Spartan NFL Scouting Combine Blog
Feb. 21, 2014
More than 330 top prospects for the 2014 NFL Draft have been invited to participate at the NFL Scouting Combine in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. This event is a vital step in athletes achieving their NFL dreams. Follow this event Feb. 21-25 live on NFL.com and NFL Network.
MSUSpartans.com will be covering the event all weekend with daily reports and frequent Twitter updates @msu_football.
Four Michigan State seniors - linebacker Max Bullough, cornerback Darqueze Dennard, wide receiver Bennie Fowler and safety Isaiah Lewis - have been selected to participate in the 2014 Scouting Combine.
For a complete look at how each Spartan tested at the NFL Combine, visit their respective player pages on NFL.com:
Tabbed as a likely first-round pick by several experts in the upcoming NFL Draft, Dennard ran an official time of 4.51 in the 40-yard dash to rank tied for 13th among cornerbacks. The 5-11, 199-pound Dennard was also a top performer in the bench press on Monday, lifting 225 pounds 15 times.
In an interview with the NFL Network following his individual on-field drills, Dennard said he didn't participate in the broad jump or long jump as a precautionary measure due to a "tight" hamstring. He is scheduled to test in those categories at MSU's Pro Day in mid-March.
Dennard met with msuspartans.com for an exclusive interview in Indianapolis before his testing.
"It's been a whirlwind," Dennard said of his NFL Combine experience. "I've got to meet a lot of good players around here that I watched on TV; just the relationships, and also talking with the coaches and stuff, it's been fun."
Performing for the NFL scouts in his hometown, Indianapolis native Isaiah Lewis had a strong day of testing, ranking tied for third among safeties in the vertical jump (36.5 inches), fourth in the broad jump (10'2"), tied for seventh in the three-cone drill (7.05 seconds) and 11th in the 40-yard dash (4.60 seconds). On Monday, he tied for seventh in the bench press with 15 reps of 225 pounds.
UNANIMOUS ALL-AMERICAN, UNANIMOUS PRAISE: Although it's uncertain where he will end up in the NFL Draft, one thing is clear - whichever team that drafts Dennard will be getting a proven, hard-nosed cornerback who won't back down from anyone.
"He's got everything you want in a corner," said former Indianapolis Colts president/general manager and current ESPN analyst Bill Polian. "He's got size. He's got the ability to play off and play press (coverage). He's been in a sophisticated defensive system. He can track the ball, and he's tough. So I don't know what more you want."
Named the 2013 Jim Thorpe Award winner and a unanimous All-American, Dennard was rated the No. 1 cornerback on the board entering the NFL Combine by NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock.
"His toughness (impressed me the most) and a lot of people really don't appreciate that about corners sometimes," said Mayock, who believes Dennard is a potential top-15 selection. "I know how quick he is. He's a prototype press corner, but when push comes to shove and he's got to be physical and make a play, he does it. To me, that's what separates him from most of the corners in this draft."
"The skills are off the charts," said Sirius/XM NFL analyst and former Spartan Radio Network analyst Jim Miller. "He's a smart football player. He's tough; he's physical. He's everything you want for an NFL player, and he's accountable. He shows up every day, every week. He's a reliable player, so the NFL can't get enough guys like Darqueze Dennard. He's going to be an exceptional pro.
"There are certain schemes, say like the Pittsburgh Steelers with their blitz, zone scheme where he would instantly be a plug in and play player. Credit the kid. I'm kind of biased because I played with (secondary coach) Harlon Barnett at Michigan State. Harlon was the last All-American cornerback and then he's coaching Darqueze Dennard, the next All-American cornerback at Michigan State. So he got good coaching, and I think he's going to have a fine NFL career."
One of Dennard's top games from his All-America campaign came against second-ranked Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game, where he broke up two passes and also forced a fumble.
NFL Network analyst Charles Davis called the Big Ten Championship Game on FOX Sports and came away very impressed with Dennard's performance against the Buckeyes.
