Everyone had a different plan of attack as 12 former members of the Ohio State football team worked out for NFL scouts as part of the team’s annual Pro Day on Friday morning.
For guys like Jake Stoneburner, the tight end/wideout/do-it-all player, the day was about improving on the performance given last month at the NFL combine in Indianapolis.
For players like Garrett Goebel, Orhian Johnson and Zach Domicone, the aim was to make a good impression on the scouts from the 28 NFL teams and one CFL squad (the Winnipeg Blue Bombers) who converged on the Woody Hayes Athletic Center to watch workouts.
Domicone went as far as burning DVDs featuring 40 plays from his career that showcase his skills at both safety and in all four phases of special teams.
“Anything that will give me a leg up, you know?” Domicone said.
But no matter what each player was doing, the overriding goal was to catch the eye of the 36 scouts who signed in – and perhaps more who didn’t – as part of a process that is basically the same as a longterm job interview.
And basically just about every Buckeye who was asked thought they passed with flying colors.
“I think it went pretty good,” said Goebel, a two-year starter at defensive tackle. “It was obviously great to put all the hard work and stuff that we’ve been putting in the last three months and be able to get something and show everyone.”
Perhaps the biggest star of the day was Stoneburner, who said he heard he finished the 40-yard dash in anywhere between 4.52 and 4.55 seconds depending on who was doing the timing. That shaved one tenth off of his combine time of 4.65, which still placed fourth among tight ends.
For Stoneburner, who also checked in around 250 pounds, it was a good day.
“I feel like I did every single thing I could,” said Stoneburner, who was covered in sweat by the end of his workout. “I wanted to run a faster 40 and I wanted to catch every ball. They actually let me freelance a little bit on my routes. At the combine we did just a couple of curls and a corner route. I want to be able to show I can run and catch the ball.”
Stoneburner was among those who caught balls from former Ohio State quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith, who spent the day throwing all the passes considering the Buckeyes did not have an outgoing quarterback present to impress scouts.
Among other players who had participated in the combine, Reid Fragel also appeared to stand out. Having been working out with former OSU star LeCharles Bentley the past few weeks, the offensive tackle showed off his footwork, strength and fitness working out with former Glenville State offensive lineman Mark Jackson, a Columbus native who was the only non-Buckeye to take part.
“I just wanted to come out here and show more consistent footwork in my pass protection,” Fragel said. “I really feel more comfortable after working with LeCharles out in Arizona the last three months.”
Fragel only took part in position drills after performing well in tests at the combine, including doing 33 bench press reps to place first among tackles.
Zach Boren returned to Columbus from Indianapolis intent to show off his versatility. The fullback-turned-linebacker worked out only on offense during the main part of the day, catching passes from Smith, while doing special teams work in later individual drills. Boren was listed on the sheet handed out by team personnel as a long snapper and took some snaps with scouts in attendance as well.
Meanwhile, defensive end Nathan Williams took part in most drills and linebacker Etienne Sabino did everything but run after suffering a hamstring injury at the combine. The hamstring didn’t bother him much on the day, though, as Sabino gutted out his performance.
“I feel like I did pretty good,” he said. “I hit a pretty good number on the bench, did good on my vert, L-cone, everything I felt decent about.”
Meanwhile, defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins did not run a 40, either, taking part only in position drills. Afterward, he said he hopes to continue to work his way back into the first round, where many had projected him to go before he chose to forgo his senior season at OSU.
Domicone, Goebel, Johnson, cornerback Travis Howard, walk-on defensive lineman Karim Stephens and walk-on wide receiver Taylor Rice also had their first chance to impress scouts. Both Johnson and Howard ran 40 times in the mid 4.5-second range, with Johnson impressing because of his 215-pound frame that now boasts a little extra weight after recent work with team nutritionist Sarah Wick.
“I feel I went out there and answered a lot of questions they wanted to see,” said Johnson, who also posted a broad jump of 10 feet, 10 inches that would have placed fifth at the combine among safeties. “I felt like overall I went out and did what they wanted to see, especially at a heavier weight.”
Domicone, meanwhile, joined Johnson and others in doing post-session special teams work in an effort to try to catch an eye or two.
“I stayed and did some extra drills,” Domicone said. “I made some contacts with some of the scouts here. I think that’s good feedback right off the bat.”
Howard added that he has talked with a number of teams and should have some in-person meetings heading up to the NFL draft after two years as a starter at OSU.
The only draft-eligible Buckeye with designs on making the professional ranks not to work out was John Simon, as the defensive lineman continues to rehab from January shoulder surgery. Instead, he played waterboy and provided moral support for the Buckeyes working out.
“To see them compete is awesome, but to stand off to the side isn’t what we like to do as competitors,” he said. “I’m happy for them. They had a great day. I think everyone looked pretty good out there and they deserved it.”
Among the NFL personnel representatives on hand were Minnesota Vikings GM Rick Spielman, the brother of former OSU star Chris, and former OSU player Dick Lebeau, the longtime defensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Former head coach John Cooper was present along with Jim Heacock, while former players Jim Cordle, Mike Adams, J.B. Shugarts, DeVier Posey, Boom Herron and others were there for moral support.