On Tuesday, the Longhorn football program welcomed a handful of the powers that be in the NFL to the athletic facilities on campus to provide an opportunity for departing players to showcase their skills in advance of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Many NFL dreams will continue to die a slow death into the fall or perhaps beyond, but the Texas Pro Day was about one last major chance to keep those dreams alive for former 'Horns who will be attempting to latch on as undrafted free agents in the hope of making a roster.
For those assured of hearing their names called in the NFL Draft -- defensive tackle Kheeston Randall and linebacker Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho -- the day was about improving on poor performances from the NFL Combine and avoiding any drills in which they could not reasonably expect to match or surpass those results from Indianapolis.
Click through the jump to find the chart featuring all the available results from the day and more analysis.
|Name||Height||Weight||40||Vertical||Broad jump||Short shuttle
As a caveat to those numbers above, the track at Moncrief is considered a fast surface, so the scouts in attendance will be adding a few tenths of a second to those times.
Those in attendance included ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay, NFL.com draft guru Gil Brandt, and a handful of former Longhorn players like Sam Acho, Aaron Williams, David Thomas, Justin Blalock, Greg Smith, Curtis Brown, Chykie Brown, and Blaine Irby, along with several current 'Horns. Even J'Covan Brown stopped by and joked about declaring for the NFL Draft.
No player at the event was facing more pressure than Keenan Robinson, even if some of his teammates were fighting for the prospect of any professional future in football. Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith and his linebackers coach Bob Babich both made their way down to Austin to take in Robinson's workout, as the Bears are in the market for a linebacker and are apparently considering Robinson.
The former 'Horns helped his cause by improving both his vertical and his broad jump from the combine, but opted not to try to drop some weight to run a faster 40 time -- a tactic adopted by some players -- instead measuring in at the exact same 242 pounds he weighed at the combine. Robinson improved his 40 time substantially on one run, which came in at 4.70. On the surface, that looks like a major improvement that could earn him some money, but scouts will again take into consideration the speed of the surface in Austin, as well as his other attempt, which was virtually identical to his combine time.
It seems that the only other head coach or coordinator in attendance among the 50 people on hand was Bengal defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. The Bengals need linebackers and could target either Robinson or Acho.
The latter opted not to participate in several drills, sticking with his 40 time from the combine, as well as his vertical, simply a result of the quadricep injury he incurred running his 40 in Indianapolis. Brandt called Acho "impressive" after watching him go through his positional drills and cited his older brother's success as a positive for Acho Uno Ocho. McShay agreed:
A lot of the things I like about Sam I like about Emmanuel. I think that Sam is a little more athletic, but with Emmanuel, you see the instincts, you see the preparation he has for games, the versatility. I looked at my scouting report and it's consistent in every single facet of the game. He's a smart, dedicated football player.
Perhaps it's time to officially declare once and for all that anyone who is anyone (with a brain) loves them some Achos.
Randall also stuck with his results from Indianapolis, but did go through his position drills with a little coaching from "Mean Joe" Greene, the legendary Steelers stalwart and Texas native.
One guy who needed a strong day and probably had it was Cody Johnson, who is attempting to sneak into the back end of the draft. His 4.72 40 will be adjusted down by scouts, putting him more in the range of what Keenan Robinson ran at the combine, but still fast enough to have some upside as a situational ball carrier, a role that McShay can envision for Johnson:
Cody Johnson has a chance to get drafted in the late rounds because he's probably the best inside runner of this year's fullback class.
Johnson's other results were not overly impressive besides his bench press, where he threw up 225 pounds 26 or 27 times depending on the report, tops among the former Texas players working out.
Showing off that speed at 260 pounds and that strength should help Johnson, whose stock was not helped by the fact that he didn't participate in the East-West Shrine game despite an invitation. Combined with film that improved as the season progressed, the results on Tuesday could help Johnson at least increase his odds of signing a free-agent contract with a team with serious hopes of him being able to make the roster. Johnson revealed that he was receiving some interest from the Jets and Packers during the day.
Brandt came away impressed with Scott's performance, which he thought could put him in contention for a spot late in the draft. As with any player who increases their stock based on pure testing numbers, the buzz around Scott may not survive a trip into the film room that likely will confirm that potential, but leave some question marks about his ability to put everything together, something he never managed at Texas.
