By: Barry Barnes, Founder/Senior Writer
Owings Mills, MD – Day two of the NFL Regional Combine at the Under Armour Performance Center had a couple of surprises. First of all, it snowed, heavy. Fortunately, it did not stick to the ground or the roads. But what did stick in the minds of the scouts and instructors was the performance of a few, and now, their road to the NFL is not so snowy.
A celebrity was among the participates of the Regional Combine – Tim Tebow. Well, not quite Tebow, but full back Bret Manning from Connecticut favors the former NFL quarterback in more ways than just looks as his love for the game, like the Heisman Trophy winner, showed through in his focus.
From the gate, Manning was passionate about his workouts and he executed his sessions with power, speed and determination. He performed well in his Off-Tackle Reaction drill, and he has ‘hops.’ Meaning, he can jump, which is an great indicator of explosiveness.
Along with Manning, Ashley McLaughlin (no college) and Daniel Triplett (Norwich) had a heck of a workout. Both guys displayed good speed, burst and power. The best part about their workouts was their ability to catch the ball and how fundamentally sound they were.
In the Change of Direction (COD) Pitch Drill, Manning, McLaughlin and Triplett showed off their pass catching skills, kept the ball planted to their chest, ran around the cones low and took off for the 20-yard sprint.
Some football experts believe that the full back position is a dying function in the NFL. After watching Manning, McLaughlin and Triplett, full backs are here to stay.
Running backs Jason Gwaltney (LIU Post) and James Rosseau (West Chester) ran low to the ground, displayed good hands and were the better of the ball catchers.
For another surprise, on Saturday, the wideouts showed off their speed, but collectively, did not display good hands. Sunday, the speed from the receivers were not that eye popping in general. However, for the most part, they got after the ball.
Among the wide receivers, Austin Peay’s Adrian Mines killed it.
Mines attended the Regional Combine last year, only to fall short of being invited to the Super Regional. Mines had not stopped working out despite being overlooked by the NFL Regional Combine committee. He improved his physical strength by working with a trainer and improved his overall abilities. And it showed Sunday.
This season, several current NFL players had relatives in the RC. New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (Daniel and Chris), Denver Broncos cornerbacks Kayvon Webster (Khalil) and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Fred Cromartie). And the Baltimore Regional was no exception as former NFL defensive end and Miami Dolphins great Jason Taylor’s little brother, Noah, was in the mix.
Taylor did two things, one, he never mentioned anything about his famous brother. Taylor did not use his brother’s name to gain favor among the scouts and instructors as he, humbly, approached his workouts as if his life depend on it.
Secondly, Taylor executed his drills well.
Along with Taylor, other linebackers had solid performances. Demetrius Hartsfield (Maryland), Tabrian Resby (Howard), Justin Adams (Tulane) and Dawud Lane (Bethune-Cookman) came out the gate and went through their sessions extremely well. Among those four, Lane is quicker and killed his long jump.
For the rest of the defensive players, safety Okechukwu (Orlando) Okoroha (Marshall) and linebacker Edmond Laryea (Rutgers) were the tops. Okoroha displayed great foot work, especially in his “W”, Backpedal, and Turn and Catch Drills. He also clocked a 4.1 for his Short Shuttle and posted 34.5 inches for his vertical to go along with 10 foot for his board jump. For his 40-time, Okoroha clocked a 4.58 on his Pro Day.
Laryea is starving. He played for six seasons at Rutgers, after he tore his ACL twice. After college and a brief time stint at Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ camp, Laryea worked in production with CBS and was encouraged by Hall of Famers Dan Marino and Shannon Sharpe countless times to pursue his dream to play in the NFL.
Laryea took solid steps towards his dream because he attacked his drills – not performed, but attacked them. Laryea displayed his speed, with no sign restrictions, and power, recognizably in his Pass Rush L&R, Wave and the 4 Bag Agility Drills.
For the defensive backs, Jerrell Anderson would not allow a mild hamstring injury end his chance for a NFL career as he returned and provided a solid showing with good hands and footwork. Anderson stated nothing is going to stop him from providing a good life for his two little girls.
Morgan State produced two other athletes in Joseph Rankin and Darien Irby. Both defensive backs were good from the start and progressed as the day went on. Rankin showed good control and balance, while Irby performed excellently in all his individual drills with good hands and burst.
Nevertheless, throughout all the Regional Combine workouts across the country, no player executed their drills with the passion, heart and determination than running back Curtis Harmon III from Saddleback Community College in Mission Viejo, California.
Why Harmon? Well, when was the last time football fans viewed a running back sprinting and catching – with one arm.
Many players approached the Regional Combine attempting to – get through the workouts. The athletes ran hard, but worried about tripping over the step-over dummies, dropping the ball, getting around the cones without knocking them over, etc. Meaning, players were more mentally concerned with avoiding mistakes, instead of executing the drills as if was gameday.
Harmon executed his drills like it was a gameday. He was consistent with his speed, ran around the cones low with the ball high across his chest, along his collarbone and caught all his passes. Yes, caught all his passes.
Phil Blackwell, NFL National Field Director – Regional Director for Baltimore, was one of the instructors who was throwing the ball for passing drills. Blackwell has a cannon for a throwing arm as he consistently rifled balls all weekend. Blackwell, purposely, fired passes with game like situations to truly judge the skill level of the players’ hands. Many players dropped and bobbled passes.
Blackwell was not sensitive towards Harmon’s physical limitations. Blackwell approached Harmon as a football player and treated him as such.
Harmon’s left arm is non-existent from his elbow down. He would angle his left arm to help snatch balls out of the air. Not once did Harmon bobbled and dropped a pass from Blackwell who was drilling balls all weekend long.
The Seattle Seahawks gave full back Derrick Coleman, who is legally deaf, an opportunity and he help them to win the Super Bowl last season. Whether an NFL team will give Harmon an opportunity or not is yet to be determine. Harmon’s attitude and personality was up beat and he offered no excuses during his workouts as he approached the Combine as a game.
Although Harmon worked out Saturday, he was definitely the most uplifting, surprise of the weekend, better yet, the whole Combine.
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