Figurs Kansas State 4.30
2. Jason Hill Washington State 4.32
3. Calvin Johnson Georgia Tech 4.35
4. David Clowney Virginia Tech 4.36
5. Aundrae Ellison East Carolina 4.39
6. Steve Breaston Michigan 4.41
7. Anthony Gonzales Ohio State 5.08
8. Jonathan Holland Louisiana Tech 4.45
9. Craig Davis Louisiana State 4.46
10. Johnnie Lee Higgins UTEP 4.48
Player School Time (secs.)
1. Mike Walker Central Florida 4.35
2. Laurent Robinson Illinois State 4.38
3. Robert Meacham Tennessee 4.39
4. Mike Mason Tennessee State 4.40
5. Legedu Naanee Boise State 4.41
6. Chandler Williams Florida International 4.42
7. Steve Smith USC 4.44
8. Paul Williams Fresno State 4.45
9. Ryne Robinson Miami (OH) 4.47
10. Courtney Taylor Auburn 4.50
The quarterbacks in Groups 4 and 5 also had their arm strength tested on Sunday morning, in terms of the velocity on their throws. Small-school prospect Toby Korrodi impressed with his cannon-like arm. Below are the top 10 ball-speed measurements among the quarterbacks on Sunday morning:
Player School Ball Speed (mph)
1. Toby Korrodi Central Missouri State 63.0
2. John Beck BYU 61.1
3. Troy Smith Ohio State 58.5
4. Jeff Rowe Nevada-Reno 57.0
5. Drew Stanton Michigan State 55.7
6t. Trent Edwards Stanford 55.2
6t. Kevin Kolb Houston 55.2
6t. Jared Zabransky Boise State 55.2
9. Paul Thompson Oklahoma State 54.8
10. James Pinkney East Carolina 53.9
Painting a Complete Picture
Daymeion Hughes, the 5-11, 188-pound cornerback from Cal-Berkeley, arrived in Indianapolis fresh off an eye-opening performance at the Senior Bowl in January. Before his back tightened up and forced him to sit out Wednesday’s practice in Mobile, Alabama, Hughes had stood out amid a strong field of cornerbacks during North team workouts.
The Senior Bowl is an effective scouting tool because it pits some of the nation’s best players against each other, regardless of their backgrounds and prior level of competition. It also allows coaches to put those players into specific game and practice situations, to see their actual on-field quickness and instincts.
The combine is a more clinical examination, with fewer game-type drills and more emphasis on such measurables as speed, strength and leaping ability. Thus, some thought Hughes could use the combine as a backup to his strong Senior Bowl week by posting a competitive 40-yard dash time. Hughes, however, sees the week as another opportunity to display the whole package.
“The scouts have told me they don’t necessarily just want to see me run the 40,” he said. “They want to see me compete with everybody else who is here, to see how I stand up against the other corners.”
Hughes believes the Senior Bowl taught him that you have to be prepared to pick up defensive systems quickly. In learning the Buccaneers’ defense that week in Mobile, he realized that the different terminology masked a lot of the concepts with which he is already familiar.
“A lot of it is the same,” said Hughes. “You just have to apply what you know.”
As for the 40-yard dash, he said he would be happy if he could clock a time in the 4.4-second range. In the meantime, he wants to use the interview sessions to portray himself as a person of diverse interests. At Cal, Hughes majored in art, a pursuit that he claims makes him a “cultured” person. He enjoys painting and believes that skill could help him earn a living after his playing days are over.
As for now, his art work – in the increasingly rare moments he gets a chance to pursue it – helps him relax.
“Painting is therapeutic,” said Hughes. “It takes your mind to a different place.”
Station to Station
Between the RCA Dome field and the convention center that houses the media room is a long curving hallway with dozens of doors on each side. Here, the players in their NFL-issue sweatshirts spend much of their days while at the combine.
NFL teams put at least as much stock in what goes on in the various rooms behind these doors as they do in what transpires on the dome’s turf. It’s here that prospects are assessed mentally, put through the weight-lifting paces and, most importantly, cleared – or not cleared – medically.
There are no fewer than six orthopedic examination rooms, where body parts that were previously injured are looked at closely. During a Sunday afternoon interview, Notre Dame defensive tackle Derek Landri commented, only half-jokingly, that if you had broken a finger 10 years ago the combine medical staffers would want to X-ray it.
There are many other specific examination rooms along the hallway. Here’s what you would see if you walked from one end of the to the other reading the signs standing on placards by each door:
# Medical Examinations
# Blood Pressure, Vision and Medical History
# Height and Weight, Arm Length, Hand Span, Bod Pods
# Heart Examinations
# Weight and Reps
# Wonderlic Test
“Bod Pods,” by the way, refers to those egg-shaped chambers you may have seen on television coverage of the combine. These space-age-looking devices assess a player’s body fat and lean body mass by using air-displacement technology.