March 1, 2013

Pro Day notebook

Only three days after his NFL Combine was over in Indianapolis, Josh Johnson had a clear objective when he worked out in front of scouts at Purdue's Pro Day Friday.

The cornerback's official 4.65 second sprint in the 40-yard dash Tuesday in Indianapolis wasn't nearly as quick that he thought it could be. So he ran it again, in much more familiar territory of Mollenkopf Athletic Facility, and was faster.

"I wanted to improve my 40 and show them that I'm faster than you think I am," said Johnson, who reported his time as closer to 4.4 seconds, "and not just quick. I wanted to prove I could run.

"I wasn't really confident in myself (in Indy), as far as being in that stance for three seconds and I couldn't get a good push. Here, I only had to be set a second or two and I practiced more the day before with (Akeem) Shavers. I felt more comfortable."

Johnson and Shavers were joined by about 15 other former Boilermakers, including quarterbacks Robert Marve and Caleb TerBush, receiver Antavian Edison and linebacker Robert Maci, who worked out in front of representatives from a dozen NFL teams. KK Short, who has a hamstring injury, was not in attendance, but will work out for scouts later this month.

Although Johnson wasn't happy with his 40 at the Combine, he let his other drills there stand. He had 16 repetitions on the bench press at 225 pounds, completed the three-cone drill in 6.99 seconds and had a 35-inch vertical.

But overall, he felt better about the results Friday, which also included position-specific drill work, than he did Tuesday.

"I'm more comfortable around my friends and family," he said. "I had confidence in myself and some old teammates here to motivate me and push me."

The 5-foot-9, 199-pound Johnson, who will head back to Florida now to stay in shape for possible team workouts, is likely a fifth- to seventh-round projection. He says scouts have said they like his physicality and knack for making plays around the ball, but had questions about his speed. But considering he's been a three-year starter at Purdue, they've got plenty of game film to look at, as well.

"The eye in the sky don't lie," he said. "They're going to read and evaluate you off of how you played, your downs and your ups and what you can improve on and if they can coach you."

Shavers shines

When Shavers was training for his Pro Day workout, he'd see a pair of golden Nikes every morning as he entered the MJP training center in Texas.

"We'd walk by (the case) every morning and be like 'Man, we're training with Michael Johnson, a great history-maker,'" the running back said of the four-time Olympic gold medalist. "It's crazy to be in his presence.

"He was a huge help, helped me with my stance and every phase of my 40. He'd be in the weight room and be working out harder than we were. You'd think he was still competing; he's a great guy."

On Friday, Shavers ran in the low 4.4s - perhaps as fast as 4.39 - in the 40-yard dash. It was his only opportunity in front of scouts from multiple teams, after not being invited to the Combine, making his performance all the more critical.

"It makes this very important because it's really your stage," he said. "There couldn't a better place; it's somewhere I'm used to. I'm very comfortable here and glad I got to do it here."

Shavers, who participated in all of the agility drills, like the three-cone and 5-10-5, says he lifted 19 reps on the bench and jumped 39-inches on the vertical.

"I set my standards very high," Shavers said. "So even if something was below my standards, it still could be pretty good I guess, in most cases. That's the way I look at it."

Shavers, who gained 871 yards for Purdue last season, said he was fully recovered from a knee injury suffered in the Heart of Dallas Bowl on New Year's Day. The injury kept him out of the Texas vs. The Nation all-star game, but he sat as more of a precautionary measure.

"The risk wasn't worth it," he said. "It would have been a good experience, but at the same time, I could have went out there and re-injured my knee and this all would have been put on hold. So I tried to make the best decision for myself and my future."

The 5-11, 203-pound Shavers isn't projected to be a draft pick, as most consider him a free agency possibility. But Friday's performance very likely improved his stock,

"It's been mostly positive feedback," he said. "They know what they're looking for and they really just told me that I got a great workout in today and there's really no need to work out again. I have some great numbers; the only thing I could improve on is maybe a little bit of positional work. That'll be something that I work on in this short time that I have."

