2013 NFL Scouting Combine:
9:53 a.m. EST: Here we are at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, ready to cover the first day of the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine. We’ve been set up for about an hour and a half, and the room is filling up fast with media members. Chicago Bears Head Coach Marc Trestman just stepped to the podium — the first person to address the media today. Head Coach John Fox is scheduled to speak at 10:45 a.m. EST. This live blog will be updated throughout the day as more coaches and players address the media. Today will bring interviews with offensive linemen, tight ends and specialists, so stay tuned.
11:24 a.m. EST: Head Coach John Fox just spoke at the podium. Click here to watch his press conference in which he talks about the development of the Broncos’ 2012 rookie class, contract negotiations with Ryan Clady and Peyton Manning’s continued rehabilitation.
11:44 a.m. EST: Below are a few quick hits from Fox’s press session this morning:
On Ronnie Hillman becoming a feature back
“I think Ronnie is a very talented player. He had a great rookie season. He is very explosive. Like any first-year player, you have a lot of room for improvement. I thought he finished the season very strong.”
On expectations for Derek Wolfe
“I think our draft class did fantastic. Derek, he probably played as much as any rookie in the league, I know on defense. Our defense is a little unique – without getting into too many technicalities – but he plays a spot that is very important against the run. It’s probably not as advantageous to rush the passer from the position he’s at. I thought he had a superb year and he’s going to be a great young player moving forward.”
On Peyton Manning’s continued recovery
“Even as far back as almost this time a year ago, his type of injury – a lot was made of the neck and the surgeries and all those things. The reality is that it is kind of a nerve situation and it takes a while for nerves to grow. He’s getting better every day. I think he’ll be health-wise, even better this year.”
12:24 p.m. EST:
Eric Fisher was one of the first offensive linemen to meet the press. The tackle out of Central Michigan University talked about striving to be the first tackle drafted.
“I’m working to be the No. 1 tackle,” Fisher said. “That’s not up to me in the end. That’s up to coaches and general managers, but that’s what I’m working for.”
12:35 p.m. EST:
Travis Frederick talked about continuing the tradition of University of Wisconsin offensive linemen to compete at the NFL level.
“Wisconsin has always been a great place with a tremendous tradition for offensive linemen,” Frederick said. “That’s one of the reasons I chose to go to Wisconsin. Dating back several eras, it has been something to look up to. It is something as a player there that you want to live up to. you want to fulfill those expectations of being the next person in that line. that gives you great motivation to continue to work hard and be one of those guys.”
12:58 p.m. EST:
David Bakhtiari was the first local prospect to meet the press. The University of Colorado tackle declared for the draft following his junior season in Boulder. A three-year starter, Bakhtiari opened 33 games for the Buffaloes. He graded out as Colorado’s top offensive tackle during his final season.
Turning pro with one year of eligibility remaining wasn’t the easiest decision for him, but it was one with which he felt comfortable. That was crucial, since scouts wasted little time asking him why he came out when he did.
“The biggest point that I came up with is that I felt I was mentally mature enough to take on the next step and understand that I wanted to make this my carer,” Bakhtiari said. “A big key someone told me is that if you decide to go to the next level, you’re going to be taking a grown man’s job and food away from a working man. I was like, ‘Yes, I understand that now,’ and I was able to cope with it.”
Bakhtiari said that he checked in at 6-foot-4.2 and 299 pounds, and said that some teams have talked about him as a left tackle, while others have asked him about being an “athletic center.” He added that he’s never snapped the football in his playing career.
1:28 p.m. EST:
Florida kicker Caleb Sturgis talked about the pressure of having to perform at the combine for players at a position like his with few openings in the NFL.
“I think the margin of error is small and it’s small because there are only 32 teams that need your position in the NFL,” he said. “There are 32 guys that are already on teams and probably 20 guys that are veterans trying to get back in. You definitely have to prove yourself every time you step out in front of somebody.”
2:13 p.m. EST:
Oklahoma State kicker Quinn Sharpe talked about a unique training method that he has been taking advantage of leading up to the Combine. The three-time All-American has been utilizing hypnotherapy to help with the mental side of place kicking.