"When you watch him play, it's not just his skill level to me, but it's about how he accepts challenges," said Davis. "(At the Big Ten Championship Game), he was just begging for people to bring passes in his direction, and he was good in the run game. He's a complete corner."
Davis commented that he also feels it's an advantage that Dennard comes from Michigan State, where press-man coverage is emphasized.
"That's one of the toughest things to master - to me, it's harder to master man coverage than it is zone," said Davis. "Zone you drop back to a spot, pattern read, check the quarterback's eyes and break on the football. But man-to-man, that takes somebody mentally tough play in and play out to run and chase and cover these guys, and when a guy catches the ball shake it off and go on to the next play. I think it's definitely an advantage, especially him being so physical in what he's doing out there. You know he's not going to back down from people."
Bruce Feldman, senior college football columnist for CBSSports.com, also sees the scheme at Michigan State helping Dennard at the next level.
"You don't have to wonder about him (Darqueze Dennard)," said Feldman. "A few years ago, Oklahoma had a Jim Thorpe Award winner and it was like `how much did he play on (an island)?' He was a scheme guy, who wasn't doing a lot of stuff that NFL teams were looking at doing at that point. Here, you have a guy and you know how tough he is. You know he's a good tackler because we've seen that on film. The most overused term in college football on defense is shutdown corner, but he is about as close to a shutdown corner as we've seen in a few years."
"He's smart, he's tough, and he has the ability to diagnose a play before it even happens," said Lewis, who started in the secondary three years with Dennard. "(Also) his quickness and being able to stay with receivers and lock them down. He almost gives them no chance. He gives guys a tough time getting off the line. With our defense, he pressed all the time with the corners, and he did a great job with that. Teams are going to love him."
"Darqueze will show them (the scouts) that he is mentally strong, as well as Isaiah," Fowler said. "Both of those guys, the film speaks from themselves. They don't have much to prove football-wise, they just want to see them run fast."
"When you talk about Darqueze, he can cover anybody," said Bullough. "Big, tall, long, skinny, fast, short, good routes, whatever it is, he's done it all, and he's done it all tremendously. I think that's why he's earned his spot as the No. 1 cornerback on the board. I would take him as that too."
WHAT'S NEXT: All of Michigan State's NFL Draft prospects are eligible to participate on MSU's Pro Day, which is set for March 11 in East Lansing.
Linebacker Max Bullough was the second Spartan to test for the on-field workouts at the NFL Scouting Combine on Monday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
A day after tying for the lead among linebackers in the bench press with 30 reps of 225 pounds, Bullough ranked 13th in the 20-yard shuttle with a time of 4.30 seconds and 15th in the three-cone drill with a time of 7.22 seconds. He also ran the 40-yard dash in 4.78 seconds. Bullough recorded a vertical jump of 31 inches and a broad jump of 112 inches.
"(Max) surely has the bloodlines on both sides of his family and the instincts," said former Indianapolis Colts president/general manager and current ESPN analyst Bill Polian. "He's got great experience. He's one of these guys that is going to come in the league, he's going to make a team, and he's going to play. Because of his instincts and his toughness, (Max) is going to get a job in the NFL and he's going to do well."
Isaiah Lewis GETS TO PERFORM IN HIS HOMETOWN: A native of Indianapolis, safety Isaiah Lewis is living a childhood dream this week as he gets to audition in front of NFL scouts in his own backyard. A three-year starter on the Big Ten's top-ranked defense the past three seasons, Lewis finished his career with 227 tackles, 18 pass break-ups and eight interceptions in 53 games, including 40 starts.
"I'm feeling great out here, just coming back and being home," said Lewis, who earned first-team All-Big Ten honors as a senior. "Having this opportunity to talk to all these coaches..., meeting some of the other players as well, just going out here and doing my best."
Lewis said there are a few things he wants to show the scouts on Tuesday. "Definitely my speed; there's a lot of doubt about my speed out there," commented Lewis. "And my size as well. I weighed in at 211 (pounds), to show them I have some size on me. When my 40 comes around, just run that fast time, that's all I gotta do."
