TCU linebacker Daryl Washington is in the midst of their personal week-long episode of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
All that's missing is host Regis Philbin.
In Philbin's place is a throng of NFL scouts and media evaluators who have descended on Mobile, Ala., this week for practice leading up to Saturday's Senior Bowl.
Washington and TCU All-America defensive end Jerry Hughes earned invites to the festivities. Hughes, however, reported on The Sporting News that doctors have advised him not to play because of a sprained quad muscle he suffered in the Fiesta Bowl.
That leaves Washington, a first-team All-Mountain West Conference linebacker, as the lone Frog trying to impress the NFL types without having to use up all their lifelines.
Strong performances could mean the difference in hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of dollars in contracts and signing bonuses.
Despite their stellar careers and senior seasons on TCU's top-ranked defense, both Hughes and Washington came into the week with something to prove.
At first glance, Hughes' football future seemingly seems secure. This past season he was named to 10 different publications' All-America teams and he was a Lott Trophy and Ted Hendricks Trophy winner to boot.
The problem for the reigning MWC Defensive Player of the Year is that he is projected as an outside linebacker in the NFL. Even if Hughes signs with a team that runs a 3-4, his duties as an outside linebacker won't be the same as he had at TCU. And even at OLB, his size—Hughes has been measured at 6'1 3/4" and 252 pounds—he is on the smaller end at his new position.
His speed should make up for whatever prototypical features NFL scouts think he may lack. Hughes may be one of the few players who can turn heads with his play in the game as much as his play during practice.
Hughes' talents are best on display at full speed and in traffic. Missing the Senior Bowl isn't going to break him, but it could have helped him set up his combine performance and begin to build his draft stock into a possible first-round selection.
Washington must show as an inside linebacker that his game is more than just speed. An ESPN.com All-American, Washington also must prove that his 6'3", 234-pound frame isn't too small to play on Sundays or the occasional Monday.
Scouts, however, have raised questions about his aggression and ability to deliver a big hit. ESPN.com's Todd McShay reported that Washington's "lack of size was exposed on Day 3" of Senior Bowl practice.
McShay also said Washington struggled in traffic and dropped a sure interception, which could be an indication that he's thinking too much.
That strategy never worked too well on Millionaire, either.
McShay suggested that Washington needs to play on a team that runs the "Tampa 2" scheme that emphasizes speed and quickness.
Anyone familiar with the Horned Frogs knows that speed is their weapon. Washington has time to take the criticism and work on his strength in the coming months. He's a combine invitee as well, but he may want to perform a follow-up during TCU's pro day in March to show how well he's progressing in the weight room.
The good thing for both Hughes and Washington is that their game show is only starting, and the April Sweeps Week—a.k.a. the NFL draft— is still a relatively long way away.
Regis doesn't even have to be there. Hughes and Washington would be ecstatic enough to just see host Roger Goodell, who proceeds over the first round.
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