Tim Tebow back in spotlight at Florida’s Pro Day

March 17 is a big day in Florida Gators athletics for three reasons: the basketball team is preparing for first-round action in the 2010 NCAA Tournament against the Brigham Young Cougars, the football team begins spring practice for the 2010 season and more than 15 former Gators football players who have declared for the 2010 NFL Draft will work out and perform in front of representatives of each NFL team during Pro Scout Day at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Linebacker Brandon Spikes, cornerback Joe Haden, defensive end Carlos Dunlap, center Maurkice Pouncey and tight end Aaron Hernandez are scheduled to be on hand for evaluation purposes, but quarterback Tim Tebow will be under more scrutiny than any of his former teammates. (Of course, Haden’s 40-yard dash times will be under close watch.)

As two of his National Championship titles and his Heisman Trophy sign hang on the stadium’s walls, Tebow will be on Florida Field proving to NFL coaches, scouts and personnel that his tweaked mechanics, throwing motion and release are improved enough where he can be considered for selection with a first- or second-round pick. Millions of dollars are on the line for Tebow, who was initially given a third-round grade.

Tebow’s stock has steadily improved over the last few weeks after an impressive showing at the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine coupled with a dedication to “fixing” his release. He is now projected to go in the second round, though there are inklings that a few teams may be interested in trading up into the bottom of the first to pick perhaps the most accomplished quarterback in college football history.

Will it be the Buffalo Bills? New head coach Chan Gailey, a former Florida quarterback, loves developing young signal-callers. Could the Jacksonville Jaguars realize Tebow’s value, trading up to select the hometown star who can be the new face of a franchise that is in dire need of a face-lift? Perhaps an established powerhouse like the New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts or Minnesota Vikings pulls the trigger for Tebow as a future starter?

Humans are emotional by nature, and emotions can be swayed by, literally, a flick of the wrist. Forget a score of 22 on the Wonderlic or his other “flaws,” Tebow has an opportunity to quiet his doubters and enliven his believers with his workout Wednesday – perhaps the most important of his career.

He has said on multiple occasions that he will do anything he is asked to do in order to prove to NFL teams that he can play quarterback, so expect coaches to throw some routes at him other than what is scripted by Tebow and his receivers.

Whether he impresses or fails to do so, Tebow’s next step will be private workouts with any interested teams. A few are already scheduled, but one can be sure that his appointment book will get quite full if teams become enamored with what Tebow has been able to do mechanics-wise in such a short period of time.

The Swamp will be open for Pro Day beginning at 8:30 a.m., though the on-field portion of the event will not start until 10 a.m. Fans will be allowed to enter via Gate 2.

As first reported by OGGOA, restrooms and concession stands will be open. Video cameras, food/drink containers, bottles, cans and a variety of other items are prohibited.

Photo Credits: Jimmy DeFlippo/Sports Illustrated, David Bergman/Sports Illustrated

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Florida Gators announce Pro Scout Day policies

The Florida Gators will host Pro Scout Day for football players who have decided to enter the 2010 NFL Draft on Wed., March 17 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

More than 15 players – including quarterback Tim Tebow, linebacker Brandon Spikes, cornerback Joe Haden, defensive end Carlos Dunlap, center Maurkice Pouncey and tight end Aaron Hernandez – are scheduled to work out as representatives from every NFL team will be on hand for evaluation purposes.

The Swamp will be open beginning at 8:30 a.m., though the on-field portion of the event will not begin until 10 a.m. Fans will be allowed to enter via Gate 2.

As speculated by OGGOA, restrooms and concession stands will be open. Video cameras, food/drink containers, bottles, cans and a variety of other items are prohibited.

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Joe Haden looks to improve as concerns remain

A stellar three-year college football career in the toughest conference in the country should be enough to convince NFL scouts, coaches and front office personnel that former Florida Gators cornerback Joe Haden will succeed as a professional. And it looked like it was enough, until Haden ran a 4.57 40-yard dash at the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine about two weeks ago.

Ever since, Haden has been doing little but working on his 40 time, mostly because he is confident that he can do better – much better. His father, Joe Haden, Sr., told the Palm Beach Post Tuesday that Haden’s performance at the combine was not representative of his true speed. In fact, Haden, Sr. revealed that his son’s back tightened up as he has recently been dealing with lower back pain from working out and weight lifting.

“We had stopped doing some of the heavier lifting, but it just stiffened up on him, one of those things,” Haden, Sr. told the Post. “It’s just really affected him. I wish I had known, because I would have had him not even work out.”

Evaluators do not want to hear excuses. All they care about is improvement, and Haden plans to do just that at Florida’s Pro Day on March 17.