The 5-10, 211-pound Lewis, who also participated in the Senior Bowl, gained a reputation at Michigan State for being able to come up with a big hit when needed.
"They've asked me what my best attribute is as a player, and that's one thing, my physicality and my toughness on the field, and my speed to the ball," Lewis said. The experts in Indianapolis agreed with Lewis' self-assessment.
"(Isaiah Lewis is a) very impressive player," said Polian. "He's got the one attribute you really look for in a safety: the ability to lay the wood to people. That is more and more critical in this day and age. As the game widens out and people are throwing the ball in the middle of the field with impunity, you need to have a safety that legally can knock people down, and he can.
"He has all of the benefits of having played for Mark (Dantonio) in that defense and in a pro style with the way they approach the game and the off-season program. So he is ready to play (at the next level)."
Sirius/XM NFL analyst and former Spartan Radio Network analyst Jim Miller also sees those same attributes in Lewis.
"He's a big hitter, and he's physical," Miller said. "He understands what they're trying to do defensively, and he'll find a niche in the National Football League. I don't know if he's going to start out as an everyday starter, but he's a guy that you can count on to contribute on all four special teams. Obviously, he can build his NFL career and maybe work his way to a starting role in the National Football League. Teams are very interested in him. It's a very deep draft at safety, but all you can ask for is an opportunity. If Isaiah Lewis gets that opportunity, he'll take advantage of it."
And Lewis' teammate of four years, Max Bullough, echoed those sentiments.
"When you talk about Isaiah, he's the guy that's going to come hit you, no matter who you are, no matter how big you are, or how far away you are," said Bullough. "He can cover, he's got interceptions. He's a guy that can do it all. He's one of the best people I know."
WHAT'S NEXT: Cornerback Darqueze Dennard and safety Isaiah Lewis will test in front of the scouts on the final day of the NFL Combine Tuesday, beginning at 9 a.m. Live coverage is available on the NFL Network and NFL.com. On Monday, Dennard and Lewis each benched 225 pounds 15 times.
Wide receiver Bennie Fowler was the first Spartan to test for the on-field workouts at the NFL Scouting Combine on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Fowler was a top performer in several categories, including the broad jump, where his leap of 10' 6" tied for fifth longest among the wide receivers. He ranked 12th in the 60-yard shuttle with a time of 11.52 and 15th in the 20-yard shuttle with a time of 4.18.
The 6-1, 217-pound Fowler recorded a time of 4.52 in the 40-yard dash and 7.06 in the three-cone drill. His vertical jump was 36.0 inches.
Linebacker Max Bullough, who is scheduled for on-field workouts on Monday, had a strong start to his combine on Sunday by tying for first among the linebackers in the bench press with 30 reps of 225 pounds.
BILL POLIAN TALKS SPARTAN FOOTBALL: Former Indianapolis Colts president/general manager and current ESPN analyst Bill Polian took some time on Sunday to visit with msuspartans.com. Polian chimed in on MSU's potential NFL Draft selections and also the job that Spartan head coach Mark Dantonio has done in East Lansing.
"When you talk about the top coaches in America, Mark Dantonio is in that group," Polian said. "From the NFL standpoint, Michigan State is a place that you like to get kids from because: A) they're disciplined; B) they've been in a program that is as demanding as the NFL; and C) their training is so good, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, that they're ready to play when they come right in because they're used to NFL techniques. They play press coverage; they play multiple coverages; they pattern match; and their techniques and fundamentals are so sound.
"There's a reason why they've won as many games as they have, and there's a reason why they turn out as many NFL players as they do because Mark and his staff do such a great job of running a program that's about as close to the NFL as you can find at the college level."
In addition, Polian remarked how impressed he's been with the player development by the Spartan coaching staff under Dantonio.
"It says two things," commented Polian. "First, they're tracking the right kids. They have good personnel judgment. It doesn't matter what we say in the media. It's what you see in the player, so they're getting players who have the ability to play in the NFL. It's just that they're not recognized by the recruiting services. So good for them, that's to their benefit.
