Every spring, scouts from most of the NFL teams and a handful of coaches made their way to Austin for the Texas Longhorns Pro Day.
But recent iterations have included fewer and fewer high-level representatives as the Longhorns have produced fewer and fewer high-level NFL prospects. In fact, few other single events have encapsulated the downfall of the Texas program as much as attendance as these events, with the possible exception of those two disastrous Saturdays in the Cotton Bowl and a few other disastrous Saturdays in recent years that represented other low points of the Mack Brown era.
Okay, so there are plenty of signs of the program's decay, but this particular March day has stung a bit for its relative irrelevance for a few years now.
Still, there are a handful of outgoing Texas players who are looking to either improve their draft stock, sneak into the last part of the draft, or made a positive enough impression to earn some training camp invites.
One of the most entertaining questions every year is who will throw at the Pro Day for the skill position players. One year, it was former NFL quarterback Tony Banks dusting off the cobwebs to loosen his arm up again. One year, Sherrod Harris flew in from out of state to do some former teammates a favor. Last year, Vince Young threw for scouts in the hopes of catching on in the NFL once again.
There's no indication that Case McCoy will throw, as his football career is unquestionably over, but the thought is out there that his older brother could do the passing, as he's in town and eligible to participate as a free agent.
And every year, there are one or two former players who come back to work out again in the hopes of one last chance. John Chiles seemingly returned for about three straight years to chase his fading dream.
Before getting to the player-by-player breakdown, digest some thoughts on the offensive linemen from Alex Dunlap of Orangebloods, who tracks offensive line play as closely as anyone outside of the program:
The more I hear from my #NFL sources, the more I believe I'm right- Donald Hawkins & Trey Hopkins are being slept on by media. #HookEm— Alex Dunlap (@AlexDunlapNFL) March 26, 2014
Donald Hawkins has meeting already set w/ NFC team tomorrow and Trey Hopkins, I'm told, is meeting w/ a VERY good AFC team as we speak.— Alex Dunlap (@AlexDunlapNFL) March 26, 2014
Hopefully that's good news for the two offensive linemen who have a chance to break the drought for the position at Texas -- the last Longhorn lineman drafted was Tony Hills in 2008, a player who was recruited as a tight end in the 2003 class.
Without further ado, though, here's a look at who will be participating and an overview of their current situation and what they need to do (draft projections/rankings from CBS Sports):
Defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat
After running a 4.63 40 and posting a 36-inch vertical, Jeffcoat won't have to redo those numbers, but it's not out of the question that he runs again because the track at the Texas athletic facility is known as one of the fastest around.
Since Jeffcoat is considered a tweener at 247 pounds, he'll be trying to convince observers that he can transition to a 3-4 outside linebacker position by showing agility in position drills. Can he show that he can flip his hips to turn in coverage?
Sam Acho was looking at a similar transition in 2011 when he opted not to go through athletic testing and instead only did positional drills, which may have convinced the Arizona Cardinals to draft him in the fourth round.
There's already an advantage for Jeffcoat, as his 4.63 40 was nearly a half second better than the still-impressive 4.68 Acho ran, though he was 15 pounds heavier than Jeffcoat at the time.
Current projection: 2-3
Current position ranking: 8
Wide receiver Mike Davis
A foot injury kept Davis from participating in the NFL Combine, so how well he times on Wednesday will be extremely critical for his draft status.
In high school and college, Davis was always a player who seemed to get open more by deception than pure speed, so NFL teams will want to know whether his speed is legitimate or whether it's other parts of his game that allowed him to get open.
If the answer is the former, it's going to hurt his draft stock because scouts and general managers aren't going to believe that he can translate his deep-threat ability to the next level.
There are still some concerns about his hands after he experienced some problems with drops and teams will probably also question his mental and physical toughness after he admitted that he had issues with focus and intensity during his first two seasons on campus.
Unfortunately for Davis, he won't be able to answer those questions to any large extent with his workout against air, but he has to make sure that he doesn't drop any passes.
One report out of the Senior Bowl was quite positive for Davis:
I have to say that I really didn't have a great feel for Texas receiver Mike Davis before I traveled to Mobile, but there were times over the last three days where I thought he flashed some nice things.
His routes looked smooth, and against the press, he showed some quickness to release off the jam. Davis caught the ball well, didn't look like he was fighting it or double catching any of the balls thrown his way.
The biggest surprise about his game was the willingness and toughness that he showed as a blocker. In the one-on-one work with the defensive backs, he was outstanding.
Current projection: 3-4
Current position ranking: 18
Kicker Anthony Fera
Fera may do some positional work kicking, but may not have to after a season that saw him finish as a finalist for the Lou Groza Award.
