BY TIM ROHAN
Daily Sports Writer
Published March 1, 2009
INDIANAPOLIS – The Michigan football team and San Jose State had an equal number of invitees at this year's NFL Combine.
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In years past, Wolverines could impress NFL scouts by school and name recognition alone. But this year, they had to stand out by working hard at their NFL job interview.
The NFL Combine took place February 18-24 at the Indianapolis Colts’ Lucas Oil Stadium. The players who are deemed the most likely to be drafted are invited to the event each year.
After finishing the 2008 season with a 3-9 record, Michigan sent just four seniors to the combine: defensive tackle Terrence Taylor, cornerback Morgan Trent, defensive end Tim Jamison and long snapper Sean Griffin.
Despite the small number of athletes, the maize-and-blue contingent certainly made its presence known.
Michigan’s strengths and weaknesses
Taylor, Michigan’s run-stuffing defensive tackle, saw his production fall in his senior season. Jamison is caught between being too small to play defensive end in a 4-3 NFL defense and not being athletic enough to play the outside linebacker position in a 3-4, according to analysts. Trent’s ability to cover and his tackling were both questioned. And, well, Griffin is just a long snapper.
NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said the Wolverines’ tough season, especially on defense, could hurt any prospect’s stock. But that just gave Taylor and Jamison motivation to prove the critics wrong.
“I want to show my power, my explosiveness and my strength,” Taylor said Saturday before he worked out. “One of the things I wanted to show as a defensive tackle (is) how I can get up the field fast … how fast I can cut and get up field. Those are key things for an interior defensive lineman.”
Taylor, weighing in at six feet and 300-plus pounds, said his decrease in production had a lot to do with his position change. As a junior, Taylor played on the strong side of the defense. He faced a lot of running plays, and as a result, tallied a high number of tackles. He moved to the weak side his senior season.
On the other hand, Jamison wanted to simply do well in the defensive line drills. Along with that, he tried to improve his overall consistency and patience.
Experts weigh in on Michigan before workouts
Mayock and ESPN draft expert Todd McShay weren’t very impressed by any of the Wolverines before they worked out at the Combine.
“(Taylor is) quicker for a wide-body defensive tackle,” McShay said. “And when he plays 100 percent, when he gives a great effort and when he’s fresh, he can be disruptive. He’s inconsistent. … A lot of his weaknesses are coachable, but there are so many busts at that position because of just that – the inconsistent motor.”
McShay saw Taylor as more of a 4-3 traditional defensive tackle and he didn’t think Taylor’s “style” would be conducive to taking on blockers in the 3-4. Mayock saw Taylor’s role as completely different and pegged him as a 3-4 defensive tackle.
The experts also had questions about Jamison.
“(Jamison’s) a little bit of a tweener between defensive tackle and defensive end,” Mayock said. “And he’s going to have to show somebody he can play on the outside.”
Added McShay: “I think he’s better suited at D-end, probably in a 4-3. … (He’s) tough versus the run, he’s going to do a good job. He’s kind of the opposite of Taylor. He plays hard every down, (he’s) disciplined, does all the little things. But he’s limited athletically. Not a great speed rusher.”
McShay also said that, while he was watching tape, he noticed junior Brandon Graham really stood out and that the talent level between him and Jamison was “noticeably different.” Graham decided to stay in Ann Arbor next season.
Trent received the highest praise of the Wolverine group.
“Trent’s a long, lean corner,” Mayock said. “He’s going to run well. He’s a smart kid. He’s not real physical. But he can play in the league for a while.”
Michigan’s combine results
Thought of as mid-to-late round selections, the four Michigan players turned some heads when the defensive linemen worked out Monday and defensive backs had their turn Tuesday.
Taylor took charge by leading all defensive linemen at the combine with 37 reps at 225 pounds on the bench press. He was second among all players, behind just Texas Tech offensive lineman Louis Vasquez, who had 39 reps. Taylor ran the 40-yard dash in 5.27 seconds.
But Trent was the real star for Michigan, finishing among the top 10 for cornerbacks in five events. He had the best time for his position in the 60-yard shuttle, completing the drill in 11.07 seconds. Trent was also in the top 10 for the bench press, the vertical jump, the broad jump and the 20-yard shuttle. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.54 seconds.
Jamison didn’t finish as a top performer in any category. His draft stock might have been hurt when he ran the forty-yard dash in 5.03 seconds. Considering he checked in at 6-foot-2 and a light 256 pounds, his 40-yard dash time was expected to be faster.
Checking up at Combine – Michigan players in the NFL
Taylor and Jamison both said they received advice from Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker and former Wolverine LaMarr Woodley before the draft. Cornerback Leon Hall of the Cincinnati Bengals and linebacker David Harris of the New York Jets also provided guidance.
Helped by the seven Wolverines in this year's Super Bowl, Michigan's impact in the NFL is becoming increasingly evident.