Combine Notebook, Gurley, Mariota and more

Here's a deep notebook with stories and notes on some backs, quarterbacks and receivers including Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley, Bryce Petty, Melvin Gordon, Todd Gurley, Mike Davis, Ameer Abdullah and much more.

Indianapolis - There’s no denying the ability of Georgia running back Todd Gurley. When healthy, he’s the best running back in this draft class and one of the very best overall talents.

Gurley is that good.

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But there are two big questions that he has to overcome. First, he’s coming off major surgery after injuring his knee in November. Second, Gurley missed time last fall due from breaking NCAA rules.

So when it comes to his combine this week he needs to do well on his interviews, explaining what happened and why it happened. Then he will go through the medical, as the NFL and team specific doctors examine his knee injured.

To Gurley’s credit, he’s here to answer all.

”It’s about the first impression,” Gurley said. “I am going to be myself. They can ask all the questions and I will tell the truth. I have to man up to my mistakes. I made a dumb mistake but I know I am a great person. It was the best/worst decision I have ever made but I learned from it.

”My knee is getting better. I am doing some light jogging, some lateral work and leg strengthening. The timetable was six to nine months. So for me it’s about the medical and the interviews.”

Gurley showed genuine sincerity and a very good attitude when answering all the questions from the NFL press. He’s hoping to persuade any notions about his health and character knowing when healthy he’s a member of a very good running back crop entering the NFL.

”This is a deep class,” Gurley said. “There are some very talented guys. I want to be the No. 1 pick among the group but I know right now my knee is not right. But I am getting healthy. I didn’t come here to be the No. 5 running back taken or a second round guy. I want to be the best. I will come in and help a team. I know what I can do.”

Someone will take Gurley but it’s too early to say when and where he will go in the draft. Regardless of where he lands, a healthy Gurley will make one NFL team a lot better.

”It’s [injuries] part of football,” Gurley said. “I have played football all my life. It’s part of the game. I know what kind of back I am. And I will work as hard as I can. My weaknesses are anything without the ball. But pass protection is something I will work on and I know I have the heart to do it.”

Gurley may not be working out at the combine but he will be plenty busy. Aside from all the doctors that will examine his knee he has 24 different team interviews lined up tonight and tomorrow. Teams want to get to know the Bulldog.


NFL FEATURES

Gordon scores big
Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon could have come out early for the NFL Draft last season but elected to come back to Madison. The move literally paid off. He had a spectacular season, improved as a player and saw his draft stock rise in the process.

”Coming back is a decision I'm proud of,” Gordon said. “I am more complete running back and a better football player. I wasn't perfect but they can count on me in passing game running game and [pass] protection.”

Gordon led the nation in rushing in 2014. He rushed for 2,587 yards, falling 41 yards short of Barry Sanders single season rushing record.

”To be mentioned in same sentence as Barry sanders is an honor,” Gordon said. “I was 40 yards away . It sucked a little bit but it is what it is.”

It’s expected that Gordon and Todd Gurley will be the first two running backs taken in the draft.


Mariota transitioning
There was a parade of reporters that engulfed Marcus Mariota when he spoke in front of the NFL media. Like he has shown in the past Mariota was poised under the pressure.

The Heisman Trophy winner from Oregon was peppered with questions regarding his transition from the Ducks spread attack to the pro-style game to what team he will eventually be drafted by.

Obviously, those are questions unknown.

”I can only control what I can control,” Mariota said. “I can control how I prepare. As far as who picks me I can’t answer any of that stuff.

What Mariota can control is how he works and how much he learns. But as he says, it’s just a natural progression that any NFL rookie has to make.

”It will be an adjustment,” Mariota said. “I think all rookies go through it. I am just trying to absorb as much as I can and do my best. I am working on my five and seven step drops, reading defenses and working on all the NFL throws.”

It’s hard to show because you just don’t know until the bullets are flying for real. There’s no denying what he put on film was outstanding in quarterbacking the high flying Ducks. But this is a different animal.

”It starts with the interviews,” Mariota said. “I need to show them I can make the progressions and reads and just go from there. It’s just going to be an adjustment. I know I will put in the work to handle it. It starts with the drops, route concepts and my feet. It’s all an adjustment. I will put my best foot forward every day. I will find ways to get better.


Hundley with something to prove
All the quarterback talk is about Jameis and Marcus; Winston and Mariota. While he admires those two signal callers UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley wants to show the NFL that he deserves to be in that conversation.

