TCU's Sam Baugh Indoor Practice Facility environment for its Pro Day on Thursday was electric with a presence and buzz in the air reminiscent of the NFL Combine. All 32 teams were in attendance, including some teams' top personnel decision-makers. The New York Giants had both general manager Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll, the 2022 NFL Coach of the Year, down in Fort Worth to observe members of the Horned Frogs' College Football Playoffs runner-up squad.
New York Giants GM Joe Schoen and HC Brian Daboll, the 2022 NFL Coach of the Year, are in attendance at TCU Pro Day. They’re chatting it up with Horned Frogs HC Sonny Dykes, college football’s national coach of the year. pic.twitter.com/IKQ8vZXRw5— Garrett Podell (@garrettpodell) March 30, 2023
Houston Texans general manager Nick Caserio as well as his former boss Bill Belichick, the New England Patriots six-time Super Bowl champion head coach, also observed the TCU talent.
It’s a New England Patriots reunion at TCU Pro Day for Houston Texans GM Nick Caserio and Patriots HC Bill Belichick. pic.twitter.com/70hBv3RMcJ— Garrett Podell (@garrettpodell) March 30, 2023
It wouldn't be a Horned Frogs Pro Day without some additional Dallas Cowboys representation since the two teams' stadiums are roughly 25 minutes apart. The 2023 showcase was no different with Cowboys special teams coordinator John Fassel not only in the building but leading the kick and punt return drills. Dallas Pro Bowl return man KaVontae Turpin was side-by-side with Fassel during that portion of the day. Turpin and 2023 NFL Draft prospect Derius Davis share the TCU career return touchdown record with six scores.
Dallas Cowboys special teams coordinator John Fassel and Cowboys Pro Bowl WR/KR/PR KaVontae Turpin, a TCU alum, watch TCU KR/PR Derius Davis field simulated kicks and punts at Pro Day. pic.twitter.com/kI5X8H80ca— Garrett Podell (@garrettpodell) March 30, 2023
Here's a look at some of TCU's biggest Pro Day draws and how they performed.
WR Quentin Johnston
Weight: 208 (Combine), 212 (Pro Day)
Two-time first-Team All-Big 12 wide receiver Quentin Johnston, a consensus first-round pick in CBS Sports mock drafts, was far and away the focus for the large NFL contingent at TCU's Pro Day. Belichick, whose Patriots have the the 2023 NFL Draft's 14th overall pick, made it a point to personally connect with the Horned Frog wideout in-between drills. Johnston noted that the Giants (25th overall pick) and Tennessee Titans (11th overall pick) were other teams he has spoke to in addition to the Patriots this week leading up to Thursday's Pro Day.
TCU WR Quentin Johnston, meet New England Patriots HC Bill Belichick. Just a chill, Pro Day hang. pic.twitter.com/Lr6OkPzGXd— Garrett Podell (@garrettpodell) March 30, 2023
"It's a good feeling that he [Bill Belichick] actually has interest in me," Johnston said. "I've got all the accomplishments in the world [at the wide receiver position] but for a guy like him and other coaches to recognize that is big. So, you know, I wasn't starstruck when he walked in, I shook his hand, talked to him and kind of put my best foot forward. You know, like a job interview. So, I came in smiling, presented to him what I needed to, so I feel really good about it."
After posting an outstanding 40.5" vertical jump and an 11' 2" broad jump at the NFL Scouting Combine, all eyes were his speed from his 40-yard dash time. His first run was an unofficial 4.49 and his second run was an unofficial 4.50. Both times were slightly ahead of his top competition to be the first wide receiver drafted, Ohio State's Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who ran an unofficial 4.53 at the Buckeyes' Pro Day.
"I feel really good coming out of the combine, you know, going through all that," Johnston said. "So I feel like I came into the Pro Day more confident, more or less. Not that I wasn't during the combine but [I] just kind of get a feel for it already. So, I knew what I had to do in the at the end of the day, so I felt pretty good about it. Honestly, I didn't really get a specific time [told to me], I got kind of a range [4.46-4.50] but yeah, for sure. There were people thinking I was going to go slower than that. So you know, anything that exceeds expectations is good for me."
