Good morning from Lucas Oil Stadium. Here we are for the first day of the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine, the league’s annual job fair. Throughout the week, we will post daily blogs keeping you up-to-date on all the happenings from the media room here at the stadium. In addition, we will post video of some of the top players’ interviews, provide photos and cap each day with a top story recapping the biggest events.
Today, offensive linemen, tight ends, kickers, punters and long snappers will step to the podium as they prepare to make the leap to the professional ranks. In addition, Head Coach John Fox is expected to address the media at approximately 11 a.m. here in Indy, which means 9 a.m. Denver time.
Feel free to post any questions you have in the comments, and we will do our best to answer them. Keep checking back throughout the day for updates.
9:55 a.m. EST: Along with the athletes; coaches, GMs and NFL Network personalities will make their way through the media room podiums. First up, Buffalo Bills Head Coach Chan Gailey. The Bills hold the third pick in April’s draft, just one spot behind the Broncos.
10:39 a.m. EST: Rams Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo is the next to the podiums. A lot of question about Josh McDaniels, who will serve as the Rams’ offensive coordinator. Folks in St. Louis want to know what type of offense they will be running and how he will interact with Sam Bradford.
Spagnuolo said that one of the reasons he hired Josh was that he had one of the hardest offenses to prepare for.
10:48 a.m. EST: Panthers Head Coach Ron Rivera (pictured above) just stepped to the podium. He said Carolina is looking to add depth at a lot of positions, and the club has between eight and 10 players it will evaluate for the first overall selection. Coach Fox should be stepping to the podium shortly. Be sure to follow my Twitter feed and the Denver Broncos’ official Twitter feed for coverage as well.
12:18 p.m. EST: Back at the work station after Coach Fox talked at the podium and in a separate group interview. You can check out the video of his press conference here, and if you prefer, the audio version is here.
We’ll have more on what Fox said in a top story notebook at the end of the day, but some of the highlights included calling Kyle Orton the starter at quarterback, his thoughts on switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense, re-signing Champ Bailey and getting Elvis Dumervil back healthy, why he hired Dennis Allen as defensive coordinator, what he hopes to get with the No. 2 overall pick — “You’re obviously going to get a heck of a football player,” — and the goal of winning a Super Bowl.
“Right now there are 32 teams that are all 0-0,” Fox said. “Time will tell, but that’s our goal.”
We’ll have more detail on many of those topics — including his comments on the quarterbacks — this evening.
12:25 p.m. EST: Players have begun to make their way into the room. The player drawing the most attention at the moment is South Carolina offensive tackle Garrett Chisolm. Now Alabama tackle James Carpenter is at the podium and drawing quite a crowd as well.
1:14 p.m. EST: Wisconsin’s Gabe Carimi – one of the highest rated offensive tackles – has taken to the podium with a bevy of cameras and recorders following his every word. Gray is among them and I am sure will have a few nuggets to post shortly.
1:39 p.m. EST: OK, back from talking with a few players including Carimi (pictured above) and one of the quarterbacks who made it to a podium on day one, North Carolina’s T.J. Yates.
One of the more interesting questions for Carimi was whether or not he plans to play on Jewish holidays.
“Yeah, that’s what I did this year,” he said. “Yom Kippur this year, and basically what I did is went off Israeli time. I fasted from 12:00 to 12:00.”
He said he looked at the calendar and found out Yom Kippur doesn’t fall on a Sunday for 15 years. Then he smiled and said, “Next question.”
As for Yates, he led a UNC team that faced a number of suspensions and a lot of uncertainty amid an NCAA investigation throughout the season. He said playing through that adversity shows NFL teams that he can win despite a tough situation.
“I challenge anybody to go look somewhere else for some worse adversity in a team or a program,” Yates said. “Because we had it from all angles as far as NCAA, academic stuff, then on top of that we had a ton of injuries. There were times we were stretching our depth charts in the middle of games to a fifth-string running back. Coach (Butch) Davis is looking on the sideline asking if anybody can run down on a kickoff. It got pretty hectic at some points, but I don’t think any other team in the country went through what we did, and we still salvaged a very good season.”
Yates (pictured below) said there were weeks when the team was boarding the bus for an away game, and teammates were on the phone trying to find out whether or not they were allowed to get on the bus with the rest of the squad. Sounds like it was a fairly stressful season that ended in a wild Music City Bowl win against Tennessee.
2:47 p.m. EST: Anytime a player from a smaller school is at the combine, he typically gets a pretty big gathering around his table. The first up was Brandon Fusco from Division II Slippery Rock.