“It’s interesting,” he said. “It’s helped me a lot with the mental aspects of my game. (The doctor) puts you into hypnosis. It’s a lot of muscle-memory visualization techniques. Envisioning yourself on the field, going through techniques, seeing yourself kicking and seeing a kick go through.”
2:22 p.m. EST:
The only long snapper at the combine, Hawaii’s Luke Ingram talked about thriving on the anonymity that comes with his position.
“I think snapping is a great position,” he said. “If you can play 10 years and nobody knows your name, you did your job. that’s kind of how long snapping is. That’s hopefully what I’ll be able to do.”
2:43 p.m. EST:
All-American North Carolina Guard Jonathan Cooper talked about playing at a position that doesn’t get a lot of attention.
“I think it is. I think I’m very blessed to be playing guard and being as highly regarded as I am. I’m thankful for that. It is not a glamor position. It is hard to be scouted, but I am grateful because I have been blessed with this opportunity.”
Although guard play doesn’t draw a lot of attention from fans during game, Cooper identified his two favorite aspects of the position.
“My biggest thing is that I love pulling and getting out into space. Whether it’s power and getting on a linebacker quickly or pulling and getting out in space. I really like that.”
2:58 p.m. EST:
Texas A&M tackle Luke Joeckel is one of the players who has been mentioned as a candidate for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft.
On Wednesday afternoon, he talked to about what it would mean to have his name called first in New York this April.
“It’s crazy to think about that. Starting football in the second grade, you don’t really think about that kind of stuff. Football has been huge for me my entire life. I absolutely love the game. Getting to this, this is a dream come true just to be in this situation. I can’t even imagine that.”
Even if he isn’t drafted by Kansas City with the first pick of the draft, Joeckel said his goal is to be the first player at his position off the board.
“Coming into this, I want to be the first tackle taken in the draft,” he said. “I know it’s a long process until then, but I’m trying to do everything right to make sure that happens. It’s a competition between all of us, but that’s one of the fun parts of the combine – the competition aspect about going against some of the best athletes in the country at your position.”
3:09 p.m. EST:
North Carolina State guard Zach Allen was injured early in his senior year, forcing him to miss the end of his final season for the Wolfpack.
“Maybe it was an awakening,” he said. “To realize that ‘Hey, this can be taken away and when you do have this opportunity, take full advantage of it and don’t take it for granted.’”
3:17 p.m. EST:
It’s a safe assumption that USC center Khaled Holmes is the only player here who majored in classics as an undergraduate — although he added a double major in communications and then completed graduate work in communication management.
“(It’s) more practical, because with classics you can only become a lawyer or professor,” said Holmes, a former USC center who likely will stay at the position in the pros, but spoke of an openness to shifting to guard.
Holmes has an affinity for Plato and Homer, whose “The Odyssey” is one of Holmes’ favorite works. In that tale, the protagonist, Odysseus, endures a tortuous 10-year journey to his home of Ithaca, then finds that he’d been away so long, people assumed he was dead.
Now, Holmes begins his own odyssey.
“I hope it’s not that rough,” Holmes said. “I hope it lasts at least as long, though.”
3:29 p.m. EST:
Following an All-SEC season, Tennessee tackle Dallas Thomas tore his labrum at the Senior Bowl. The injury will prevent him from participating in the majority of the combine’s events. But it won’t keep him away from the interviews, and he wants to get an important point across to teams.
“I might be injured, but I’m still the same player that I was,” he said. “Even though I’ve got a little setback right now, I can still get the job done once I heal up.”
He said his initial timetable for recovery was four to six months. In the mean time, he hopes to hear his name called on draft day in a class filled with talented offensive linemen.
“I feel like I’m one of the best, too,” he said. “But I can’t go out and prove it right now because I hurt my shoulder.”
4:02 p.m. EST:
Arkansas guard Alvin Bailey, who started every game of his career for the Razorbacks, said his success has come in part due to his love of the game.
“Me, personally, I love the physicality of the game of football,” he said. “That’s why I like being a linemen. There’s nothing better than going in there, being physical, banging guys around, finishing plays, finishing guys and things like that. That’s my greatest attribute, I think, and what I can bring to an NFL team.”
