Virginia Tech Football: 5 Players with the Most to Prove at Pro Day

Bryan Manning@bdmanning4Featured ColumnistFebruary 28, 2014

Virginia Tech Football: 5 Players with the Most to Prove at Pro Day

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    Jack Tyler
    Jack TylerSteve Helber/Associated Press

    The NFL Scouting Combine is over and players around the country await their next opportunity to impress NFL scouts: pro days.

    The Virginia Tech Hokies will have their pro day on March 19, according to CBS Sports.

    While scouts and personnel people will surely have their eyes on quarterback Logan Thomas, defensive end James Gayle and defensive backs Kyle Fuller and Antone Exum, there are several other Hokies that didn't get to make the trip to Indianapolis.

    Pro day is the only chance players like Jack Tyler and Derrick Hopkins will get with NFL teams before the draft. For players such as Thomas, pro day is likely just an affirmation on what teams already think or know. 

    Here are five Hokies with the most to prove on Virginia Tech's pro day. 

Linebacker Tariq Edwards

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    Tariq Edwards
    Tariq EdwardsKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Tariq Edwards was a three-year starter for Virginia Tech. After a big sophomore season in 2011, Edwards injured his leg and missed a large part of his junior season.

    Back in the starting lineup in 2013, Edwards showed defensive coordinator Bud Foster how important he was to the Hokies defense. He started all 13 games, was second on the team in tackles, tied for second in tackles for loss and finished with 3.5 sacks. 

    At 6'2", 234 pounds, Edwards has excellent size. He should run well at the Hokies pro day, too. The biggest knock on Edwards will be his health. In terms of size and athletic ability, Edwards looks a lot like former Tech linebacker James Anderson—an NFL mainstay since 2006.

    As of now, Edwards looks like a late-round selection, if he's selected at all. A strong showing on his pro day can only help Edwards. 

Defensive Tackle Derrick Hopkins

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    Derrick Hopkins
    Derrick HopkinsSteve Helber/Associated Press

    Derrick Hopkins had one of the better seasons in all of college football for a defensive tackle in 2013. He was an All-ACC performer as well as making two third-team All-America lists.

    Yet, he did not get an invite to the combine.

    What's the knock on Hopkins?

    At barely 6'0", Hopkins doesn't possess ideal size for an interior defensive linemen. NFL coaches prefer taller defensive tackles, ideally 6'2" or taller. Yes, rare athletes like Aaron Donald come along every few years and make talent evaluators think twice about their size preferences, but Hopkins is not Donald. 

    Hopkins excels at leverage and is sneaky athletic for a man his size. A solid interior pass-rusher, Hopkins must prove capable of defeating double teams at the next level. 

    Hopkins' pro day will be important for him as it will be his personal combine. He can show NFL folks what his short-area quickness is—crucial for defensive linemen—and compete in all of the workouts he missed out on Indianapolis. 

Guard Andrew Miller

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    Andrew Miller
    Andrew MillerJohn Bazemore/Associated Press

    Andrew Miller started at center for Virginia Tech in 2011 as a sophomore. In 2012, Miller was named to the Rimington Trophy watch list before his junior season.

    Miller's 2012 season didn't go quite as planned. He struggled at center and was rotated in and out of the lineup before he suffered a season-ending ankle injury.

    When new offensive line coach Jeff Grimes took over in 2013, he promptly moved Miller to guard, a transition that suited Miller well.

    At 6'4", 296 pounds, Miller has good size. The experience he received as a guard in 2013 should suit him well if he receives an opportunity at the next level. A former standout wrestler, Miller excels with leverage, and his pro day will be important in showing offensive line coaches he can perform in any scheme.

    Does he have the athleticism to play inside in a zone-blocking scheme?

    Miller has a real chance to make himself a priority free agent with a strong performance at the Hokies' pro day. 

Linebacker Jack Tyler

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    Jack Tyler bringing down Pitt QB Tom Savage.
    Jack Tyler bringing down Pitt QB Tom Savage.Steve Helber/Associated Press/Associated Press

    The Hokies will miss Jack Tyler in 2014. The former walk-on led Tech in tackles each of the last two years as he started all 26 games. Tyler played in every game of his four-year career.

    A two-time All-ACC performer, Tyler was likely left off the list of invitees to the combine because of his lack of size and speed. 

    At 6'1" 230 pounds, Tyler has decent size, but NFL middle linebackers—especially in 3-4 defensive schemes—are bigger. If the middle 'backer is smaller, he must possess very good speed. 

    Fortunately for Tyler, NFL coaches will have four years of film on him playing at a high level. If nothing else, Tyler will make an NFL roster based on his special teams play and work his way into the linebacker rotation.

    Don't count Tyler out.

    If he runs a solid 40 on pro day, Tyler could find himself drafted late or be a priority free agent with a chance to make a roster in training camp. 

Defensive Back Antone Exum

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    Antone Exum
    Antone ExumWilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    Yes, Antone Exum was in Indianapolis, but unlike fellow defensive back Kyle Fuller, he didn't exactly blow NFL personnel away with his athleticism.

    While Exum posted solid numbers, teams would surely liked to have seen Exum run faster than his 4.59-second 40-yard dash time.

    At Virginia Tech's pro day, Exum will have a second chance to show scouts that he can run a faster 40 time. It's important to point out that 40 times aren't everything, but for a player like Exum, who is coming off a major knee injury suffered just one year ago, teams will want to see if he is completely recovered.

    Exum looks more comfortable at safety. Expect NFL coaches to put Exum through some safety-specific drills to test him and his recognition skills. He is built like a safety (6'0", 213 lbs), and in the pass-happy NFL, you can never have enough cover safeties.

    Exum was a terrific player for the Hokies. At this point, he is trying to get himself into the second- or third-round discussion, and a solid outing at Tech's pro day could boost his stock considerably. 

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