Fifteen Mizzou Made Tigers will have a shot to impress NFL coaches and scouts on Thursday, March 20 at Mizzou’s annual Pro Day.
Pro Day is one of the biggest events of the spring football season. Scouts from all 32 NFL teams will be present, in addition to many head coaches and general managers. Everybody who’s anybody in the NFL will be in Columbia, Mo., on Thursday.
Pro Day is basically a university’s version of the NFL Combine. It is a chance for players who weren’t invited to Indianapolis to sneak onto the NFL radar and an opportunity for those who did attend the combine to solidify or improve their draft stock.
While every Division I university in the nation has a Pro Day, Mizzou is known for having one of the best. From an organizational and preparation standpoint, NFL coaches always leave Columbia impressed. Everyone in attendance receives a media guide, list of the 2013 draft seniors, list of the 2014 rising seniors, spring practice schedule, 2014 fall schedule and 2013 on-field and strength and conditioning statistics. And everything — from breakfast to Q&As with trainers to measurements and drills — is laid out in a very organized schedule, a schedule that is followed to a T year after year.
And while the Pro Day that Mizzou puts on is second to none, the players who participate in it are even more impressive. Since 2009, the Tigers have been No. 3 nationally in first-round picks, and that ranking is expected to improve.
Players will be evaluated in six drills:
- 225 Bench Press Test
- 40 yard dash
- 3-Cone Drill
- Vertical Jump
- Standing Long Jump
The Bench Press is a measure of strength and muscle endurance. The athlete sets up with 225 lbs. and attempts to complete as many repetitions as possible. The biggest thing scouts are looking for in this drill is stamina, as the number of reps an athlete can hit consecutively is a strong indicator of how often he has frequented the weight room during his college career. Upper-body strength is important for players in the trenches, as they use that strength to block or rip away from offensive linemen on every play.
The 40-yard dash is all about speed and explosion. The athlete starts from a static position with both hands on the ground, much like a track runner, and sprints 40-yards in a straight line. Times range depending on position groups, as running backs and receivers aim to be around the 4.5 second mark, while lineman try to crack 5.0. Although the long-term impact is hard to determine, draft stocks can skyrocket with an impressive performance in the 40-yard dash.
The 3-Cone Drill tests an athlete’s ability to change directions at a high speed. Three cones are placed in an L-shape. The athlete starts from the starting line, goes 5-yards to the first cone and back. Then, he turns, runs around the second cone, runs a weave around the third cone, which is the high point of the L, changes directions, comes back around that second cone and finishes. Athletes who finish with strong times in the drill are typically able to quickly navigate their way around corners without losing momentum and can also completely change direction quickly.
The I-Test, or Pro Agility Shuttle, assesses a player’s quickness and ability to change directions. Three marker cones are placed along a line five yards apart. The athlete straddles the middle line and puts one hand down in a three-point stance. He starts by either going left or right, touches the line 5-yards away, runs 10-yards in the opposite direction and touches the far line, and then finally turns and finishes by running back through the start/finish line. The 20-yard shuttle does a good job of measuring lateral quickness and mobility in short bursts of speed and acceleration.
The Vertical Jump is all about lower-body explosion and power. Before the test, the athlete stands flat-footed and his reach is measured. He then jumps vertically without stepping and hits a group of plastic flags above him. The differential between the reach and the highest flag the athlete touches is his vertical jump measurement. Along with measuring an athlete’s jumping ability, which can win him a jump ball in the end zone, the true value of a strong vertical jump is that it shows a player’s ability to burst off the line of scrimmage with lower body strength.
The Standing Long Jump measures lower-body explosion, lower-body strength and balance. The athlete starts out with a stationary, balanced stance and then explodes out as far as he can.Once he lands, he must hold his position without falling over or becoming unbalanced. A player’s ability to jump forward is rarely going to be put to use on a football field, but his burst and short-area quickness are used on every play.
Along with the measurable tests, Pro Day can be very telling in other ways. Many coaches go to see how a player interacts with his teammates and coaches to determine if they would be a good fit in their locker room.
Additionally, an athlete’s performance at Pro Day can say a lot about his work ethic. In the month since the NFL Combine, players have had a chance to work out on their own to try and improve on their performance in Indianapolis. And for the players who weren’t invited to the combine, they have had three months to improve. How they perform on Thursday will prove just how bad they want it and what they’ve been willing to do to obtain it.
The 15 Mizzou Tigers competing on Thursday are ready to prove they want it more than anything.
How to Watch
You can watch Mizzou’s Pro Day in its entirety starting at 10:30 a.m. here.
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