”I want to show that I am the top overall quarterback,” Hundley said. “I can lead a team and I will make the most of this opportunity. I will work hard every day and I will prove you wrong. Working hard and leadership are two things I do. “

Part of the knock on Hundley is that he comes from a spread and runs too much. That’s another issue that he wants to dispel.

”I can throw the football,” Hundley said. “In our offense, if things weren’t open I would run. So I need to show [the NFL] that I can sit in the pocket and make throws. I just do what is asked of me within the offense. The best thing I can do is sit and talk with these coaches and go over film, explaining to them what I see with the reads. I need to express that and go over that in great detail. It’s huge for me. I can’t wait to sit in the classroom and talk [to these coaches].”

Hundley’s idol is Donovan McNabb. The two have connected and a mutual connection has spun off, as Hundley soaks in everything the former NFL veteran as told him.

”I love Donovan to death,” Hundley said. “He has helped me through my journey. It’s a process and it’s been smooth and unique. We talk about the process and transition for when I get there all the time. He had that it factor and I think I will bring that.”


Petty soaking it up
Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty is soaking it all in. He had a terrific press conference in front of all the NFL media. You can tell he’s hungry and humble, as the draft process trolls on.

”You really don’t know until you live it out,” Petty said. “The Senior Bowl was great for me so the combine should be a breeze.

”I am learning and absorbing everything. I have a passion and a love for the game of football. That’s hard to find on a piece of paper. I know the opportunity I have before me. I know there is one team that will love me and I will love them back and give them everything I have.”

Petty is a fun passer to watch. At times he makes things looks so easy. He’s smooth and throws a pretty ball. But there’s more to it than that. He comes from a spread attack in Waco and knows that converting his game to the pro game will be a transition. Still, he has no regrets and looks forward to the opportunity.

”I would do it all over again,” Petty said. “I love Baylor. I would do it the same way. Coach [Art] Briles is an outstanding coach. We had some great teams. He really prepared me. Sure there will be a learning curve but it’s that way for all rookie quarterbacks. It’s part of the process.”


A fast riser
A fast riser up the draft charts over the past few weeks has been UCF wide receiver Breshad Perriman. He’s a big, physical wide receiver (6-2/212) with good speed.

”I think I have good speed,” Perriman said. “”I can stretch the field and get vertical. I am quick and can run the underneath routes. I can also block, which you have to do as a wide receiver.”

That last nugget about his ability was drilled into him by his father, former Miami Hurricane star Brett Perriman.

”He has taught me so much,” Perriman said. “I have watch his tapes and he has shown me stuff. He has shown me how to play big and how to play small. They are different style but stuff I learned to do. He has also worked with me on how to block. He has preached that you won’t play wide receiver unless you can block.”

Unlike his father, Perriman didn’t get the opportunity to play for the Hurricanes. He was passed over and signed with George O’Leary and Central Florida. In the end, it all worked out for Perriman.

”I was a huge Miami fan growing up,” Perriman said. “They had other wide receivers and I am glad I choose UCF. They gave me an opportunity.”

Now he’s full attention is on the combine itself and the draft more than two months away. He’s currently one of this crop’s hottest players.

”Honestly, I haven’t paid too much attention to that,” Perriman said. “I am focused on what I have to do. But to hear your name like that is a blessing.”


Doing it for mom
South Carolina running back Mike Davis has taken some heat for declaring early for the NFL Draft. But he had a good reason for bolting Columbia for the greener pastures of the NFL.

”My mom came home one day and there was an eviction notice on her door,” Davis said. “That’s the day I knew what I had to do. I knew I had to come out. She is struggling. I have to go earn a living.”

Davis, 5-foot-9, 217-pounds, was supposed to have a huge 2014 campaign. But he battled injuries from training camp and throughout the season and didn’t have the same productivity as previous years.

”They [the NFL] understand that and what I was going through,” Davis said. “And I have gotten nothing but positive feedback. They love my tape. They understand the production. What they want to know is can I play with injuries and focus on playing when I am hurt.”


News and notes
Louisville wide receiver DeVante Parker on being reunited with Teddy Bridgewater if Minnesota were to draft him - "That would be a good thing. We have a good connection because we spent three years together. It would make a lot of sense. But who knows what will happen."

Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah on the meaning of character – “It means everything because I am a man of integrity. My coach [Ron Brown] stressed to me that you have to be the same person off the field that you are on the field. It’s everything to me.”

Georgia running back Todd Gurley on Vikings running back Adrian Peterson – “I am not Adrian Peterson. That guy is a freak of nature. That’s what I want to be… a freak of nature.”

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