Buckeyes Strut Their Stuff At Pro Day

Last year, on the way to an NFL-record 14 draft picks, Ohio State's pro day drew numerous scouts. This year, it was a much more toned-down atmosphere. We have comments from Bobby Carpenter, Marcus Green, Mike Kne, Lydell Ross, Maurice Hall, Simon Fraser and Dustin Fox.

Ohio State held its annual pro day on Wednesday at the Woody Hayes Athletic Complex and 21 of the 32 NFL teams were represented.

It was much different than last year when the Buckeyes had a deep and talented senior class and every NFL team was represented (many of which brought their general manager and/or head coach).

This year, Ohio State only has a handful of NFL prospects. There were no NFL head coaches or general managers in attendance on Wednesday. In fact, the biggest name of the group was Cincinnati Bengals scout John Cooper, the former head coach at OSU.

Kicker Mike Nugent is expected to be the first Buckeye off the board this year. The early prognosis is that he will be selected sometime in the second round. Nugent kicked at the combine in Indianapolis last month and also kicked for scouts on Wednesday at the WHAC.

Defensive back Dustin Fox will probably be the next OSU player to be drafted. At the combine, he ran the 40 in 4.43 seconds and recorded a vertical of 43.5 inches.

After that, it's anyone's guess. Defensive end Simon Fraser ran a 4.9 on Wednesday and could be a second-day selection. Running back Maurice Hall ran a 4.45 on Wednesday. Fullback Branden Joe was clocked as low as 4.61, a good number for a 240-pound bruiser.

Of the underclassmen that ran on Wednesday, linebackers A.J. Hawk and Bobby Carpenter put on the best show. Hawk ran a 4.5 flat and Carpenter ran a 4.53.

Also, center Nick Mangold ran a 4.94, and defensive tackle Marcus Green ran somewhere around the 5.0 mark.

"We had a lot of underclassmen come out here and run well today," Carpenter said. "I think it bodes well for the talent we have coming back and what we're going to be able to accomplish next year."

Carpenter admitted he was a little nervous on Wednesday, even though he has a full year before his NFL career begins.

"This is kind of something that you build your whole life up to," Carpenter said. "When you're in high school and junior high, you always want to run in front of some pro scouts. This wasn't the combine in Indianapolis, but it's the closest thing we have this year and I think everyone was pretty nervous."

Carpenter was asked if he was happy with his 4.53 time in the 40.

"I think most of the guys are happy with our times," he said. "As a group, we ran pretty well. I think I ran pretty well. There's always room for improvement as always, but I'd say we did well."

Carpenter knows that a player can leave a lasting impression on the NFL scouts with a fast time.

"That's what we're trying to do," he said. "Get your name out there with a fast time. Some guys are looking at you next year seeing game tape and they associate your name with how fast you can run and what you can do. Hopefully it will help your draft status."

Carpenter is grateful that OSU allows its rising seniors to workout for the pro scouts.

"I think we had five or six underclassmen today," Carpenter said. "There were some other guys that would have ran if they weren't hurt. Anthony Schlegel would have wanted to run, Tyler Everett, and a couple other guys. But they're a little banged up. So, there's no sense in running the 40 if you're not healthy."

Last year, pro day took on somewhat of a zoo atmosphere. That's what happens when there are 14 future draft picks in the mix (an NFL record from one school in a single year). Carpenter said this year's pro day was much more relaxed, but he hopes the scouts come out in droves again next year.

"Last year, we had a lot of guys here," he said. "Sixty-plus scouts, a lot of head coaches. It was a huge day. Today was a little small because we didn't have as many seniors, but I think our times will still get out there and hopefully that will help bring more guys in next year. For us and the underclassmen as well."

Carpenter is considered an outstanding player by most Buckeye fans. However, nationally, he's not that big of a name. Everyone knows about Hawk, but Carpenter said pro day was a chance for him to get his name on the national map.

"For guys like myself, I wanted to get out there and try and get my name out," he said. "I might not always put up the best stats, but I wanted to show that I can still run and still play well. So, I think for me it was pretty important.

"For guys like A.J. who have received a lot of publicity and have all kinds of stats, I don't think it was as critical for him, but he went out and ran great as well."

* Green is expected to be a starting defensive tackle again this season and was happy with the results from pro day.

"It was a good experience for me, just to see how things went, how it was ran," Green said. "I probably won't be as nervous next year. I got a chance to see how everything works."

Green weighed in at 297 pounds on Wednesday.

There were some variations when it came to his 40 time.

"Some people 5.1, some people 5.0, some people 4.96 and stuff like that," he said.

