Despite a full-fledged work stoppage in the NFL, one inevitability of summer is drawing ever nearer: the 2011 draft.
The draft begins April 28 in New York City and the Carolina Panthers are on the clock first. Everything is less certain without a new collective bargaining agreement, but that isn’t stopping Texas prospects from following a rigorous schedule to prepare for it, including the school’s pro day today on campus.
Professional scouts, league executives and members of the media will all watch the Longhorn hopefuls go through a number of drills, including position drills and individual workouts.
Many of the Texas players were also scrutinized at last month’s NFL combine, but the Texas pro day offers them a second shot at improving their numbers, with the added benefits of familiarity and an extra four weeks to get ready.
Here are some of the Longhorns who stand to improve their draft stack the most today:
<strong>Aaron Williams, DB</strong>
Williams’ numbers were adequate at the combine but his performance in individual drills underwhelmed those in attendance. He should fare better practicing here on campus. If he shows that he’s gotten bigger and stronger over the past month, he could even become an interesting safety prospect. His biggest assets remain his athleticism and natural instincts in coverage, meaning he should be a valuable draftee at a number of positions or even as a special teams starter and he should have no problem coming off the boards in the later rounds. The junior’s performance on Tuesday will determine exactly when that happens.
<strong>Sam Acho, DE/LB</strong>
The biggest draw from the combine was Acho’s versatility, which led to teams looking at him both as an end in a 4-3 formation or a linebacker in a 3-4. He has lots of room to improve, especially if he gets under the bench press on Tuesday. Acho set one of the best times ever for a defensive lineman in the three-cone drill but could help himself out with a faster 40-yard dash. The biggest factor might be whether Acho shows up positioning himself as a quick, blitzing linebacker or if he’s more focused on getting bigger in preparation for some time on the line.
<strong>Michael Huey, OL</strong>
Huey, who was not invited to the combine, needs to show he has the same size and strength that fellow lineman Kyle Hix displayed in Indianapolis. A four-year player who missed the final four games of his senior season with a knee injury, Huey has plenty of experience and field sense, indicating he could play on either side of the line. Plenty of players end up getting drafted without attending the combine, but Huey will have to be near perfect on Tuesday to improve his standing with scouts.
<strong>James Kirkendoll, WR</strong>
Kirkendoll has flown under the radar since the end of the football season, even though he was the team’s leading receiver — although that’s not saying much, with 52 catches for 707 yards. He spent the winter training with strength and conditioning specialist Danny Arnold of Plex in Houston, alongside pro prospects Andy Dalton of TCU and Nick Fairley, Auburn’s monster defensive tackle. Arnold helped turn Donnie Avery, a former University of Houston Cougar, into an NFL-ready wideout.