USC's first spring camp under head coach Clay Helton took a brief pause Wednesday as the Trojans put the spotlight one more time on their outgoing stars.
The Trojans' 2016 pro day featured a handful of draft-eligible faces, most notably linebacker/safety hybrid Su'a Cravens, quarterback Cody Kessler and offensive lineman Max Tuerk.
There were zero NFL head coaches and one general manger in attendance on Wednesday since many were attending to the league's annual owners' meetings in Florida. However, those watching were able to see a few Trojans raise their stocks ahead of next month's draft.
Cravens, USC's highest-rated draft prospect in what is a smaller class for the Trojans, was one of those players on the rise.
He posted lackluster testing results at the combine for a linebacker, but he was able to impress in the on-field drills, according to Richard Mejia of Conquest Chronicles. Cravens also didn't run the 40-yard dash, as he planned to set his mark at pro day.
On Wednesday, Cravens bumped up his vertical leap from 27 inches at the combine to 30.5 inches:
Initial reports had Cravens' unofficial 40 times at 4.69 and 4.70 seconds, but it was later confirmed as a 4.65 by USC. If he would have ran an official 4.65 at the combine, Cravens would have finished eighth among all linebackers.
While Cravens' improved measurables should be encouraging for his stock, his on-field talent is what will be the defining factor in where he goes in this year's draft.
Curious case of Su'a Cravens for NFL executives. Measurables are not quite what you'd expect, but talent is off the charts— Josh Webb (Twist) (@FightOnTwist) March 23, 2016
Bleacher Report's NFL draft lead writer Matt Miller has Cravens as the No. 47 overall prospect and has him listed as a linebacker on his latest big board. In his post-combine mock draft, though, Miller had Cravens going to the Minnesota Vikings at No. 23 overall.
"After a week of solid on-field drills, interviews and workouts, USC's Su'a Cravens is back in the conversation as a weak-side linebacker in the first round of the draft," Miller wrote. "While his skill set as a former safety-turned-linebacker won't work for every team, he's an ideal 'Will' 'backer in Minnesota's 4-3 defense."
USC's No. 2 draft prospect, Kessler, impressed those in attendance with his work in passing drills. Coming in at just 6'1" and 220 pounds, according to Lindsey Thiry of the Los Angeles Times, Kessler's biggest asset needs to be his passing.
While he's been knocked in the buildup to this year's draft for less-than-stellar arm strength, the precision was there for Kessler on his on-field throws Wednesday:
Quarterback Cody Kessler had a solid showing through his scripted throws at #USC pro day.— Lindsey Thiry (@LindseyThiry) March 23, 2016
USC quarterback Cody Kessler, projected late round draft pick, going deep pic.twitter.com/EDdXSUgmT0— Eric He (@erichesports) March 23, 2016
The top-notch accuracy he showcased at USC and at the pro day might make him a good pick in the middle rounds for a franchise looking for added competition and depth under center.
Elsewhere, Tuerk was able to improve on the only number he was able to post at the combine—the bench press. Tuerk cranked out a solid 26 reps of 225 pounds, giving him the third most of any Trojan on the day and four more than he had in Indianapolis.
A knee injury suffered last season is keeping Tuerk from doing most drills and affecting his draft stock. But as his tape shows, when fully healthy, Tuerk is athletic enough to play any position on the offensive line—which he did as a starter at USC.
The versatile offensive lineman has apparently put on some weight to what was considered an undersized frame at the pro level. He was listed at 285 pounds by USC as a senior, but he weighed in at 296 pounds on Wednesday.
Tuerk was Miller's No. 196 overall prospect after the combine and the No. 9 center. If teams are willing to take a chance on him in spite of his recent knee injury, he could be a strong value selection because of his ability to play anywhere across the front five.
Here are the rest of the highlights from USC's pro day festivities:
- The fastest 40-yard dash of the day belonged to running back Tre Madden, who ran a 4.56. Madden also had the best broad jump of the day at 10 feet, and he'll be hoping those measurables turned enough scouts' heads. He was unable to do anything more than the bench press at the combine.
- Fullback Soma Vainuku, who won over the crowd at the combine with his new haircut, posted a 4.59 in the 40-yard dash. Vainuku worked both as a fullback and a linebacker in on-field drills.
- Cornerback Kevon Seymour didn't participate in the 40-yard dash Wednesday, but Ryan Abraham of USCFootball.com said he impressed during the shuttle drill.
- Defensive linemen Claude Pelon and Cody Temple tied for the best bench press numbers of the day with 33 apiece—seven more than Tuerk.
- Defensive tackle Antwaun Woods, who is listed in Miller's top 300 prospects, pulled up short on his second attempt in the 40-yard dash. According to Thiry, he posted an unofficial 5.07 in his first run.
- According to Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News, former USC wideout and current Seattle Seahawks cornerback George Farmer was in attendance Wednesday to support his former teammates.
Justin Ferguson is a National College Football Analyst at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.