Green is entering his fifth year in the program and says he is ready for spring practice to begin.

"Yeah, I am looking forward to spring," he said. "My last go-around at spring ball. We're just going to go out there and live up to the expectations, I guess, that everyone has set for us for this year. I guess that's probably the biggest challenge we have. Everyone is saying we are a top five team, and that feels good, but now we have to go out there and prove it."

* Offensive lineman Mike Kne has NFL aspirations. He began his college career at Fordham, then transferred to OSU as a walk-on and eventually earned a scholarship.

He did not run for scouts on Wednesday.

"I tweaked something in my foot about three weeks ago and I didn't want to injure it any more," Kne said. "But I didn't pretty well in the position drills and the bench. I got 26 reps on the bench (at 225 pounds), which is all right. I think I did pretty well out there."

Kne was glad it wasn't a madhouse like last year. He said it took some of the pressure off.

"Well, luckily it wasn't the hoopla it was last year," he said. "You still have a little pressure, but you've already done your work on the field. This can only help you."

Kne still has his sense of humor. He knows that he will be an undrafted free agent, at best, and is more than happy with that.

"I'm going to do it like I did it here," he said. "I'm just going to backdoor my way into the NFL. You know, bounce around and hopefully catch on somewhere. If they shut the backdoor on me, I'll climb in a window. I don't care.

"I walked on here. I don't care if I have to walk-on in the NFL. Even if I don't get signed as a free agent, I'm sure there will be a tryout or two where I can show what I can do. Pretty much the same procedure here."

Kne started at right guard as a senior in 2004 and was a part time starter as a junior. The experience of starting at a program like Ohio State will help get him longer looks from pro scouts.

"Yeah, just being at Ohio State, you're on people's radar," he said. "And then having Alex (Stepanovich) and Shane (Olivea) do so well last year, that can't hurt."

* Running back Lydell Ross has always talked openly about his NFL dreams. He did not have the college career he had envisioned, but is still giving it a shot.

"I did all right today. I did all right," Ross said. "I ran pretty fast. At this point where I'm at in my training, I did all right."

Ross was asked for his exact 40 time.

"I'd rather not say, because I'm going to run again," he said. "I'm going to have a personal workout sometime."

But was it faster than Maurice Clarett?

"Yeah, it was faster than Clarett," Ross said with a laugh. "I wasn't as happy as I wanted to be. That's why I'm going to run again and I'll get you those times. I just have to work on my start a little more. But other than that, all the football drills, agility drills, I was good."

Ross definitely looks like an NFL back. The question is can he run like an NFL back.

He has clearly been working out hard in the weight room, and did 23 reps on the bench for scouts on Wednesday. But you have to wonder about that 40 time.

Ross knows that if he does make it to the NFL, it will be as a late second day pick, or undrafted free agent.

"Being realistic, the numbers didn't come out like I wanted to this season, in terms of rushing yards and whatever," he said. "I'm hearing second day, hopefully. Just move on from there."

Ross was happy he could finish his college career on a high note.

"That was the brightest spot of the later part of my senior year was the Alamo Bowl," he said. "I had 99 yards, 12 carries and felt unstoppable. I was my last game and I went out with a bang. I think that helped me out a lot."

Ross grew up a big Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan and would like nothing more than to be taken by his hometown team in the second day of the draft.

"That would be beautiful," he said.

* Hall also didn't have the college career he was hoping for – numbers wise – but he's still trying to live out his dream.

"I remember coming here as a freshman watching the other guys do the same thing," Hall said of pro day. "I didn't really know what the impact was going to be and how nervous I was going to be. I was a little nervous at first, but once we got into it, I felt good and I felt confident and I had a good time."

Hall's 4.45 was the fastest by a Buckeye on Wednesday (Fox did not run).

"It was cool. It was cool," Hall said. "You always want to run faster, but I'll take it. I felt like it was a good performance for me."

Hall says all the Buckeyes were pulling for each other.

"We were all over each other like it was a football game," he said. "We were all yelling and cheering for each other. We had some guys that worked hard and did well."

Hall was asked for his expectations on the draft. Is he thinking late second day? Undrafted free agent?

"All you can do is wait," he said. "You've put all the work in, you did everything. Now it's up to the NFL coaches to see what they need and hopefully I'm one of them."

Hall said a few OSU players stood out at pro day.

"I think Foxy did a good job," he said. "I think B.Joe did a good job. I think all the running backs did good in the running backs drills. Then you have Bobby and A.J. who ran well. So, I think everybody did a pretty good job."

Hall explained what the running backs did at pro day, in addition to the 40 and bench.

