Unfamiliar faces lined the bleachers of a familiar place for seventeen former Tennessee football prospects Wednesday. Scouts from 27 NFL teams and a handful of CFL franchises crowded the sidelines of Anderson Training Facility as the Vol players ran combine drills for the university's 2016 Pro Day, all hoping to catch an eye and sign a contract to play at the next level.
Two of Tennessee's participants already got a chance to showcase their skill set to scouts at the NFL Combine earlier in the month. Hybrid defensive lineman/linebacker Curt Maggitt and wide receiver Marquez North attended the Pro Day, with both players choosing to forgo certain drills to stick with their combine numbers. Maggitt only participated in the bench press (22 reps of 225 pounds) and position drills, while North decided to re-run his 40-yard-dash that was laser timed at a 4.48 at the NFL Combine.
The junior was able to shave 0.6 seconds off his time and impressed scouts in the process as he clocked a 4.42.
"I was real happy with it," North said. "I had confidence in myself to run it again. I know I could improve just a little bit, so that's all that matters. I always wanted to do it again. Like I said, I felt like I could improve just a little bit."
North ended the day with a 7.08 time on the three-cone drill and clocked an 11.78 60-yard shuttle and is expected to be the first Tennessee player potentially drafted despite an injury-plagued senior season in which he caught just five passes for 58 yards.
Another player whose stock rose was safety Brian Randolph, the fifth-year senior who started in 47 games for Tennessee during his career. The gregarious defensive back guaranteed reporters on Tuesday that he would bench press at least 30 reps and run a 4.4 40-yard-dash. The Georgia native delivered, repping 225 pounds 31 times and clocking a 4.40 40-time on his second attempt.
"I told y'all I was going to hit that 4.4, I told y'all 30 reps, and that's what happened," a smiling Randolph said. "I never lacked speed. I never lacked strength. I just lacked height. I don't like to talk too much until it's time. I gave y'all a little preview yesterday and I just had to show it today."
Randolph helped himself even more by notching a 31-inch vertical jump and unofficial 4.28 shuttle as he hopes to be one of the first Tennessee players drafted since 2014, when a consecutive streak of at least one Vol player being taken in the draft ended after 52 years.
"I didn't have no pressure," Randolph said of the Pro Day. "I was supposed to run a 4.7 (40-yard-dash), and I don't think it gets no worse than that. I probably could have backpedaled a 4.7. There was no pressure, it was just fun."
The former safety was joined by former walk-on defensive back Max Arnold and former offensive lineman Owen Williams, both of whom intrigued scouts with productive drill times and solid showings during position drills. Williams bench pressed 225 pounds 42 times, just missing the NFL Combine record of 46.
But perhaps the biggest buzz of the day went to tight end Alex Ellis, who ran a 4.70 40-yard-dash and an 11.65 60-yard shuttle as he began to get noticed by NFL scouts.
"It felt like a good day overall," Ellis said. "It was just fun being out here with the guys for one last time. You grind all that time together, so it was a good time. I'd say it was a pretty good turnout."
Best Results (Unofficial):
Bench Press - Owen Williams (42 reps of 225 pounds)
Vertical Jump - Max Arnold (36 inches)
40-Yard-Dash - Brian Randolph (4.40 seconds)
60-Yard Shuttle: Max Arnold (11.10 seconds)
Shuttle Drill: Pig Howard (4.27 seconds)
Three-Cone Drill: Alex Ellis (6.77 seconds)