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Miami Hurricanes Football: 2018 Pro Day Primer

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SOTU details what’s at stake for a group of former ’Canes as they continue the long audition to make it to the NFL.

NCAA Football: Toledo at Miami Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

With the final support beam firmly in place, the University of Miami draws ever-so-close to the completion of the Carol Soffer Football Indoor Practice Facility. The IPF remains on pace to be finished before the Hurricanes’ fall camp. In the meantime, 12 former Hurricane football members will have to move their final on-field audition to NFL evaluators up the interstate to the Miami Dolphins Training Facility in Davie, Florida.

In 2016, Miami hosted one of the most inclement Pro Days of memory. A torrential downpour forced players such as CB Artie Burns, S Deon Bush, LB Ufomba Kamalu and WR Rashawn Scott to run their 40-yard dashes along with their positional work in less-than-ideal conditions. Discussions were had to move the event to the Dolphins’ facility that provides the shelter of a practice bubble should any inclement weather arise ahead of UM’s 2017 Pro Day. The school decided to keep the Pro Day at Greentree Fields with the weather cooperating for last year’s event.

Taking no chances, Miami will have their annual Pro Day festivities hosted by the Dolphins on Wednesday. This will be the first time that UM has moved their Pro Day to the Dolphins’ Training Facility. It should also be the last time in the foreseeable future that a Pro Day does not take place on UM’s Coral Gable campus when the IPF is complete.

The 2018 group of UM draft hopefuls will go through positional drills and perform in the weight room as NFL coaching and front office personnel spectate on Wednesday. For these former UM stars, the day has varying significance for each individual player. For the nine Hurricanes that were invited to the NFL Scouting Combine a month ago, Pro Day serves as a makeup test or confirmation on their measurables and testing numbers from Indianapolis over a month ago.

Wednesday will be the best chance to make an impression on evaluators for Hurricanes’ 2017 sack leader Trent Harris, former starting left tackle/left guard Trevor Darling, and key rotational defensive tackle Anthony Moten after being snubbed by combine officials. Aided by a portion of the Hurricanes’ contingent who travelled to the combine but did not participate in drills for a multitude of reasons, those three players could be working out in front of a larger crowd of evaluators. There’s no guarantee that an excellent performance on Wednesday means that any one guy will move up a round or two in a few weeks at the 2018 NFL Draft or even be drafted. That said, those players still can sign as undrafted free agents and choose what they feel will be the best situation to make the final 53-man roster, perhaps making for a blessing in disguise.

The Private Circuit

As mentioned earlier, some ’Canes did not go through the on-field drill portions of the combine—where all 32 NFL clubs are represented in attendance—leaving the players to either make up the work at Wednesday Pro Day or, like a few UM prospect have completed over the past couple weeks, take part in private workouts.

If those private workouts can be punctuated with a solid outing at the Pro Day, it could be the tie-breaking difference for some NFL clubs who have a player graded similarly to another at the same position on the team’s draft board.

Making the Most of Second Chances

The numbers from the scouting combine are not the end all and be all of the draft process. Meant to support—or contradict, in some circumstances—what a given player showed on game film, the combine is but one step in the crazy process that is the evaluation period leading towards the draft, with Pro Day serving as another step towards a prospect hearing their name called. As the heading suggests, Pro Day can also serve as the make-up test if the combine did not go quite to plan. Here is why Wednesday will be important to the nine UM players that went to the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine in Indy.

KC McDermott Starting the Combine Off Right

With 26 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, McDermott came out of the gates with an impressive showing in Indy. That trend continued into the drills, with a 40-yard best of 5.35, a 23.5 inch vertical jump and a 97 inch broad jump.

McDermott also looked good in the movement portion of the offensive line workout.

McDermott will be one of the more athletic guard prospects in the draft pool; however, he will need to fight through the criticism of his blocking technique and nagging habits (hugging and grabbing defenders, hips and feet are not aligned properly) that NFL.com projects will cause him to struggle in the NFL. How comfortable he looks in the position-specific drills come Wednesday could be make-or-break, depending on team needs.

