Day One of the NFL Scouting Combine was pretty much all talk… but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t anything to be learned.
As expected, LSU guard Herman “The House” Johnson was the hit of the weigh-ins despite measuring in at a svelte (for him) 364 pounds on his 6-7 frame; Johnson weighed 385 at the end of the college season and indicated his target weight is 355—and that he feels quicker and more comfortable at the lighter weight. During Johnson’s press conference we learned that he weighed 15 pounds, 14 ounces at birth and reported to LSU as a freshman at 411 pounds. He also mentioned that at least a couple teams have talked to him about playing right tackle.
Eyes were also on Alabama tackle Andre Smith, who was rumored to have battled weight issues during his junior season. During his press conference Smith indicated that he hadn’t had a problem with his size in college and maxed out at 345 at Alabama. He weighed in at 332 at the Combine, which was good, but said he was undecided about working out at the combine.
The remaining three elite tackles in the 2009 class—Michael Oher of Ole Miss, Virginia’s Eugene Monroe, and Jason Smith of Baylor—all weighed in at 309 pounds; so did Arizona’s Eben Britton, who could also sneak into the bottom end of the first round. And UConn’s William Beatty, who was viewed as a little light at the Senior Bowl, added 15 pounds and weighed in at 307.
Oher, the subject of the Michael Lewis book “The Blind Side”, surprised press conference attendees by admitting that he hadn’t actually read the book; then again, he lived it so he already knew the ending. Oher also told reporters that he didn’t have a preference who played him in the movie being made from the book.
Monroe, competing to be the first tackle off the board, said in his press conference that he would be working out because, “You don’t want to miss out on an opportunity to show you have the ability to do as well or better than if you decide not to do the drills.” He denied there was competition at the dinner table growing up, however, despite being the youngest of 16 children. Monroe said that his siblings are much older, and that it was just he and his brother and his mother, so “it wasn’t that bad.”
Jason Smith, the converted tight end, discussed his transition from pass catcher to right tackle to the left side. He admitted that he didn’t spend a great deal of time in a three-point stance in college and he’ll need to improve in that area. And, of course, his background as a calf roper was mentioned—as was the fact that he graduated last May, then picked up another major and earned a 4.0 grade point average.
Tight ends joined the big fellas on the scale and at the podium, with top dog Brandon Pettigrew checking in at 6-5 and 263. He’s still the best combo tight end, but a couple other candidates in a very deep class had their moment in the sun as well.
Six weeks removed from surgery to repair a broken fifth metatarsal, Missouri’s Chase Coffman won’t work out at the combine but hopes all the medical tests would provide him with a clean bill of health. Coffman indicated that he hopes to be 100 percent for his pro day March 19, acknowledged that coming from a spread offense in college will require him to work on in-line blocking and coming out of a three-point stance, and recognized that at least for the moment his father—a former tight end with the Green Bay Packers—is the more accomplished player. “He has 11 years in the NFL right now, and I haven't started yet,” Coffman said at his press conference. “Hopefully I'll be able to pass him in a little while.”
Rice tight end James Casey discussed his three-year detour into minor league baseball as a 95-mph fastball pitcher with control problems. He also detailed his position-hopping in college: arriving as a linebacker, being moved to defensive end, switching to quarterback, progressing to wide receiver and H-back, and contributing on special teams as a long snapper, holder, and punt returner. “Any time I can get out there and play no matter what position it is, I just felt blessed to be on the field anywhere to help the team win.” Casey said at his press conference. “To be versatile like that, to be able to play a couple of different positions.” Casey added that he anticipated running in the 4.6 range, though if he could get into the 4.5s “that would be outstanding.”
• Oklahoma tackle Phil Loadholt weighed in at 332, down slightly from his 340-ish playing weight. He also indicated he intends to drop a few more pounds and has been working on improving his technique and foot quickness—a need that became glaringly apparent after his struggles at the Senior Bowl.
• Cal center Alex Mack discussed the ankle injury that will prevent him from working out tomorrow (“just a normal ankle sprain”, he reported after undergoing a series of X-rays and MRIs from “at least 20 doctors” at the Combine) and the fact that he played guard as well as center during the Senior Bowl. “I want to show that I’m versatile and that I can handle a new position,” Mack said during his press conference. “And also, I want to play football. I want to play football wherever they take me. If they want to plug me at fullback, I’ll play fullback. I’m easy.”
• Oho State tackle Alex Boone weighed in at 328 pounds, which he noted was a dozen or so pounds heavy for him. He also discussed his alcohol-related transgressions, indicating that “positives do come out of negatives. It was a tough lesson for me to learn, but I faced it and hopefully it’s behind me now. Right now it’s a day-by-day battle and it’s going good.”
• Finally, Oklahoma guard Duke Robinson revealed that he hyper-extended his elbow in the BCS title game and won’t participate in the bench press at the Combine, though he will do the other drills. And Robinson’s great uncle is Smokey Robinson, of “Tracks of My Tears” fame.