by Chris Warner
By next Wednesday, February 18, hundreds of college-age hopefuls will venture to Indianapolis for that Bizarro-World Spring Break known as the NFL Combine. Below are a few invitations I would have extended, some players I’d like to see and a couple I’d never heard of.
RB Benjamin Williams, South Florida. There’s something about this 5-7, 200-pound dynamo I really enjoy. Actually, many things. He plays special teams (had two tackles in the Magicjack St. Petersburg Bowl, which really does exist. He catches the ball out of the backfield and blocks well. I’d like to see him at the combine because he reportedly benches over 400 pounds.
Who decides the combine invites, anyway? For sheer entertainment value, I protest the exclusion of Frank “The Tank” Summers. How fun would it be to watch a 5-9, 245-pounder run the 40? And what’s the deal with leaving out Bernard Scott? Apparently an MVP performance in the Texas vs. the Nation game doesn’t count toward a combine invite. Do we dare mess with Texas, people?
Meanwhile, Nebraska’s Cody Glenn got an invite as a running back despite playing linebacker and missing the last four games of the season due to a suspension. Go figure.
LB Michael Tauiliili, Duke. (Or as I like to call him, “Mr. Four I’s.” Get it? Ah, I kill me.) Short at 5-10, Tauiliili nevertheless led Duke in tackles with 140. Because of his relatively diminutive stature and his standout performance at a brainy southern school, he reminds me of Larry Izzo. If Tauiliili’s still in the NFL in 2023, remind me to tell you I told you so.
WR Mike Wallace, Ole Miss. Helped the Rebels win the Cotton Bowl with four catches for 80 yards receiving (with one TD) and 91 yards returning kicks. Caught a touchdown pass in the Senior Bowl. Might seem a bit slender at 6-0, 180, but he runs fast and catches the football. Not sure what more the combine gods would want.
TE Brandon Myers, Iowa. With prototypical size at 6-4, 250, Myers led all Hawkeyes in the Outback Bowl vs. South Carolina with four receptions for 49 yards. For the season, he caught 34 passes for 441 yards (13.0/catch) on a run-oriented team (oh, don’t you worry: Shonn Greene got a combine invite).
OL Clif Ramsey, Boston College. Voted first team All ACC by the media, Ramsey blocked for two freshman running backs and two QBs not named Matt Ryan to help B. C. make their umpteenth bowl game in a row (we’ll overlook that they lost to Vanderbilt in what was probably the worst game of bowl season). At 6-6, 312, Ramsey could fill any gaps along the line of a certain pro team that may not reside too far from his school.
Ones to Watch
Unknown LB I Will Keep An Eye On: Morris Wooten, Arizona State. Wooten overcame injury and did well for the Sun Devils, although getting notice in the Pac-10 doesn’t guarantee anything (just ask 2007 All Pac-10 linebacker Spencer Larsen, now a backup fullback for the Broncos). Still, at 6-1, 245 and with 72 tackles this past season, Wooten deserves a chance to use the combine for an NFL gig.
Unknown WR I Will Keep An Eye On: Quinten Lawrence, McNeese State. A punt and kick returner with so much speed he’s crazyfast (yes, it’s all one word and you have to say it quickly). Not tiny at 6-0, 178. Two “ifs” here: If the Pats can use a player like him to get starters out of harm’s way, I’m all for it; however, if Lawrence runs anything slower than a 4.4-second 40, they should stay away.
Unknown TE I Will Keep An Eye On: Brian Mandeville, Northeastern. Yes, we’ve heard of him here in the Northeast (hence the school name), but the only Huskies who get national exposure play for UConn (and sometimes Northern Illinois). Mandeville had a decent performance in the East-West Shrine Game, especially during that week’s practices. Lanky at 6-6, 255, he still demonstrated his ability to block down on tackles and protect vs. defensive ends. If he can show off a little bit of speed and quickness, he’s moving up draft boards.
Unknown DT I Will Keep An Eye On: Sammie Lee Hill, Stillman. Hill’s size (6-4, 331) has transformed him into one of the most wide-awake sleepers of the draft. An injury prevented him from participating in the East-West Shrine Game and therefore going against Division I players, so the combine will provide his best chance to showcase his talents. Nothing against Stillman, but if you don’t think Sammie’s come a long way public-relations-wise, try to navigate your way around his team’s website.
Unknown RB I Will Keep An Eye On: David Johnson, Arkansas State. He’s listed at 6-2, 271, 20 pounds heavier than on his college player page. I look forward to watching him try to run a 40-yard dash in less time than it takes to boil an egg. I thought we already had the corpulent running back thing covered with Texas A&M’s Jorvorskie Lane, but for some reason Lane didn’t merit an invitation. Again: who decides these things?
The combine begins next week. Pick your favorites now or forever hold your peace.