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NFL scouting combine: Tomorrow's stars show their skills, at least some of them

February 23, 2007|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

INDIANAPOLIS — Most NFL hopefuls invited to the scouting combine are angling for a breakout performance but a few won't even break a sweat.

The league jealously protects the list of players who have decided not to work out for teams and instead plan to showcase their skills at their personal on-campus pro days. But there were rumblings Thursday that two of the top quarterbacks and receivers would sit out at least part of their workouts, scheduled for Sunday.

Speculation is that Louisiana State quarterback JaMarcus Russell will throw but won't run at the combine, and that Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn is considering sitting out because his pro day is only two weeks away. The information seems to change from minute to minute, however.

Ohio State receiver Ted Ginn Jr., recovering from a mid-foot sprain he suffered in the celebration after his kickoff return for a touchdown against Florida in the national championship game, won't run because he can't. He's only up to jogging now.

And Georgia Tech receiver Calvin Johnson, a potential No. 1 pick, is said to be leaning toward skipping this weekend's workouts.

The Raiders are

on the clock ...

And what they plan to do with the prime pick will probably be a subject of speculation until the moment Commissioner Roger Goodell steps to the podium to announce the first selection. This much is known: Oakland needs help at quarterback, on the offensive and defensive lines, at tight end and wide receiver.

LSU's Russell is a potential top pick, but so are Georgia Tech's Johnson, Wisconsin tackle Joe Thomas, Michigan defensive tackle Alan Branch, Clemson defensive end Gaines Adams ... or, hey, maybe they'll just trade down for more picks.

Some guys get

all the breaks

Doctors will be taking a long look at these promising prospects, who are coming off serious injuries: Louisville running back Michael Bush, who broke his right leg last fall in the season opener; Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson, the draft's top-rated running back, who missed seven games last season after breaking a collarbone in October, and linebacker Paul Posluszny, a Penn State senior, who suffered a knee injury at the end of his junior year.

Most talked about

foot (besides Ginn's)

The left one of UCLA kicker Justin Medlock, who caused a buzz last month with his strong performance in a college all-star skills competition. He trained for the combine by booting field goals through an Arena Football League goal post, which is five feet higher and half the width of the NFL's version. The Avengers -- owned by UCLA alum Casey Wasserman -- let Medlock use their training facility at West L.A. College.

"I want to be able to make sure I can control my ball and kick it down the middle every time," Medlock said. "I don't want to be playing with the post too much. Because these windy stadiums, you've got to be precise in where you can hit it.

"Whenever I don't make it, I'm like, 'Arrgh!' I'm mad at myself. And I'm like, 'OK, I have to calm down. In all honesty, that would have been good through a regular upright.' I'm just a perfectionist."

Just because he worked out with the Avengers, though, doesn't mean he wants to be one. Said Medlock, "I don't want to do Arena."

Going deep

This draft is loaded with good receivers and offensive linemen, particularly tackles.

The top five receivers, according to NFLDraftScout.com are Johnson, LSU's Dwayne Bowe, USC's Dwayne Jarrett, Ohio State's Ginn and South Carolina's Sidney Rice.

The website's top five tackles are Thomas, Penn State's Levi Brown, Arkansas' Tony Ugoh, Central Michigan's Joe Staley and Iowa's Marshall Yanda.

Freakishly fast

Staley, who stands just under 6 feet 6 and weighs 305 pounds, was a sprinter in high school who has recorded times of 10.8 seconds in the 100 meters and 21.9 in the 200.

That's rub-your-eyes-and-recheckyour-stopwatch fast.

Then again, he's gained about 80 pounds since his freshman year at Central Michigan, switching from tight end in 2003 to right tackle in 2004, and finally to left tackle two years ago. He's still very fast, probably the fastest tackle in the draft.

But ... he won't be working out at the combine. He had planned to, then decided against it after pulling a hamstring during a workout last week. His pro day is March 15.

You're who? From where?

Whitworth tight end Michael Allan has the distinction of being the only combine invitee from a Division III school. He says he runs the 40 in 4.6 seconds, which is sizzling fast for a 6-6, 252-pound man. Whitworth, which has an enrollment of 2,400 students, is in Spokane, Wash.

"Everybody I tell, 'I'm Mike Allan from Whitworth.' They're like, 'Where's Whitworth?' " he said. "Even when I tell them Spokane, they don't recognize it. I would think Whitworth is one of those schools nobody knows about."

Einstein in cleats?

Texas' Justin Blalock scored an 1120 on the SAT in seventh grade, and a year later won a trip to Austin for the state science fair with his presentation on electromagnetism. Years later, he would emerge as one of the top-rated offensive guards in the draft.

Even now, however, his electronics know-how comes in handy.

"Somebody's Xbox goes awry," he said, "I'm usually the guy they look to."

sam.farmer@latimes.com

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