In years gone by the annual Pro Day in Tuscaloosa was little more than a sparsely attended and obligatory affair, but the arrival of Nick Saban and the subsequent ascension of the Alabama football program have changed that drastically. Pro Days have become almost a mini-NFL Combine in Tuscaloosa, with countless members of the NFL scouting community and several general managers in attendance, and that was again the case this morning. Additionally, several former Alabama players, including Andre Smith, Rolando McClain, and Marcell Dareus were also in attendance to support their former teammates.
From the outset, the morning was admittedly missing some star power due to the absence of a handful of notable players. Trent Richardson (knee), Mark Barron (double hernia), and Courtney Upshaw (knee), all of which are expected to be first round draft picks this upcoming April, did not participate in the activities due to various injuries. All three, however, are hoping to work out in front of scouts later this month on March 29th when they once again take to the Hank Crisp Indoor Facility.
Josh Chapman also did not work out for the scouts, as he continues to recover from surgery to repair ACL and meniscus tears, though he was present and did conduct interviews. Chapman participated in the bench press, which is about all he will be able to realistically do before the Draft given his recovery.
Marquis Maze was another player that did not work out, as he continues to try to recover from the strained hamstring he suffered in the BCS Championship Game. Maze gave it a go in Indianapolis but posted some relatively pedestrian times and struggled to catch the football with any consistency, so he sat out today in hopes of getting healthy before giving it another try later this month.
In other big names, Dont'a Hightower and Dre Kirkpatrick participated in some drills, but both players chose to rest on the 40 times they posted late last month at the NFL Combine. Given that both are likely first round picks and that both ran solid times in Indianapolis, they had far more to lose than gain by running again, so it's no real surprise that they ultimately chose to stand on their previous times.
Of course, for all of the talk of the big names, Pro Day is routinely far more important for players of much smaller billing, as they seek to use one of their few opportunities to perform in-person before the scouting community as a way of earning a late round selection or a camp invite later this summer. To that end, several players worked out in front of scouts today hoping to do something, anything, to catch some attention, including Jerrell Harris, William Vlachos, Brad Smelley, Darius Hanks, Nick Gentry and others.
Vlachos might have the best chance of any of that group to be selected during the Draft, and for what it's worth he has added a few pounds since the Senior Bowl and did show decent agility, always a necessity for a center. Even so, Vlachos still looks far more like an aging Packers fan than the prototypical lineman, and he still figures to be a niche prospect.
Jerrell Harris could probably also be added nearly along Vlachos, though in his case he has all of the physical attributes necessary while generating significant concern over his lack of consistency and his general ineffectiveness during his first three years on campus. If Harris can convince scouts he can continue to play like he did late last season, he'll likely find a spot on Sunday, and to his credit he showcased his impressive build and athleticism earlier today.
Brad Smelley posted respectable times in the 40-yard dash, clocking in at the mid-to-high 4.7 second range, but given his slight build that may not be quick enough. Much of the same could potentially be the case for Darius Hanks, who improved on his times in Indianapolis but only slightly. Nick Gentry worked out in some linebacker drills, though the transition from collegiate nose guard to professional linebacker seems near impossible. Alfred McCullough could have a chance at the next level due to his versatility, but for several others that worked out today -- Phelon Jones, Robby Green, etc. -- the odds seem very long to put it nicely.
For those interested, a replay of Pro Day, along with Nick Saban's address of the media, is available online at RollTide.com.