Posted on: February 25, 2012 4:36 pm
Edited on: February 26, 2012 12:27 pm
INDIANAPOLIS -- Alabama inside linebacker Dont'a Hightower believes he'd fit in perfectly with Pro Bowlers such as Brian Urlacher and Julius Peppers in Chicago.
When asked about potentially playing alongside some of the great linebackers in the league, including Ray Lewis in Baltimore and James Harrison of the Steelers, Hightower said he recently dined with Urlacher in Arizona.
Hightower, a junior, is training in Arizona at Athletes Performance Institute.
He led Alabama in tackles last season with 85, including 11 tackles for loss, four sacks, eight hurries and one interception.
That's the kind of production that even Lewis and Urlacher would be proud of.
Hightower was more interested in hearing what the 33-year-old Urlacher, a first-round pick in the 2000 draft, had to say about transitioning from college to the professional game and lifestyle.
"The transition from student athlete to professional," Hightower said of what Urlacher talked to him about. "To play alongside of those guys, get a lot of experience from those guys, that’d help me out a lot."
Did Urlacher sell the Lewisburg, Tenn., native on the big city of Chicago?
"He wasn’t trying to sell me as much. We talked. We rapped a little bit about football and the NFL," Hightower said.
Hightower was an All-American inside linebacker in Alabama's 3-4 defense. He was listed in college at 6-4, 260, but measured at the Combine at 6-2, 265. He wants to drop 5-10 more pounds for his campus workout on March 7.
His 2011 season was a bounceback year after the captain was admittedly timid as a sophomore in 2010, his first season back from a season-ending ACL injury against Arkansas the year before.
"I feel a lot more fluid as far as my movement," Hightower said.
Teams have shown appreciation for his versatility, and he believes based on interest from scouts that he can play inside linebacker or outside linebacker in any defensive scheme.
"I feel a little bit more comfortable playing inside," he said.
Posted on: February 25, 2012 4:12 pm
INDIANAPOLIS -- Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still plans to make a bold statement when he works out for the 500-plus NFL scouts gathered at the Scouting Combine. But he didn't wait for Monday's on-field tests to make a bold declaration.
"I think, hands-down, I'm the best defensive tackle in this draft," Still said.
The 6-5, 303-pounder is doing twice daily workouts in Florida under the close watch of his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, at the Pete Bommarito training facility known as Perfect Competition.
Since going to Miami last month, Still left only briefly, to attend a memorial service for late coach Joe Paterno, and is only now coming to grips with the past four months of his life.
"Now as time goes on, I'm starting to comes to grips with it, starting to think that it is reality," Still said.
Still overcame injuries in back-to-back seasons before a breakout 2011 and is ranked by NFLDraftScout.com as the 10th-best player in the 2012 draft. That's second among defensive linemen, behind LSU junior Michael Brockers.
At 6-5, 323, Brockers is more of a three-technique, penetrating defensive tackle and said he wasn't familiar enough with Still's game to dispute the claim that Still made about being the best in the draft.
"We'll see on Monday," Brockers said.
Still was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2011, crediting defensive line coach Larry Johnson Sr. for pushing him to realize his own potential in the face of personal adversity. After a torn ACL in his left knee as a freshman in 2007, Still fractured his fibula and broke his left ankle in preseason camp in 2008.
"His first two years he didn't trust in the fact that he would every play again," Johnson said at the end of the season.
Posted on: February 25, 2012 3:37 pm
The top four quarterbacks on NFLDraftScout.com's board are not throwing passes at the 2012 Scouting Combine.
Stanford's Andrew Luck (own choice), Baylor's Robert Griffin III (own choice), Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill (foot) and Arizona State's Brock Osweiler (unknown) have each said they won't be throwing at the Combine.
Highly regarded quarterbacks electing to hold off until their Pro Day is nothing new, of course. Often the reasons given by these quarterbacks as to why they'd rather wait until their Pro Day is the fact that they'll be throwing to their own receivers in the surroundings they've grown accustomed to.
NFLDraftScout.com, however, was told of another reason why quarterbacks may want to wait until their on-campus workouts. The high-level source used Cam Newton's erratic performance during the Combine throwing session last year as an example.
"Last year [scouts] didn't sync the QB drop and the wide receiver pattern. For example, [Newton] was dropping five steps but the wide receivers were doing three step type patterns."
The miscommunication caused Newton's accuracy to appear to be inconsistent. He took the hit publicly for a mediocre performance and to his credit never said a word publicly about what may have been the biggest reason for it.
The Carolina Panthers obviously looked past the performance -- and considering the terrific rookie season Newton had in 2011, they were certainly wise in doing so.
