Breaking away to avoid distractions, finding the right trainer, and maximizing yourself to be ready for the NFL combine—that’s been the recent goal of a lot of athletes that are looking to make a successful move from college to the NFL.
For Penn State’s eligible prospects, it’s the same song and dance. But which of the Nittany Lions, who have the third largest invite list in the nation, have the most to gain or lose, specifically at this year’s NFL Combine? Here are a few thoughts, notes, and predictions on each of the eight Penn State players that will be present:
OT Gerald Cadogan – 6’5” 309 lb.
- Replaced Levi Brown on the offensive line (who was a first round draft pick)
- Named to the Academic All-Big Ten for three consecutive years
- Played both tackle and guard for Penn State, making him friendly to a depth chart
KP’s Take: The Combine isn’t all about workouts and numbers, but also interviews and discussions with NFL coaches. Cadogan’s smarts alone could help improve his draft stock.
CB Lydell Sargeant – 5’9” 180 lb.
- Has some versatility due to also playing wide receiver as a freshman
- Named as the PSU defense’s most improved player in 2007
KP’s Take: Sargeant needs to have a consistent Combine across the board, having results that can compete with the other corners that are present. If so, it’s possible he could be a late selection on day two of the draft.
C A.Q. Shipley – 6’0” 297 lb.
- Started every game at center from 2006 on for the Nittany Lions
- Was a part of a solid 2008 Penn State O-line that protected Daryll Clark well, limited its penalties, and opened holes on a regular basis for Evan Royster and Stephfon Green
KP’s Take: The Combine is key for Shipley to impress NFL scouts. Many are quick to point out how he’s three plus inches shorter than other top prospects at his position such as Antoine Caldwell and Alex Mack. He should get drafted, but a great Combine could open more eyes.
DE Aaron Maybin – 6’4” 245 lb.
- Considered by many to make transition to OLB in the NFL, due to his size
- Some critics argue he should have stayed at PSU one more year to get bigger
- Despite having only big season in college, most prognosticators still have him coming off the board at or near the top ten.
- Has great speed coming off the line and should be a solid pass rusher in the NFL
KP’s Take: Terrell Suggs in college played defensive end, and in the NFL, has been at that position, as well as OLB. That plus his size is similar to that of Maybin. The similarity should continue to Draft Day, where Suggs went as the tenth pick in the first round, as long as Maybin is consistent with his results at the Combine.
DE Maurice Evans – 6’2” 265 lb.
- He had some off-the-field issues to start the season and will need to find a way to convince NFL teams that he will not be a problem child
- Like Maybin, he’s also considered undersized for his position – yet talented
KP’s Take: In life, it’s “what have you done for me lately” all the time. In the case of Evans, he was stellar a year ago, but borderline invisible in 2008. Therefore, a huge Combine performance, specifically on strength (to prove size doesn’t matter), will be key to where he gets drafted.
WR Derrick Williams – 6’0” 197 lb.
- Has versatility, with ability to run, catch, return kicks and punts
- Also can line up and play quarterback, adding a slash-like trait to his skillset
- Former top recruit put slumping program on his back and showed the leadership to help get Penn State out of its funk.
- Great performance at the Senior Bowl bumped up his stock.
KP’s Take: Sure, some may argue Williams didn’t live up to his hype at Penn State, but he did have a significant impact on the Nittany Lions program during his four-year tenure. A Combine performance similar to that of the Senior Bowl could bump his stock up into the second round.
WR Deon Butler – 5’10” 168 lb.
- Ended up as career receptions leader at Penn State, which is saying something considering he beat out future pros in Bobby Engram, O.J. McDuffie, Bryant Johnson, and Joe Jurevicius.
- One knock on him will be durability due to his size, but he did make it through the college years injury-free.
KP’s Take: His key at the Combine will be the 40-yard dash. Butler is going to need to show consistent speed, because he doesn’t have the size many teams are seeking. The career receptions record says he’s doing something right, so someone will draft him on day two.
WR Jordan Norwood – 5’11” 171 lb.
- Has spectacular hands and an uncanny ability to make acrobatic catches
- Great route runner, which is key to success in the NFL
- Undersized, therefore many will question if he can take the hits at the pro level
- Even with his size, showed heart and determination after taking a big hit from USC’s Taylor Mays in the Rose Bowl, hobbled off, but came back shortly after.
KP’s Take: There’s something to be said about a great route runner who can catch the ball. They can and do succeed in the NFL. Look at a guy like Wes Welker, who is 5’9” and 185. A solid Combine could earn Norwood a shot, and a team may just snag him in the sixth or seventh round.