Florida Football: What to Expect from Former Gators at Pro Day
The Florida Gators' pro day takes place on March 17 in what will be the last chance for former players to improve their draft stock in front of a truckload of NFL scouts. After many players didn’t exactly live up to expectations during the NFL combine, pro day will either make or break a lot of these guys.
Scouts will want to know the health of defensive lineman Dominique Easley. They’re going to find out if the hype is real surrounding cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy. And they’ll certainly keep a close eye on some of the underrated players looking to make a name for themselves.
It’s tough to predict exactly what will happen on pro day, as it usually comes down to whether or not players were putting the work in leading up to this big event.
But here’s a few ideas of what you should expect.
Trey Burton to Generate a Lot of Buzz
Trey Burton had a solid NFL combine, running the 40-yard dash in 4.62 seconds, doing the 3-cone drill in 7.14 seconds and completing the 20-yard shuffle in 4.32 seconds. His 40-time was just 0.02 seconds slower than North Carolina’s Eric Ebron, who is a likely first-round pick.
Burton is an interesting prospect given his versatility. He played wide receiver, tight end, fullback and quarterback last season. He doesn’t have a set position, which may hurt his stock to a certain extent, but it also helps it in a way as it makes him a unique and intriguing player.
Mr. Do it All has a place in the NFL and could thrive in a creative offense. When you add those scores and the possibility of him testing even better during pro day, Burton’s name could be buzzing late Monday night.
He’s not going to be a high draft pick regardless of what happens on pro day, but he certainly can gain attention from scouts and slide up the big board quite quickly.
Jaylen Watkins to Prove It Wasn't a Fluke
Jaylen Watkins, the guy who was considered the third-best Florida cornerback to show up at the combine, actually had the best performance of any Florida player.
He bench pressed 22 reps of 225 pounds and ran a lightning-quick 4.41 seconds in the 40-yard dash. You’d like to see him do more at the pro day, but whatever he does do, expect him to build on this momentum.
Those numbers are certainly no fluke, and his former teammate Trey Burton told Ross Jones of FoxSports that his preparation is unmatched:
"Jaylen works so hard," Burton told FOXSports.com. "He studies so much film and does so much extra stuff that has made him great."
According to the report, Watkins has spent time speed training in Boca Raton, Fla., and has been able to talk football with former NFL superstars Cris Carter and Samari Rolle.
When you combine his abilities and his work ethic, there’s no question he’s going to impress scouts once again.
Watkins' draft stock is going to go through the roof.
Loucheiz Purifoy to Run a Much Faster 40-Yard Dash
Pro days are for players like cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy. Players who weren’t invited or stunk up the joint at the NFL combine. Purifoy might as well have stayed home when he received his invite to the combine.
He finished his workouts with a 35.5 inch vertical jump, a 120 inch broad jump and a 4.61 40-yard dash time. The number that sticks out the most is the 40-yard dash time. Purifoy’s claim to fame is his athleticism and speed. Well, it’s quite clear he left those two traits back in Gainesville.
Critics aren’t going to forget that performance easily. But to be fair, Purifoy appears to be much faster on the field. You don’t become one of the best gunners in the SEC and block field goals and punts by being slow.
I expect Purifoy will have taken his slow 40 time personally and believe he will step up and shed several fractions of seconds off his time.
Players to Show More Heart in the Bench Press
Another area that Florida players must display improvement in is the bench press. At the NFL combine, cornerbacks Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy produced eight and six reps of 225 pounds respectively. To explain just how horrible those numbers are, former Miami punter Pat O’Donnell benched 23 reps at the combine.
There’s good reason to question Florida’s strength and conditioning program given all of the injuries that took place last season. But there’s no doubt in my mind that both of those defensive backs can put up double-digit reps in the weight room. Shoot, 31 of the 34 defensive backs at the combine benched at least 10 reps.
A corner doesn’t need to be the strongest player on the field, but he does need to display respectable upper-body strength in order for him to hold his ground against bigger receivers.
Florida players will have a much better performance on the bench. It’s one of the few things you can guarantee that will take place during pro day.
Dominique Easley to Perform the Most Since His Injury
Dominique Easley is by far the biggest question mark heading into the pro day, as he’s coming off his second ACL tear of his career. Besides bench pressing 26 reps of 225 pounds, he didn’t do anything at the NFL combine.
What’s interesting is that his agent Tom Santanello told Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald back in February that Easley’s knee is a non-issue:
Dominique had his surgery by Dr. (James) Andrews and just had a follow-up with him....According to the medical team, there are no medical concerns or red flags with his knee. It is a non-issue. His rehab is ahead of schedule as he already began running.
It’s absolutely insane to believe that Easley is 100 percent removed from the injury at this point in his recovery process. However, he is probably much better off than he was a month or so ago. Easley has the potential to be an early-round steal for a team if he’s healthy.
Scouts will certainly keep a close eye on him, and it would be in Easley’s best interest to do whatever he can at his pace to put the injury concerns at ease. He’ll likely perform more than he has since the freak injury took place last season.