“The 40 is what time it is right now. That’s the big bang for the buck, that’s what the scouts want to see,” Haden, Sr. said. “He’s preparing very hard, very hard, to put it mildly. […] For Joe, all his life, (speed) has been his biggest strength. So for something to happen like that for him, I mean, Joe ran a 4.5 40 in the ninth grade. It was just something that was a blip.”

That blip happened twice in one day, injury or not. And Haden has fallen out of the top 10 on most team’s draft boards, according to various scouts and evaluators throughout the league. When a player falters at the combine or faces other adversity before the NFL Draft, it is usually his agent – not his father – stepping up to quiet those doubters and shout about the qualifications of his client.

That is where this gets even more interesting.

While quarterback Tim Tebow chose Jimmy Sexton, wide receiver Riley Cooper and center Maurkice Pouncey picked Joel Segal and defensive end Carlos Dunlap signed up with Todd France, Haden’s representation remains somewhat of a mystery.

An OGGOA source has confirmed that Haden is being represented by DSI Sports, specifically agent Malik Hafeez Shareef. Certified in Sept. 2007 by the NFL Players Association, Shareef does not have a client in the NFL and failed at placing his previous one (WR Brandon Whittington of Purdue) with a professional team last season. For the record, Whittington had 26 catches for 206 yards and one touchdown in two seasons with the Boilermakers and is not anywhere near the same caliber player as Haden, who will be drafted ahead of any other Florida player in 2010.

So who exactly is Shareef, and why did Haden choose him over more established agents who would have done their best to squash any concern over his “slow” 40 time? Is he simply a NFLPA-certified front man so Haden, Sr. can manage his son’s career?

Either way, an explanation is needed for the little-to-no damage control that was done on behalf of Haden after his sub-standard 40-yard dash became one of the biggest stories coming out of the combine.

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Gators at 2010 NFL Scouting Combine – Days 6, 7

ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive will be covering the 10 former Florida Gators players who have been officially invited to participate in the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine (National Invitational Camp) in Indianapolis, IN, at Lucas Oil Stadium each day.

Days six and seven of the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine featured five former Florida Gators completing their workouts. Monday, linebacker Brandon Spikes and defensive ends Carlos Dunlap and Jermaine Cunningham completed the combine workout. Cornerback Joe Haden and safety Major Wright closed out the event on Tuesday.

Linebacker Brandon Spikes (Group 09, LB30)
40-yard dash, bench press: N/A
Vertical jump: 29 in.
Broad jump: 9 ft. 2 in.
Measurements: Day 4

Defensive end Carlos Dunlap (Group 07, DL13)
40-yard dash: 4.71 sec.
Vertical jump: 31.5 in.
Broad jump: 9 ft. 3 in.
Bench press: 21 reps of 225 lbs.
Measurements: Day 4

Defensive end Jermaine Cunningham (Group 07, DB09)
Did not workout
Measurements: Day 4

Cornerback Joe Haden (Group 10, DB20)
40-yard dash: 4.57 sec.
Vertical jump: 35 in.
Broad jump: 10 ft. 5 in.
60-yard shuttle: 11.12 sec.
Bench press: 18 reps of 225 lbs.
Measurements: Day 5
Post-Combine Interview

Safety Major Wright (Group 11, DB58)
40-yard dash: 4.48 sec.
Vertical/broad jump: N/A
Bench press: 14 reps of 225 lbs.
Measurements: Day 5

All 10 Gators have now completed their duties at the combine. They will each return to their respective training facilities across the country before meeting up again in Gainesville, FL, on March 17 for Florida’s Pro Day.

The event, which ran from Feb. 24 to March 2, consisted of more than 300 players being put through a series of drills, tests and interviews while more than 600 NFL personnel in attendance including coaching staffs, executives, player personnel and medical staff looked on and evaluated each of them. It amounts to the final job interview these athletes will participate in before the 2010 NFL Draft commences on April 22.

Gators at the 2010 NFL Combine – Day 5
Gators at the 2010 NFL Combine – Day 4
Gators at the 2010 NFL Combine – Day 3
Gators at the 2010 NFL Combine – Day 2

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Gators at the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine – Day 4

ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive will be covering the 10 former Florida Gators players who have been officially invited to participate in the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine (National Invitational Camp) in Indianapolis, IN, at Lucas Oil Stadium each day.

Day four of the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine featured the arrival of Florida Gators linebacker Brandon Spikes and defensive ends Carlos Dunlap and Jermaine Cunningham. Each was measured, completed exams, met with the media, underwent psychological tests and continued their team interviews. All three players arrived Friday for registration, pre-exams, x-rays, orientation and the first round of interviews.

Spikes, Dunlap and Cunningham, who will remain on the same schedule throughout the week, have a meeting with the NFLPA on Sunday along with more psychological tests and interviews. Monday, they will complete the workout (timing, stations, skill drills).

