USC’s NFL hopefuls participated in Pro Day at Cromwell Field on Wednesday, as 21 Trojans hoped to impress scouts from every NFL team two months ahead of the league’s draft in May.
Wide receiver Marqise Lee, a projected first-round pick, attracted the largest contingent of followers despite electing not to run the 40-yard dash. Lee previously ran the drill in 4.52 seconds, an average time for wideouts, at the NFL Combine in February.
Lee did participate in other agility drills and also caught passes from former walk-on quarterback Emon Saee, only missing one of 10 throws on the passing route tree after slipping while making a cut. Lee also bench-pressed 225 lbs. 11 times.
“The main things I tried to focus on was my position drills,” Lee said. “Getting in and out of my breaks, catching the ball no matter where it is, and just showing them that I still have it in me.”
Lee said that even though his 40-yard dash time at the combine wasn’t as fast as he would have liked, he is satisfied with the overall package he’s presented to NFL teams over the last month.
“I didn’t run the 40-yard dash like I wanted to, but at the end of the day, it still stuck to where it was a decent time,” Lee said. “You have to understand, running on film is different than the 40. I know my actual running on film will make up for the time I didn’t get … If I had to give myself a grade out of everything, I’d give myself, like, a B-plus.”
A few other Trojans might not have been as pleased with their performances.
Defensive end/linebacker Morgan Breslin clocked in a satisfactory 40-yard dash time of 4.75 seconds on his first attempt, but visibly tweaked what appeared to be his left groin on his second run before finishing in 4.95 seconds.
Running back Silas Redd sat out all running and agility drills because of a right knee injury. It was unclear if that was the same nagging ailment that sidelined him for a large part of last season.
Tight end Xavier Grimble might have done himself a favor had he elected to sit out some drills. Instead, he posted a time of 5.02 seconds in the 40-yard dash, far worse than the average NFL tight end — and it hardly looked that fast. He also failed to catch up to several long throws in passing drills, though that might have been a result of timing issues with walk-on Saee under center.
Instead, tight end Kevin Greene, who played most of his collegiate snaps on the defensive line before injuries to Grimble and redshirt junior Randall Telfer forced a position switch last season, appeared to be the more promising prospect. Greene recorded the fastest 40-yard time of the day (4.54), outrunning several wide receivers and defensive backs, and showcased soft hands and surprising route-running skills in passing drills. Still, it would take quite a leap of faith for an NFL team to draft such a raw prospect.
Guard John Martinez benched 225 lbs. 42 times, which tied the highest mark at the NFL Combine by North Carolina guard Russell Bodine. But Martinez, who had an extremely disappointing 2013 campaign while splitting time with junior Aundrey Walker, will still likely have to catch on with an NFL team as an undrafted free agent.
Cornerback Torin Harris, also considered a borderline NFL prospect, turned in an impressive vertical jump of 41 inches, but a poor 40-yard dash time of 4.66.
Defensive lineman George Uko raised questions about his mid-round draft status after logging only 18 bench reps of 225 lbs. at the NFL Combine, but slightly improved on that performance Wednesday with 22 reps.
Now, with only individual private workouts with teams to look forward to, USC’s NFL prospects can go back to honing their football-specific skills instead of focusing on drills intended to gauge their athleticism.
“We did a lot of preparation for the 40, the vertical jump, the bench,” Lee said, referring to his personal points of emphasis. “So now it’s back to doing straight football work again.”