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BOGACZYK: It’s Big on Numbers, as NFL Teams Flock to Herd Pro Day

March 9, 2016

By JACK BOGACZYK

HERDZONE.COM COLUMNIST

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Fourteen of Marshall’s 2015 football seniors participated in the Herd’s annual Pro Day on Wednesday, but it was another turnout that opened eyes at the indoor facility of the Chris Cline Athletic Complex.

Scouts and assistant coaches from 20 of the NFL’s 32 teams took in the session – more than double the nine teams that watched 12 Herd football alums work a year ago.

Two Canadian Football League clubs – the BC Lions and Saskatchewan Roughriders – also were represented, and Mark Gale, Marshall’s assistant athletic director for football operations, kept things humming through a session that lasted more than three hours.

“If it’s not the most teams ever, it’s got be close,” said Coach Doc Holliday, whose seventh Herd team opens spring drills in three weeks.

Veteran observers said it was the largest representation of pro football scouts on the MU campus on one day since the 1998 day when future All-Pro Randy Moss worked out.

And although there was plenty of most recent Herd talent on hand, Holliday gave credit for the number of pros’ prying eyes to a pair of 2014 seniors – cornerback Darryl “Swagg” Roberts and linebacker Neville Hewitt.


 

 

They wowed scouts last March after neither was invited to the NFL Combine. Roberts was a seventh-round draft pick by New England, and was a lock to make the Patriots’ roster until he was injured in preseason. Hewitt, an undrafted free agent, ended up playing special teams for Miami and even got two starts for the Dolphins.

Roberts returned to Pro Day as a spectator on Wednesday.

“I think what happened with Neville and ‘Swagg’ when they came in last year (and saw them) and it ended up they missed on a couple of guys,” Holliday said. “So, maybe they figured they’d better come watch what we have.

“And I’m proud of these guys. They’ve all worked out extremely well. Hopefully there will be opportunities for a lot of these kids. We have 14 guys who think they have a shot at playing at the next level. That’s their goal and dream and some guys have put up some really good numbers, so I think we’ll definitely have some who will get that opportunity, whether drafted or as free agents.

“We had a couple of guys run (40 yards) in the 4.4 range (linebacker D.J. Hunter and cornerback Keith Baxter). That’s great. What’s not so great is they are finished playing for us, so we’ll have to find some other guys still here who can do that.”

The 81st NFL Draft is scheduled April 28-30.

The Herd players participating were running back Devon Johnson; receiver and return man Deandre Reaves; linebackers Evan McKelvey and D.J. Hunter; safety Taj Letman; wide receiver Davonte Allen; cornerbacks Keith Baxter and Corey Tindal; defensive linemen Steve Dillon, Ricardo Williams and Armonze Daniel; offensive guard Sebastian Johansson; punter Tyler Williams; and long snapper Matt Cincotta.

The NFL clubs on hand were Arizona, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Green Bay, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minnesota, the New York Jets, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Diego, San Francisco, Tampa Bay and Washington.

The NFL personnel in town who didn’t make it to Huntington last March also were impressed with the Herd’s indoor facility.

“This is a great place,” said Philadelphia Eagles running backs coach Duce Staley, a 10-year NFL veteran. “Coming through the doors, it’s one of the best indoor facilities I’ve seen in a while. You guys have to understand that a lot of NFL teams don’t even have an indoor. So, when you walk in here, I was like, ‘Wow!’ This is amazing.”

Three teams had two reps in for the Herd scouting day, and the Bengals and Lions also sent in running backs coaches to join Staley -- specifically to see Johnson, the 6-foot, 238-pounder who missed the last half of the Herd season due to injury.

Johnson attended the NFL Combine, but couldn’t perform all of the drills. He had 10 carries upon his Marshall return in the St. Petersburg Bowl win, but then was reinjured during Senior Bowl workouts.

“It feels great to be back out there competing again,” Johnson said. “I was getting after it; we all were, all having fun.”

Johnson didn’t participate in the lifting, the pro bench testing (225-pound repetitions). Otherwise, he was full-go after being more limited at the Combine in Indianapolis last month.

“It was hard doing that,” he said. “You sit there and see everybody compete and you’re not able to compete. I’m just glad I was able to be out here on Pro Day with my brothers and put up some good times, too.