Sunday, quarterback Tim Tebow (Group 05, QB19) and wide receivers Riley Cooper (Group 04, WO12) and Brandon James (Group 04, WO19) will complete the combine workout. However, Tebow (and many other quarterbacks) will not throw.

Linebacker Brandon Spikes (Group 09, LB30)
Height: 6’3″
Weight: 249 lbs.
Arm Length: 33 3/8 in.
Hand Size: 10 in.

Pre-Combine Overview: The leader of the Gators’ defense the last two seasons, Spikes is bring, strong and physical. He was hampered by a variety of injuries including an Achilles in 2009 and was suspended for one game because of an eye gouge. Spikes is great against the run inside and is quick enough to make open field tackles with his arms, though he is not fast. He is strong enough to get by blockers, uses his instincts to track down the ball but has some difficulties in coverage.
Strengths: Size, strength, tough, competitive, productive, athletic, instinctive
Weaknesses: Character, emotions, speed, coverage, blitzing

Defensive end Carlos Dunlap (Group 07, DL13)
Height: 6’6″
Weight: 277 lbs.
Arm Length: 34 5/8 in.
Hand Size: 10 in.

Pre-Combine Overview: Large and quick enough to play defensive end in a 4-3 or 3-4, Dunlap excels against the run but is also capable of rushing the quarterback. Many point inconsistencies in regards to his motor, footwork and technique, but he is naturally athletic and powerful with long arms and solid awareness of his position on the field.
Strengths: Size, strength, speed, power, hands, penetration
Weaknesses: Character, work ethic, other inconsistencies

Defensive end Jermaine Cunningham (Group 07, DL09)
Height: 6’3″
Weight: 266 lbs.
Arm Length: 33 3/4 in.
Hand Size: 10 3/8 in.

Pre-Combine Overview: Though he did not receive the accolades, Cunningham was one of Florida’s best defenders in 2009. He is quick, agile and athletic but not overtly fast. Cunningham has been projected as both a defensive end and outside linebacker but must develop as a pass-rusher. His motor and work ethic make up for a lack of bulk.
Strengths: Athletic, agile, productive, quick, durable, tough
Weaknesses: Instincts, size, strength, power

Center Maurkice Pouncey and tight end Aaron Hernandez (Group 03, TE13) were scheduled to compete in the workout Saturday; however, each encountered difficulties with injuries. Pouncey skipped the bench press while Hernandez decided to skip the entire combine workout, which he will make up at Florida’s Pro Day on March 17.

Center Maurkice Pouncey (Group 07, DL09)
40-yard dash: 5.23
Broad jump: 7 ft. 11 in.
Vertical jump, 3-cone drill, shuttle run, kick-slide, bench press: N/A
Measurements Day 3

Touching down in Indianapolis, IN, and checking into Lucas Oil Stadium Saturday were cornerback Joe Haden (Group 10, DB20) and safety Major Wright. They will take their measurements Sunday.

Read about each player’s day-to-day schedule in Indianapolis after the jump!
Continue Reading » Gators at the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine – Day 4

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Gators at the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine – Day 3

ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive will be covering the 10 former Florida Gators players who have been officially invited to participate in the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine (National Invitational Camp) in Indianapolis, IN, at Lucas Oil Stadium each day.

Day three of the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine featured the arrival of Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow and wide receivers Riley Cooper and Brandon James. Each was measured, completed exams, met with the media, underwent psychological tests and continued their team interviews. All three players arrived Thursday for registration, pre-exams, x-rays, orientation and the first round of interviews.

Tebow, Cooper and James, who will remain on the same schedule throughout the week, have a meeting with the NFLPA on Saturday along with more psychological tests and interviews. Sunday, they will complete the combine workout (timing, stations, skill drills).

Quarterback Tim Tebow (Group 05, QB19)
Height: 6’3″
Weight: 236 lbs.
Arm Length: 31 3/4 in.
Hand Size: 10 1/8 in.

Pre-Combine Overview: Probably the best college quarterback of all-time, Tebow comes into the combine with questions about his mechanics and ability to succeed in the NFL. He has undergone extensive work to change his throwing motion and footwork and has chosen not to throw over the weekend (though he will compete in other drills and exercises). Tebow has a strong arm, is quick in and out of the pocket and has a great football mind.
Strengths: Size, speed, athleticism, intelligence, competitive, productive, high-character
Weaknesses: Accuracy, release, mechanics

Wide receiver Riley Cooper (Group 04, WO12)
Height: 6’3″
Weight: 222 lbs.
Arm Length: 32 5/8 in.
Hand Size: 10 3/8 in.

