Penn State’s Predictable Pro Day
Like many of you who may have spent Saint Patrick’s Day focusing on your career prospects rather than kicking back and socializing, approximately 20 former Nittany Lion football players were doing the same. But instead of staying in to write a paper or study for an exam, these Penn Staters were running drills.
Casual football fans may not be aware of Pro Day. While the NFL Combine is viewed as the premiere event for college players with professional football aspirations, Pro Day allows each school to host their players – without the limited invitation of the combine – in a familiar environment. Not only is this advantageous to borderline prospects who want to make their case to scouts as an undrafted free agent, but other players can show improvement in the weeks that have passed since the combine.
Predictably, DT Jared Odrick did quite well. The Patriot-News’ Bob Flounders called the likely first-round draft pick’s demeanor “loose.” Odrick’s draft stock is rising and as long as he stays healthy, there’s not much reason to worry about his prospects as an NFL defensive lineman.
From what one can gather from the coverage, the focus of Pro Day seemed to be on those with high upside but moderate risk – players whose prospects warranted a combine invitation, but aren’t necessarily slam-dunk first day picks.
Linebackers Navorro Bowman and Sean Lee are some of the most exciting defensive players in recent Penn State history, but each has their own questions to address. Lee helped assuage concerns over his injured knee by improving on his 40-yard dash time, while Bowman seemed ready to respond to any attack on his character.
“Regarding the off-the-field issues, I was going through some things and hard times,” said Bowman, who has signed with agent Drew Rosenhaus. “We all as men have to mature and learn from the mistakes you make. You can see I’m different. I don’t do some of the things I used to do. I work a lot harder and focus more. I had a chance to sit down and put things in perspective.”
Bowman has unquestionable talent, and though Rosenhaus is notorious for his part in the bizarre Terrell Owens-Philadelphia Eagles dispute, the pairing makes sense. Rosenhaus has driven his clients up surprisingly high on team’s draft boards in the past, and if Bowman’s remorse is taken seriously, he can do it again.
Andrew Quarless is another physically gifted player who faces scrutiny for off-the-field troubles; the Tight End was charged with a DUI in 2008. However, according to the Collegian, Quarless stated that he has not had a drink in two years.
At the same time, some players must prove simply that they have the athletic ability to be worth a valuable draft pick. While the NCAA has room for several talented players to take the field, success in college doesn’t always translate to a professional career.
TE Mickey Shuler Jr., who was not invited to the combine, took full advantage of the opportunity and – according to the morning call – excelled.
The 6-4, 251-pound Shuler said he ran in the 4.6s, broad-jumped almost 11 feet, was measured at 37 inches in the vertical jump and bench-pressed 225 pounds 28 times. Those aren’t good numbers. They are great numbers.
Shuler is considered a borderline player who may sit by the phone during the entire draft only to find his pro career hinges on being signed as an undrafted free agent. His performance may not change that situation, but showcasing his ability to scouts now would undoubtedly improve the odds of being called in for a workout after the draft.
Another one of those players is Daryll Clark, whose decision to not to participate in throwing drills at the Combine had fueled speculation that he would be converted to another position, a la Michael Robinson. According to Nittany Lines, Clark hit all but one pass in these drills, likely helping his draft stock.
However, Clark wasn’t the only former Nittany Lion Quarterback hoping to get signed by a pro team. Anthony Morelli, still hot on his comeback tour, returned to Holuba Hall to show his wares.
Clark is quoted by the Collegian’s Footblog as calling Morelli’s presence as “a little weird.” Quarless, who caught passes from Morelli in drills, wasn’t exactly nostalgic either:
I told him, I told him before he went, I said, ‘Morelli, tone it down a little bit.’
It just goes to show you that even if you were a ballyhooed recruit, you can still end up being that creepy guy that still hangs around after he graduated years ago.
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