Posted on: February 25, 2012 12:50 pm
Edited on: February 25, 2012 12:58 pm
Besides the on-field and agility drills, one of the most important aspects for prospects is the interview process, especially for players with questionable backgrounds. West Virginia’s Bruce Irvin, NFLDraftScout.com’s No. 13 rated Outside Linebacker, is one of those prospects in Indianapolis this week, trying to prove to NFL teams that his struggles are in the past.
Category: NFL Draft
Posted on: February 25, 2012 12:37 pm
Despite being nearly 1,800 miles from Indianapolis and Lucas Oil Stadium, where 327 draft hopefuls are displaying their wares for the league scouts this week, Brandon Brooks retains an interest in the Scouting Combine.
"A lot of those guys, I worked out with," said the Miami (Ohio) guard, who took some time out from his training regimen in Phoenix on Saturday to watch the offensive line on-field auditions broadcast by The NFL Network. "Those are my buddies. So, yeah there's a curiosity thing at work there."
There's a bit of a curiosity element, too, about why Brooks, who is rated as the No. 8 guard prospect by NFLDraftScout.com, was training at the renowned Athletes' Performance Institute, instead of running the 40-yard dash and doing other position-specific drills with the rest of the offensive line candidates on Saturday in Indianapolis.
In discussions with league scouts about players not invited to the Combine, several players were mentioned to The Sports Xchange -- Oklahoma State offensive tackle Levy Adcock, Houston outside linebacker Sammy Brown, Wisconsin free safety Aaron Henry, East Carolina wide receiver Lance Lewis, Western Kentucky tailback Bobby Rainey, Miami (Fla.) defensive tackle Micanor Regis, among them -- Brooks' name was cited pretty prominently.
No one, though, could offer a strong reason as to why Brooks was not invited.
There are, after all, 14 guards at the Combine, and at least a few of them probably won't go off the draft board ahead of Brooks, who is regarded as a third- to fifth-round prospect. Given that there are seven other players from the Mid-American Conference, arguably several of them not as celebrated as Brooks, his exclusion is somewhat mystifying.
But Brooks, who has been training at API since early January, isn't particularly fazed by the numbers or the oversight.
"It keeps a chip on my shoulder," Brooks told The Sports Xchange. "It gives me something to work toward. The training here has been good. I'll still have my pro day and an individual workout, and I'll be really ready for both of them. So maybe it's for the best."
There is probably a hint of rationalization in Brooks' assessment of the situation, but there is determination in his voice as well.
And arguably some "I'll show them" element, too, it seems. What there is not is bitterness, as evidenced by his interest in the Saturday workouts. Instead of ignoring the televised session, much as he was overlooked by Combine officials, he will use the workouts as a tool to gauge how he measures up and the components of his game on which he must work.
After a strong performance at the East-West Shrine Game, where he was measured at 6-feet-4 5/8 and 353 pounds, there was good buzz about Brooks in the scouting community, and an expectation he would be invited to Indianapolis.
Fueling that expectation in part was the recent ascent of the guard position in the league. Once viewed as a kind of "grunt" position, the guard spot, although still well below the tackle position, has been swept up in the enhanced profile that the interior line slots have received in recent years.
The prominence of guards such as the New Orleans tandem of Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans -- two veterans mentioned by Brooks when asked about interior linemen who he followed closely and attempted to emulate in his play -- has elevated the position in the eyes of scouts. As recently as 2009, there were no guards selected in the first round of the draft. With David DeCastro of Stanford leading the way, this will be the third straight year with at least one first-round guard.
Said Brooks, who is currently at 346 pounds, thanks in part to API's emphasis on nutritional training: "The attention (for guards) has definitely been better. Teams seem to want the strong guy for the running game, but someone who can protect, too. Probably the position is better rounded than it used to be."
Primarily a guard for most of his career, Brooks has spent some time at tackle, so he is familiar with pass protection schemes. Some scouts, and NFLDraftScout.com analyst Rob Rang, noted that Brooks lacks some lateral agility, is a bit heavy-footed, and perhaps not nasty enough. But one only has to review video from the East-West all-star game to perceive some NFL-level attributes, and to see that he is a viable draft prospect, and Rang regards the Miami star as "draft worthy."
All three of the scouts queried specifically about Brooks agreed he will be drafted.
Brooks will depart API on Monday, after weeks of training that included twice-daily sessions and the addition of 20 pounds of muscle, and continue preparing for his March 1 pro day and an individual audition for scouts a week later. He will use the Combine exclusion as continuing prod, and this bit of motivation, as well.