Pre-Combine Overview: The top receiver on the Gators in 2009, Cooper was Tebow’s favorite target and wowed scouts with his size and skills at the 2010 Under Armour Senior Bowl. Has work to do in order to be an NFL WR, but scouts believe he has the capability of being molded to fit a system.
Strengths: Size, strength, athleticism, leaping ability, hands, intelligence, high-character
Weaknesses: Speed, explosion, separation, blocking

Wide receiver Brandon James (Group 04, WO19)
Height: 5’6″
Weight: 176 lbs.
Arm Length: 29 3/4 in.
Hand Size: 8 3/4 in.

Pre-Combine Overview: Excelling as a return specialist at Florida, James also played a little running back and wide receiver but is at a disadvantage because of his size. He has numerous qualities that may allow him to continue returning on the professional level.
Strengths: Speed, acceleration, vision, judgment, body control, elusiveness
Weaknesses: Height, strength, unpolished

Touching down in Indianapolis, IN, Friday were linebacker Brandon Spikes (Group 09, LB30) and defensive ends Carlos Dunlap (Group 07, DL13) and Jermaine Cunningham (Group 07, DL09). Cornerback Joe Haden (Group 10, DB20) and safety Major Wright (Group 11, DB58) will check in at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday.

Read about each player’s day-to-day schedule in Indianapolis after the jump!
Continue Reading » Gators at the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine – Day 3

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Gators at the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine – Day 2

ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive will be covering the 10 former Florida Gators players who have been officially invited to participate in the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine (National Invitational Camp) in Indianapolis, IN, at Lucas Oil Stadium each day.

Day two of the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine was lackluster overall, as it featured only two Florida Gators – center Maurkice Pouncey and tight end Aaron Hernandez – getting measured, completing exams, meeting with the media, undergoing psychological tests and continuing their team interviews. Both players had arrived Wednesday for registration, pre-exams, x-rays, orientation and the first round of interviews.

Pouncey and Hernandez, who will remain on the same schedule throughout the week, have a meeting with the NFLPA on Friday along with additional psychological tests and interviews. Saturday, they will complete the combine workout (timing, stations, skill drills).

Center Maurkice Pouncey (Group 02, OL33)
Height: 6’4″
Weight: 304 lbs.
Arm Length: 32 1/2 in.
Hand Size: 10 in.

Pre-Combine Overview: Able to play both center and guard, Pouncey is one of the most versatile players at the combine. Expected to be the top center picked in the 2010 NFL Draft, he is big enough to take on nose tackles yet quick enough to face 4-3 defensive tackles, too.
Strengths: Size, quickness, versatility, awareness, balance, leverage
Weaknesses: Durability due to torn labrum surgery, finishing blocks

Tight end Aaron Hernandez (Group 03, TE13)
Height: 6’2″
Weight: 245 lbs.
Arm Length: 32 1/4 in.
Hand Size: 9 3/4 in.

Pre-Combine Overview: Considered undersized for his position, Hernandez is projected as a combo TE/H-back. He is athletic enough to catch passes and turn them into big gains but may experience problems against more physical defenders or while run-blocking.
Strengths: Athleticism, speed, hands, leaping ability
Weaknesses: Size, strength

Touching down in Indianapolis, IN, Thursday were quarterback Tim Tebow (Group 05, QB19) and wide receivers Riley Cooper (Group 04, WO12) and Brandon James (Group 04, WO19). Linebacker Brandon Spikes (Group 09, LB30), defensive end Carlos Dunlap (Group 07, DL13) and DE Jermaine Cunningham (Group 07, DL09) will check in at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday, while cornerback Joe Haden (Group 10, DB20) and safety Major Wright (Group 11, DB58) will begin the process Sunday.

Read about each player’s day-to-day schedule in Indianapolis after the jump!
Continue Reading » Gators at the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine – Day 2

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TWO BITS: Tebow hurts recruiting, Dunlap update

1 » As OGGOA wrote earlier today, former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow has adjusted his throwing motion and will put it on display for NFL front offices at Florida’s Pro Day on March 17. In the Paul Finebaum model, Ray Melick of The Birmingham News cautions high school recruits that Tebow’s struggles should have big-time QB prospects shying away from the Gators. “There is a lesson here, however, for young quarterbacks who envision themselves having the chance to play in the NFL one day,” Melick contends. “Look around for a coach who runs an NFL-style offense, and coaches quarterbacks to play with NFL-style mechanics. […] If you were a young quarterback with NFL potential, would you want to play for [head coach Urban] Meyer right now?”

2 » The Orlando Sentinel’s Jeremy Fowler caught up with former Florida defensive end Carlos Dunlap’s father and asked him how his son has been progressing in workouts leading up to the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine. Asked if Dunlap, Jr. was ready to prove everyone wrong, his father replied emphatically. “That’s putting It mildly,” he said. “He knows that all his training has led to this moment, this week. He’ll be ready.” Fowler tells us Dunlap’s goals are to do 25 reps of 225-pounds on the bench press and run a 4.6-second 40-yard dash.

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