Pro day gives Ducks last shot at improvements

The Oregon Ducks held their annual pro day for NFL Draft hopefuls on Thursday afternoon at the Moshofsky Center.

Ten seniors including Mark Asper, Anthony Gildon, Terrell Turner and David Paulson were joined by early draft entrants LaMichael James, Darron Thomas and former Duck Cliff Harris to participate in drills in front of dozens of pro scouts.

Thomas, perhaps the most shocking early entrant in the draft from Oregon, looked sharp while throwing balls to Paulson, James, wide receiver Lavasier Tuinei and former Duck tight end Brandon Williams. He hit most of his receivers in stride and showed an obvious improvement in his footwork and velocity. But, his improved accuracy is what scouts will take into consideration come draft day. He elected not to talk to the media after the workout.

Only a couple of players made themselves available for media after the session was over and no official times were given out, though there were some rumblings.

James was clocked at 4.29 and 4.36 seconds for his 40-yard dash times by running backs coach Gary Campbell, but, according to the Register-Guard's Rob Moseley, scouts collectively seemed to time him at 4.41. He clocked in officially at 4.45 seconds at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis and said he was happy with his improvement.

The running back has moved around on the draft boards, but could end up taken as the second running back in the draft behind Alabama's Trent Richardson. Consistency has been the key for James this offseason as well as demonstrating his mental toughness in addition to his impressive statistics.

"That's what I take pride in," James said. "I feel like nobody can stop me."

James said afterwards that he plans on relaxing back home in Texas and catching up with friends and family before the draft. Though he has meetings with some teams already scheduled, he declined to specify any further.

Paulson continued to show off his ability to catch about anything that is thrown in his vicinity during the route drills with Thomas. At one point, Thomas fired a low laser at the 6-4 tight end's knees as he ran a vertical route, only for him to reach out with one hand to corral the ball with ease. He shut himself down early due to tightness in his hamstring.

After leaving the combine without a sense of satisfaction, Paulson said he was happy about improving his time in the 40-yard dash, which he said was timed between 4.66 to 4.71 seconds. He was timed at 4.95 seconds in Indianapolis.

"That was the biggest thing I wanted to improve today," Paulson said. "That's about what I was going for so I'm happy with that."

Paulson said his speed is a big key as he's not viewed as the typical NFL tight end by scouts. He will be receiving his MBA in the spring, something that he thinks will help him achieve his goal of making a team.

"It shows them my intelligence, shows I'm a hard worker," Paulson said. "I set a goal for myself and I'm determined to get it."

Harris, who was dismissed from the team for numerous off the field incidents last fall, was still allowed to participate at pro day. He said he added 25 pounds while training in Indianapolis with St. Vincent's Sports Performance in anticipation for the draft. Though he has lost some agility (he ran a 4.59 40-yard dash at the combine), his added strength will be a welcome addition in the NFL.

With his family looking on, Harris, along with Gildon, were impressive during footwork and coverage drills. But Gildon, like Paulson, was forced to shut down early due to a hamstring injury. Harris himself was so exhausted due to the intensity of the drills that he vomited outside afterwards.

Slated to go in the second or third round of the draft according to some projections, Harris has been a wild card of sorts due to his extremely limited playing time last season. His off the field incidents have been a cause of concern for the teams that have taken an interest in him, something that he isn't shy about discussing.

"I feel like with my past, I have a lot to prove in general," Harris said. "I'm trying to show everybody that history won't repeat itself."

Overall, 14 Ducks were listed on the pro day roster, including former offensive lineman Bo Thran. Head coach Chip Kelly was also in attendance.

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