Fusco said he wasn’t very big coming out of high school — about 240 pounds. “I didn’t take the weight room as seriously as I do now,” he said.
So the biggest school that recruited him was Youngstown State. But he met the coaches from Slippery Rock and visited the campus and fell in love.
He said there would be times when defensive linemen at the Division II level would be disappointed to have to go against a player of his caliber.
“There were a couple games and the defensive linemen would be like, ‘Man, this sucks.’” Fusco laughed. “I loved hearing that from lines. It makes you feel good and it pumps you up more to play better.”
The center is also pumped up by the perception that players from smaller schools can’t make it to the NFL. He pointed to the success of New Orleans Saints All-Pro guard Jahri Evans, who went to school in the same conference as Slippery Rock, as part of his motivation.
Fusco said his desire to learn new offenses as quickly as possible will help him succeed on the next level. At the Senior Bowl, he had to learn an NFL playbook, and he stayed up as late as it took to get every play down. “I can’t sleep if I don’t know something,” he said.
“I feel like everybody’s doubting me coming from a smaller school, they think I don’t belong,” Fusco said. “Everyone’s got their own opinion, but I know my game. I’m very confident. I know what I can do and I know what I need to do. I have the opportunity to be here and I’m just going to make the best of it and show why I do belong here.”
3:23 p.m. EST: Broncos TV posted the first full interview from the combine, this one with Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi.
3:50 p.m. EST: Players continue to roll into the room. We’ve heard from a number of top prospects, including Tennessee tight end Luke Stocker. Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams just stepped to the podium. One of the most recent guys to talk to the media was Utah guard Caleb Schlauderaff, who started at left guard alongside Zane Beadles the past few years for the Utes. He said Beadles offered him some advice before the combine.
“I got lucky,” Schlauderaff said. “Zane went through this whole process last year, so he kind of walked me through it a little bit. He’s just helped me kind of know what to expect and what to look forward to.”
He said the most important part of the combine, to him, is interviewing with NFL coaches, because it is good exposure.
“They actually ask about the same questions,” he said of the 10 to 12 teams he has already spoken with. “They just want to see how you react to them. Some will try to put you on the spot a little bit and get your reaction to it, but it’s a lot of the same questions from team-to-team — playing experience, what you can work on, what you need to get better at — stuff like that.”
4:35 p.m. EST: University of Colorado offensive tackle Nate Solder just stepped off the podium. The CU star has a shot at being the first offensive lineman picked in this year’s draft. He spoke highly of his Buffs teammate, Jimmy Smith, who he called “a heck of a competitor.” Smith has a shot at being one of the top cornerbacks chosen in the draft, as well. Then Solder was asked why with such talent playing together at CU, the Buffs weren’t able to win more games.
He looked to be taken aback by the question at first, and laughed a little before answering.
“Yeah, well, you know, if you have talent here and talent here and they’re not together, it kind of makes a difference,” he said. “I don’t know if we always played together as a team the way we should’ve.”
4:45 p.m. EST: While the majority of the gathered press was taking to Solder – we will post the entire interview on the site later tonight – I thought I would clean out the recorder a bit and post a couple quotes from Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams.
Compared to the other tight ends in the draft class, Williams is a bit smaller, standing 6-foot-2 and weighing 245 pounds. But the former Razorback says that his do-anything attitude makes up for his stature.
“Teams ask me a lot of questions, so I just fire right back at them with a couple of my own,” the verbose Williams said. “I ask them what they want from me. A lot of teams tell me the player that they want to end up drafting is the player that they see on film. I tell them time-after-time I have the attitude. I am that player that hears he has to block Ray Lewis – I say this now because he is not across from me – the attitude is, ok let’s go do it. We are out here playing football, this is what we do.”
If size is viewed as a negative for Williams, he plans on making up for it by showcasing his speed. Just don’t ask him what he plans on running in the all important 40-yard dash.
“I can’t say what I plan on running because then you jinx yourself. But probably a 4.1,” he said with a smile.
5:06 p.m. EST: Speaking of tight ends, Luke Stocker’s press session is now on the site. Click here to see what the University of Tennessee tight end had to say.
6:15 p.m. EST: That will wrap up day one of the NFL Scouting Combine. A notebook and a few more videos will be posted on DenverBroncos.com later tonight. Tomorrow quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers will make their way through the media room and we will have full coverage. Talk to you then.
– Gray Caldwell & Kyle Sonneman.
Tags: NFL Scouting Combine