UCLA football demonstrates talent to scouts, coaches on Pro Day
By Jordan Lee
March 10, 2015 10:47 pm
With their college football careers now well in the rearview mirror, a handful of UCLA football players took to Spaulding Field on Tuesday for UCLA’s Pro Day in one final public attempt to demonstrate their skills to scouts and coaches before next month’s NFL draft.
And while much will be made of what the athletes do on the field – see the rest of this article, for example – coach Jim Mora reminded those who gathered Tuesday that what the players do away from the field will also play a large part in determining their football futures.
“Everything is being evaluated. I had three teams come up to me today and comment on the fact that it was nice to see Brett (Hundley) wearing his hat the correct way rather than wearing it backwards or cocked to the side,” Mora said. “The way they walk, the way they talk, what they wear, the way they present themselves at all times is being evaluated by these professional football teams.”
Hat or no hat, here’s how each Bruin looked in his Pro Day workout:
QB Brett Hundley
UCLA’s signal caller for the past three seasons built off a strong showing at the NFL Scouting Combine in February with a solid showing Tuesday. Hundley went through a scripted throwing session and completed 57 of 60 passes with one drop. He moved well throughout the session and displayed the touch, accuracy and arm strength that earned him acclaim a month ago in Indianapolis and placed him firmly in the mix to be the third quarterback selected in the NFL draft, not that that’s the focus for Hundley.
“I think it’s always been about showing what I can do for these teams and who I am personally,” Hundley said. “Competing with (the other quarterback prospects), it’s never been a personal battle between us.”
Hundley said that he worked extensively on improving his footwork and fundamentals and it showed in his workout. While not every pass was perfect, he looked very clean and polished rolling out of the pocket and dropping back. Following the session, Hundley said that he has been contacted to some extent by every NFL team, but did not state when or where he expects to be selected. Regardless of what team chooses him, Mora said that Hundley, like all rookie quarterbacks, faces a hard transition to the next level.
“Like every young player in the league, he’s going to have to process information more quickly,” Mora said. “The jump from high school to college is difficult; the jump from college to the NFL is tenfold that.”
DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa
Arguably no player has had his draft stock rise more following the team’s season finale in the Alamo Bowl than Owamagbe Odighizuwa. The former redshirt defensive end delivered one of the standout performances of the Combine, and delivered another strong outing Tuesday.
Odighizuwa chose to stand by the numbers he put up at the Combine but went through both linebacker and defensive line position drills, where he performed admirably. At 6-foot-3 and 270 pounds, Odighizuwa is built like a statue, but showed off his athleticism by moving very well in space when asked to drop back, which he said was what he set out to accomplish at Spaulding Field.
“I wanted to show my versatility and that you can throw me into a drill and I’m going to execute it exactly how they want it done,” Odighizuwa said. “I wanted to show athleticism, how smooth I am, my quickness, my explosiveness.”
He also showed that he is capable of playing in multiple schemes at fronts at the next level after a strong workout. Despite playing almost exclusively with his hand in the ground as a defensive end in UCLA’s 3-4 scheme, Odighizuwa’s workout lends credence to the thought that he can be an edge rusher as a 4-3 defensive end of 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL. His former coach certainly thinks so.
“Today teams got a chance to see him work in space. I think people are really starting to appreciate him,” Mora said.
LB Eric Kendricks
While a hamstring limited UCLA’s all-time leading tackler at the Combine, Kendricks didn’t seem bothered by the injury Tuesday and turned in a solid outing in front of NFL evaluators.
Kendricks ran a 4.17 20-yard shuttle and a 7.16 three-cone drill after not participating in either drill in Indianapolis and looked smooth and explosive during position drills in a workout that backed up Mora’s assessment of his former linebacker.
“I think it’s his body of work over the last few years,” Mora said. “It doesn’t matter what film you turn on, you see a guy that goes sideline to sideline and makes plays.”
Kendricks also improved upon his 225-pound bench press from the Combine by completing 22 reps, three more than last month’s performance. Though both the Combine and Pro Day are now behind him, Kendricks reiterated that there is still a lot of work for him to do – such as private individual workouts with teams – between now and the start of the draft on April 30.
“Foot on the gas right now,” Kendricks said of his mentality. “It’s just starting this whole process and I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of it.”
DB Anthony Jefferson
Jefferson came away satisfied with his Pro Day performance after bettering a less-than-stellar 4.72 40-yard dash by a full tenth of a second and a strong positional workout. Jefferson ran a 4,64 and 4.62 40-yard dash, a 4.5 20-yard shuttle and 7.01 three-cone drill.
The versatile defensive back who played both safety and cornerback last season said that he is open to playing either in the NFL, though he added multiple teams like him as a safety.
Regardless of where he’ll line up at the next level, Jefferson was smooth and sharp when dropping back into coverage in positions drills and looked unfazed by the moment at hand, a sentiment he reiterated following his workout.
“Honestly, I think playing in the Rose Bowl is more nerve-racking than this,” he said. “I take it as a job interview. I came in, I was relaxed, I was poised (and) I took it one step at a time form drill-to-drill.”
Rounding out the Rest
Junior defensive lineman Ellis McCarthy stood by his numbers at the Combine and elected to only participate in position drills.
Redshirt senior offensive lineman Malcom Bunche participated in positional drills as well.
Redshirt senior running back Jordon James likely boosted his stock with a strong workout after being relegated to spot duty in his final season with UCLA. James timed very well with a 4.42 and a 4.44 40-yard dash, a 7.19 three-cone drill and a 4.45 20-yard shuttle. He also posted a broad jump of 10 feet,11 inches, a 34.5-inch vertical jump and bench pressed 225 pounds 18 times.