March 13, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State held its annual Pro Day Wednesday afternoon at the Duffy Daugherty Football Building indoor practice facility. Nine former Spartans, including six seniors and three juniors from the 2012 team, auditioned in front of National Football League scouts in preparation for the upcoming NFL Draft.
Thirty-eight NFL personnel representing 29 teams attended the event, including Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, and credentials were issued to 43 media members.
"From what I saw, I thought they did very well," said Spartan head coach Mark Dantonio, who watched his former players participate in Michigan State's Pro Day. "You come here with a dream...and you want to try and take that next step to the NFL. It's an opportunity to dream big and for a dream to come true. It's nice to see our guys out here having those opportunities."
All four of Michigan State's invitees to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis - cornerback Johnny Adams, running back Le'Veon Bell, defensive end William Gholston and tight end Dion Sims - participated in drills for scouts and coaches.
Bell continued the momentum from his impressive showing at the NFL Combine with another strong performance at MSU's Pro Day. In his only test of the day, Bell recorded a time of 11.46 in the 60-yard shuttle, which would have ranked fifth among running backs at the combine; he didn't perform the test in Indianapolis.
Bell elected to keep the rest of his results from the combine, which included a time of 4.60 in the 40, a 4.24 in the 20-yard shuttle, and a 6.75 in the three-cone, and worked out for scouts in the individual position drills. Bell ranked third at the combine in the three-cone drill and 10th in the 20-yard shuttle.
"Today I really wanted to show my ability to catch the ball and my ability to get in and out of cuts," said Bell, who weighed in at 229 pounds. "A lot of people might look at me and say he's 230 pounds, he might be slow, or he can't catch the ball out of the backfield. I wanted to show people I'm quick..., I can run routes, and I can catch the ball out of the backfield. Just show up and open some eyes today, and show people what I can do. I feel like I got out a lot of today.
"Rather than the combine, it's more relaxed here. You're here with people you know. Being with Larry (Caper) in the position drills, it just felt like practice. I was out there just having fun and getting after it today.
Bell was recently ranked the best running back in the 2013 NFL Draft by Bucky Brooks of the NFL Network.
"I think he's a complete football player," said Dantonio when asked what he would tell NFL coaches and general managers regarding Bell. "He's not only just a running back, he's going to block for you, he's going to catch for you, he's going to run down on special teams. He's going to play 15-20 plays a game just on special teams alone. He can fit into all of those different capacities. He's big and he's physical, so he can take the pounding. He's just a solid football player with a lot of carries, he doesn't fumble much, he's got great hands, and he's durable."
Sims also improved on his test results from the NFL Combine. He increased his bench press from 22 to 26 reps and ran a 7.15 in the three-cone drill, down from 7.32 in Indianapolis. Those marks would have ranked second and 10th among tight ends, respectively, at the combine.
Sims kept his results from the combine in the 40-yard dash (4.75), vertical jump (35.0 inches), 60-yard shuttle (12.10) and broad jump (112.0 inches). His time of 4.52 in the 20-yard shuttle was identical to his test last month at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Adams, who only participated in the 40-yard dash and the bench press at the NFL Combine, tested in the remaining drills at MSU's Pro Day. Adams timed out at 11.50 in the 60-yard shuttle, which would have placed fourth among cornerbacks at the NFL Combine. He also clocked a 6.94 in the three-cone drill and had a vertical jump of 33 inches.
Adams kept his bench press of 16 reps and his time of 4.48 in the 40 from the NFL Combine, marks which ranked which ranked sixth and 15th among the 33 cornerbacks in Indianapolis.
For the five former Spartans who weren't invited to the NFL Combine - running back Larry Caper, placekicker Dan Conroy, offensive lineman Chris McDonald, defensive tackle Anthony Rashad White and cornerback Mitchell White - Wednesday was their chance to showcase their skills to nearly every team in the league.
Caper's showing would have landed him as a top performer among running backs in five tests at the NFL Combine, including the vertical jump (tied for seventh at 35.0 inches), 60-yard shuttle (ninth at 11.64), bench press (tied for 10th with 23), three-cone (tied for 12th at 6.97) and 20-yard shuttle (tied for 13th at 4.31). Caper also had a time of 4.63 in the 40-yard dash.
"I thought Larry Caper looked good," said Dantonio. "He caught the ball well and ran pretty well; he looked explosive."
McDonald, who was a three-year starter at right guard for the Spartans, was also taking snaps at center during the position drills. He showed off his speed and versatility with a time of 4.96 in the 40, which would have ranked sixth best among all offensive linemen at the NFL Combine. In the bench press, McDonald's personal best of 31 reps would have landed him in the top 10.
"I thought I did really good," said McDonald. "The whole time I was training I wanted to get to 30 (reps). When I first started training I only got to 25, and when I left I got to 28, so I didn't know where I was going. But I told myself I was going to get 30. Being in here, being back home, and having coach (Ken) Mannie spotting you, there's adrenaline. You know he has your back and you're going to give everything you got.
"When you have to be an o-lineman (in the NFL), unless you're the No. 1 guard in the country, you're not going to be able to just play guard. You have to be able to play guard and center. I've got to do what I've got to do. I've played center before and I know I can do it. I just wanted to show them what I have."
Mitchell White, a former track letterwinner at MSU, displayed his quickness with excellent times in the running tests. In addition to his 4.41 40-yard dash, White posted a time of 11.39 in the 60-yard shuttle, a mark that would have placed him third among cornerbacks at the combine. He also clocked a 6.73 in the three-cone and a 4.07 in the 20-yard shuttle, numbers that would have ranked fifth and tied for sixth, respectively, in Indianapolis.
Conroy, who set the MSU single-season record with 23 field goals in 2012, connected on 18 of his 20 field-goal attempts, including a 60-yarder.
Former first-team All-Big Ten kicker Brett Swenson also worked out on Pro Day. The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native, who spent the 2010 season on injured reserve with the Indianapolis Colts with a hamstring injury, is making a push to regain a roster spot in the NFL. Swenson made 19 of his 20 field-goal attempts on Wednesday, including a 60-yarder.
The 2013 NFL Draft will be conducted April 25-27 (Thursday, April 25 - first round; Friday, April 26 - second and third rounds; and Saturday, April 27 - fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds) at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.