SEC Football Players Who Had Best Pro Days in 2014
Several former SEC stars are in the process of taking the next step and signing their first contracts in the NFL. But before they do, the must go through the whirlwind predraft process, which includes pro days held at their former colleges.
Former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, former South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and former LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger are just a few of several former SEC stars who are in the process of impressing scouts this spring.
Which former stars had the best pro days?
Our picks are in this slideshow.
8. Auburn DB Blake Poole
What's that? You've never heard of Blake Poole?
Don't worry. You're not alone.
The 5'10", 183-pound former walk-on defensive back played in only three games as a senior on special teams, and of the 17 players who participated in Auburn's pro day, he was likely at the bottom of the list of players scouts came to see.
That changed when they saw him run.
Poole, a native of Buchanan, Ga., clocked a 4.42 unofficial 40-yard dash, a vertical of 38 inches and a 10-foot broad jump, according to statistics released by Auburn.
"A few of them want to see my film," Poole said, according to the team's official website. "I didn't play a whole lot. It would just be a dream come true to maybe do a practice squad or something like that."
It'd be a stretch to think Poole will end up in the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, or even hear his name called during May's draft. But 4.42 will get him in at least a few discussions he wasn't in before.
For a guy like Poole, who spent his college career in virtual anonymity, that's as good as it can possibly get.
7. South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney
After Jadeveon Clowney ran a 4.53 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, his pro day had the makings of being Weekend at Bernie's II. You know, the horrible sequel to a classic that is almost impossible to top?
Instead, Clowney turned it into The Godfather: Part II and made it a debate about which performance was better—the original or the sequel.
The 6'5" 266-pound former Gamecocks defensive end didn't shed or gain any weight between the two workouts. He breezed through defensive line drills and handled coverage drills designed for 3-4 linebackers despite not having played linebacker in college.
That was enough for NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah, via Sports Illustrated's Chris Burke. “I don’t know if you can do it much better than that," Jeremiah said.
So what did Clowney prove during his pro day? He proved that he's a freakish athlete who can do pretty much anything you ask him. College football fans and coaches already knew that, but scouts needed to see it for themselves.
6. Florida WR Solomon Patton
Mother Nature didn't cooperate with Florida's players during their pro day, as inclement weather forced the Gators inside the O'Connell Center to run the 40-yard dash.
Patton didn't care.
After slipping on his first attempt, he posted unofficial times of 4.33 and 4.31. He even ran without shoes, according to Nick de la Torre of GatorCountry.com.
But he wasn't done.
Drills were conducted at Florida's rain-soaked practice facility, and Patton shined outside as well.
“It also makes you look good, especially if you are catching the ball,’’ he told GatorZone.com's Scott Carter. “Depending on where you go, you could get a lot of rain. I felt it made me look pretty good. I felt like I did a good job running full speed and catching and bursting after the catch.”
At 5'9" and 177 pounds, Patton likely won't hear his name called early during this May's draft. But he did enough to make a case for himself in later rounds. He's a solid slot receiver and could be a tremendous asset as a return specialist at the next level.
5. LSU QB Zach Mettenberger
Former LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger's college career came to a close earlier than expected when the senior signal-caller tore his ACL late in the regular-season finale against Arkansas.
Five months later, he not only participated in his pro day but also went through drills that tested his knee, including throws on designed rollouts on the run.
"I thought he did outstanding. Almost miraculous," LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron told ESPN.com's Mike Triplett. "Thirteen weeks after surgery, to come out here and throw more than a hundred balls and complete 90-plus percent of them."
Mettenberger already had the attention of pro scouts. At 6'5" and 225 pounds, he is a prototypical pro quarterback who comes from a pro-style system run by Cameron, a former NFL head coach. The only real test facing Mettenberger was his health, and he passed with flying colors.
4. Georgia QB Aaron Murray
As was the case with former LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger, former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray was faced with the challenge of impressing scouts after tearing his ACL in late November.
Unlike Mettenberger, Murray doesn't have the prototypical NFL quarterback stature helping him during the predraft process.
Not only did Murray answer questions about his knee, but he also impressed scouts with his accuracy (48-of-54 passing), his mechanics and his football acumen.
"Murray lacks ideal physical traits with his size and arm strength, but he is an extremely detailed passer with his mechanics and movements, showing the decisions of a smart, seasoned veteran," wrote CBSSports.com's Dane Brugler.
At 6'1", Murray's height will be a knock against him. But he makes up for his lack of size with knowledge of the game and coverages. That's going to be hard for NFL teams to ignore, and he did his best to make sure they don't ignore it during his pro day workout.
3. Auburn DE Dee Ford
After calling himself the best pass-rusher in the draft—a draft that includes former South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney—former Auburn defensive end Dee Ford set the bar incredibly high for himself.
He reached that bar during his pro day, running the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds, bench pressing 225 pounds 29 times and posting a broad jump of 10 feet, four inches, according to NFL.com's Chase Goodbread. This after being medically disqualified from participating in the draft combine in February due to a lingering back injury.
A 40 time and broad jump equal to Clowney's combine stats and eight more reps on the bench don't necessarily make Ford a better pro prospect than Clowney, but his performance certainly backed up what seemed like unrealistic words in Indianapolis.
2. Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel
Johnny Manziel's pro day went about as you would expect, complete with music, former President George H.W. Bush and current Texas Governor Rick Perry.
You know, just another day in the life of Johnny Football.
This one included lots of passing—64 passes, to be exact—with only three of them falling incomplete. He made throws on the run, took snaps from under center and was chased around with a giant broom.
While Manziel proved to scouts that he has what it takes to be a successful quarterback in any system, it wasn't enough.
"We were striving for perfection," Manziel said, according to Yahoo! Sports' Eric Edholm. "Little disappointed in that."
Let's be real about Manziel. He was so polarizing and so visible during his two years as Texas A&M's starting quarterback that 99 percent of people who have seen him play already have their minds made up about him one way or another. He did all he could to sway that 1 percent to his side with a strong pro day performance.
1. Alabama S Vinnie Sunseri
Former Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri silenced the doubters at Alabama's second pro day, chiming in with the best pro day in the SEC. Unlike other players who were recovering from ACL injuries as seniors, Sunseri chose to leave Alabama early despite tearing his ACL in October.
Crazy? Crazy like a fox.
Sunseri posted unofficial 40-yard dash times of 4.48 and 4.52 earlier this month, according to Cliff Kirkpatrick of the Montgomery Advertiser.
“I felt awesome,” Sunseri told Kirkpatrick. “I ran what I wanted to run. I was smooth in my drills like I wanted to be smooth. A lot of good things. It was a good day.”
A good day, to say the least. We already knew that Sunseri is an accomplished safety who is great in coverage, has a nose for the football and has a high football IQ. Now, we also know that he is fast north to south and that he has fully recovered from his injury.
Not a bad day's work.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report.
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