"And secondly, they get them ready to play in the NFL. They take the raw talent that they get - perhaps, not highly visible when they first come to Michigan State - and then they develop them into guys who are ready to play the minute they step into the National Football League. But the most important part is that they're recognizing that talent. If you translated that to the NFL, they've got one of the best personnel departments in all of college football because that's what causes you to win all of these games. Getting those collegiate free agents, getting those low draft choices that's the equivalent of what they're recruiting at the college level, and they're hitting on virtually every one of them."
CHARLES DAVIS, JIM MILLER GIVE THEIR TAKE ON Bennie Fowler: In exclusive interviews with msuspartans.com, NFL Network analyst Charles Davis and Sirius/XM NFL analyst Jim Miller gave their thoughts on Fowler and his stock in the upcoming draft.
""He really did (play lights out late last season)," said Davis, who called the Big Ten Championship Game on FOX Sports. "He really led by example down the stretch when they really needed him in the passing game. He was huge for them, and it paid off, as he got a late call to the Senior Bowl. He came in the night before had a quick brush up with the play sheet; and guess what, they threw him a ball right out of the gate. So I was really happy for him.
"I like his frame and coming out of Michigan State you know a couple of things: No. 1, he's going to know how to practice; No. 2, he's going to know how to complete; and No. 3, you're going to get a really quality kid. So with him coming out here and showing his wares with everyone, it should be a fun time for him because there are a million receivers running around trying to break them all down. It's tough, but since everyone in the league throws the heck out of the ball, there's usually a place for a guy."
"I covered the Senior Bowl and Bennie Fowler shows up; grabs his shoulder pads and helmet midweek and goes out there and starts in the Senior Bowl," remarked Miller. "He's extremely fast for a bigger receiver. His speed is underrated and that's going to help him down at the NFL Combine. He's got great hands, and he's a good route-runner. Teams look for players that are rising, whose stock is going up while playing their best football at the end of the year. And that's what Bennie Fowler did for Michigan State."
WHAT'S NEXT: Live coverage of on-field workouts continues with the linebackers and defensive linemen on Monday, and will conclude with the defensive backs on Tuesday. Coverage of workouts begins each day at 9 a.m. on the NFL Network and NFL.com. Cornerback Darqueze Dennard and safety Isaiah Lewis were scheduled to meet with the media on Sunday but missed the allotted time due to medical evaluations. They will test in front of the scouts on Tuesday.
Linebacker Max Bullough was the second Spartan to meet with the media at the NFL Scouting Combine on Saturday afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium. Bullough is one of four Spartans, along with cornerback Darqueze Dennard, wide receiver Bennie Fowler and safety Isaiah Lewis, participating in the 2014 NFL Combine.
For Bullough, it was his first time speaking to the media since he was suspended for the Rose Bowl Game against Stanford for violating team rules.
"When I heard the news (about being suspended for the Rose Bowl Game), it was my teammates, it was my coaches, it was Spartan Nation, it was my family that I felt that I let down," said Bullough, a two-time first-team All-Big Ten linebacker who finished his career ranked 18th in Michigan State history with 299 tackles. "I'm a guy, I can handle what happens to me, it was my mistake, I can handle that. But to put the hard work that the coaches and the fans and my teammates, to put that in jeopardy, that's what was tough for me.
"They responded well. The coaches responded well. My teammates were all texting me saying that the game was dedicated to me, they had the 40 on their towels; that meant the world to me. That's what football is all about. At the end of the day, we won the game, we were Big Ten Champions. At the end of the day, the Rose Bowl isn't about Max Bullough, the Rose Bowl is about Michigan State."
Bullough had a chance to work out in front of NFL scouts at the East-West Shrine Game last month in St. Petersburg, Fla., but he's looking to show them more at the NFL Combine.
"I have to show them that I can move," said Bullough. "I'm a big guy, tall guy, (and) I have to show them that I can stay low, bend my knees, explode through my hips and move. That's something that I've worked on a lot and I'm excited to show; I think I'm really going to open some eyes on Monday when I can run."
