Thirteen former Florida Gators football players participated in Pro Day in Gainesville, FL on Monday though the event was not able to be held in front of the public at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium as originally scheduled.
Due to heavy rain, Florida was forced to cancel the on-field workout and move things indoors. Players ran 40-yard dashes and participated in other drills on a rubber track inside the Stephen C. O’Connell Center – many took their shoes off and ran barefoot – before returning to the practice field for some positional drills.
“That was a first,” said UF head coach Will Muschamp of seeing the players run barefoot. “Proud of those guys working hard, a great day for them. The culmination of a lot of work. Have a great opportunity to play in the National Football League. …
“You play football in the rain. Our guys, it’s amazing how many scouts [came out]. Last year, we had a cold day. This, year we had some rain. The scouts walk up and the coaches walk up, Mike Zimmer walks up and says, ‘Hey, I appreciate you guys working.’ That means a lot. Believe me, these guys are professionals; they understand the conditions and the things the guys go through. None of our guys bellyache; they go work, and I’m proud of them for their effort.”
Representatives from all 32 NFL teams were in attendance with 59 scouts reportedly in Gainesville on Monday. Unlike last season, when general managers and coaches did not attend because the Gators held Pro Day on the same day as the start of 2013 NFL free agency, a number found their way to The Swamp with Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer and New Orleans defensive coordinator Rob Ryan standing out as notable faces.
Detroit senior personnel executive James “Shack” Harris told the Associated Press that teams take the weather into account when evaluating players at Pro Day, while Pittsburgh defensive backs coach Carnell Lake admitted to ESPN he felt sorry that the players had to do such an important workout in rainy conditions.
Below are evaluations of and quotes from many of the Gators that participated on Monday. (Defensive tackle Dominique Easley did not work out as he is still recovering from his torn ACL. As Easley’s agent Tom Santanello told OnlyGators.com last month, the player is expected to hold a private Pro Day in Gainesville at some point in mid-April.)
Cornerback Jaylen Watkins
Watkins told OnlyGators.com as part of his Path to the Draft blog that he planned to participate in the full workout on Monday. Due to field conditions – and the fact that he already ran the 40-yard dash in 4.44 seconds at the NFL Combine – he only participated in positional drills.
» Muschamp on what Watkins brings to the table: “Jaylen’s a guy that can play multiple positions. … He’s been a core special teams guy for us over the years. A guy that can do a lot of things for you. … A lot of people question Jaylen playing safety. It was really because he was as good a cover guy as those tow guys. But to get the best payers on the field, someone had to make a move and Jaylen was more apt, in my opinion, to make that move.”
Cornerbacks Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson
Purifoy and Roberson both ran the 40-yard dash again after posting 4.61-second times at the NFL Combine. They did not fair much better on Monday, running in the 4.5-4.6-second range. Purifoy also participated in the bench press again but was only able to lift 225 pounds a total of eight times, according to the Orlando Sentinel, twice more than he did at the NFL Combine last month.
» Muschamp on slow 40-yard dash times for Purifoy and Roberson during the NFL Combine: “Those guys play a lot faster than they’re going to run in the 40. … At the end of the day, they’re going to watch the tape and that’s what matters.”
» Muschamp on how Purifoy can contribute at the next level: “Loucheiz is a guy that can give you some special teams, again, another really good kickoff coverage guy. A guy that’s got some return skills but another guy that can win on the line of scrimmage and has got great long speed down the field.”
» Muschamp on how Roberson separates himself: “Marcus is a guy that’s got really good instincts in coverage, especially in man coverage. He can get his hands on people. You got to win on the line of scrimmage and he can do that. He’s a guy that’s got really good ball skills down the field.”
Wide receiver Solomon Patton
Patton was not invited to the NFL Combine and was understandably upset at being left off the list. He chose to make up for lost time on Monday by reportedly running around 4.3 seconds in the 40-yard dash despite doing so barefoot and indoors. “It was weird,” he told the Orlando Sentinel, “but it’ll bring you back to the old days when you was little outside playing football.”
» Patton on performing well after not being invited to the NFL Combine (via Orlando Sentinel): “I definitely had a chip on my shoulder ever since I found out that I didn’t get invited to the combine. It gave me time to work on some more stuff and get better so that I could come out and perform today.”
» Muschamp on how Patton performed on Monday: “Solomon looked great. He looked really good catching the football, running crisp routes. Solomon looked like he’s bulked up a little bit. … There’s no question that he’s going to find a role. It’s fit. Where will he fit in? Some teams as far as a slot receiver and a guy that can play in the slot that has return skill. Big-time kickoff returner, a great [special] teams guy. One of the better kickoff cover guys I’ve been around. And then you look at the amount of blocked punts he’s had since he’s been here. He’s a guy that’s going to make a team. It’s just a matter of the fit, the right situation for him and what a wonderful young man. He represents our university in a first-class manner.”
Offensive guard Jon Halapio
Dealing with a bothersome torn pectoral all season long, Halapio admitted Monday that he did not bench press during team workouts throughout the entire 2013 campaign. He posted 32 reps of 225 pounds on Monday, a score that would have placed him tied for seventh among offensive linemen had he done the drill at the NFL Combine.
» Halapio on doing well in the bench press after being limited all season (via The Gainesville Sun): “The main thing everyone wanted to see is if I can bench press again. I did pretty good. It was very tough [last season]. I didn’t bench the entire season. I played in a brace I’d never played in before that limited my mobility and striking zone. I was pretty much playing with one arm.”
» Muschamp on Halapio and his toughness: “He looked good doing the 225 there, so I think his pec’s fine. I think people really underestimate what he did this past year. There’s a lot of young men would’ve probably taken a redshirt and had surgery. We gave him several options. He said, ‘I’m just going to tape it up and play.’”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Linebacker Ronald Powell on his performance Monday (via Associated Press): “I feel I did well out there today. I had pulled a hamstring at the Combine and didn’t perform as well as I had hoped to. The chance to show the scouts I could do better at the position drills and other things was big for me today.”
» Linebacker Darrin Kitchens on doing drills inside rather than out on the field (via The Gainesville Sun): “It was different running inside on the track. I felt like I couldn’t get as much traction as I wanted to. Some of the players went barefoot and said it felt better. I did it, too, and I got more traction than I was with the rubber soles.”
» Also participated: Tight end Trey Burton, center Jonotthan Harrison, defensive tackle Damien Jacobs and offensive lineman Kyle Koehne.
» Muschamp on offensive graduate assistant Chris Leak, who threw passes on Monday: “Chris Leak looked good throwing it. I was very impressed with him. I don’t know if he has an extra year of eligibility.