Johnston also participated in a handful of agility drills, which led to a brief argument between his agent and the NFL scouts in attendance. The scouts pushed for Johnston to go through the three-cone drill for an additional run, but while his agent felt like the receiver showcased what was needed. Johnston completed the drill again, satisfying the mosh pit of scouts circled around the cones. Then came the receiving drills. He displayed strong burst off the line of scrimmage and solid agility making his breaks on his routes while catching passes from his college quarterback and Heisman Trophy runner-up Max Duggan. Johnston dropped three passes, one short and two deep, but he finished well with nice catch on a deep vertical route.
Throwing from his own 20, TCU QB Max Duggan hit WR Quentin Johnston near the goal line for pass right around 75-80 yards at Pro Day. pic.twitter.com/Y5lLjidX4G— Garrett Podell (@garrettpodell) March 30, 2023
"Yeah, that [the final catch on Duggan's deep pass] was especially [important] because I can't have all these people come out here and watch my last pass be a drop where I just kind of walk off like you know, forget it," Johnston said. "I was tired, which is why I dropped the first two, but [there's] really no excuse for that. [I] came back and finished it clean. All the coaches come out here to see not only how perfect you're going to catch the ball, but how you're going to respond to stuff like that. So I feel like I did pretty good on that."
Jim Nagy, the executive director of the Senior Bowl, affirmed that scouts on-hand liked what they saw from Johnston's Pro Day receiving work.
QB Max Duggan
In addition to Johnston, Duggan also received a thorough look from Belichick. The winner of the 2022 Davey O'Brien Award, given to the top college quarterback, was precise as he went through a number of different route concepts with quarterback coaching guru Jordan Palmer -- the younger brother of Carson Palmer who has trained Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Deshaun Watson, and Joe Burrow among others -- leading the drill's organization. Duggan's deep ball exploded out of his hand into his receivers' hands all afternoon.
"Yeah, it helps me getting to throw to guys like that, like Q [Quentin Johnston], DD [Derius Davis], Taye [Barber] and all those guys, but yeah, there's definitely things that I think I've improved on," Duggan said when asked about his deep passing performance at the Pro Day. "There's other things that I need to continue to improve on and there's things that I'm changing with my movements and mechanics and footwork and all those sorts of things. In my eyes, you want to be a perfectionist and there's balls I want back. Can't go back and change it anymore, that's how it is. Getting over it, improving, and trying to get better [is the goal]."
He also excelled throwing on the run, particularly on play-action, while Belichick got into his trademark, sideline squat, keenly observing each Duggan throw.
"Yeah, it's a unique experience," Duggan said about Bill Belichick taking in his Pro Day performance. "I think as the little kid in me and the fan of football in me would have been pretty pumped. You grow up wanting to be in this position and in that situation [being scouted by Bill Belichick]. So it was it was a cool experience."
The Patriots have 10 picks in the final six rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft, and following former first round pick quarterback Mac Jones' big step back in Year 2, perhaps Belichick may be looking for some competitive depth at the position.
OL Steve Avila
According to Pro Football Focus, Steve Avila didn't allow a sack on 540 pass blocking snaps while starting at left guard for the national runner-up Horned Frogs. It's a big part of the reason why he was named a Consensus All-American in the 2022 season. After getting feedback on his Pro Day performance, the likely second round draft pick came away with positive vibes.
"You know, there's always a little room for improvement," Avila said. "I felt like I had a little more left. But you know, overall, I think I did pretty well."
Having started at every offensive line position except left tackle in his four years playing at TCU, Avila has gained some strong interest from a handful of teams just under a month away from the 2023 NFL Draft. He said he has five visits he can mention that he has lined up right now: the Dallas Cowboys, the Washington Commanders, the Detroit Lions, and the Arizona Cardinals.