Badgley Puts His Athleticism On Display

The combine is not all that thrilling when it comes to scouting special team prospects, yet former Miami kicker Michael Badgley made the most of the his time at the annual event. Badgley’s time of 4.94 in the 40-yard dash was the second fastest among his position group. Badgley and his glorious hair recorded an 111 inch broad jump. To be honest, I have no idea what the practical implication of the broad jump to a kicker would be, yet it does illustrate that kickers are athletes.

Kicking inside a controlled environment within the Dolphins’ practice bubble, you could argue that there is no bigger beneficiary to a change of location than Badgley. Miami’s former placekicker will be asked to demonstrate his field goal accuracy and leg strength, considering scouts have questions regarding both of those skill sets. Badgley made 17 of his 23 FG attempts in 2017, for a FG percentage of 73.9.

Mark Walton Returns to Action

The 2018 combine provided fans with their first glimpse of RB Mark Walton working on the field since leaving on a cart against Florida State a season ago. Plagued with injuries during the early portion of Miami’s 2017 schedule, Walton succumbed to a season-ending ankle surgery. In his return, Walton was physically imposing—even without pads and a helmet. With surgery almost five months behind him, Walton declared that he would be an active participant in drills over the course of his time at the combine.

Walton ran a 4.6 40-yard dash, which was among the slower times at the position. Maxing out at 18 reps on the bench press, leaping 31.5 inches in the vertical and posting 118 inches in broad jump, the testing results were a mix of highs and lows. Going forward, it will be intriguing to see how Walton continues to rebound from that ankle injury. Before the combine, there were some good vibes surrounding Walton in terms of the obstacles he has overcome both in his personal life and on the field when he hurdles into the endzone.

While some were caught off-guard by his 40 time, there still remains buzz around the underclassmen runner, according to Matt Miller of Bleacher Report. His ability to catch the ball coming off the backfield as well as his vision approaching the line of scrimmage appear to overshadow the concerns with his acceleration of long speed. Look for teams to key in on his receiving abilities and to see if the 1,000+ yard rusher in 2016 is able to cut down on his 40 time a month removed from the combine.

Braxton Berrios Goes M.I.A

Unlike Walton, former Hurricanes’ wide receiver Braxton Berrios was a pillar of health during the 2017 season. However, since the #DraftSzn got underway, Berrios has gotten a bit nicked up, suffering a shoulder injury during practices at the Senior Bowl. He was expected to get the green light for the combine, but bad luck came up once again at a most inconvenient time.

While the injury sounds minor in nature, it did rob Berrios of another opportunity to showcase his talents against players that NFL clubs may have given a similar grade to. Berrios has worked out privately for a couple teams, and will be able to do so with more in attendance this week. A non-participant in the on-field drills for wideouts in Indy, look for Berrios to continue to sacrifice his well-being to make a reception along with his sharp route running during the drill portion in Davie. No word yet on whether Bill Belichick will be on hand for a consecutive year.

Kendrick Norton’s Early Exit

Norton was one of a few defensive interior players who pulled up with hamstring injuries after running the 40-yard dash at the combine. The big defensive tackle did have a good first day at the combine, looking composed at the podium during the interview portion of his 48 hours in Indianapolis and putting up an impressive 30 reps on the bench press. Norton secured a time of 5.26 on his first attempt at the 40-yard dash. On his second 40-yard attempt, Norton pulled up with an injury, forcing him to miss the remainder of drills for the day, ending his time in Indy on a sour note.

Norton is looking forward to UM’s Pro Day—there should be less expectation for the big defensive tackle to run another 40 and perform on the bench press. Should Norton’s health be where it is needed to be, I expect that teams will want to see Norton workout in position-specific drills. The player known as ‘Big Thick’ still has some time to wiggle up a few draft boards before we get closer to the draft in late April.