For McShay, his take on Scott centered more around his reading oftalking about the Dallas Skyline product:
I know Mack's not gonna say bad things about any of his players, but you can tell when he really believes in a young man and believes that he's turned the corner. I think Mack Brown believes in Christian Scott. To hear the conviction with which Mack Brown was talking about him and the fact that he's gonna play at the next level and he'll bet us right now that he's the next guy to do it really tells me that he believes in Christian Scott.
Or maybe Mack is just that good, eh, McShay? He doesn't get compared to politicians all the time for nothing. Wool, your eyes. Or maybe Mack is right.
If the Blake Gideon haters were expecting to crow about his athleticism following his work out, that was far from the case. His vertical, variously reported as either 35.5 inches or 36.5 inches, was on par with Keenan Robinson, and his 40 time under 4.6 respectable for a safety, a number he said he had even bested during training.
Those numbers obviously don't translate exactly to the football field and his training over the last several months may have been beneficial to those testing numbers, but Gideon's workout today provides a sharp twist his career's narrative. As a cliche-encrusted "coach's kid" who was a "leader on the field" and helped make sure everyone was lined up, the perception was that his athleticism was the issue.
The case here is that Gideon's issues were both in the more subtle measurements of athleticism like the ability to break down and re-direct, along with during-play mental issues that contributed to all those poor angles he would take. Like every workout success story, there's something being lost in translation there that has to be about more than the fact he can test well in some measures, but can't flip his hips and transition (see the Kendall Wright play early in the game last year).
Blake Gideon's legacy, further complicated.
Fozzy Whittaker could not participate in anything other than the bench press due to his knee injuries. After looking like a possible late-round draft pick before Faurot Field decided otherwise, Whittaker indicated that he has a meeting with the Patriots (the next Kevin Faulk, perhaps?) and should be full speed by late summer, which could put him in a position to compete for a roster spot this fall. The Patriots, in particular, with the culture there and a zone-heavy offense that would take advantage of his skillset as a runner, seem like a strong prospective fit.
Not sure what Ahmard Howard was doing at Texas other than occupying a scholarship, but lifting weights was apparently not part of that equation with a 10 reps on the bench press. Kicker territory. Thanks for giving up that blocked kick against Colorado though.
Just as terrible as the tight end throwing up only 10 reps were the results from Snow and Allen, each of whom failed to surpass the reps put up by the guys for whom they blocked -- Johnson and Whittaker. Mad Dog and McWhorter, for the win! Snow was disappointed in his effort, a sentiment likely prevalent among those evaluating his performance, so it's unlikely that he really helped himself on Tuesday.
Besides wondering which random former players will show up to work out as they cling tenaciously to fading NFL dreams (I see you John Chiles!), one of the more interesting storylines every year is who will throw to the offensive skill position players during drills.
This year, it was former NFL quarterback Tony Banks, who last played in the NFL for the Houston Texans in 2005, and made his way down from Dallas after working out with Chiles in recent weeks and volunteering to throw. Don't expect a comeback any time soon, however:
@GhostofBigRoy I wish bro. I've only felt healthy the last 2 yrs but I definitely have the ITCH— Tony Banks (@tonybanks12) March 20, 2012
For Scipio Tex, the Pro Day was an opportunity to reflect on how the systemic issues that lead to the coaching purge have revealed themselves at these events:
Some quick thoughts on which Longhorns can improve their draft stock on a Texas offense that saw its last draft choice come from the 2005 recruiting class. I wish that was a misprint. 2009's foreshadowing, 2010's total meltdown, and 2011's struggles make some sense, don't they? On offense, we effectively had the upper class talent of a Conference USA team.
Now that you've bowed your head in shame at the shamefulness of this shameful fact and considering that it won't change next year either on offense, it may be worth envisioning future pro days that once again draw closer to 100 coaches and front-office personnel. Just to feel better -- 13-12 does hurt, after all.
There's not much reason for coaches or coordinators to circle the Texas Pro Day right now and though that isn't nearly as important as wins and losses in the fall, it's just one more indication of how far the program has fallen. Despite the progress that 2011 represented, the sins of coaching staffs past are still being visited upon the Longhorns -- right now, the hospitality from Mack Brown and the barbecue are both more noteworthy than the talent.
Let's get on with the exorcism, shall we?