The NFL Scouting Combine serves as the unofficial moment in the college football offseason where we hit the reset button. It’s at this moment—somewhere between the first and final 40 completed in Indy—that we realize the talented group currently under the scouting microscope is gone from college football for good.
Excuse me while I pour out a can of warm Busch Light leftover from the tailgate season in their honor.
Although we’re quite familiar with this yearly ritual now, it doesn’t make it any easier to accept. The players we’ve marveled over for the past three to four seasons are gone, off to get paid for their efforts, leaving us with another batch of faces to become familiar with before and during the fall.
There are plenty of known commodities still around in college football—be sure to enjoy Jadeveon Clowney while you can—although there’s no question we’re losing quite a bit in 2013.
They're not exactly disappearing, of course, but it just won’t be the same.
From the known talents who have been doing it for a few seasons to the freakishly gifted specimens who never quite showcased their full potential playing on Saturdays, here’s who I’ll miss the most as we bid them farewell and good luck.
You know that wide receiver you created in NCAA 13 with the preposterous 99-speed? The pixelated freak who could never, ever exist in real life, but you don’t care.
Well, West Virginia wide receiver/running back/highlight generator Tavon Austin is the special exception to this rule and the closest thing to a cheat code on offense. His 4.34 40 at the combine was ridiculous, sure, but that doesn’t do his talents justice.
Austin’s 2012 game against Oklahoma is one I’ll remember for quite some time. He finished with 344 rushing yards—yeah, he did plenty of that, too—along with 82 receiving yards and two scores...and his team lost.
For him, it’s not about stats, though. And those were certainly there in 2012.
It’s that rare “he could score here” moment you have every time he touches the football regardless of where he is on the field. Being a senior, however, there wasn’t any eligibility left, but I really wish there were.
Please, future NFL destination, give him the damn ball. We demand to see more.
About a year ago, I wrote this column on the overwhelming potential of the Arkansas running back when healthy. We didn’t see that potential in the 2012 season, but saw plenty of it at the NFL combine.
At 227 pounds, Davis ran a ridiculous 4.37 in the 40. He also did 31 reps on the bench press, and we’re already aware that he can squat a family of four—well, maybe five, 'cause he moves 600 pounds rather easily.
He’s a physical freak, a specimen that showcased his talents during his sophomore season when he ran for 1,322 rushing yards and 14 total touchdowns while averaging 6.5 yards per carry.
So why did he only run for 377 yards in 2012? Was it his health? His offensive line? Was it the team, which was more or less in disarray? I would say a healthy combo of each factored here, although I was disappointed he didn’t come back for his senior season.
We got a glimpse of the off-the-charts talent, and now we’ll see if the measureables can amount to NFL success.
My intelligent, professional scouting take: Tackling him would really, really suck, so maybe.
Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah
Let’s stay with the “potential” theme, although the path for BYU defensive end Ziggy Ansah is very different from Knile Davis. Ansah’s path is only just beginning.
When he first came over from Ghana and started playing football in 2010, he didn’t know how to put on pads. Even at times last season, it seemed that Ansah was lost on the football field, unsure of where to be or why to be there.
On those same plays where confusion seemed obvious, however, he ended up destroying an entire offense almost unknowingly. He’s a ridiculous athlete becoming a football player—still miles away from what he’ll become—and he showcased his ability in Indy on the biggest stage.
At 6’5” and 271 pounds, Ansah ran a 4.63 40. He’ll be a top-15 pick in the NFL draft, although I would have loved to see one more season at BYU.
He’s just figuring it out, and this kind of rapid, incomplete development only leaves you wanting more. We’ll get to see it in the NFL—where he’ll be a star eventually—but I enjoyed his ability to stumble into demolition so, so much in 2012.
In Michigan State’s opening tussle against Boise State last season, Le’Veon Bell carried the ball 44 times and also had six catches. It was exhausting just watching him, and he single-handedly lifted Sparty to victory.
Bell decided to go pro a year early, and as much as I loved watching him run through Big Ten defenders, I can’t blame him for leaving. A running back only has so many carries, and after 382 in one season and six games with at least 30 carries, it was time to move on.
What I really enjoyed about his game was the variety in the embarrassment he dished out. He pummeled tacklers if he wanted to, but he also has the shiftiness to make a coiled linebacker look foolish with a half-hearted tackle attempt.
And then there’s his famous hurdle, which I will miss the most.
Bell helped himself a great deal at the combine, running a 4.6 40 at more than 230 pounds. He will be a player in the NFL, and while I’m disappointed that a giant man with hurdling potential will be leaving our Saturday lineup, I will hope this translates at the next level.
We are all Marcus Lattimore fans; it’s that simple.
After suffering season-ending knee injuries in back-to-back seasons—including the horrific dislocation that will stay with me for a while—it was time for him to move on. Get paid to get healthy with some of the best doctors in the world, and that’s exactly what Lattimore will do.
And while I agree with his decision, we were deprived of his greatness. We didn’t get to see the best running back in college football fully healthy for as long as we wanted, which is a damn shame. He leaves South Carolina as the all-time leader in touchdowns, a record he could have shattered had he stayed healthy for three seasons.
Although Lattimore didn’t work out at the combine, he did show up and is running once again. His attitude through it all has been tremendous, and I doubt we’ll wait very long to hear his name called over draft weekend.
Good luck, Marcus. And good luck to those tasked with tackling him once he’s full strength.
All combine results courtesy of NFL.com.