While he admitted he can improve on his technique and hand placement, the 6-foot-3 lineman said he’ll do what it takes to succeed at the next level, something he’s been waiting on “for a long time.”
“You’ve got to love it,” he said of the game. “If you don’t, you won’t make it.
4:16 p.m. EST:
Syracuse offensive lineman Justin Pugh talked about his versatility as an asset that he can bring to whichever team drafts him in April.
Although he said he thinks he can play any of the offensive line positions, Pugh said he’d prefer to play tackle.
“I feel like I can play tackle,” he said. “And all the teams have told me that I’m going to play tackle until I prove that I can’t. I think I can play every position on the offensive line. I haven’t snapped, but I think with my football IQ, I know I’d be good with the calls.”
4:22 p.m. EST:
Stanford tight end Zach Ertz is one of the next tight ends looking to continue the expanded role of that position in NFL offenses.
“I think seeing all those tight ends doing all those things they’ve been doing has been pretty neat. Seeing Jimmy Graham out there against corners all the time. Seeing what he does is very impressive. That’s just something I hope I can do at that same level.”
I think Jason Witten is somebody that I’ve kind of looked toward the last couple years. He truly is a complete tight end. He’s a very good run blocker and a very good pass catcher. That’s something I try to emulate.”
4:52 p.m. EST: Last year, just two offensive linemen — Oklahoma’s Donald Stephenson (drafted by Kansas City) and USC’s Matt Kalil (drafted by Minnesota) — clocked 40 times under 5.00 seconds. The fastest in recent years belongs to eventual Raider Bruce Campbell, who ran a 4.84-second 40-yard dash in 2010.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff offensive lineman Terron Armstead is well-built; he’s a rock-solid 6-foot-4 and 306 pounds. He had enough athleticism to be invited to both the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl, the latter of which saw him as a last-minute injury-replacement. He also won the SWAC shot-put crown and said he once heaved the heavy black ball 61 feet, five inches.
But that’s not enough.
“I want to add the ‘wow’ factor,” Armstead said.
To that end, he has some goals that appear ludicrous — to post a 35-inch vertical jump and a 40-yard-dash time under 4.7 seconds. Armstead claims he ran a 4.81 40-yard dash previously.
Last year, just two offensive linemen — Oklahoma’s Donald Stephenson (drafted by Kansas City) and USC’s Matt Kalil (drafted by Minnesota) — clocked 40 times under 5.00 seconds. The fastest in recent years belongs to eventual Raider Bruce Campbell, who ran a 4.84-second 40-yard dash in 2010. And in the vertical jump, there were 14 wide receivers who didn’t even have a 35-inch vertical.
If Armstead hits his both of his targets, he’ll overshadow Manti Te’o and become the story of the weekend.
5:22 p.m. EST: Colorado Buffaloes fans could be forgiven for having flashbacks when they watched UCLA tight end Joe Fauria in recent years, since his skill set and performance were similar to that of his uncle, Christian Fauria, a Buffs standout from 1991-94 before going on to a 13-year career in the NFL.
“He’s definitely laid some knowledge on me,” said Joe Fauria. “But at the same time, it’s a different kind of position than it was then.”
The older Fauria caught 98 passes and averaged 14.7 yards per reception at CU as one of Kordell Stewart’s favorite targets and would have been right at home in today’s NFL, where most tight ends are pass catchers first and blockers second. But Christian Fauria still managed to carve out a lengthy career, even when the position was defined by more traditional demands that included a heavy dose of blocking for all who played there.
“He still held his own,” said Joe Fauria, who was recruited to UCLA by his uncle’s senior-year offensive coordinator in Boulder, Rick Neuheisel. “It’s crazy how small the football world is now, that you have all these coaches, these scouts, that were with my uncle, coached against my uncle and scouted my uncle and said how amazing a player he was, and it’s just an honor to share the same last name. I’m proud of that.”
5:29 p.m. EST: That’ll do it for today’s player availability. Be sure to check DenverBroncos.com for more extensive written and video coverage from today’s media sessions.
Tomorrow we’ll hear from Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway along with quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers so tune in for another live blog in the morning.
-Stuart, Gray and Andrew
Tags: NFL Scouting Combine