Buckeyes Impress Scouts At Pro Day

The NFL scouts were in attendance at Ohio State today to check out the latest crop of draft eligibile players, and they came away impressed. Among those who had a fine showing were Will Smith, Michael Jenkins, Shane Olivea, and Adrien Clarke. We caught up with some players and NFL personnel in attendance -- including Browns head coach Butch Davis and Falcons GM Rich McKay -- for their impressions.

Ohio State held it's annual pro day on Friday at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center and several NFL head coaches, executives and scouts were in attendance.

From all accounts, the Buckeyes that helped themselves the most were Michael Jenkins, Will Smith, Shane Olivea and Adrien Clarke.

First up, we tracked down Cleveland Browns head coach Butch Davis. The Browns have several holes to fill; first and foremost offensive linemen.

"That's one of the reasons we're here at Ohio State today: they've got a great group of offensive linemen," Davis said.

The former University of Miami coach was asked if this is the largest group of draft-eligible players he has seen from one school.

"Absolutely," Davis said. "I think there was 20 something guys available to work out and interview today and this is clearly the premier place in the country this year. They've got an awful lot of guys and probably the best part about it is that there's somebody at just about every position: wide receivers, defensive backs, offensive line, defensive line, linebackers, quarterback and they've got an outstanding punter. So, this is a very beneficial day for everybody from the NFL that came."

Davis was especially impressed with Jenkins.

"He ran outstanding," he said. "Everybody that worked out today really helped themselves and their draft status."

Next up was new Atlanta Falcons general manager Rich McKay, formally of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"I would say Miami is the biggest group of players I have seen, but this is probably the second biggest," McKay said. "This is a pretty big group though."

Like many of the scouts we spoke to, McKay didn't want to get into specifics, but he did come away impressed with several of the Buckeyes.

"Yeah, absolutely," he said. "They had a lot of guys workout well. It's a good group. You have a lot of guys that are high pick possibilities. Both here and Miami you have a lot of guys that are going to be taken in the first and second rounds. It's a very good looking group."

Like Davis, McKay also took notice of Jenkins.

"He's a Tampa kid – from my former hometown – and yes, he did run well," McKay said. "He's a Leto High School kid and he did help himself today, no question about it. People were wondering how fast he was going to run and he answered that question today. He ran fast."

The number that kept floating around about Jenkins was high 4.4, but that was never confirmed.

McKay also liked what he saw from Smith.

"We expected him to run fast," he said. "His tape showed that he was pretty fast, so I don't think we were surprised with that. He's another guy that helped himself today."

Adrien Clarke, shall we say the svelte Adrien Clarke, took some time to meet with reporters following his workout.

"I think I ran a 5.32," he said of his 40 time. "At Indy, I ran a 5.47, so I definitely did better.

"I didn't bench today. My vert was 32.5; my broad jump was 8.9 my short shuttle was 4.7 and the "L" drill was a 7.77."

Clarke seemed happy about those numbers.

"For the most part, yeah, I'm satisfied," he said. "Well, no, I won't say satisfied. I'm all right. I definitely ran better than people thought I would. I think I opened some eyes today.

"The one number that you all should put down is that I weighed in at 324," Clarke added.

Clarke said he was not nervous performing in front of all the scouts.

"Being at the senior bowl and at Indy preps you for here," he said. "I was a little anxious, just being on my home turf, but I wasn't nervous."

One reporter asked Clarke if he made himself a lot of money today.

"I hope so," he replied. "Right now, the sky is the limit. I'm just trying to keep my head on straight, staying humble with it and hopefully God will lead me to the way."

Clarke could go anywhere from the third to sixth round in next month's draft.

"Truthfully, I am one of those guys that I'm hearing I'm all over the place," he said. "It depends on what team likes my style of play."

But a first-day selection is definitely his goal.

"Definitely. I don't want to watch the draft the second day. That's a long day. But I just want to be in the league somewhere," Clarke said.

Also in attendance was Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio. It was not a surprise that the former NFL linebacker and defensive coordinator wanted to talk about some of the Silver Bullets more than anything else.

"They have an amazing amount of good defensive players here," Del Rio said. "Will ran very well. We had him in the high 4.5 to low 4.6 range and he repped out 30 reps (of 225 pounds) on the bench, so he had a very good workout."

"There are a lot of good players here. (Chris) Gamble, (Darrion) Scott, (Tim) Anderson and a bunch of other ones. I don't want to leave anybody out, there are so many here. Good group and I talked to coach (Jim) Tressel. He's got his work cut out for him losing all of these guys, but I'm sure they'll re-load and we'll be back here next year looking at more of their guys."

Cincinnati Bengals head scout Duke Tobin made the short trip up I-71, along with former OSU head coach John Cooper who is in his third year working for the Bengals as a part-time consultant.

"They have so many good players here at Ohio State," Tobin said. "That is not a secret. We look forward to coming up here every year. We have a good relationship with them and you know what you're getting when you get a player out of this place."

Tobin did not want to discuss individual performances.

"All I can say is that there's a long list of Buckeyes that are going to be taken in this draft," he said. "They'll have a lot of guys that will have an opportunity to play in the NFL. It's a very good program and coach Tressel is a class act all the way through."

Lovie Smith, the new Chicago Bears head coach and former OSU assistant also took some time to speak with reporters.

First up, he was asked about Maurice Clarett. (The Bears just signed Thomas Jones and Anthony Thomas is still around, so don't look for Clarett to go to Chicago like some are predicting).

