Pro scouts come to Pullman, Cougs shine

ADAM BRAIDWOOD

PULLMAN — Three-plus months of intensive preparation for 10 WSU seniors boiled down to just a couple of hours this week on their home turf in Pullman. Wale Dada summed up afterward what each one of WSU's Pro Day participants must have been thinking: "If they give me a hole, I have to rip it wide open."


OMOWALE DADA

A number of Cougars, on a day marked by personal bests, may have increased their draft/free agent stock as a result of their performances at the annual late-winter rite known as Pro Day.

At Washington State on Wednesday afternoon, cornerbacks Omowale Dada and Alex Teems, tailback Jerome Harrison, offensive guard Norvell Holmes, punter Kyle Basler, center Nick Mihlhauser, defensive ends Adam West and Adam Braidwood, and wide receivers Trandon Harvey and Greg Prator worked out running, jumping, lifting and catching in front of scouts from the Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers and Seattle Seahawks.


NICK MIHLHAUSER

PRO DAY IS like a mini-scouting combine for college football players hopeful for a future with the NFL. Scouts from various pro teams travel to most big-conference schools in the country (and some smaller ones) to time, record and measure prospects in a series of physical challenges, watch game film, and interview college coaches.

The experience at WSU began in the morning when the scouts arrived on campus, talked to the Cougar coaching staff and watched game film of prospects. They then met the seniors in the weight room, where the players were tested in the bench press, vertical leap and broad jump.

Around 1 p.m., everyone moved to the Cougars' rarely-used indoor practice facility - a.k.a "The Bubble" - for the 40-yard dash, a variety of shuttle runs, and position-specific drills.

LINEMEN HAVE GOOD DAY, WHILE CB'S OUTING ENDS EARLY

PRO DAYS WITH the NFL often feel rushed and have a bit of a clandestine feel -- Washington State's was no exception.

The scouts do not tell the players their times at the workouts, the reason being they don't want other NFL teams to get a look at them. Those WSU players that found out their times, had to hear their numbers word of mouth.

Of the linemen, Braidwood was told he clocked a 4.7. Holmes, too, did quite well in the testing. Mihlhauser, who trained in New Jersey for parts of the last three months, ran a personal best in both the 40 and the L-shuttle. One NFC scout spent time talking with the uber-athletic center coaches Bill Doba and George Yarno praised throughout his WSU career.

"He said my times looked good," said Mihlhauser (6-3, 291). "The scouts didn't really talk about (draft position) all that much. What I've been hearing is late rounds or free agent."

The top 40 time at Washington State's Pro Day might have been run by Dada -- the buzz on the Chicagoland native's time was that it was in the 4.5 range.

THE HARD LUCK STORY of the day belonged to Teems. The 5-foot-11, 188-pounder is seen as a bubble pro prospect and unlikely draft pick - exactly the kind of player who benefits most from Pro Day.

Teems created a stir when he entered the Bubble flanked by Olympic gold medallist and former 100-meter world record holder Maurice Greene. Teems has been training with Greene in California for the past couple of months.

But the buzz quickly turned to disappointment when Teems pulled a hamstring almost immediately after exploding from the starting position in the 40.

Teems was grounded for the remainder of the day but remained in good spirits, laughing and joking with teammates and talking to several scouts afterwards. Teems said he intends to prove himself at a later workout in Hawaii after the injury heals. West also hurt his hamstring during the 40-yard run.

THE ATMOSPHERE WAS tense. Imagine going into a one-shot-only job interview with no shirt on while scores of co-workers, friends and former employers watched. Most had prepared three months night and day for these couple of hours. Harvey said he was initially rattled by some of the scouts' reactions before getting more comfortable.

"You keep wondering 'Are they paying attention?'" Harvey said afterwards. "You start looking at their faces."

ONE AFC SCOUT kept up his poker face regarding the Cougars on display, something that's customary at these events. Asked if anyone jumped out at him, the scout mulled it over, shrugged his shoulders and said, "It was about what I expected."

Harvey, who seemed to have done well in some of the drills such as the broad jump, wasn't satisfied. "I did okay. I didn't get the times I expected. I guess we all had slow times," he said.

