A Visit From the NFL
March 21, 2012
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- National Football League scouts, coaches and general managers had stop watches and measuring tape out Monday in the Hayden Fry Football Complex.
It was Pro Day at the University of Iowa, and although offensive lineman Riley Reiff was the most prodded and scrutinized, as usual, there are plenty of Hawkeyes ready to contribute and excel at the professional level. The event is coordinated annually by UI football strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle and his staff.
"Pro Day is a lot of fun for us because it's an opportunity to showcase our guys," Doyle said. "They spend four to five years here and invest a lot of time and preparation in getting ready for this step, so we feel obligated to help these guys. It's like graduation day -- our guys are moving on to their next challenge."
The Kansas City Chiefs, with the No. 11 pick in the first round, sent the largest contingent to Iowa City, with general manager Scott Pioli, head coach Romeo Crennel, offensive line coach Jack Bicknell, wide receivers coach Nick Sirianni, and scout Terry Delp. If Reiff is still on the board in the first round April 26, the Chiefs will likely pounce, but most mock drafts have the 6-foot-6, 300-pound native of Parkston, S.D., going four picks earlier to Jacksonville.
"One of the things about Iowa football is that the players who come here are well-coached," Crennel said. "They're technique-sound, they play hard, try hard, they're competitive, and we know that. Last year there were a few more defensive (Hawkeyes) coming out, this year a few more offensive guys are coming out. We know that you're going to get fundamentally-sound guys who are very competitive and who give you a good day's work."
Six position coaches attended Iowa's Pro Day, but Crennel was the only head coach.
"Sometimes as a head coach, you don't get a chance to see guys up close and
Wide receiver Marvin McNutt, Jr., is projected as a fourth or fifth-round draft pick after catching 166 passes for 2,815 yards and 28 touchdowns during his UI career. His size (6-foot-4, 215 pounds), sure hands, and excellent route-running, make him an appealing to the NFL.
"Playing at Iowa prepared me well," McNutt said. "The whole program is built to make you better and make you learn. Coach (Kirk) Ferentz and coach Doyle do a good job in preparing us for what's ahead at the next level."
Between the Insight Bowl and Pro Day, McNutt trained in Arizona at the Athletes' Performance Institute. He said he will probably spend draft weekend at home in St. Louis. But until then...
"I'm just going to continue to work hard and get ready to play special teams when I get to the next level," McNutt said. "I also want to keep learning the game and continue to hone my skills and get better."
Jumpers knee, or patella tendonitis, has slowed cornerback Shaun Prater in the days leading up to the NFL combine and Pro Day. Following the Insight Bowl, Prater played in the East-West Shrine Game and trained in Los Angeles. On Monday, he showed that he was willing to work through knee discomfort and still post a swift time in the 40-yard dash.
"I wanted to show them I was fast," Prater said. "Pretty much every scout that talked to me wanted to see how fast I was. I wanted to show them I am able to work out through pain and still run fast times."
Prater will go through more drills April 5 when defensive lineman Mike Daniels works out for scouts.
"You know exactly what you're going to get with me," Prater said. "Ever since Pee Wee (football) until now, I'm a guy who has full energy. I love this game, and I'm here to win. I'm here to help the team win, no matter what."
Tight end Brad Herman missed the Insight Bowl against Oklahoma because of injury, but he has since recovered and turned in an impressive Pro Day. He knows that playing in Iowa's pro-style offense will help him as a professional.
"The way (college) offenses are going now, tight ends are used as glorified wide outs," Herman said. "They don't learn the true techniques of blocking; then when they get to the next level, they just want to catch passes, but no one wants to do the dirty work. That's where Iowa tight ends come in, and that's why they've been in the league so long."
Last season Jordan Bernstine started 11 games at strong safety, where he finished third on the team with 89 tackles. Bernstine also returned 30 kickoffs for an average of 23.8 yards and a long of 62. That versatility does not go unnoticed among scouts.
"I'm hearing good things," Bernstine said. "Some of the pros think I can help out on special teams right away. I'm trying to go out and show them that I can do whatever they need."
From January to March, Bernstine trained at Body Creations in Huntsville, Ala. Now he rejoins many of his former teammates and will continue to fine-tune for the draft under the direction of Doyle.
"If you're playing for an Iowa football team, you're going to be disciplined and you're going to be a smart football player," Bernstine said. "Coach (Phil) Parker helped me with that a lot this season when I moved (from cornerback) to safety -- as far as learning defenses and knowing what everybody in the defense is doing. It has helped me grasp defenses conceptually more than anything."
The 2012 NFL Draft will kick off in prime time for a third consecutive year. The first round starts Thursday, April 26, at 7 p.m. (CT). The second and third rounds are set for Friday, April 27, starting at 6 p.m. (CT). Rounds four through seven will be held Saturday, April 28, beginning at 11 a.m. (CT).