One person that has seen Bullough produce on the field time and time again is former Spartan Sports Network football analyst Jim Miller, who called MSU games for seven seasons from 2006-12. Miller is at the combine in Indianapolis working as an NFL analyst for Sirius/XM.
"He's a very instinctive player," said Miller regarding Bullough. "He can read and diagnose. He's obviously got great football pedigree with the generations of Bulloughs that have gone through Michigan State, and he knows football extremely well.
"Probably the biggest thing for him down here at the NFL Combine is his 40 time. People want to see how fast he is as a linebacker. If he runs a 4.6 or sub-4.6, that's going help Max Bullough out. That could potentially push him into the second round. Right now, he's probably rated as a third-rounder, but again he's a tough, gritty football player. When he steps on the field to play, he's going to do his job."
NFL Network analyst Charles Davis, who also calls college football games for FOX Sports, had a chance to watch Bullough last season at the Big Ten Championship Game during MSU's victory over Ohio State.
"His numbers went down as the talent level around him continued to rise," Davis said on Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium when asked about Bullough. "There were so many other guys who got active and played well for Michigan State that it took some of the pressure off him.
"Again, what happened at the end of the season is a difficult situation. It was one of those things that came out of nowhere for all of us because I don't think anyone would have predicted Max Bullough would be in any kind of trouble. I believe the league has a pretty good handle on what went down and what happened.
"The surprise for me was seeing him at the East-West Shrine Game and it appeared to me he had put on a pretty good amount of weight. And even with that, the coaches were raving about what he did down there: how he handles a huddle; how he handles coverages; all the checks and everything flows through him. The cerebral part of the game is one of the best parts of his game, but don't think he won't strike you too. It will be fun to watch him work out here and see No. 1 is the weight still on him; and if it is; how does he handle it in movement."
Regardless of how he times out during the various tests at the NFL Combine, Bullough feels his career as a middle linebacker at Michigan State has prepared him to play at the next level.
"It's huge," he said. "Making all the calls that I made, the blitzes, the front calls, changing things up, it's been huge. The scouts have really been interested in my ability to change things and call the fronts and call the coverages, or whatever it may be. It's a positive for me, and it's a positive I've gotten it from Coach (Mark) Dantonio, Coach (Pat) Narduzzi and Coach (Mike) Tressel, guys that I respect and guys that I love and have helped me a lot."
Bullough will work out in front of the scouts on Monday.
WHAT'S NEXT: Live coverage of on-field workouts continues with the running backs, quarterbacks and wide receivers on Sunday; the linebackers and defensive linemen will go on Monday, and the defensive backs will work out on Tuesday. Coverage of workouts begins each day at 9 a.m. on the NFL Network and NFL.com. Cornerback Darqueze Dennard and safety Isaiah Lewis will meet with the media on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Wide receiver Bennie Fowler was the first Spartan to meet with the media at the NFL Scouting Combine on Friday afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium. Fowler is one of four Spartans, along with linebacker Max Bullough, cornerback Darqueze Dennard and safety Isaiah Lewis, participating in the 2014 NFL Combine.
"I got a last-minute invite to the Senior Bowl and got a chance to put on a green helmet on one more time with Isaiah (Lewis)," said Fowler. "I really enjoyed that process, and now being at the (NFL Scouting) Combine, it's a once in a lifetime opportunity.
"I've been up since 4 o'clock this morning meeting with teams and doctors and things like that, so it's a mental grind as well as a physical grind."
Fowler led the Spartans in receiving yards (622) and touchdown receptions (6) as a senior in 2013, while also recording 26 catches. He finished his career with 93 receptions for 1,341 yards (14.4 avg.) in 44 career games, including 15 starts, and is tied for 16th in MSU history with 11 touchdown receptions.