Kickers won't normally come off the board in the draft and so it won't be a surprise if Fera doesn't get a call, but Justin Tucker proved how well that can work recently and the former Penn State player is on track to have an NFL career if he can hit with the accuracy he did at Penn State as a sophomore and Texas as a senior.
But the fact that Fera is projected to get drafted and is in fact the third highest-rated player coming out of the Texas program this season is both impressive and disappointing at the same time -- impressive for Fera and disappointing for the state of affairs producing NFL talent.
Current projection: 6
Current ranking: 2
Cornerback Carrington Byndom
A breakout sophomore season put Byndom squarely on the radar of NFL scouts, but a subpar junior season gave way to an up-and-down senior season that never saw the Lufkin product ever emerge as a truly difference-making cornerback.
As a result, he needs to draw some attention with his testing numbers since he wasn't invited to the Combine to sneak into the last part of the draft. His weight might be an issue as well -- if he's less than his listed 180 pounds and runs higher than in the mid 4.5s, he'll probably be in some serious trouble because his film isn't making up for that enough to get a call when the draft comes around.
Current projection: 7
Current position ranking: 31
Donald Hawkins, offensive tackle/guard
Though Hawkins played left tackle at Texas for two seasons, his best position is widely regarded to be at guard. There's not much film on him there, as he only played sparingly there last year, so there's some projection involved with his game.
He's hoping to impress with his testing:
Donald Hawkins told me Saturday that he's planning on blowing pro day outta the water. Said he was most pumped about the vertical leap.— Alex Dunlap (@AlexDunlapNFL) March 26, 2014
Indeed, offensive linemen don't get to go through one-on-one drills at Pro Days, so moving well in position drills and testing well are important, but doing those things won't move the needle as much as a strong testing day can for skill position players.
What Hawkins really needs is for a team to become convinced that he can play guard for them and look at his success as a consistent run blocker for Texas last season who really helped collapse a stretch of defensive lines during the early conference part of the schedule.
With that being said, Hawkins does have to give some reason for scouts to look at his film again.
Current projection: 7-FA
Current ranking: No. 21 (OT)
Defensive tackle Chris Whaley
It's a shame that Whaley's ACL tear suffered against West Virginia last fall won't allow him to work out at the Texas Pro Day just as it kept him from working out at the NFL Combine, the invite to which was a nod at his production prior to his injury.
Apart from the serious damage that not being able to work out is doing to his draft prospects, it's unfortunate not to find out just how well Whaley can test for his position after showing some serious speed for his size taking down screen passes and returning those two glorious touchdowns last fall.
Not only that, but the fact that Whaley is now down to 269 pounds after playing at 295 last year. Does the weight loss change his projections to more of a 3-4 defensive end?
It's questionable whether Whaley will do anything at the Pro Day, though doing the bench press is a possibility.
In all likelihood, Whaley will have to convince a team to give him a chance in workouts once he recovers his health, making the next several months of rehabilitation and work extremely important for his future.
Current projection: 7-FA
Current ranking: 27
Offensive guard Trey Hopkins
Listed at 305 pounds, Hopkins may be lighter than that and in general faces questions about his ability to anchor against bigger players in the NFL, especially because he was so much more known for blocking well on the move when pulling or combo blocking to the second level.
Testing well athletically is going to be critical in order not to change the positive impression that he already has, but only continued film study or having some team fall in love with his ability will allow Hopkins to sneak into the last part of the draft.
Current projection: FA
Current ranking: No. 25
Safety Adrian Phillips safety
The normal test well statements apply here and after all the tackling issues that plagued Phillips, it's going to be hard to get any serious workout requests. He probably needs to break a 4.5 40 unofficially to really get some attention and that doesn't seem likely.
Current projection: FA
Current ranking: 24
Offensive guard Mason Walters
The most inconsistent performer along the offensive line in 2013, there were stretches early in the conference season where it was surprising that Sedrick Flowers wasn't replacing the often-ineffective Walters in the lineup, especially since Walters left the Ole Miss game with a knee injury that probably hampered him for some time.
The injury won't cover up the lack of production from Walters on film over the years that he started, either, so it's hard to see him putting up the testing numbers it would take to earn some serious free agent interest.
Current projection: FA
Current ranking: 32
Defensive end Reggie Wilson
Stuck behind NFL players for most of his career, Wilson was never able to translate his raw talent into production, so the Pro Day will be more interesting for his overall narrative as a relative bust at Texas than for any potential opportunity to land in the NFL.
Will Wilson end up being viewed as a player who was overrated athletically out of high school and that could have hindered his production or was he the athlete evaluators thought he was, but simply never put it together?
Current projection: FA
Current ranking: N/A