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March 7, 2012

Pro Day notebook: Tiders turn heads

TUSCALOOSA | For Jerrell Harris, Pro Day meant everything.

For others, like Trent Richardson, it meant nothing.

And for still others, the annual event for which representatives from 30 of 32 NFL teams gathered Wednesday for an on-campus evaluation of the Crimson Tide's top NFL Draft prospects held an importance somewhere in between.

Richardson, projected as a first-round pick, linebacker Courtney Upshaw and safety Mark Barron did not attend the workout while recovering from injuries, and are instead focused on a March 29 on-campus workout for which extensive NFL representation is expected. Linebacker Dont'a Hightower and Dre Kirkpatrick participated in some drills but not others, opting to allow their NFL Combine results to stand in events such as the 40-yard dash.

For DeQuan Menzie, however, Wednesday was his chance to make scouts forget the combine.

The Crimson Tide's senior cornerback turned in improved official clockings in the 40-yard dash of 4.61 and 4.62 seconds. That's more than a full tenth of a second better than the 4.74 he ran, according to nflcombineresults.com, in Indianapolis last month.

"I wasn't relaxed there. I felt so much pressure," Menzie said of the combine. "Here, it was like I was at home, and I could release all the pressure and run my best 40."

Menzie is projected to be drafted in the middle rounds of the seven-round draft scheduled for April 26-28 in New York City. UA coach Nick Saban said Menzie's skills in the secondary are as good as any cornerback he has had in his five years at UA.

"If you looked at all our film from last year, and you were a scout, you would say this guy never looks speed deficient on the field," Saban said. "He runs, he covers people, the same kind of people he'll have to cover at the next level, and is a very good nickelback. He's a good blitzer, a good tackler, he's very instinctive, and probably could be a cover safety at the next level. Because he's a good football player, people are going to find ways to use him."

Former UA players who participated included John Michael Boswell, Josh Chapman, Nick Gentry, Darius Hanks, Jerrell Harris, Phelon Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick, Alfred McCullough, Menzie, Brad Smelley, William Vlachos and Alex Watkins. Receiver Marquis Maze will hold his workout on the 29th with Richardson, Barron and Upshaw. Players were measured for height and weight before going through testing in the weight room which included the vertical jump, the standing broad jump, and bench press. They then ran 40-yard dashes in the Hank Crisp Indoor Athletic Facility, along with the short shuttle, the three-cone drill, and other agility testing.

Saban said the extra time to prepare will be a benefit to Richardson, Upshaw and Barron.

"Courtney has a little tendonitis in his knee and is trying to work through that. Things seem to be a little accelerated this year," Saban said. "There wasn't a lot of time between when we played and the Senior Bowl, then the combine, then our spring break is early, so our Pro Day is a little earlier. To give these guys a little time -- Mark and Trent -- to come back from their injuries, is a positive thing for those guys. They're working hard."

Pittsburgh Steelers' general manager Kevin Colbert, Tennessee Titans' GM Ruston Webster and former Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio were among the more notable names who attended Pro Day, although even more head coaches and high-level personnel officials are expected to be on hand for the March 29 workout, which will be at 9 a.m. (closed to public).

More from Pro Day:

*** Quotable: "I think he's done it all here. He's got a lot of diversity as a player because he's played a lot of different positions. He's going to offer the same thing at the next level - inside backer, nickel backer, defensive end, odd rusher, so there's not very many other things you can do. He does all those things very well, he's very smart and has leadership qualities. I think people are starting to recognize that the more they are around him." - Saban on Hightower.

*** Two more official 40-yard dash times according to NFL.com: TE Brad Smelley 4.77, 4.76, WR Darius Hanks 4.66 and 4.67.

*** Former UA NG Josh Chapman is recovering from knee surgery, but did participate in the bench press test, and lifted 225 pounds 29 times. Chapman said doctors have told him his surgically repaired knee will not be fully healed until June or July, well after the late-April NFL Draft. ... Harris said his vertical leap was measured at 34 inches.

*** Former UA NG Nick Gentry worked out in some linebacker drills. With his impressive quickness and lack of size, whatever chance Gentry might have of making the NFL could be at linebacker rather than up front.

*** A couple of players looked like they had done a lot to transform physically since UA ended its season on Jan. 9. Vlachos said he has added weight and is now up to 319 pounds, while Hightower said he has cut weight and has lost 10 pounds to 265.

*** Former UA WR Brandon Gibson did not participate.

*** Hightower said he will wait until the 29th to perform in the bench press, as did Vlachos.

*** Underclassmen on hand to watch Pro Day included DL Jesse Williams, RB Eddie Lacy, LB Nico Johnson and OL Barrett Jones. Former Alabama linemen John Copeland and Andre Smith, both of whom played/play with the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals, and Falcons OL Mike Johnson, were on hand to watch.

Reach Chase Goodbread at chase@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0196.


3/7 Alabama Pro Day - Images by TideSports Photo



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