Pro Day Tour: Illini Sack Master Shines Again

With pro-day season hitting its stride, we begin our daily look at where the Packers' scouts were dispatched. At Illinois, has Whitney Mercilus risen out of the Packers' range? And what two Scouting Combine snubs impressed scouts?

Whitney Mercilus solidified his first-round standing — not to mention his standing on the Green Bay Packers' draft board — on Tuesday.

Mercilus, the ace pass-rusher who had a formal interview with the Packers at the Scouting Combine, impressed at Illinois' pro day. Veteran scout Shaun Herock was the Packers' representative as 29 teams made the trek to Champaign, Ill.

Mercilus (6-4, 254) mostly stood on his testing numbers from the Scouting Combine, where his 4.68 in the 40-yard dash ranked fourth among the defensive linemen, but improved his short shuttle (from 4.53 seconds to 4.49) and three-cone drill (from 7.17 seconds to 7.03), according to results released by the school.

Mercilus led the nation with 16 sacks and tied the NCAA record with nine forced fumbles. He played defensive end for the Illini but would be moved to outside linebacker in the Packers' 3-4 scheme. According to a source who attended the workout, Mercilus excelled in linebacker drills.

"He can definitely play outside (linebacker) in their scheme," the source said. "Their problem is he's risen to the point that he might not be there for them (with pick No. 28 of the first round)."

One name to remember as a potential undrafted free agent is running back Jason Ford. Going into last year's draft, the Packers loved Illini back Mikel Leshoure but also were high on his backup, Ford. As a senior, the 255-pound bruiser rushed for 600 yards (3.9 average) and seven touchdowns and added 19 catches for 130 yards. He missed the bowl game after being ruled academically ineligible.

"Blocking, catching passes and being versatile. I can play some running back or West Coast fullback. That will help me out a lot. I can definitely do some different things," Ford told Scout.com's Aaron Wilson before the workout.

Arkansas

The Razorbacks' top draft prospects are receivers Joe Adams, Jarius Wright and Greg Childs, defensive end/outside linebacker Jake Bequette and Scouting Combine snubs Tramain Thomas and Jerry Franklin.

Thomas, a 6-foot, 200-pound safety, ran his 40 in 4.51 seconds with an impressive vertical of 38.5 inches. He had 101 tackles and five interceptions as a senior. Franklin (6-1, 242), who projects to an inside linebacker in a 3-4, ran 4.60. Only three linebackers at the Combine beat Franklin's time. As a senior, he had a team-high 101 tackles.

Of the receivers, Childs is seen as the lesser of the prospects but he turned in a 4.41 in the 40, much better than his 4.55 from the Combine. Childs had just 21 catches as a senior, far behind Wright's 66 (with 12 touchdowns and a 16.9-yard average) and Adams' 54. Wright and Bequette rested on their Combine numbers. Adams ran a 4.55.

Auburn

Last year, it was the Cam Newton show. This year, the Tigers might not have anyone picked in the first two days of the draft.

The best prospect is tackle Brandon Mosley, who should go in the third or fourth round. Mosley (6-6, 311), a two-year starter, opened one game at left tackle and 12 at right tackle to earn second-team all-SEC honors as a senior.

Safety Neiko Thorpe (6-1, 198) impressed with a 4.40 in the 40 and a 38-inch vertical leap. The three-year starter had 102 tackles and three interceptions as a senior.

Georgia Tech

Wide receiver Stephen Hill, who blew away the Combine with a 4.36 in the 40, caught 28 passes for 820 yards and five touchdowns in 2011, his 29.3 yards per reception leading the nation. The 6-foot-4 Hill, who almost certainly is a top-25 pick, caught all 12 passes thrown his way on Tuesday but stuck with his 40-yard time from the Combine. The Yellow Jackets likely won't have anyone else drafted.

Alabama-Birmingham

Director of college scouting John Dorsey was at Monday's event. The Blazers' only draftable prospect is offensive lineman Matt McCants, who has a third-round grade from NFLDraftScout.com.

McCants (6-5, 308) started as a true freshman in 2007, sat out 2008 for academic reasons, then started the final three years. In all, he started 42 games and was a two-time all-Conference USA first-team selection. He ran his 40 in 5.45 seconds, a shade better than his 5.52 at the Scouting Combine.

Georgia

The Bulldogs' have three offensive linemen of interest: center Ben Jones, guard Cordy Glenn and tackle Justin Anderson. The Packers might need Jones (6-2, 303) should Scott Wells depart in free agency, a source said the Packers are high on the mountainous Glenn (6-5, 345), who started at left tackle as a senior, and they had a formal interview with Anderson (6-4, 335) at the Scouting Combine. Anderson did 32 reps on the bench; otherwise, they stuck with their Combine numbers.

Cornerback Brandon Boykin, who injured a leg at the Senior Bowl, didn't run at the Combine or on Monday. He'll have a private workout in April. Boykin won the Paul Hornung Award as the nation's most versatile player.

Kicker Blair Walsh, the No. 1 scorer in SEC history, made 16-of-17 kicks, including a 60-yarder.

Hawaii

West Coast scout Sam Seale was in attendance, with the Warriors hosting the pro day in California. The star performer was small-school cornerback Ace Jackson of Cal-Poly, who ran as fast a 4.43. At the Combine, he had a 34-inch vertical; on Monday, he recorded a 37.5-inch leap.

Jackson, who was selected to the Great West Conference's all-time team, was a four-year starter and an FCS All-American as a senior. He picked off two passes in each of his four seasons.

Hawaii linebacker Corey Paredes (5-10, 235), who finished with 312 career tackles, ran his 40 in 4.55 seconds. He's seen as an asset as a rotational linebacker and core special-teamer. To amplify his chances of making a team — most likely as an undrafted free agent — he was put through fullback drills.

Catching up ...

The Packers were in attendance at Missouri and Miami (Ohio) on Thursday.

Ohio guard Brandon Brooks was arguably the biggest Combine snub, regardless of position. Brooks (6-5, 346) put up two eye-popping numbers: a 4.98 in the 40 and 36 reps on the bench. He'll be going through position drills during a separate pro day this Thursday.

At Missouri, the top prospect is tight end Michael Egnew. He looked good in receiving drills but didn't run the 40 because of a hamstring that tightened at the Combine. Guard Austin Wuebbels put up 40 reps on the 225-pound bench press. Kicker Grant Ressel made all 13 field goals, including from 50, 55 and 60 yards. Receiver Wes Kemp, a late-round prospect, opened eyes. He's 6-foot-3, ran the 40 in 4.45 and had 22 reps on the bench.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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