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 show off for the NFL scouts
Kiero Small runs the 40 yard dash Wednesday March 5, 2014 during the 2014 Pro Day at the Walker Family Training Center on the campus of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas’ top NFL Draft prospects, defensive end Chris Smith and center Travis Swanson, did limited drill work Wednesday as 14 former Razorbacks went through pro day workouts at Walker Pavilion before a pack of NFL scouts.
Swanson had to wait until the afternoon’s final session - offensive line drill work with tackle David Hurd - to get before the scouts, while Smith had his own personal sequence that included dropback work as a linebacker and snaring passes from former Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett.
“I think it was real important,” Smith said of the linebacker drills. “I can rush the passer from the two-point stance and three-point stance. I think they wanted to see more of the drops and stuff. I did a little bit of that at Arkansas, but I think they wanted to see that, so hopefully I’m getting good feedback. I did good today.”
The 40-yard dash was held on the artificial turf rather than the faster rubberized track surface at the indoor facility. Former receiver Javontee Herndon had the day’s best 40 time, a 4.47, while Julian Horton ran a 4.69, followed by safeties Jerry Mitchell (4.71) and Eric Bennett (4.72).
Swanson let his testing numbers from the NFL Combine stand.
“When I kind of started this whole process, I wanted to do stuff at the combine, then come into pro day completely just focused on my position drills,” Swanson said. “I feel like what I did at the combine was fine.
“What I did great was the things that you don’t see, the things behind closed doors, both medical and formal and informal interviews. That’s where I felt great leaving the combine.”
Kicker Zach Hocker, who made 13 of 15 field goals at the combine from various angles and distances, did not kick on Arkansas’ still sleet-covered fields.
Defensive tackle Robert Thomas, who suffered a broken left leg Oct. 12, did limited drill work for the scouts coordinated by Arkansas trainer Matt Summers. He also did a team-best 37 reps with 225 pounds on the bench press, followed by linebacker Jarrett Lake (26), defensive tackle Byran Jones (24), fullback Kiero Small (23) and Herndon (23).
Thomas has a personal workout day set up for April 1 along with Jones, who suffered a mild calf injury recently and did not run or do drills inside Walker Pavilion.
Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema pointed out that the pro day is more of an opportunity for players who didn’t participate in the Senior Bowl or the combine.
“Obviously some of our guys did a good job in the combine and they’re kind of limited today, which is more for the other guys to improve their stock,” he said.
Bielema said he thought receivers Herndon and Horton ran well and that other players capitalized on the opportunity in front of scouts.
“Today is a big day for Eric [Bennett], and for Kiero [Small] this is a huge day since he didn’t get invited to the combine. He performed so well at the all-star game [NFLPA Collegiate Bowl] that this was a big one for him to let people lay their eyes on him.”
Small said he wasn’t sure of his 40 time, but he felt strong.
“I think I came out and ran good, showed that I could be explosive, showed that I could lift the weights,” Small said. “I think I did well.”
Small said the passes from Mallett, who practiced with pass catchers Tuesday before throwing to them again on pro day, had zip.
“Them things got some steam on them,” Small said. “You’ve got to show your hands, whether you can catch or not, with them balls.”
Hurd, a 6-6, 300-pounder who started two seasons at left tackle, is an intriguing prospect. His testing numbers - 22 reps on the bench press, 5.34 in the 40 - didn’t flash, but his on-field results have been commendable.
“I feel like I’m one of the top tackles in the nation, even though maybe I’m not ranked like that,” Hurd said. “I’ve given up two sacks in two years against the best in the nation, and I feel like I performed very well today, too.”
Sports, Pages 17 on 03/06/2014