“There was no pressure. It’s football, a game I love. I’m going to come out and always give 110 percent no matter what and if it’s written for me to go on and play football at the next level, it’s meant for me … God has his hands on me; he has His hands on all of us. If it’s meant for me to play pro football, it’s up to God.”

Johnson said he sees himself fitting in the NFL at “running back, fullback” and special teams. Staley spent plenty of time visiting with Johnson after the indoor session, as Tyler Williams and Matt Cincotta moved to Edwards Stadium for some special teams workouts. Then, it was into the Shewey Building for the players to take the Wonderlic test that NFL teams use to test mental dexterity.

Linebacker Evan McKelvey, the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year, was limited in his running workouts with a groin pull.

“These kids all have a dream,” Staley said after the session. “And it’s our job to come in here – as coaches and scouts – to make sure they know the tools that they need if they’re going to the NFL. They did an awesome job today … We’ve seen some good tape on them; now, we’re here to verify it.

“I’ll tell you, Marshall puts a lot of good talent out there. (Eagles defensive end) Vinny Curry is from down here; he’s one of my best friends – awesome guy; awesome player. So, we look forward to coming here.”

Staley was impressed by the depth of talent he saw, too.

“That’s a tribute to the coaching staff here,” the former Eagles’ and Steelers’ running back said. “They’ve been here for a long time, a bunch of great guys. They know how to recruit. They know how to get the right people in, and they know how to coach them.

“It’s one thing to recruit; it’s another thing to get them on the field and coach them. These guys do an awesome job at it all.”

Meanwhile, Holliday also was happy to see a good number of his 2016 Herd on hand as spectators to support their former teammates.

“They see what’s possible,” Holliday said. “I told them at our early morning mat drills today that this is a tribute to you guys, to our program that we’ve got this many pro scouts here.

“It tells you the kind of athletes we’ve got playing here at Marshall and if all you guys have those goals and dreams like the ones out here on the field today do, you’ve got to work extremely hard to get there.”

A look at some of the Herd numbers from 2016 Pro Day on Wednesday (players listed alphabetically; best of two times listed in 40):

 

WR Davonte Allen

40 yards: 4.52 seconds           

Vertical jump: 37 1/2 inches

Broad jump: 9 feet, 8 inches

Pro bench (225-pound reps): 15

 

CB Keith Baxter

40 yards: 4.40            

Vertical jump: 37 1/2

Broad jump: 10-9

Pro bench (225-pound reps): 17

 

LS Matt Cincotta

40 yards: 4.90            

Vertical jump: 28 1/2

Broad jump: 9-8

Pro bench (225-pound reps): 19

 

DE Armonze Daniel

40 yards: 4.90            

Vertical jump: 30 1/2

Broad jump: 9-1

Pro bench (225-pound reps): 19

 

DT Steve Dillon

40 yards: 5.28            

Vertical jump: 30

Broad jump: 8-6

Pro bench (225-pound reps): 22

 

LB D.J. Hunter

40 yards: 4.40            

Vertical jump: 39 1/2

Broad jump: 10-10

Pro bench (225-pound reps): 14

 

OL Sebastian Johansson

40 yards: 5.14            

Vertical jumps: 32 1/2

Broad jump: 9-5

Pro bench (225-pound reps): 26

 

RB Devon Johnson

40 yards: 4.63            

Vertical jump: 33

Broad jump: 9-5

Pro bench (225-pound reps): --

 

S Taj Letman

40 yards: 4.50            

Vertical jump: 34 1/2

Broad jump: 9-11

Pro bench (225-pound reps): 14

 

LB Evan McKelvey

40 yards: 4.82            

(Ran only one 40 due to groin pull)

Vertical jump: 34

Broad jump: 10-5

Pro bench (225-pound reps): 19

 

WR/KR Deandre Reaves

40 yards: 4.53            

Vertical jump: 34

Broad jump: 10-5

Pro bench (225-pound reps): 10

 

CB Corey Tindal

40 yards: 4.50            

Vertical jump: 34 1/2

Broad jump: 9-8

Pro bench (225-pound reps): 9

 

DT Ricardo Williams

40 yards: 5.32            

Vertical jump: 28 1/2

Broad jump: 8-9

Pro bench (225-pound reps): 12

 

P Tyler Williams

40 yards: --     

Vertical jump: --

Broad jump: --

Pro bench (225-pound reps): 19

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