It is not lost on high school football prospects that when Alabama has a Pro Day – an opportunity for players hoping for an NFL career and going through their paces for the scouts and assistant coaches who will make recommendations for the upcoming draft -- that it is a really big day in Tuscaloosa. The turnout of prospective pro players is big because Alabama frequently is main attraction of the draft. And that group of players attracts the scouts and coaches from all 32 pro teams.
Alabama hosted its annual pro day Wednesday afternoon with 17 draft-eligible Crimson Tide athletes participating in front of attendees from all 32 NFL teams. New York Giants General Manager Jerry Reese headed up a score of National Football League representatives, mostly assistant coaches and scouts.
“We’re happy to have all 32 clubs represented here, and that’s because of the quality of players we have,” said Saban. “Obviously, the coaches did a really good job of recruiting and developing the guys here today. We’re hopeful that these guys will do a great job this morning so that they will have an opportunity to do something of significance to help their stock when it comes to draft day.”
Draft-eligible players who participated in the day’s events were offensive lineman Leon Brown, safety Landon Collins, wide receiver Amari Cooper, linebacker Trey DePriest, outside linebacker Xzavier Dickson, fullback Jalston Fowler, defensive lineman Brandon Ivory, wide receiver Christion Jones, offensive lineman Arie Kouandjio, defensive lineman Anthony Orr, safety Nick Perry, offensive lineman Austin Shepherd, quarterback Blake Sims, tight end Brian Vogler, wide receiver DeAndrew White, safety Jarrick Williams, and tailback T.J. Yeldon.
The day began at 11 a.m. with heights, weights and measurements in the weight room. The players then followed with vertical and broad jumps, along with bench press for those who chose to participate in the particular tests. The Crimson Tide athletes then moved to the Hank Crisp Indoor Practice Facility to test in the 40-yard dash, agility drills, and position-specific drills.
The 2015 NFL Draft is April 30-May 2 in Chicago.
Saban took a few questions regarding Crimson Tide players taking part in the Wednesday drills. Here are his comments:
On Jalston Fowler
"I think there's no question Jalston Fowler can do so many things well. He's a really good receiver. He's a great blocker. He has running skills with the ball in his hand so he actually can be a big back for somebody. There's still some situations where guys like Jalston Fowler have tremendous value, and he's really a good match-up player on special teams. I think one of the things that people don't understand when you're building a roster in the NFL, you have to take that into consideration because you only have 46 guys out there for the game. If you're not a star player, you've got to be a good special teams player. There's a lot of things Jalston Fowler brings value to any team that he goes to."
What sets Amari Cooper apart?
"First of all, he's a very talented guy, and he's worked very hard here to improve and maximize the God-given gifts that he has. He's got great quickness, great speed. He's got really good size, very good hands and some running ability after the catch. And I think if you're looking at critical factors at his position, that covers about everything that's important to most people. The other thing is he's very personable. He's going to be a really good teammate wherever he goes. He's very positive in the way he goes about his work. You give him a job to do, he's going to do it. So he's very, very responsible and accountable. I think that's what people are looking for."
On feedback he's gotten on Blake Sims
"I don't spend a lot of time this time of year talking to NFL people. We're recruiting, we're getting ready for next year's recruiting. We're getting ready for spring practice, the off-season program. But I think that Blake's athleticism, his production this year, are things that people are going to have to take into account. There are more and more offenses that people are willing to utilize a guy like him. So I do think Blake has a lot to offer a team, and I do think he's going to get an opportunity with someone."
On what Landon Collins would bring to an NFL team
"Landon's a very, very explosive, physical, big-hitter, has got really good ball skills, can play man-to-man. He's very instinctive. There're not very many guys that have his size and speed and athleticism that play in the secondary. Those things can be intimidating to a lot of receivers. I think Landon's going to be a fantastic NFL player."
On DeAndrew White
"I think DeAndrew White is probably a guy that I would, if you said, 'Who would be most under-appreciated by the NFL?' because he has a lot more ability than what his production maybe has been here, whether it's because of injuries or whatever that he's battled through. He's got great speed, he's got great size. He's a great special teams player, he's been a great special teams player for us. If you're not a No. 1 or 2 receiver on a team, you're going to have to play special teams. I think he's going to be a real value for somebody, who's going to get a guy who has great ability but probably could develop into something special."
On if T.J. Yeldon could be a feature back in the NFL
"I don't think there's any question about it. He's got great size, is very instinctive, hard-worker, good person, can catch really well, big enough to block and protect. I think he will do just fine." You mentioned White. Who else do you feel like is undervalued? "When I say under-valued -- under-appreciated is the word that I use, in terms of maybe the production that he's had here relative to what he could have if he would have been healthy all the time. I just think the guy's got a real high ceiling."
Compare Amari Cooper to Julio Jones
"I don't really like to compare players. They're totally different guys. Julio Jones is a fantastic, big, strong, physical guy who's been very productive in the NFL. Amari Cooper's style is just a little different, in terms of the quickness that he plays with, the running ability that he has, great hands, smart player. Both guys are outstanding, but they're styles are just a little bit different."