Trojan stars take to the field for Pro Day

With only a couple of weeks until the 2017 NFL Draft in Philadelphia, scouts flocked to Cromwell Field to get a closer look at the Trojans’ 2017 Draft class. As teams begin to narrow their focus, players got another opportunity to show why they’re worthy of a spot in the NFL.

Stars Shine Bright

Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and cornerback Adoree’ Jackson were the two marquee players on display at USC’s Pro Day. Satisfied with their 40-yard dash times at the NFL Combine, the two former USC stars sat out the 40 at Pro Day. At the combine, Smith-Schuster ran his 40 in 4.54 seconds and Jackson ran his in 4.42 seconds. Both players found other ways to impress the scouts in attendance. Both showed quickness in the shuttle run and cone drill exercises and made dazzling plays in positional drills.

Smith-Schuster didn’t drop a single pass in the workout and made a couple of highlight reel grabs, followed by the trademark dancing fans had grown accustomed to.

“There was no pressure,” Smith-Schuster said. “The huge difference between the combine and here is that you’re out here with your boys. At the end of the day, ball is ball.”

The relaxed atmosphere certainly seemed to help both Jackson and Smith-Schuster, who impressed scouts with their athleticism. Jackson, who is using his versatility to his advantage in the draft process, worked with coaches on his return game. At one point Jackson fielded a punt while holding three other balls.

While it remains to be seen where they will get drafted, both players seemingly improved their draft stock today with impressive performances and poise while handling tough questions.

Impressive Performances

Outside of the Trojans’ big name stars, there were other impressive performances at Pro Day as scouts tried to look for value pickups via the draft or undrafted free agency. The surprise of the day was wide receiver Isaac Whitney, who posted a blistering 4.41 40-yard dash time. Running back Justin Davis wasn’t too far behind Whitney with a time of 4.49 seconds.

Davis, who is trying to prove his value as an all-purpose back, spent a lot of time catching passes and demonstrated solid route running and catching skills. In the weight room, defensive tackle Stevie Tu’ikolovatu posted an impressive 33 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press.

Wide receiver De’Quan Hampton had an all-around solid day after posting the highest vertical of 41.5 inches, running a 4.66-second 40 and recording 21 reps on the bench. Hampton appeared to pull up on his right hamstring in his second run of the 40, but played through pain the in the position drills.

Wide receiver Darreus Rogers and tight end Taylor McNamara, two of the Trojans’ most reliable pass catchers in 2016, made some nice grabs in the passing section. Offensive linemen Damien Mama, Chad Wheeler, Zach Banner and Jordan Simmons were put through a tough workout on the side, testing their lateral movement, footwork and hand speed.

For players that weren’t extended invites to the combine, Pro Day was a great opportunity to show scouts what they have to offer an NFL club.

Familiar faces return

In a large contingent of NFL scouts and coaches, former USC head coach and current Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll got most of the attention. Since his departure for the NFL, Carroll has seemingly held onto his USC roots. He spent a considerable amount of time talking to Athletic Director Lynn Swann and head coach Clay Helton. Norm Chow, a former USC offensive coordinator under Carroll, was in attendance as well. Also taking in Pro Day were general managers Reggie McKenzie of the Oakland Raiders and Doug Whaley of the Buffalo Bills.