- Pro Day for football players is unlike any job interview one will go through in their lives, and for most of the nineteen former SJSU football players, this was their debut in front of National Football League representatives. Knowing that professional football scouts are watching the players' every move is a rarity in the domestic job hunt. "What you are trying to get out here is the sense of a job interview," long snapper Ben Zorn said. "You're trying to get an invitation for a personal workout." The job interview that occurs for players on Pro Day is based on numbers, and the desired job is a multi-million dollar NFL contract and the chance to play in front of millions of television viewers. "There can be a little pressure," safety Duke Ihenacho said. "If you're around the right people that support you, there's more support than pressure. You don't want to let anybody down, but you know that when push comes to shove that they want you to do well." To add even more pressure, proud SJSU alumnus and NFL quarterback Jeff Garcia was in attendance, dawning the familiar Spartan logo on his hat as he looked on at the action. Pro Day is for college seniors and consists of a rigorous set of workouts and drills that players must perform in front of interested NFL scouts and coaches. Ihenacho, cornerback Brandon Driver, wide receiver Mike Avila and last season's team MVP, quarterback Matt Faulkner, were all included, and every player suited up ready to impress the NFL scouts and onlookers. "You got to impress (the scouts)," Ihenacho said. "They're the guys that report back to the head coaches and assistant coaches, and they get paid a lot of money to evaluate everything about you, so you definitely got to impress them, because that's what we're here for." - Spartan Daily
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San Jose State got two for the price of one when they signed Duke's older brother, Carl, a former All-WAC pass rusher. Duke quickly emerged from his brother's shadow once on campus, however, developing into a starting safety as a true freshman and breaking out a year later as an All-WAC linebacker with 66 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and leading the WAC with five interceptions. Ihenacho was asked to move back to safety as a junior and though his big plays dropped significantly (one interception, one fumble recovery) those close to the program felt he was a better overall player and he again earned all-conference recognition.
Ihenacho's 2010 season started off well with four tackles and a forced fumble against the defending champion Alabama Crimson Tide. Ihenacho suffered a broken foot a week later against Southern Utah and was forced to take a medical redshirt. He returned in 2011 to register 73 tackles, six passes broken up, four tackles for loss, two forced (and recovered) fumbles and an interception. Though his statistics weren't eye-popping, he was again recognized as an all-conference pick, the only man in school history to be named to the First Team All-WAC team three times.
Ihenacho's value lies with his size, athleticism and willingness to come up close to the line of scrimmage and attack. While showing at least average instincts and good ball skills, he's not a candidate for deep middle coverage. His proven consistency should earn him consideration in the middle rounds for a team needing help defending the short and intermediate zones and on special teams.
Positives: Has a long, lean build with good overall musculature. Looks the part of an NFL safety. Highly aggressive coming up in run support, showing the burst to zip through gaps and make tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Shows his experience at linebacker with his comfort in the box. Often asked to drop down and crowd the line, showing good feel for timing the snap and the ability to elude blockers in tight quarters. At least average straight-line speed. Good vision and anticipation for zone coverage. Good hand-eye coordination and leaping skills for the interception. Times his leap well to compete for the jump ball. Young player. Played with SJSU for five years and yet will be just 22 years old when he's drafted.
Negatives: High in his back pedal and though he shows the hip flexibility to turn smoothly, he has only average acceleration and burst out of his breaks, making him liability in man coverage. Possesses less than ideal body control as a tackler. Leaves his feet too often to make tackles, lunging at ball-carriers. Drops his head and shoulder to take out the knees of bigger ball-carriers but fails to wrap up consistently. Highly aggressive and can be beaten with good play-action. Missed the 2010 season with a broken left foot that will require a Combine check.