Chad Thomas Shines Through on Sunday

Before running his first 40 at the combine, NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock gave insight into what he saw from the former Booker T. Washington High School and Hurricane alum Chad Thomas. Mayock stated that he was not in love with Thomas’ tape at UM, but did come away impressed with how he dominated at the East-West Shrine Game. Mayock was also critical of Major Nine’s tendency to play up high during some games. Finishing off his 40-yard dash with a best time of 4.95 and a 1.73 at the 10-yard split, Thomas’ performance was indicative of a prototypical 4-3 defensive end. The praise continued into the on-field portion of the drills as analysts lauded his violent hands when striking the bags as well as his maneuvering when it came to ‘turning the corner’ exiting three-point stance.

Given his recent workout with the Houston Texans—who play in a 3-4 base defense—it appears that some teams feel that Thomas has potential as stand-up linebacker in their system. Whether or not that means another set of linebacker drills for Thomas on Wednesday remains to be seen. Given the priority placed on players that are deemed as potential multidimensional contributors, expect Thomas to show off in front of teams on Wednesday to illustrate his versatility. A bigger question may be if Thomas can have his new music playing during the workout.

The Ghost of Indy: aka RJ McIntosh’s Weekend at the Combine

‘The Weekend That Was’ for Miami’s highest-graded 2018 draft prospect was one of unusual silence. Getting measured on Saturday and completing his medical, it appeared that McIntosh would be set to compete Saturday. Opting to not participate in the bench press did not come as a major surprise, as prospects choose to save their 225 pound repetitions for the friendly confines of their school gym. No big deal. So after an evening of interviews, the public would see McIntosh take the field Sunday with the rest of the defensive interior prospects for on-field drills.

Then Sunday arrived, with a similar vanishing act from Miami’s former starting defensive tackle. The 40-yard dash came and went, as did the positional drills and remaining on-field drills. The common theme among them was the absence of McIntosh. There has been no news relating to McIntosh’s situation, with NFL and CFB insiders remaining mum on the topic.

NCAA Football: Russell Athletic Bowl-West Virginia vs Miami Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

So far there is no indication that McIntosh will be held out of Pro Day, which is great news. ’Canes fans already know what Big 80 brings to the field—or used to, anyway. Now McIntosh will have the chance to demonstrate that agility, maneuverability and pass rushing prominence in front of pro personnel. Outside of the players who did not get a Combine invite, no ’Cane has more pressure to perform on Wednesday than McIntosh.

Dee Delaney Proving that Hard Work pays off

Former Miami Hurricanes’ CB Dee Delaney went about his business and turned in a solid day in the on-field portion of the defensive back workouts. A day after putting up 13 reps on the bench press, Delaney turned in a solid 4.46 40-yard dash to showcase his long speed and ability to chase down routes.

According to NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock, Delaney “has good ball skills.” That’s surely an interesting description, given the FCS’ transfer struggles in coverage during various games over the course of the 2017 season. The takeaway from Delaney’s combine performance highlights his athleticism, which I never really thought was in doubt. However, his game film remains unchanged, forcing teams that are interested to decide whether his senior season at UM was merely growing pains and an aberration, or a sign of his limitations against consistent FBS competition before heading off to the NFL.

More Than Just Another Workout

More than just guys auditioning to gain membership in the NFL fraternity, the University of Miami’s Pro Day also serves as a reunion/celebration of sorts. Alumni are lining the sideline to encourage that next generation of ProCanes. There’s also current ’Canes who like to get a feel for the atmosphere they will experience somewhere down the line. Even though the backdrop to this year’s edition will have a Dolphins backdrop, here’s to hoping that they make Wednesday as UM-friendly as possible.

Note** Still just months removed from surgery on his left MCL, it’s unclear to what TE Chris Herndon’s participation on Wednesday will be. The rehabbing process has not prevented Herndon from visiting with NFL teams over the past couple of weeks. This could be a good sign regarding the market for his services, as well as his road to a full recovery from injury.

IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE U!