Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
Ex-Hogs ready for combine
Tyler Wilson was one of six Arkansas players invited to the 2013 NFL combine.
FAYETTEVILLE Former Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson sees the NFL Scouting Combine as a means to push his draft stock higher and possibly into the first round of April’s NFL Draft.
Ex-Razorback tailback Knile Davis attaches even a higher degree of importance to his performance in Indianapolis.
“I’m taking it very serious in that it can actually make or break me in a sense,” Davis said.
Wilson and Davis will arrive at the annual combine today along with former Arkansas receiver Cobi Hamilton and the rest of the second-day arrivals.
Former Hogs tight end Chris Gragg, offensive guard Alvin Bailey and punter Dylan Breeding were among the first-day arrivals Wednesday for the testing at Lucas Oil Stadium, as was former UAPB offensive lineman Terron Armstead. Defensive end Ty Powell of Harding is scheduled to arrive Friday with the other defensive linemen, while defensive backs begin their testing Saturday.
Davis will face questions about his durability after being sidelined five times by broken ankles and collarbones in his career, and he’d like to show he’s ready to run like his 1,322-yard and 13-touchdown campaign in 2010, as opposed to his 377-yard, two-touchdown season in 2012 after missing all of 2011 with a broken left ankle.
“I’m just going to be natural, tell the truth and be up-front about everything,” Davis said. “This is very, very important for me.”
Davis rolled the dice by declaring for the draft after his sub-par junior season.
Wilson’s stock might have been better if he had come out after his junior year of 2011, but he thinks a good week of practice last month at the Senior Bowl has his stock trending upward.
“The practice aspect, I think, is where I separated myself from the other guys during the week, so I came out of there with a little bit of momentum and an advantage,” Wilson said. “I think I was myself and just won the interview process. That’s going to be my advantage the whole way through: The interview process. Not only communicating with people, but also on the X’s and O’s part.
“That kind of helped me out, as well as my natural ability to throw the football.”
Wilson worked at the senior bowl with five other quarterbacks: North Carolina State’s Mike Glennon, Florida State’s EJ Manuel, Oklahoma’s Landry Jones, Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib and Zac Dysert of Miami (Ohio). Top quarterback prospects Geno Smith of West Virginia and Matt Barkley of Southern California, who has not been cleared medically to throw in Indianapolis, are also among the 16 quarterbacks invited to the combine.
Wilson is considered by many analysts to be in the mix with Glennon behind Smith and Barkley as the top quarterback prospects in the 2013 draft. The Greenwood native isn’t buying the talk of leading analysts that there might not be a first-round value among the quarterbacks.
“At the end of the day,there’s a lot of teams that are going to need a quarterback,” said Wilson, who set Arkansas records with 7,765 passing yards and 62.6 percent completions in his career. “Quarterbacks have always risen up the board late in the process because people are battling for the guy that they want.
“I’m not going to act like an expert because this is my first go at it, but I think that a lot of teams are also bluffing their hand a little bit because they don’t want to tell you which guy they like. They don’t want to pump up where a guy should be considered because that would let them know that they’re interested in them. It’s a poker game all the way down to the last second.”
Wilson estimated he talked to most of the 32 NFL teams while in Mobile, Ala., at the Senior Bowl and had dinner with several of them.
“A number were a little bit more interested than others,” Wilson said. “Some we had a dinner or two with, particularly some teams that were picking early in the draft.”
The NFL invited more than 330 players to the combine and divided them into fourgroups - offensive linemen, tight ends and special team players; quarterbacks, running backs and receivers; defensive linemen and linebackers; and defensive backs - to arrive on consecutive days. Each group will undergo three days of medical testing, measuring, team and media interviews, “psychological” testing and the like before on-field workouts on their fourth day.
NFL Network’s coverage begins at 8 a.m. Central Saturday. The quarterbacks, running backs and receivers perform their on-field skills tests Sunday.
Wilson, who has been training at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., with Barkley, Smith, Powell and many others, elected to do all the testing in Indianapolis.
Davis has been training at the Michael Johnson Performance center in McKinney, Texas.
“I’ve worked on everything. A lot of reps on starts, the bench, vertical, pretty much every drill and every test they have at the combine,” said Davis, who hopes to run a sub 4.5 in the 40. “I feel very prepared.”
Sports, Pages 17 on 02/21/2013