Bigger Birmingham Makes Impression At Combine

INDIANAPOLIS -- Former Arkansas running back DeCori Birmingham has been given the unenviable task of trying to stand out at the 2005 NFL Scouting Combine among an impressive group of peers that includes Auburn's Ronnie Brown and Carnell Williams, Texas' Cedric Benson, California's J.J. Arrington and Florida's Ciatrick Fason.

Sound easy? Add to it the fact Birmingham didn't get any help from event organizers, who placed the Atlanta, Texas, native in the first of two running backs groups making their rounds through the Indiana Convention Center. It means Birmingham is spending his four-day interview process in what is regarded as the better group, loaded with attention-grabbing players like Brown, Benson, Arrington, Fason and Ohio State's Maurice Clarett.

The good news is, to at least one observer, Birmingham made a bigger impression than expected after being poked, prodded and examined by NFL representatives Thursday.

"When he came up (to weigh in), just for a guy that knew him, knew who he was, I thought he gained some weight," said Baltimore Ravens personnel assistant and former Razorback Jeremiah Washburn. "For a supposed little back, he looked like a big back."

That's an encouraging start for Birmingham, who was weighed, measured, interviewed and asked to complete strength tests in front of NFL personnel during the combine's first full day. Birmingham is scheduled to shuffle through another day of interviews and tests today before participating in position specific and agility drills Saturday.

He was measured at 5-foot-10 and weighed at least five pounds more than last season (200 pounds). His agent, Chad Olson, said Birmingham weighed in at 205 pounds. One scout believed Birmingham was a solid 212.

"He's gained muscle mass for sure," Olson said. "He kind of trimmed down some of his body fat. That was one of the big deals he was working on (the past two months). He looks good, that's for darn sure."

Birmingham, who worked at a training facility in Miami in preparation for the combine, said his main goals were to run a quick 40-yard dash and display strength on the bench press. Olson said Birmingham lifted 225 pounds 15 times on Thursday, which wasn't bad considering he managed 10 repetitions when his regimen began in January.

Birmingham, who is considered one of the little running backs in the loaded class, turned in a disappointing year in which he ran for 456 yards and 3 touchdowns in his only full season in the backfield. The versatile player lined up at running back, receiver, punt returner and kick returner at Arkansas, but did little to prove he could handle the rigors of carrying the ball every down and his playing time diminished late in the season.

"A lot of teams want to know if I'm strong enough to carry the load," Birmingham said before the combine.

It might've been just a physical examination, but Washburn said Birmingham looked capable Thursday.

"He looks good," Washburn said. "He looks ready. He looks like he can handle every down. You see him (Thursday) and he looks as big as any of those every-down backs."

Olson said a strong performance in Saturday's 40-yard dash would help his client turn heads at the combine. Several running backs in the 2005 class won't run the 40 here, opting to wait until on-campus pro dates next month. Birmingham already has said he'll participate in everything the next two days.

Birmingham hasn't made any appearances on pre-combine, mock draft boards, but his ticket to the NFL will be directly related to his versatility. It is widely regarded as Birmingham's strength. The do-everything player rushed for 1,151 career yards, caught 57 passes for 592 yards, compiled 1,321 yards on kickoff returns and 546 on punt returns.

"Numbers mean a lot of things to a lot of guys, but we've seen the versatility he's got," Olson said. "That's the reason we knew we could market the heck out of him and leave a good impression with a lot of teams."

If nothing else, it's apparent at least one person was paying attention to Birmingham on Thursday.

"(NFL people like) the fact he's a receiver, he's an accomplished kick and punt returner, which is huge, and the fact he can carry the load as a running back," said Washburn, who believes Birmingham will be drafted. "There is a spot for the jack-of-all-trade, master-of-none type guys. There's a spot for those guys. Every team's got them."

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