Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Huskies' pro prospects draw a crowd

Maybe it is because this was my first time at UConn's Pro Day and I was accustomed to having another three or four NFL teams at Yale's NFL timing day over the last few years, but I came away extremely impressed with what I saw today.

                                                          (Associated Press photo)
Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Sio Moore could be the first two
UConn players taken in April's NFL draft.
By the count of us media folks, the only teams not sending a scout, coach or player personnel rep to Storrs were Dallas (which is ironically the place head coach Paul Pasqualoni was working when he accepted the UConn job), Minnesota and Washington. Obviously the appearance of New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick created quite the stir but most of the waves were made by the Huskies.

The NFL combine stars (Dwayne Gratz, Sio Moore, Trevardo Williams and Blidi Wreh-Wilson) only did a select few drills because they posted such spectacular numbers at the NFL combine.

Wreh-Wilson did cause a few jaws to drop by running the 40 under 4.4 seconds according to a few of the unofficial times. His two 40s at the combine were so far apart that the scouts wanted him to show he had the elite speed necessary for a cornerback to be drafted in the first or second round.

"I just wanted to put a stamp on it," Wreh-Wilson said. "At the combine my hand time was a 4.47 and my second one wasn’t anything that I even wanted to talk about. The last two weeks, I went home for a couple of days and trained and I really wanted to put a stamp on it and show how fast I really am so there are no question marks."

The news was not as good for Trevardo Williams who was battling ankle, groin and back issues which flared up while doing the agility drills like the 3-cone drill and 60-yard shuttle.

"I gave them everything that I had and I just hope they appreciated it," Williams said. "I was a little concerned about how it was going to affect me especially after the shuttle and kind of tweaked it and I knew right them it wasn’t going to be a good run."

With UConn's top four pro prospects didn't take part in too many drills, that opened up a chance for some of the under the radar prospects to shine.

Nobody seemed to take advantage of that more than receiver Nick Williams as his strong day was highlighted by a 37-inch effort in the vertical jump.

Williams is better known as a dynamic punt and kickoff returner but if he is to make it in the NFL, he will need to do so at a slot receiver as well. The good news is that players like Davone Bess and Danny Amendola have done quite nicely for themselves as NFL slot receivers even though they went undrafted.

"I am not trail blazing right now, guys who are like me have been successful; guys who don’t run 4.3 have gone onto the NFL and have had great careers so you just have to put your mind to it, believe and hopefully you make the most of your opportunity," Williams said.

The day started with offensive guard Adam Masters and defensive tackle Ryan Wirth doing 33 reps at 225 pounds in the bench press.

Tight end Ryan Griffin also did pretty well for himself including a vertical jump of 34.5.

"I just wanted to prove that I deserved a shot at the combine and I deserve a shot in the league," Griffin said. "I feel like I did that. I could have done a little better in some of the areas but overall I am pretty happy with how I performed. I am going to get a shot whether I just sign in camp and hopefully I will hear my name called but either way you have to perform."

It made for a special day for this senior class which has endured some ups and downs over the years.

Tight ends Ryan Griffin and John Delahunt
work out during UConn's Pro Day

"I think we will have a few guys drafted and we will have a couple of guys in camps," Nick Williams said. "It just shows that UConn 10 years ago, that wasn’t the case and now you can see that you can make the professional ranks out of UConn and it is all a cycle. You don’t realize it but it is marketing for the program and even Johnny Mac (quarterback Johnny McEntee) when he makes a trick-shot video it gets five million views and that is five million people seeing the UConn facility so the publicity is a great thing for the program and to see those guys go out and perform on the stage and have (NFL Network drat guru) Mike Mayock and all of those guys talking up the program."

I still have to finish transcribing my tape, especially with the interviews with Moore and Jory Johnson so I will have more at some point but one last thing I found out today is that the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL already own tight end John Delahunt's rights so if the NFL doesn't come calling, the Ottawa native could find a home north of the border.

"I’ve talked to them and told them I was going to come down and give the NFL a try and they supported me in that and I will just see what happens after today," Delahunt said.

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