CB Tre'Vius Hodges-Tomlinson
Cornerback Tre'Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, the 2022 Jim Thorpe Award winner as college football's top defensive back, may not have the prototypical NFL size since he measured out as 5' 8" while weighing 178 pounds at the NFL Combine. However, thanks to his 4.41 40-yard dash, 39-inch vertical jump and 11-foot broad jump, Hodges-Tomlinson's top-notch athleticism can make up for what he lacks in stature.
"Today, I feel like the day went pretty smoothly, overall," Hodges-Tomlinson said. "Just hearing great things about being a versatile defensive back, some of them saying I would be much more of a nickel [inside cornerback]. So, getting a good word from everything that I'm here, you know, just looking forward to draft day."
Despite playing predominantly as an outside corner as a Horned Frog, LaDainian Tomlinson's nephew has no doubt about his ability to slide into new roles in the NFL.
"It's a pretty seamless connection [making the transition to nickelback] with my quickness, lateral movements and everything like that," Hodges-Tomlinson said. "My breaking ability, also my physicality and the mentality that I play with. Moving around the defensive back room is pretty much not a problem at all, especially me having a safety background and playing those inside positions and everything like that."
Hodges-Tomlinson credited new TCU defensive coordinator Joe Gillespie's defense in 2022 with getting him reps inside, a place where he'll live in the NFL.
"Now with this new defense, they came out with multiple packages as far as dime packages and me being able to get into nickel," he said. "So everything as a whole, nothing has really changed. I know that it's just another position for me to prevail at and become great at."
Texans general manager Nick Caserio represented one of the top three teams most interested in Hodges-Tomlinson at Thursday's Pro Day.
"I've been talking to the [Houston] Texans and the [Pittsburgh] Steelers before tonight, and I have a visit with the Dallas Cowboys tomorrow [Friday]," Hodges-Tomlinson said. "I also have a few other Zooms to happen. I've been hearing good stuff, man. So, looking forward to it, especially hearing coaches call and be like, 'Just want to make sure this is the right number to call on draft day.' So just to hear that man was big for me."
RB Kendre Miller
While 2022 First-Team All-Big 12 running back Kendre Miller wasn't able to participate in any of the drills at the Pro Day on Thursday because of a knee injury he suffered in the Fiesta Bowl on New Year's Eve, he still made the most of his presence by cheering on teammates and speaking with scouts and coaches. Miller got one-on-one time with both the Giants' Brian Daboll and the Patriots' Bill Belichick.
New York Giants HC Brian Daboll chatting it up with TCU RB Kendre Miller at Pro Day. Miller isn’t going through drills today as he’s recovering from a knee injury suffered in the Fiesta Bowl. pic.twitter.com/lnEfBgwM5G— Garrett Podell (@garrettpodell) March 30, 2023
New England Patriots HC Bill Belichick going one-on-one with TCU RB Kendre Miller at Pro Day. pic.twitter.com/JiASapwGix— Garrett Podell (@garrettpodell) March 30, 2023
"You know, it was it was just a really cool," Miller said when asked about his interaction with Belichick. "I had talked to him yesterday too. He was just kind of reminds me of [former TCU head] Coach [Gary] Patterson. They have like similar like, old school type of feel. He was just telling me like he really enjoyed watching me because he went back and did film study on me. He [Belichick] said, 'I really enjoy how you ran the ball'... He compared me to [Rhamondre] Stevenson, their [the New England Patriots' starting running back] He really said to me that I'm a pretty similar [to Stevenson], so that was that was cool."
As far as his physical health, Miller did put out a video of himself squatting 300 pounds as part of his knee rehabilitation, via NFL Network.
#TCU RB Kendre Miller already squatting 300 lbs in his return from his MCL injury. He didn’t work out today but had a lengthy convo with Bill Belichick and has a meeting with #Cowboys lined up. pic.twitter.com/PAIn4BHIF5— Jane Slater (@SlaterNFL) March 30, 2023