The Bloomfield Hills, Mich., native showed his potential to play in the NFL in the Rose Bowl Game against Stanford, leading the team with 97 receiving yards on just two catches. His 37-yard, over-the-shoulder reception late in the second quarter to the Cardinal 3-yard line set up the Spartans' second touchdown of the game, and on the second play from scrimmage in the third quarter, he broke several tackles and raced 60 yards to the Stanford 15-yard line, which set up Michael Geiger's 31-yard field goal that tied the game at 17.
Those two plays undoubtedly got him noticed by scouts at the next level.
"I want to show scouts that I have very consistent hands and run very fast at my weight (217)," said Fowler, who caught two passes for 19 yards at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
Fowler will test and work out in front of scouts on Sunday.
NFL NETWORK ANALYST MIKE MAYOCK GIVES HIGH PRAISE TO SPARTANS, DENNARD: On the second day of the NFL Combine, msuspartans.com had a chance to visit with NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock for an exclusive interview. Mayock, who stopped by preseason practice last August and called the MSU-Notre Dame game on NBC, certainly likes what he sees from the Spartan program.
"(Michigan State is) a top-level team," said Mayock. "They're a top-level program, and the facilities are fantastic. Coach (Mark Dantonio) has done a great job.
"One of my favorite games of the year was Michigan State-Stanford. That was two well-coached, tough teams that got after each other. It was a testament to Coach Dantonio and his staff how well they played and how tough they were. I always know when I put a Michigan State tape in I'm going to see a well-coached, disciplined group of kids. I like putting Michigan State tapes on to compare other Big Ten players when I'm getting ready for the draft. I purposely put Michigan State film in there because I want to see how they hang in there for 60 minutes after being grinded on by Michigan State."
Entering the NFL Combine, Mayock rated unanimous All-American and Jim Thorpe Award winner Darqueze Dennard the best cornerback available in the 2014 NFL Draft.
"His toughness (impressed me the most) and a lot of people really don't appreciate that about corners sometimes," Mayock remarked on Dennard. "I know how quick he is. He's a prototype press corner, but when push comes to shove and he's got to be physical and make a play, he does it. To me, that's what separates him from most of the corners in this draft."
WHAT'S NEXT: Live coverage of on-field workouts begins Saturday, Feb. 22 at 9 a.m. with the offensive linemen, tight ends and kickers, and continues with the running backs, quarterbacks and wide receivers on Sunday, Feb. 24, linebackers and defensive linemen on Monday, Feb. 24, and defensive backs on Tuesday, Feb. 25. Coverage of workouts begins each day at 9 a.m. on the NFL Network and NFL.com. Linebacker Max Bullough will meet with the media on Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
More than 900 media members, a record turnout, arrived at Lucas Oil Stadium Thursday for the beginning of the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine, which officially started in the morning with the first round of media interviews.
Four Michigan State seniors - linebacker Max Bullough, cornerback Darqueze Dennard, wide receiver Bennie Fowler and safety Isaiah Lewis - are participating in the 2014 Scouting Combine. For a complete look at their Spartan careers, check out the NFL Combine preview on msuspartans.com.
WHAT'S NEXT: A second round of media interviews is scheduled on Friday before the official workouts begin on Saturday.
ABOUT THE NFL COMBINE: The NFL Scouting Combine (National Invitational Camp) is organized and operated by National Football Scouting, Inc. NFL Network and NFL.com will provide more than 60 hours of live coverage from Lucas Oil Stadium beginning Thursday (Feb. 20). More than 600 NFL personnel, including head coaches, general managers, scouts and medical staff representing all 32 teams, will attend the Scouting Combine and evaluate more than 330 of the nation's top college players eligible for the upcoming 2013 NFL Draft through on-field drills, physical testing, psychological exams, as well as formal and informal interviews.
Live coverage of on-field workouts begins Saturday, Feb. 22 at 9 a.m. with the offensive linemen, tight ends and kickers, and continues with the running backs, quarterbacks and wide receivers on Sunday, Feb. 23, linebackers and defensive linemen on Monday, Feb. 24, and defensive backs on Tuesday, Feb. 25. Coverage of workouts begins each day at 9 a.m.
at the official