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NFL Combine: Scouting the Running Backs
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Ricky Henne’s Take: Personally, I find the running back workouts the hardest ones to gauge at the combine. Running the ball is all about instincts, following and setting up blockers and making guys miss. At the combine, there aren’t many drills that allow running backs to showcase their abilities in these important areas. For instance, Wisconsin’s Montee Ball has been a personable favorite of mine during his entire career with the Badgers. But the combine isn’t the platform for a player like him to showcase his talents. Ball is a smart, physical runner who knows how to pick up chunks of yards and get the ball into the end zone. After all, he set the all-time record for most touchdowns in college football history with 83. But at the combine, Ball didn’t have much of a chance to show what he does best. He didn’t do poorly, showing an ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, but he wasn’t able to show NFL scouts why he is a special talent. So who did impress? Obviously, Auburn’s Onterio McCalebb turned heads by posting a 4.34 40-yard dash. But a guy who caught my eye that I didn’t know much about heading into the day was Arkansas’ Knile Davis. He posted the second best 40-yard dash time with a 4.37, and showed he has the strength to match that speed by pounding out 31 reps at the bench press, which was only behind Wake Forest’s fullback Tommy Bohanon.
Ryan Schuler’s Take: This year's running back class at the NFL Scouting Combine is much like the quarterback class and even the wide receiver class for that matter: great depth, very little star power. In my mind, University of Alabama's Eddie Lacy is easily the top running back prospect, with his combination of power and speed. But after Lacy, who did not participate in any drills at the Combine, there is a bit of a drop off. Wisconsin's Montee Ball is one of the more intriguing running backs. Ball, who is the No. 2 rated running back in the class by NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, ran a 4.66 40-yard dash with 15 bench press reps and a 32-inch vertical leap, not among the best running backs. Many, including myself, expected Ball to enter the 2012 NFL Draft after the amazing 2011 season, in which he was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. I predicted he would be the second running back taken after Trent Richardson, possibly going to the Tampa bay Buccaneers. Instead, Ball stayed for his senior year and was not able to repeat his record-breaking marks. I'm not sure Ball has the skills to come in and make an impact immediately, but in the right situation, I think Ball can succeed. South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore is another prospect that intrigues me. After suffering a horrific knee injury, Lattimore was unable to participate but is rehabbing in hopes of being ready for next season. Many suspect Lattimore is a third-round selection at best. The highlight of the group came during Auburn's Onterio McCalebb's 4.21 unofficial 40-yard dash, which would have set the record for the fastest 40-yard dash in Combine history. The time was officially changed to 4.34, still the best among the running backs. Other running backs that stuck out to me today were LSU's Michael Ford and UCLA's Johnathan Franklin. Both put up very impressive times in their drills, specifically the 40-yard dash and 60-yard shuttle.
TOP FIVE PERFORMANCES
1. Onterio McCalebb, Auburn – 4.34
2. Knile Davis, Arkansas – 4.37
3. Kerwynn Williams, Utah St. – 4.48
4. Jonathan Franklin, UCLA – 4.49
5. Michael Ford, LSU - 4.50
1. Tommy Bohanon, Wake Forest - 36
2. Knile Davis, Arkansas - 31
3. Mike James, Miami - 28
T-4. Christine Michael, Texas A&M - 27
T-4. Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt - 27
1. Christine Michael, Texas A&M – 43.0
2. Rex Burkhead, Nebraska – 39.0
3. Michael Ford, LSU – 38.5
4. Cierre Wood, Notre Dame – 37.5
5. Kenjon Barner, Oregon – 35.5
1. Michael Ford, LSU - 130
T-2. Rex Burkhead, Nebraska – 125.0
T-2. Chrstine Michael, Texas A&M – 125.0
4. Cierre Wood, Notre Dame – 124.0
5. Joseph Randle, Oklahoma St. – 123.0
1. Christine Michael, Texas A&M – 4.02
2. Rex Burkhead, Nebraska – 4.09
T-3. C.J. Anderson, California – 4.12
T-3. Giovani Bernard, North Carolina – 4.12
5. Kerwynn Williams, Utah State – 4.15 Read