49ers scouting top college LBs

The 49ers will be looking to pull out at least one - and probably two - top linebacker prospects in this year's linebacker-rich draft. The Niners got a closer look at a few top LB prospects they already are familiar with - Iowa's Chad Greenway and Abdul Hodge and Alabama's DeMeco Ryans - along with prospects at other positions at recent college Pro Days. Here are reports from the Pro Days at Alabama, Iowa and Southern Mississippi.

ALABAMA

The last big day for Alabama's NFL draft eligible seniors was held in Tuscaloosa, as scores of professional scouts and some coaches came to check out the departed Alabama class that includes several players that have caught the 49ers' interest.

Working out for the scouts were a host of players that included DeMeco Ryans, Brodie Croyle, Mark Anderson, Rudy Griffin, Roman Harper, Victor Horn, Ray Hudson, Juke King, Canary Knight, Drew Lane, Anthony Madison, Charlie Peprah, Freddie Roach and Ryan Saxby.

Anderson, who was working drills with the linebackers was happy with his NFL combine time and did not run the 40-yard dash, but Roach and Ryans both tried - and apparently succeeded - at improving their times.

"The only thing I did here (besides position drills) was the 40. I let them go off the combine for everything else," said Ryans, who is one of the several college linebackers the Niners are watching closely. "I ran better. I don't know specifically, some people had me at 4.59 and some people had me at 4.61."

Roach also suspected he improved his run, breaking below the 4.7 mark by at least one hand timing.

Ray Hudson said some of the scouts had him at 4.4 in the 40. Each player was given two runs.

As for further draft preparation, Ryans said he's now focusing on getting better at the drills since his times are in. He said he weighed 240 pounds at the Pro Day, the heaviest he has been. He played at about 225 pounds last year.

Ryans wasn't about to speculate on where he might be drafted or by whom, though he knows the 49ers have expressed interest.

"I could have my opinion about who's going where but it doesn't matter because you never know what the teams are going to do," he said. "They (outside experts) don't know who's on their draft boards. It's just going off of opinions. Everybody has opinions about the draft just like they have an opinion about the NCAA tournament. You never know what they're going to do."

Croyle was pleased with his performances in throwing to some of his old teammates before the pro scouts. The Niners expressed interest in Croyle during Senior Bowl week in February, and he'll be considered by San Francisco depending on how long he last in the draft. Croyle has improved his stock enough where he appears certain to be a Day 1 pick who could slip into the second round.

"I felt really, really good about today," he said. "I threw the ball the best I've thrown it. I think we missed one ball on the whole day so I feel pretty good going into the draft. It's pretty much down time right now."

Croyle has been working with Zeke Bratkowski, a former NFL quarterback and personal coach.

"He's helped out a lot, especially coming down here organizing all this making sure we had everybody here," Croyle said. "We went through that workout a couple of times and it paid off for us."

Croyle also declined to guess on where he might go in the draft.

"As soon as you think you're going somewhere they end up getting a quarterback the next day," Croyle said.

IOWA

Representatives from throughout the NFL flocked to Iowa City for the Hawkeyes' Pro Day, where the 49ers got another look at linebacker Chad Greenway - a player very foremost on their radar - along with several others.

In addition to Greenway, Ed Hinkel, Abdul Hodge, David Walker, Clinton Solomon, Brian Ferentz, Jovon Johnson, Antwan Allen, and Adolphus Shelton worked out for the pro player personnel.

After running his second 40-yard dash, Greenway pulled up with a tweaked left hamstring. He seemed in good spirits and word had it that it was minor. Greenway clocked 4.4 on his first run and 4.6 on the pull-up. Chad spent some time with a Browns rep and skipped the bench press.

Here are some other unofficial 40 times: Hodge (4.7, 4.7, 4.74); Johnson (4.56, 4.54); Shelton (4.45, 4.3); Solomon (4.58, 4.49), Jackson (4.78, 4.85), Allen (4.66), Ferentz (5.32).

Greenway seemed very pleased with his times, while Hodge took a third shot to try to better his times.

Johnson looked ripped. If the guy was a few inches taller, scouts might be talking about a second-round pick. He looked very good in the defensive back drills and drew praise from the NFL scouts running that station.

Allen struggled a bit with change of directions and acceleration.

Marques Simmons showed up briefly but wore street clothes and didn't work out.

The Rams defensive coordinator Jim Haslett attended the workout. St. Louis picks 11th in the first round.

SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI

The University of Southern Mississippi's Pro Day was a showcase of 10 seniors, two players from the school's 2004 team and one other local player.

The Golden Eagles didn't have anyone invited to the NFL Combine, so this was most of the players' last chances to display their ability before the draft on April 29-30.

"It's definitely stressful," USM quarterback Dustin Almond said. "You've got the nerves and you still have to channel them in the right way. "You work out two or three months just to get ready for one day."

That one day includes a couple hours of measurements - height, weight, reach, 40-yard dash, shuttle time, 15-yard suicides, bench press, vertical jump, broad jump, personality and intelligence.

The atmosphere could be described as serious while the chiseled group moved from station to station.

Representatives from the 49ers - along with those from the Vikings, Texans, Eagles, Titans, Colts, Panthers, Raiders, Saints,Jaguars, Patriots and Giants - all held stopwatches and clipboards before stopping at various junctions to compare notes.

"It was kind of nerve racking," said USM linebacker Kevis Coley, who was named Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year. "Finally getting it over with is a big stress relief. I was really excited to come out and do everything you can to impress them."

Southern Miss cornerback and C-USA first-team all-conference kick returner John Eubanks added, "Everybody was anxious to just get out here and perform."

Even though the players feel pressure to excel, decisions aren't solely based on a Pro Day effort. The scouts acknowledge that the system is much more comprehensive.

"You don't want to overvalue what we're doing here, but it gives you an idea of how fast or athletic a kid is," New Orleans Saints College Scouting Coordinator Rick Thompson said. "It's just a piece of the pie when you're doing your final evaluation."

But certain players did make a positive mark on that evaluation.

"The Coleys stole the show," USM defensive lineman Akeem Lockett said.

Kevis Coley and twin brother Trevis were the most impressive and talked about athletes at the workout. Trevis, a safety, was a 2005 first-team all-conference defensive back. The two simply looked like the most polished athletes on the field.

Thompson, who mentioned the Coleys, said that Almond looked good, also. Almond is scheduled soon for an individual workout with the Jaguars.

Eubanks, the Coleys and defensive lineman Tom Johnson were the last players being interviewed and taking written tests for various scouts. Only a few players were asked to take those tests.

"I was kind of nervous, but as I got here the nervousness kind of went away," Trevis said. "I feel like I did what I had to do."

It was a strange day for punter Luke Johnson, who was the third Golden Eagle to earn first-team all-conference honors. He didn't need to do any of the running, agility or weight lifting activities, so Johnson waited around for about two hours before kicking. But when called upon, the scouts wanted just 12 punts in a strong wind.

"Conditions weren't perfect, and everything wasn't what I thought it'd be, but you still have to go out there and do what they ask of you," Luke Johnson said. "You just have got to be ready. Especially being a punter, there's no second down. You get your one shot."

Luke Johnson, however, did have a recent workout for the Chicago Bears. They came to Hattiesburg, specifically, looking at the punter.

"They just called me up out of the blue on my birthday (March 2)," he said. "It was a pretty good birthday present. It went really good. I haven't really heard anything on it."

The players planned on taking a few days off before getting back into a workout routine. Every one of them have been training for this day since the season ended. Now the focus is the draft.

"Really, it's just a waiting period right now," Tom Johnson said.


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