"You know, Maurice had a great career in the short time he was here," Smith said. "He's a good player. I know he's had some off the field issues that he's dealing with, but right now, we're just kind of looking at him as a player – and he is a good football player – and we'll just kind of go from there."

Is one year of college ball enough to judge Clarett on?

"Well, you would like more, but that's what he has done," Smith said. "He was only able to play one year of college ball, so you just have to judge him off that.

"I have no idea what round he'll go. He's a good player, but there's a lot of good players in the draft."

Cornerback Chris Gamble was one of the few Buckeyes that did not run especially well on Friday. He didn't run poorly, but some were expecting high 4.3, or low 4.4.

"I think it was a low 4.5, but I know I'm faster than that, so I'm going to try and run my 40 again in April," Gamble said.

The laid-back Gamble doesn't get too nervous about stuff like this, even though there are millions on the line.

"Nah, I just try and stay relaxed and not let all the pressure get to me," he said. "I just try and stay focused and do what I have to do."

Gamble hears that he is projected to be a first round pick, but says it really doesn't matter to him right now.

"I mean, I don't pay too much attention to it," he said. "I just try and focus on what I have to do and what I have to do to get better. I just want to keep working on my DB drills. I think I did very good today, but I think I can do even better."

Several teams are looking at Gamble, but he singled out a few that seem especially interested.

"You've got Jacksonville, Cleveland, Cincinnati and the Jets," he said. "They are all talking to me a lot."

Although talented, Gamble is still considered very raw. Is it possible that there are still a lot of question marks about him in the eyes of NFL scouts, especially after not running a fast 40 time on Friday?

"No, I think they know what I can do," Gamble said. "I just want to keep working hard and get ready for the draft and whoever selects me, get ready to play for that team."

Some are predicting that Gamble could be the first cornerback selected. He admitted that would be a nice honor.

"It would, but it just shows me that I have to work harder to show everybody that I was the No. 1 corner to be taken," he said.

Gamble did 16 reps on the bench and went through several other drills as well.

"I did L drill, shuttle, all of that, but I didn't get my time for that stuff. But my vert was 35.5."

He was asked if he was satisfied with the way things went at pro day.

"Well, a little bit, but I know I can run and jump better than that," Gamble said. "So, I'm not really worried about it. I'm just going to keep working out and working hard."

Ohio State defensive line coach/assistant head coach Jim Heacock says it was a positive day for the Buckeyes.

"The general impression is that they all did well," he said. "I don't think anybody hurt themselves. They all tested well and ran well. It's a good looking group out there."

Upwards to 13, or 14 Buckeyes could be drafted. It could be one of the best years ever for OSU in terms of quantity (and quality) of players selected.

"It's going to be a lot," Heacock said. "It reminds me of the first year I came in (1996) and shoot, there were some pretty good players. Orlando (Pace) and Shawn Springs, David Boston, (Mike) Vrabel, Luke (Fickell). I can't remember how many of those guys got drafted. Ty Howard was also in that group."

Heacock couldn't believe the amount of head coaches that showed up.

"To get all the head coaches here like this is incredible," he said. "And the neat thing is, the thing I keep hearing, is that it's a group of quality kids. We always knew that, but it's kind of neat to hear these NFL guys say it. We're not just going to lose some good talent, we're going to lose some good character."

Tight end Ben Hartsock is quickly moving up draft charts. He put on a good show a couple weeks ago at the combine in Indianapolis and is projected to be a third, or fourth-round selection.

"It was one of those things where I went to Indy and I did as much as I could there," Hartsock said. "I ran every drill that I could and I was happy with my times there. So, what I was able to do here was not have to worry about doing the 40, the benches, the vertical jumps, things like that. I was able to keep myself fresh for the individual drills. Run the routes, catch the balls, do everything I could that way."

Hartsock was asked where he thinks he will go.

"Well, I know I'm on a couple team's draft boards," he said. "But that doesn't necessarily mean that much. As far as where you want to go, there's a million people saying they want to go from the third to the fifth and I'm one of those guys. Hopefully the third, maybe the fifth, maybe down to the sixth. Who really knows?

"And the whole landscape can change between now and then with trades and free agency. At this point, I know most of the guys – myself included – are happy to have everything we can control done with. We've worked out as much as we could. I feel I did as well as I could and now I just need to let it happen how it will."

Hartsock impressed a lot of people with his 40 time in Indy.

"I've heard anything from 4.73, to a 4.80, which I was fairly happy with," he said. "Teams will here that low 4.7 and stick with that. I'm happy it worked out the way it did. More teams are trying to get guys to workout at the combine and I'm glad I did. You have your competition right there next to you – guys from around the country."

Hartsock is relieved the "job interview" is finally over.

"Yeah, we were kind of joking around saying it's kind of like finals being over, but it's just a little more significant at this point," he said.

Always a good team spokesman, Hartsock was asked which Buckeyes stood out to him at pro day.

"A lot of our linemen looked good," he said. "Adrien Clarke slimmed down a bunch; Shane Olivea slimmed down a bunch. I think they ran pretty well. Alex (Stepanovich) ran really well too.

"And I know Will Smith put up a good time – I'm not sure of all their times – but I'm pretty sure everybody was fairly happy with the way they performed today."

Hartsock is not planning on having a big draft party next month.

"No, I'm just going to keep it small," he said. "Just my wife and our parents are going to come up. I don't know if we'll go out to eat somewhere, or just hang around. You can sit there and watch TV all day, but eventually it's going to get pretty boring."

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