Pro coaches scout Tide players

With scouts and coaches on hand from more than 14 different NFL teams, most of Alabama's graduating seniors, including several athletes from previous seasons, took part in Pro Day activities yesterday in Tuscaloosa.

The official NFL Combine was held a couple of weeks back, but only a limited number of athletes were invited. Jarret Johnson, Kenny King, Kindal Moorehead, Ahmaad Galloway and Santonio Beard were there to be seen and tested in Indianapolis, but those five are certainly not the only Tide players hoping for a chance to play on Sundays.

Former Tide All-American John Mitchell (‘71-'72) now coaches defensive linemen for the Pittsburgh Steelers. According to Mitchell, workouts like yesterday's are invaluable. "The individual combines at the schools are crucial for the other guys," Mitchell said. "And even if an athlete is invited to the Combine, if you have a chance to see him on his campus and see how he reacts in front of familiar faces--that adds a lot.

Six-foot-eight Bart Raulston chugs through his shuttle run.

"Sometimes you get a little better workout. I like to come to the universities and see the athlete work in comfortable surroundings, where he's used to. Sometimes you can see a little bit more than you can see in Indianapolis."

We probably missed some, but in addition to Mitchell and the Steelers spotted representatives from the Chicago Bears, Miami Dolphins, Tennessee Titans, Detroit Lions, New York Giants, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, New Orleans Saints, San Diego Chargers, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans and the New England Patriots.

In addition to Mitchell, some other of the pro personnel on hand had direct ties to Alabama. Sylvester Croom (‘72-'74), who now coaches running backs for the Green Bay Packers and Ricky Davis (‘73-'74), who works as a sports agent; both starred on the field for the Tide. Mitchell and Croom also coached for the Tide as well. Bruce Arians, who served two stints as an Alabama assistant and is now the offensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns, was also on hand yesterday to scout the Bama players.

Besides the four players that were invited to Indianapolis, Dante Ellington, Lane Bearden, Waine Bacon, Derek Sanders, Alonzo Ephraim, Lannis Baxley, Theo Sanders, Bart Raulston, Tyler Watts, Marico Portis, Hirchel Bolden, Gerald Dixon and Sam Collins took part. Former Tide athletes Ray Marshal, David Daniel, Marvin Brown and Shamari Buchanan also worked out, hoping to catch a scout's eye. We also spotted Reggie Myles and Saleem Rasheed on hand to watch the workouts.

Depending on the individual scout, various drills are utilized to assess the players' talent. But six measures standard to virtually all pro workouts were taken. Though not every athlete participated in every event, measures were taken on the vertical jump, the standing broad jump, the 40-yard dash, the standard change-of-direction shuttle run, and the L-shuttle run. Bench press repetitions for 225 pounds were also counted. And of course every athlete's height, weight, hand span, wing span and flexibility was recorded as well.

Virtually all the Tide athletes appeared to be in the best shape of their lives. For example Kindal Moorehead is weighing 285 pounds these days, while former Bama fullback Marvin Brown has slimmed down to an almost svelte (for Marvin) 236 pounds. But a few have some work to do. Lineman Dante Ellington, who sat out last season as an academic casualty and is forgoing his final season of eligibility to enter the draft, still weighs in the 350-pound plus range, and former Bama lineman Ray Marshal is still Ray Marshal.

Gerald Dixon tested as one of the fastest athletes there.

Recovering from their knee surgeries, Ahmaad Galloway and Lane Bearden didn't do much Thursday. Galloway (who did participate in the bench press) says he'll be cleared to run full out in less than a month, and that several NFL teams are scheduled to be back in Tuscaloosa on April 3 to work him out. "I'm about 95 percent healed right now," Galloway said. "I'll do everything for that workout. It'll be one big show."

Bearden, who chose to delay his knee surgery until after the season, is pointing to that date as well. "Hopefully I'll be able to do more for them then," Bearden said. "I can tell the knee is getting better every day. It certainly feels a lot better than it did."

(Marico Portis pulled a quad muscle during 40-yard dash timing, and he also plans to be there on the third to be tested on the two shuttle runs.)

NOTE: Media access to Pro Day was handled differently this year. Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Ben Pollard did not allow cameras in the weight room, and in fact only let three reporters in on the condition that they not take any pictures or record any results. So the only bench press numbers we have were told to us by the players afterwards. When everyone moved to the Indoor Facility several television crews were already there set up, frustrating Pollard's wishes. At that point the media-access conditions obviously changed, and we were able to take photos. But again, the only times available were those "self-reported" by the athletes.

On the bench press several tide linemen were satisfied with their lifts. The Big 3 defensive linemen pretty much duplicated their Indianapolis numbers, with King, Johnson and Moorehead getting 25, 22 and 23 reps respectively.

Alonzo Ephraim managed 23 reps, while Marico Portis matched King's 25. "That was pretty good," Portis said afterwards. "I was aiming for 27, so that was close."

"It wasn't what I expected," Ephraim said. "I've gotten 26 or 27 in the gym. It's frustrating when you don't get what you know you can do."

"Big Bart" Raulston, who decided to participate in the workout when he got word that some of the scouts wanted to see him, tested best of last year's seniors, hoisting the 225-pound weight 26 times. "I got 25 the other day in practice," he said. "That thing really gets heavy there toward the end."

Kindal Moorehead (middle left), Jarret Johnson (middle right) and Kenny King (right) listen to the line coach from the New Orleans Saints.

But former Tide defensive tackle David Daniel was the strongest player tested, totaling 28 successful lifts. "I wanted 30," he said. "But the most I'd ever done before was 25, so I guess that's pretty good."

Scouts on hand to watch the lifting noted that anything in the 30 range is very good. The top lifters at this year's NFL combine managed 35 or so, while the most any scout had ever seen was 42.

There were scores of stop watches in use indoors to time the 40-yard dash, which meant that every run produced scores of slightly different times. The two fastest player-reported times were turned in by Gerald Dixon and Sam Collins. Both were clocked at a very good 4.43 seconds. Hirchel Bolden turned in a 4.47.

Interestingly, Johnson, Moorehead and King were all clocked very close to 4.9, more than quick enough to compete in the National Football League. Moorehead especially was impressive in the agility drills, showing excellent footwork.

John Mitchell of the Steelers commented on Bama's three linemen. "As far as defensive linemen this year, there are a lot of good players out there. But Alabama's three guys will have an opportunity to line up and play on Sundays."

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