Almost There

Some 24 NFL scouts made their way to the indoor practice facility for Ole Miss' annual pro day Monday. Go inside for a detailed notebook, including notes on Jerrell Powe, Jeremiah Masoli, Dexter McCluster and Michael Oher.

Jerrell Powe, sporting the jersey given to him at the NFL combine in February, made his way to the near sideline of Ole Miss' indoor practice facility Monday.

The now former Rebel was drenched in sweat, having finished up various drills in front of some 24 professional scouts at the school's pro day moments earlier. His goal Monday was simple: to "polish up some things," he said.

Because he performed well enough at the combine. This was merely a final hurdle, another step closer to the dream. He projects as a second-to-third round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, held at Radio City Music Hall in New York City April 28-30.

"It would be good if they invited me to New York," Powe said with the smile, though the likelihood of that happening is slim. "It would be good, wouldn't it? I'd love to just go even if I didn't go where they said I was going to go."

Powe was already familiar with the preparation process well before he chose to forgo his final year of eligibility and enter the draft pool. He'd seen teammates from years past -- Peria Jerry, Jamarca Sanford and Michael Oher -- do the same.

Vertical jumps. Forty-yard dashes. Broad jumps. Cone drills. Molding one's self into a sure-bet draftee is demanding. He ran a 5.2, high 5.1, 40-yard dash Monday, a strong showing for a defensive tackle weighing in at well over 300 pounds.


Powe projects as a second-to-third round selection
Bruce Newman
"The other day I was like, ‘Man, got two more months of training.' Now that we're through with pro day, we're just working out," he said. "The draft's right around the corner. It's here. This is what I longed for. I'm ready."

He's ready for draft day, a day he's worked tirelessly for. After what he's been through, namely a three-year eligibility battle with the NCAA, another month of waiting is nothing. Well, almost nothing.

"It's been pretty good, just very tiring," Powe, represented by Bus Cook, said of the process. "But for the most part, it's been a good experience; been what I thought it was. I had a chance to see Peria and Jamarca and (Oher) go through the same process. Through it all it's been fun, being able to hang out with some of the top prospects in the country."

His training schedule took him to Pensacola, Fla., for seven weeks. Lately, though, he's been in Hattiesburg, toiling away in regimented workout sessions. The Washington Redskins, Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins have all shown interest. The Dolphins, Powe said, have "been talking pretty good."

"Right now, you never know," Powe said. "We're hearing the second round, but we don't go by that. We just go by who likes you. I'm hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. Have heard early third. We're just hoping for the best."


Strictly a Quarterback?


Jeremiah Masoli is a quarterback at heart. In a perfect world, it's the position he'd play in the NFL, should he be drafted next month or sign on with an organization as a non-drafted free agent.

But as March winds down and draft day draws near, Masoli is keeping an open mind. How he's viewed varies depending on the team interested. Some, he said, view him as a quarterback only. Others see Masoli, who started 11 of 12 games in his only season at Ole Miss, as an athlete with no set position.

"Different teams have different answers," he said. "A couple of (teams) might use me in their scheme as a running back or wildcat guy. Other (teams) are talking about QB only. It varies. I'd love to be a QB only. I'm a QB at heart, but I'm also a baller at heart. Any position, I'll take it."


Masoli said six NFL franchises have shown serious interest
Bruce Newman
"I don't know what these (scouts) are looking for," former Ole Miss offensive lineman Michael Oher, in attendance Monday, said. "Everybody's got a shot. It's a lot like Michael Spurlock. I think he's going into his probably sixth year in the NFL now. It looks like he's got a lot of more years ahead of him. Anybody can do it. If you want to get it done, you can get it done."

Masoli went through quarterback and running back drills for scouts Monday. He threw to receivers Markeith Summers and Lionel Breaux, and even tight end Reggie Hicks. Then he lined up as a running back, catching passes out of the backfield.

"I felt it went OK," he said. "You definitely always feel like you could have taken it a little further, but I felt I had a great day today."

Masoli starred for three seasons at quarterback for Oregon and Ole Miss. As a Rebel, he broke Norris Weese's school record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a single season with 544 yards, and ranked seventh in the Southeastern Conference in total offense.

Six franchises have expressed strong interest in Masoli, though he chose not to name any franchise specifically. Masoli plans to return to California to continue his training.

"I'll be back home, just training and working out, just waiting for the call. That's pretty much the plan for most of us," he said.


Back to School:


Dexter McCluster was one of a handful of former players lending support at pro day. But unlike some of the others, McCluster didn't have to travel far to reach the familiar confines of the IPF.

McCluster, who recently wrapped his rookie season with the Kansas City Chiefs, re-enrolled at the university earlier this spring, and is currently taking two classes -- broadcast journalism and English 376.

"Actually, Kansas City, they were a big role in that," he said. "I wanted to come back, but I wasn't sure when. They actually came to me and said ‘Dex, we see you only have this many classes. You can go and knock it out. How do you feel about it?' I said ‘You know what? I might as well do it now.'"


McCluster is currently enrolled in two classes at Ole Miss
Ben Garrett
McCluster is no ordinary student. Funny, he isn't even allowed in the classroom. His teachers thought he'd be a distraction to the class, so he meets with his teachers in their respective offices, and takes his classes in the computer lab.

"It was kind of hard coming back, after spending a year in the league, to get back in that school mode. But I'm back in it, and I'm almost finished," he said.

McCluster rushed for 71 yards on 18 carries last season. He caught 22 passes for 213 yards and one touchdown. He made his mark in the return game in the season-opener against the San Diego Chargers, when he fielded a punt and raced 94 yards for a touchdown.

"The funny part about that was I hadn't returned (a punt) all night," he said. "I'm nervous at the time. It's raining. I'm back there like, ‘C'mon, Dex, catch the ball and everything else will happen.' When the ball's in the air, I'm looking up and the water was dropping in my eyes. When I caught it and realized how much room I had, instinct kicked in. And once I made one miss, I had a convoy leading me to the promise land."

With ongoing labor strife in the NFL, McCluster is keeping himself in shape at Underconstruction Fitness here in Oxford under the guidance of Dennis Montgomery. And every so often, he returns to the IPF for workouts.

"I like to keep in touch with these guys, because this is where it all started," he said.


Showing Support:


It's been a busy year for Oher.

After his second season at offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens, he spent a month on tour to promote his new book "I Beat the Odds," co-written with Don Yaeger. He even made a stop at Square Books a month or so ago.

Monday, he returned to the program that made him a first-round selection, watching attentively as his former teammates ran through the very same drills he had two years prior.

"Proud of the guys. Everybody's doing the best they can do. Just showing support. Everybody looked good today," he said.

Oher made the move from right tackle to left tackle, his natural position, last season due to a season-ending back injury suffered by starter Jared Gaither. The Ravens made the playoffs, but were eliminated in the divisional round by the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers went on to the Super Bowl.

"Just got to keep getting better. We got a great team coming back. It's a great organization. I think we'll be all right next year," Oher said. "I'm going to try and get better every day. That's the thing at this level, you've got to continue to work and continue to grow. You're never going to learn enough."


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