On Monday, the Packers sent a scout to the new Linebacker U — Iowa.
The Hawkeyes' have three talented linebacker prospects, Anthony Hitchens, Christian Kirksey and James Morris. All project inside in the Packers' 3-4 scheme, though Morris might be able to go outside, as well.
Morris had a big day and figures to "skyrocket" up draft boards, according to a source. Still recovering from a grueling season, Morris (6-1, 242) ran a sluggish 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine with a 4.80 and a 34.5-inch vertical. On Monday, however, he ran in 4.59 with a 36-inch vertical jump That 40 time would have ranked among the top three linebackers at the Combine.
The time should have come as no surprise to people like Packers general manager Ted Thompson, who are regular visitors at Iowa. In the Hawkeyes' football complex, there are pictures of the 40-yard dash record-holders. Morris is the school's all-time fastest linebacker, ahead of the likes of former first-round pick Chad Greenway and former second-round pick Pat Angerer.
Morris recorded 106 tackles as a senior, including seven sacks and 17 tackles for losses. He added four interceptions and two forced fumbles. He was second-team all-Big Ten, an Academic All-American, team captain and one of 18 National Football Foundation Scholar-Athletes with a 3.9 grade point average.
Kirksey (6-2, 233) didn't test at the Combine due to an injured hamstring. According to NFL.com, Kirksey ran in 4.50 with a 36-inch vertical. As a senior, he had 104 tackles, 2.5 sacks, five tackles for losses and two forced fumbles to be named an honorable mention on the all-Big Ten team.
Anthony Hitchens (6-0, 240) ran in 4.60 with a 35.5-inch vertical, according to NFL.com. Those are big improvements over his 4.74 and 31.5-inch vertical from the Combine. As a senior, he was second-team all-Big Ten with his 112 tackles, two sacks, 13.5 tackles for losses and two forced fumbles. He played running back, safety and cornerback during his Iowa career.
C.J. Fiedorowicz (6-6, 266) is one of the best blockers among this year's tight ends and a decent possession receiver but hardly a game-breaker like Jermichael Finley. Fiedorowicz, who ran in 4.76 at the Combine, has a chance to be the fifth tight end off the board.
North Carolina State
The Wolfpack's lone draftable prospect is towering cornerback Dontae Johnson (6-2, 200). He had one of the best Combines of any defensive back, with his 4.45 in the 40 and a 38.5-inch vertical. He stuck with those numbers and had a good workout, according to a source.
Johnson, who opened his career at safety before shifting to corner for his final two seasons, picked off three passes as a senior, including two against Florida State.
"I feel like the things that the Seattle Seahawks corners did this year definitely helped us bigger corners out a lot," Johnson told the Charlotte Observer after his workout. "They played tremendously well pressing and just being able to move like a 5-10 guy. It opened the door for us big corners for us to showcase our talents at the next level."
Tight end Asa Watson (6-2, 239), the brother of NFL veteran tight end Ben Watson, ran in 4.65, according to NFL.com. He caught three passes in 12 games as a senior. He missed 2011 after heart surgery to fix a rapid heartbeat, then caught 24 passes in 2012.
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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 email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.