"We did passing and running drills," he said. "Just going over bags, cutting off cones and running routes. Out routes and seam routes and things like that."

Hall was asked if he has a "plan B" if a professional football career does not pan out.

"You definitely have to have a plan B, but it's definitely what I've been doing for the past 19-something years," he said. "So, that's definitely the first priority, but there's definitely always a plan B."

* Fraser is another player that didn't put up big numbers at OSU, but could be playing on Sundays this fall.

"It went well," Fraser said of pro day. "I mean, I did all my stuff at Indianapolis, so I didn't have to do much today. Just some position stuff and talk to some of the scouts that were here today."

Some players mentioned that pro day felt like a regular football game, in terms of the pressure.

"Yeah, although there's not 100,000 people in the stands and we're not running around hitting people," Fraser said. "But this is something that we all looked to once the season was done and it really came upon us real fast and I think a lot of people handled themselves well. So, I was really happy to see everyone do well."

Fraser said two players in particular stood out.

"Dustin did well on his agility and stuff, and Branden Joe looked good running," he said. "I think everyone showed that they have the athletic ability to help a team that picks them up."

Fraser seemed happy with his 40 time.

"Yeah, 4.9, not too bad for a slow kid from Arlington," he said.

He also fared pretty well in the bench press.

"I got 23 reps," he said. "I was happy with that. That's the most I've ever done. So, overall, it was a great experience. I'm so glad it's over now so I can maybe focus more on the football side of it, instead of track."

It is hard to peg Fraser's draft status. Even he is not sure where he might go.

"It's really hard to say," he said. "You can't really trust anybody what they say, because there's a million-different opinions out there. It comes down to that day in April when a team has to make a decision. You see a lot of crazy things happen, so who knows."

But what is his gut feeling? Sometime on the second day?

"You know, to be honest, it really doesn't matter to me," Fraser said. "I mean, you look at guys like Shane Olivea and Alex Stepanovich who got picked up in the second day. Shane started every game as a rookie. Alex started every game and was fifth overall in number of plays in the entire NFL for any player.

"So, I just want to make a team and be in a situation where a team wants me and wants me to contribute early and provides a good situation for me to excel. I think that's what I'm looking for, more than just getting picked up early. If a team picks me up early and they have 10 guys in front of me, that's something that maybe I don't want to be in. I'll just play wherever. I'm excited."

Fraser doesn't put too much stock in the pro workouts. He says they are somewhat important, but nothing compares to a player's actual game film.

"I think 95 percent of your draft status is determined by how you played in college," he said. "This stuff can just help you or hurt you a little bit, but it's your game film that really determines where you go."

* Like Fraser, Fox didn't participate in all of the stations on Wednesday.

"It was a good day. Felt good out there," Fox said. "I did most everything at the combine, so I didn't really have to do a whole lot today. But what I did do, felt good and did well. I just did some of the short shuttles and broad jump and the position drills."

Fox had an impressive 43.5-inch vertical at the combine and also turned in a good 40 time.

"At the combine, they had me at 4.43," he said. "It was good enough for me. I was happy with it. It was one of the better times for my spot."

Fox says he was not nervous at pro day, or the combine.

"You've seen guys go through it so many times," he said. "When you're a freshman and you come to this pro day and you watch guys like Mike Doss and everybody who goes through the process. So, you just want for your time and when it comes, you're prepared for it."

It is a nice advantage for the OSU players to get the opportunity to workout for the scouts at the familiar surroundings of the WHAC.

"Yeah, it was good," Fox said. "At the combine, you're with a lot of different guys from schools that you don't even know. So, it's fun to get back here with guys that I've been working out with pretty much the whole time. We had a chance to perform here for the scouts on our home turf and that was great."

Fox was asked if he "hit a home run" with the scouts.

"I hope so," he said. "We'll find out in April, but I'm doing everything I can to prepare myself and doing everything they ask. I'm hearing everything. It's all speculation at this point."

Fox wants to be taken in the first three rounds.

"Our goal is to go on the first day," he said. "I think that's a fare goal. But if it doesn't happen, I'm not going to be upset. I just want to get picked up on a team. So, we'll see what happens. Wherever I go, I'll just be happy to be on an NFL team."

Teams are still debating whether Fox is a corner, or safety.

"Pretty much, yeah," he said. "Some teams like me as a corner, some like me as a safety, some like me as both. So, it just really depends. I was asking guys out there today. I said, ‘What do you think I'm going to be?' Half the guys said one, half said the other. So, it just depends."

That is something that will only help his draft status.

"I think so," Fox said. "That's the goal. To have some versatility and to go into the draft and be able to do both and play nickel and special teams and all the good things that go along with it."


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