Trojans attempt to impress at combine

USC was well represented at the NFL Scouting Combine that began last week and concluded Monday, with seven Trojans participating in workouts and interviews at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis with hopes of impressing NFL teams.

The Trojans were represented by junior linebacker Su’a Cravens, redshirt senior quarterback Cody Kessler, redshirt senior running back Tre Madden, redshirt senior fullback Soma Vainuku, senior center Max Tuerk, redshirt senior defensive lineman Antwaun Woods and senior cornerback Kevon Seymour, all of whom played key roles during their time at USC.

Kessler ran the 40-yard dash in 4.89 seconds and posted a 29.5-inch vertical and a 104-inch broad jump, which don’t jump off the page. He showed off his throwing arm well, however, and is projected to be a late-round pick. Kessler also has been working on another aspect of his game.

“For me, the mental side of it is something that is big, being able to recognize defenses,” Kessler told the Orange County Register. “Obviously everyone can throw and everyone can play at the next level, but for me, I’ve always wanted to be a step ahead of everyone on the mental side of it.”

Cravens, projected to be one of the Trojans’ higher draft picks, chose not to run a 40-yard dash on the advice of his agent and trainer. He received mixed reviews, with his 27-inch vertical leap ranking worst among linebackers along with a below-average 16 reps on the bench press. Still, Cravens passed the so-called “eye-test” for athleticism and was impressive during drills and team interviews.

Cravens believes that just because he’s a USC product doesn’t give him a free pass to a high draft slot.

“I’ve been asked if I’m a prima donna,” Cravens told the Register. “I get that, coming from ‘SC. People think a lot of ‘SC guys are entitled, but things have changed since the glory days. I think I’m a hard-working guy.”

Madden and Tuerk, who were both hampered by injuries last season, will seek to prove themselves at the next level. Madden finished second among running backs with 24 reps in the bench press, but his participation was limited to just the one event. Tuerk, who saw his season end early due to a torn ACL, posted 22 reps and weighed in at 298 pounds, 13 more than what is listed by USC.

His ability to play center, guard and tackle may be an asset for NFL teams.

“It was absolutely a positive,” Tuerk told the Los Angeles Times. “It shows that I’m versatile and able to play anywhere on the line.”

Vainuku, who by far had the most creative haircut at the combine, also impressed with 26 bench reps, the third most for fullbacks. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.68 seconds, ranking second for his position.

As for the remaining defensive players, Seymour, who received inconsistent playing time last season, recorded a 40-yard dash time of 4.39 seconds, the fastest by a Trojan in a decade. Woods did not participate but was present at the combine.

The next chance the prospects have to showcase their skills for teams will be USC’s pro day on March 23. The NFL Draft will take place from April 28-30 in Chicago.