Marve answers Qs

The questions about Marve's knee come often.

All he can do is answer. Usually, that is verbally, but on Friday he got to do so visually.

"Everyone asks about it," he said, "because they have this image, I think. Then, they come out here and see me and I'm flowing normal, just like a game. Everyone said the same things during game 'Oh, he's not going to be OK.' But then I'm out there flowing normal."

Marve came away from his Pro Day experience feeling good about his performance. He lifted, ran the 40 and did the agility drills, and he did each without a brace on his surgically repaired knee.

"My knee feels fine," he said. "I mess around all the time and don't wear a brace unless I'm in a game and I kind of do that for the doctors, so they'll put me out there. I feel good, I feel strong and I'm going to continue my training."

Marve, a former top recruit out of the state of Florida, felt he had a lot to prove Friday. He was only a part-time starter in his final season at Purdue and because of injury has little game film, comparatively, to others.

"I thought I did well, the ball came out," he said. "It's frustrating sometimes because you train, train, train, but then you throw to different receivers to the timing of it (is off). But it was a good day overall. I thought the ball whistled out of my hand pretty well and showed them my knee was OK, so that's always a plus. And there was a lot of questions.

"Obviously I didn't have the career over a long period of time that I wanted to have," he said. "But I thought I played very strong this year when I played. I played well early and thought I played very strong through the end of the year. I went out on my own terms and went out happy. And I went out considerably healthy."

Marve, who made the trip back to West Lafayette after training in Florida, is hoping to get an opportunity in the NFL, whether that be via draft or free agency. But without going to the Combine, Marve's had only the Pro Day and an all-star game to show scouts what he has.

"I want to show them I'm smooth when I throw, that I can adapt when I throw and obviously I want to show what I look like when I throw on the run," he said. "That was one of my strongest suits coming into college. That's something that I've built up and I wanted to show them I could be in the pocket also. I felt I did a good job, got a couple more workouts to do. Every time you go through a workout, learn something and get better at it. I improved today and want to keep improving."

Marve regional combine scheduled for March 9 in Tampa and will work out for a couple other teams. He's just hoping for a chance to continue his playing career.

"I'm going to work as hard as can and let God take care of the rest," he said. "Everyone always wants to know 'What do you think? What's going on?' Anything that happens is the right answer for me. We all have different roads in life and I'm happy with anything that happens."

Selling versatility
Maci had been sick all week leading into what he called the most important day of his professional career.

But that didn't stop him from feeling good about the way he performed. Maci participated in all of the physical testing but only ran the 40 once - he stumbled and didn't want to risk an injury by doing it again before the positional drills.

"I think I did pretty well," he said. "They haven't really told us our times yet, but I think I did pretty well.

"I've been less nervous than I thought I would. … Woke up this morning bright and early, got a good breakfast in and I felt good, fresh."

Maci projects to play outside linebacker in the NFL. Because he played that only one season in college, getting most of his snaps there as a senior despite also playing some of defensive end, Maci trained to improve his technique at the position in Houston leading into pro day. He said he was able to gain more flexibility and agility.

"I'll kind of miss defensive line," he said. "But (I worked on) being able to open up my hips and stay loose that way. They helped me a lot with the pro day drills, too."

Though he may be tagged as a linebacker, Maci also is touted his versatility to scouts.

He's played on all the special teams and also has experience with his hand in the dirt and standing up. But he makes sure scouts know he'll play wherever they want, and he's willing to gain weight or lose weight. He also reminds he earned academic All-Big Ten honors four seasons.

"(I'm) just the high motor kind of guy. I'm going to put everything I've got into this," he said. "They saw my 40, I put in everything and I fell. I'll give it all for a team and put it all out there."

Maci doesn't expect to be drafted but is hoping to seize on a couple more opportunities before the draft. He's participating in an all-star game in Florida later this month and hopes to be able to attend some individual workouts.

"I've just got to impress one team," he said.

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