DADA HAD A very good day according to many of his Cougar teammates. He completed the most important workout of his life drawing significant interest from at least one playoff team. He and the scout talked at length after the workouts were over, with plenty of smiles and compliments being handed out.

"I'm always hard on myself, so I think I could've improved, I could have practiced better," Dada said.

The 5-11, 198 pound Dada graduated with a double-major (business management and sociology) in December and has since been training at the House of Speed, a program founded by ex-NFL receiver Don Beebe in the Windy City.

"I've always wanted to play in the NFL. I've been thinking about it since I was younger, but being a student-athlete, I know not everyone is going to make it," said Dada. "I have two degrees; if the NFL doesn't work out, I'll start setting up jobs. I'll definitely have a Plan B."

BRAIDWOOD WAS AMONG those whom scouts said increased his stock on the strength of a monster workout.

"They said I definitely helped myself," said Braidwood. "They said it would give the scouts a reason to take a longer look at my video...The general consensus is a possible late round draft pick and definitely a free agent (signing)."

The 6-foot-4, 274 pounder benched 31 reps with 225 on the bar and leapt 33 1/2 inches on his vertical. At the NFL combine, only three out of 26 defensive ends who attended put up more reps.

"I put up better numbers that I thought I would, I did a lot of personal bests for a lot of the stuff," said Braidwood, who also had that impressive 4.7 in the 40.

Braidwood, a British Columbia native, will also participate in the CFL combine beginning March 22. The B.C. Lions, Saskatchewan Roughriders and Hamilton Tiger-Cats have all been expressing interest. Saskatchewan holds the No. 1 pick this year.

HARRISON WAS PERHAPS the only player at Pro Day assured of a spot in the upcoming draft at this point, although some are certainly on the bubble. The Ghost already participated in February's combine, where he clocked a 4.48 in the 40, making it unnecessary to go through the physicals tests on Wednesday.

Harrison did, however, conduct ball-carrying and pass-catching drills while some very interested scouts from about five teams looked on.

Fellow skill position players Dada, Harvey and Prator ran through pass-catching drills. The scouts did not run any of the linemen through position drills, with their day pretty much done after the testing.


KYLE BASLER

BASLER PUNTED EARLY on in the day with impressive results.

"I think I was averaging around 47," said the 6-2, 233-pound punter. "The (NFC scout) took me out and was doing the chart so I don't know the exact hang time or yardage. He was clocking and writing them down but didn't say them."

Basler, like all of his fellow seniors, said he spent the past few months working his tail off.

"Things went well," he said. "It was great, it was a lot of fun and definitely all of the hard work paid off."


TRANDON HARVEY

HARVEY SAID HE had previously had no thoughts of going pro after his rough junior season, but changed his mind during his senior campaign.

"I knew I was a lot better than what I'd been showing," Harvey said. "I went up against some of the best cover corners in the Pac-10, and I knew I could play at the next level. I'm just trying to grab an opportunity."

Harvey said he's realistic about his draft prospects, but still hopes to land on a pro roster.

"I'll watch the Draft on TV, and then maybe I'll get called in for a tryout," he said. "Honestly, I know I'll be there just to fill a spot, but at some point I'll be able to go up and grab it and make people take notice."

Harvey didn't rule out playing professionally in Canada, but eschewed thoughts of the Arena League. "I want to play on the big stage," he said.

WITH THE DRAFT still almost two months away (April 29-30), the Cougars who took part in Pro Day still have work ahead of them before they'll know the next step of their football careers.

"I'm going to train like crazy," Dada said, already looking like he didn't possess a stitch of body fat. "Everything I did to get ready for today, I'm going to go above and beyond."

NOTES:
About 100 onlookers were on hand, including current WSU players Jason Hill, Alex Brink, Mkristo Bruce and Steve Dildine among others; almost the entire coaching staff; NFL Cougars like Eric Coleman (Jets) and Hamza Abdullah (Denver), former Cougar running backs Allen Thompson and Chris Bruhn; and a host of Cougar fans.

CF.C Senior Editor Barry Bolton contributed to this report

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