"You just look at a guy like Sebastian Vollmer," Brooks said, referring to the New England three-year veteran right offensive tackle. "He wasn't invited, either, to the Combine, and he got drafted in the second round (in 2009). This year, he started in the Super Bowl.
"That's not so bad."
Posted on: February 25, 2012 11:41 am
Edited on: February 25, 2012 11:44 am
Iowa offensive tackle Markus Zusevics tore his left pectoral muscle while performing in the bench press drills in front of NFL scouts Friday at the 2012 Scouting Combine.
The injury will require surgery, according to NFL.com's Steve Wyche, and unfortunately ends his Combine prematurely. Even worse, it may put into question his ability to play as a rookie.
While Seattle Seahawks' quarterback Tarvaris Jackson was able to throw passes this past season with a torn pectoral, his injury did not require surgery, according to Seahawks' head coach Pete Carroll. On the flip-side, Houston Texans' pass rusher Mario Williams' torn pectoral last season did require surgery and knocked him out for the remainder of the 2011 season. He suffered the injury in the Texans' Week Five loss to the Oakland Raiders, October 9.
Zusevics (pronounced ZOOZ-uh-vicks) had been rated as NFLDraftScout.com's No. 15 offensive tackle for the 2012 draft and a possible 5th round prospect. The injury, however, very much clouds his status.
For the remainder of the prospects' bench press results, you can click here.
Posted on: February 25, 2012 11:07 am
One of the more eagerly anticipated workouts of the Scouting Combine each year occurs when the offensive (and defensive) linemen perform in the bench press drill. This is not a test measured to test a player's maximum bench press but rather their strength and conditioning. Athletes are asked to lift 225 pounds as many times as possible without stopping.
While scouts would love to see every offensive lineman lift the bar 30 times or more at the Combine, the reality is there is a significant difference in the strength required for different offensive line positions. Those athletes with enough size, foot quickness and balance to play left tackle in the NFL, for example, don't necessarily need as much upper body strength as the other offensive linemen - especially interior linemen.
Due to this fact, the relatively low number posted by Ohio State tackle Mike Adams (19) isn't necessarily a critical blow to his draft stock if a team feels that he has the athleticism to handle remaining at left tackle in the NFL. If he was to make the move to right tackle (where I believe he fits best), the number is a bit troubling. Traditionally, left defensive ends (who line up opposite right tackles) are the stronger, stouter versions of their more explosive pass rushing specialist right defensive ends -- at least for the 4-3 defense. Also, because of Adams' long arms (33 3/4") his football strength isn't necessarily indicated by weight room numbers. Remember, three offensive tackles drafted in the first round last year -- Nate Solder (21), James Carpenter (23) and Derek Sherrod (23) -- posted similar totals at the 2011 Combine. Adams, by the way, is currently NFLDraftScout.com's No. 4 rated offensive tackle.
Frankly, I'm more concerned with Wisconsin center Peter Konz's 18 repetitions of 225 pounds, NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated center prospect for the 2012 draft. Now, to be fair to Konz, he too has long arms (33") but considering that he'll be playing in the trenches, the relative lack of strength is a potentially significant concern. Konz's size and athleticism is intriguing enough that some teams view him as a better fit at guard in the NFL. Regardless of playing center or guard, the strength of interior linemen is very important when projecting their success at the next level. No interior lineman drafted in the first two rounds since 2005 posted less than 22 reps of 225 pounds at the Combine. By comparison, the past two centers to get drafted in the first round -- Maurkice Pouncey (2010) and Mike Pouncey (2011) lifted the bar 25 and 24 times, respectively, during their Pro Days.
Posted on: February 25, 2012 10:57 am
Edited on: February 25, 2012 10:58 am
A decade ago, Alex Gibbs was the architect of the Broncos' zone-blocking offensive line.
He was eight seasons into his second stint as the Broncos' offensive line coach, and his name was at the center of any discussion regarding the Broncos' emphasis on controversial cut-blocking techniques. Three teams and multiple retirements -- and un-retirements -- later, Gibbs has scaled back to training offensive linemen for the NFL Draft.
Now 71, Gibbs trains draft-eligible offensive linemen. One of his pupils is Auburn guard Brandon Mosley, who noted that Gibbs had helped correct his stance. Until those recent sessions with Gibbs, Mosley was unaware of any issues in that aspect of his game.
"My pass sets are a lot different from some college teams. The NFL is more of a vertical set. I kind of sat out to about a 45-degree angle," Mosley said at the Scouting Combine, when asked what he'd learned from Gibbs that he'd never been taught before. "We work on three-point stances, too, and we never did that at Auburn."