NFL pro day at the University of Arkansas was like nothing seen around campus in quite some time. The prospects of two early entries in the draft, Jamaal Anderson and Chris Houston, brought what some estimated at between 60 and 75 NFL scouts and head coaches to the UA on Tuesday.
Both Anderson and Houston are expected to go in the first round of the draft, perhaps both before the 20th pick. Among the observers were Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin and St. Louis head coach Scott Linehan.
Here are some tidbits:
1) Jamaal Anderson ran his 40 in the low to mid 4.7s. (There were as many as 50 watches on him, so take your pick.) The NFL folks I talked to liked him, liked him a lot. He didn't run his 40 at the combine since he tweaked a hammy. So today was big. Everyone was smiling and wanting to talk to him, including a couple of head coaches.
2) Chris Houston didn't run, since he'd done that at the combine. So he did position drills. Looked very smooth and everyone thought he helped his stock, too.
3) Most everyone I talked to thought both Anderson and Houston will go in the first round. Anderson may go as high as fifth or sixth. He actually needed to run slower than he ran for some present to have a shot at them.
4) Keith Jackson ran well, 4.82 on several watches and he helped his stock. He might go in the fourth or fifth round, apparently.
5) But the guy who helped his stock the most was Darius Vinnett. He ran anywhere betwen 4.27 and 4.30. That was a bunch of clocks below 4.3. He was beaming. He said he ran the way he ran in junior college and said it was the product of two healthy knees. He also looked awesome in cover drills. He measured only 5-7, but the scouts and coaches I talked to said they all wanted their teams to find a way to get him to camp because he can cover in the NFL.
6) Among the most interesting things I saw was the late show of Tony Bua, the former NFL safety/outside linebacker. He was cut by the Nashville Cats a few weeks back. He hadn't run in two weeks and came out hoping to impress someone. He probably didn't do that. At 225, he ran 4.65. He told me, "I got no chance with that. Same old story, big heart, slow 40. I may go play in Calgary. But if someone will offer me a job in business, I'll stay here in Northwest Arkansas, God's country, and never leave again. I got back here two weeks ago, and I know now why I love it so much. Beautiful place, beautiful people."
7) It was like old home week with former UA coaches Jim Washburn (Tennessee Titans) and John Mitchell (Pittsburgh Steelers) present. Both are former UA coaches. Mitchell was on the UA staff when Houston Nutt was a player. Former UA offensive lineman and Fayetteville product Jeremiah Washburn (Baltimore Ravens scout) was also present.
Here's what the two NFL head coaches had to offer:
There were two NFL head coaches attending, Pittsburgh's new head coach Mike Tomlin and St. Louis' second-year coach Scott Linehan. Both thought Jamaal Anderson and Chris Houston helped their stock with their workouts.
"Head coaches come to these when they can, especially when there are first-day guys to watch," Tomlin said. "I guess it's the head coach in me, the old (defensive) coordinator in me and the old position coach in me that wants to see these guys like Jamaal and Chris. I want to see these types of guys.
"I think both of them helped their stock. They both went up with what they did today. But, it's not just one thing that you look at. It's everything. It's how they look on film. I've seen them play on film and they both played very well this past season. Both are productive players. What they did today gives us more information. It's supplemental information. You take what you see, what you find out in the interviews and the film. I go heavy on film and they were good players in a very good league. What I saw today is that both of these guys really competed hard. That's what you see, will they compete and they did."
Linehan did a lot of watching, but he begged out of an interview after the day finished to visit with Anderson as the clincher.
"I just need to talk to him for a few minutes, then I'll be back," Linehan said.
After visiting with the big defensive end, Linehan said, "He was very good today. I try to watch a lot of workouts. It's really important to me on first day guys. You try to find out as much as you can about these type of players.
"We are looking for any upgrade we can get, but we especially need some upgrades on the defensive side. This was a chance to look at two defensive upgrades.
"These workouts are important, but not as important as what you see on tape. What I can tell you about the tape I've seen on both of them is that they played very well against quality opposition this past season. They both had great years.
"What you see on Anderson is that he is a true end. He's got the height and the size and the speed. You don't see that combination a lot. He can be an anchor against the run and he's got the pass rush. He had 13 sacks last year in a great league. That's a very rare combination.
"As for what Jamaal and Chris did today, I always say they help themselves. They gave us more information, more data. You only help yourself unless something goes wrong. The only way you don't help yourself is if you don't work."
Here's what defensive linemen Jamaal Anderson and Keith Jackson thought:
Jamaal Anderson was pleased with his performance Tuesday. He said he accomplished his goal.
"I felt like I'd do well today and I did," Anderson said. "It's the first time I've run a 40 in awhile. I didn't run at the combine because of my hamstring.
"I thought I would have a good performance. I came home and worked out and got ready for this. I feel like with this workout today that I solidified my position. I ran two 40s today and did okay."
Anderson thanked buddy Keith Jackson for working out with him to give him a few breaks in the position drills. He teamed up with Jackson to compete in a couple of hand-to-hand combat drills.
"I appreciate Keith staying out there with me," Anderson said. "He'd done all that stuff at the combine, but I didn't. He didn't have to do it again."
Jackson said it was only fair since Anderson's workout brought in a ton of NFL scouts.
"I think when you look at it, both Jamaal and Chris Houston helped us other guys by bringing in so many coaches," Jackson said. "It was the least I could do for my little brother. He needed me. I will say some of those drills were a lot easier at the Combine. We had 25 defensive linemen and you got more rest. Today, there was just four of us."
From Chris Houston and Darius Vinnett:
Chris Houston didn't run any 40s on Tuesday morning. He concentrated on ball drills for NFL secondary coaches.
"I needed to show them some things since we played all press coverage this season," Houston said. "I needed to show them I could move in space and play the ball. I thought I did that and helped my stock. I knew I could do those things. I just needed to show them that today.
"The good thing about today was that there were a lot of coaches and scouts here and they got to see Darius Vinnett run. He opened some eyes. I guess it might surprise and shock some, but we knew he'd been hurt and that he could run better than he did the last two years. I'm happy for Darius."
Vinnett said it was a case of finally being healthy.
"I've had both knees fixed, the patella tendons repaired," he said. "But I've run like that before, sub-4.3. I ran like that in junior college. But I've been hurt since I got here. I'm finally healthy. It felt really good to run like that today, really good. I'm very happy.
"I thought my workouts were good here, too. I hadn't worked out for anyone else. This was my first time. After running that time today, I got a lot of questions from scouts about my knees. I just told them they are great and that I'm now healthy. I'll probably get some more workouts after this. I'm happy."
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