Helping Their Cause
He was the last to run the 40.
He was also the fastest, clocking an amazing 4.30.
"He" was not Dexter McCluster.
Cassius Vaughn, a starting corner for the Rebs last year, was his name and, on this day, Pro Day at Ole Miss, speed was his game.
Vaughn was one of several former Rebels with dreams of the NFL, including McCluster, who bettered themselves in the eyes of the scouts due to the performances they turned in Tuesday in the IPF.
The NFL allows the media to attend the function, but the only numbers that can be reported are the ones the players tell the media themselves. (NFL.com will post all the numbers on their web site in a day or two, we were told.)
Regardless, the mood was good after the four-hour testing period.
"I have been flying under the radar a little bit," said Vaughn with a wide grin, "but I think I got some people to notice me today. I had some up and down games in my career at Ole Miss, but I always knew I had the ability.
"I ran a 4.30 and 4.34. I knew it was in there somewhere - I just had to pull it out. Corners don't really run 40s so I have been working on them hard for the past two months. I'm pleased with the way things have turned out. This was a great moment in my football life. I also broad jumped 10-7 1/2 and had a vertical of 35".
"Everytime I did something good, that just built my momentum and adrenaline. Today was a blessing."
Several other Rebels had their shining moments as well.
LB Patrick Trahan shucked the rejection of not being invited to last month's NFL combine in Indianapolis and put up a good showing also.
"I have been hearing a lot of good things since I tested," said Trahan. "I did real well on the broad jump and I ran in the 4.5s in the 40, so that created a little buzz with the scouts.
"I'm healthy now and feel like I am in a better position after today. I was surprised I wasn't invited to the big stage of the combine, but that's OK because I was able to show what I can do at home (Ole Miss)."
FS Kendrick Lewis went to the combine and didn't run well. He needed to put up a better 40 time and did so.
"My focus was on my 40 time. I didn't run well at the combine so I have been working on that since," said Lewis. "Today I ran a 4.61 and a 4.64, so I improved and helped myself.
"I thought I did very well in all the ball skill drills."
Lewis said he is "anxious and nervous" about the April draft.
"I just want to know where I am going to be next year and I want to get drafted - that would be a great feeling," he stated. "I did my best today and bettered my situation. Now it's in the hands of God and the NFL, and I trust both."
QB Jevan Snead put on a passing exhibition, throwing to Dexter, Shay Hodge, Gerald Harris, Cordera Eason and a couple of others.
He was as sharp as he's ever been throwing every pass imaginable, both on the move and stationary.
"I felt great. It was really good to get back out there with my teammates again and to throw," he said. "I definitely helped myself. I had a terrific day throwing. I made every throw today - the deep ball was on target and I felt comfortable with all the routes.
"I wanted to show I could make all the throws required and I think I succeeded today."
Jevan has been working with Jerry Rome in his preparations for the combine and Pro Day.
"We didn't change a whole lot. He told me I have been blessed with a good motion, strong arm and quick release," Jevan explained. "We worked on my footwork and a seven-step drop, which I have never done before.
"It was just a good opportunity for me to back up my combine effort with another strong showing. I wanted to prove the combine was not a fluke and that I can throw as good as anyone."
Snead has really taken a liking to the NFL football he's now throwing.
"I love it. It fits my hand great - perfectly in fact. As soon as I picked it up, I knew it was the ball for me," said Snead, who will hang out in Oxford for a couple of weeks and go through some individual team workouts while awaiting the draft.
DE Greg Hardy had a different mindset in his approach to the draft. While he had some things to show on the physical side - good health being one, he also had to prove some things to NFL teams about Greg the person.
"I just wanted people to get to know me and find out I am a good guy who will work hard," said Hardy, whose Ole Miss career was besieged with injury which affected his play and, at times, his attitude. "It was a fun process to me. I think I got the point across that any team that takes me can depend on me to give them everything I've got."
Greg got up to 282 pounds around the time of the Cotton Bowl, but is down to 277 now. That's a weight he's handling much better, he said.
"I feel faster and more agile. My foot and wrist are great now," said Hardy. "I helped myself today. I had a 36 1/2" vertical. I also felt I did very well with the position drills. It's a fact that my best football is ahead of me. I'm only 21 and I've gone through some injuries and that's a point I think has been driven home to the scouts."
Greg's workout partner, Dexter McCluster, had a poor time, for him, in the 40 at the combine and was driven to improve that at Pro Day. The 40 and the cone drill - besides some position drills and catching passes from Jevan - were the only tests he took.
"I ran a 4.43 and a 4.47, which makes me happy. I knew I could do better that I did at the combine where I stumbled at the start," Dexter noted. "I never doubted myself. I know I can run. All I can tell a scout is that if someone is chasing me, they are not going to catch me. I'm going to score."
McCluster also did well in the L drill, which he was not able to participate in at the combine.
"I ran a 6.4 the first time, but I brushed the cone and it did not count. My second time was 6.5 and would have been the best, or one of the best, at the combine," he said.
Dexter said the question of his size was a factor in early interviews, but that has almost disappeared when he benched 225 pounds 20 times at the combine.
"They know I am strong and they can see on film I have toughness so that issue has gone away mostly," he said. "I'm also thankful to the smaller guys in the league who have opened things up for other smaller guys. Guys like Chris Johnson. They are playmakers. I am a playmaker. Give me a chance and I won't let you down."
The scouts are talking to Dexter more as a slot receiver than a running back and he's also being approached about the return game. He has no qualms with any of that.
"I will play anywhere they tell me and I'll make sure they are happy with my play," he added. "I'm going to show my versatility if I am given that opportunity."
Dexter has loved the evaluation process.
"Whether it's been an interview or drawing plays on the board or working out, it's been a lot of fun," he closed. "The physical side has been the easy part, but the whole deal has been great. It's going to seem like forever until draft day, but I can't wait."
OL John Jerry, who is now a svelte 330 pounds, did very well in his position drills and benched 225 31 times at his new weight.
WR Shay Hodge, who ran a 4.5 40, caught everything Snead threw and looked smooth doing it.
CB Marshay Green had a vertical jump of 37" and ran a 4.5 40. He was also Dexter-ish with his time in the L drill, which shows quickness and ability to change directions.
"It was a very good day for our seniors," said Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt. "They definitely helped themselves. It was great to see them excel and perform, but it sure was a harsh reminder of what we are having to replace on our team."
Tick, tick, tick until draft day, but at least the Rebels who participated in Pro Day can rest well knowing they helped their cause.
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