Florida holds Pro Day for mid-, late-round picks
By MARK LONG
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) The most talented players at Florida's Pro Day were spectators.
Undersized running back Chris Rainey and underachieving defensive tackle Jaye Howard were the main attractions for NFL scouts Tuesday. No general managers and only one head coach, Jacksonville's Mike Mularkey, were on hand for the workouts. It was a stark contrast from recent years, when the Gators had some of the top talent in the country.
Florida has had eight players selected in the first round of the NFL draft over the last five years, including Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin and Mike and Maurkice Pouncey. Three of those guys - Harvin and the Pouncey twins - were on hand for Pro Day.
Rainey and Howard are expected to be middle-round picks. Quarterback John Brantley, receiver Deonte Thompson and about a dozen others also worked out. It's uncertain if anyone outside Rainey and Howard will even get drafted next month.
"We need more guys out there in position to be drafted," coach Will Muschamp said. "That's pretty evident as you go through our last two Pro Days."
The Gators had nine players selected in the NFL draft following their 2006 national champion. They had nine drafted again in 2010, which following the 2008 national title and a victory in the 2010 Sugar Bowl.
"We need to do a better job recruiting, need to do a better job evaluating, need to do a better job developing our players and coaching. That's the bottom line," said Muschamp, who went 7-6 in his first season at Florida. "We need more guys involved in that. And that self-evaluation sometimes is a hard thing, evaluate where you are as a program. But that's the facts and that's the way it is."
Defensive end William Green, cornerback Moses Jenkins and offensive lineman Dan Wenger were among the 21 players who worked out. The group included 10 former Gators who were trying to give scouts another look at what they have to offer, as well as Jacksonville quarterback Josh McGregor and Western Carolina quarterback Zac Brindise.
Rainey and Howard got most of the attention.
Rainey, a 5-foot-9, 180-pound scat back who could play slot receiver, welcomed comparisons to Harvin.
"You could compare me with him," Rainey said. "That's a perfect comparison right there. We do the same exact thing. He's just bigger. That's the only difference."
Rainey covered the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds, and caught passes from all three quarterbacks.
"I did great," said Rainey, who has workouts scheduled with Philadelphia (April 2) and Cincinnati. "All I wanted to prove that I've got hands."
Howard had something else to prove.
"Just my work ethic," he said. "That's the biggest question. They want to see if I can work. ... Just want to come out here and do your best. It's do or die. You only get one opportunity to seal the deal."
Brantley and Thompson had the most room for improvement. Neither was invited to the NFL combine in Indianapolis nor the Senior Bowl, so Pro Day was their last chance to make a strong impression.
"It was huge," Brantley said. "Having no combine and everything, had to come out here one last time and show everyone what we could do, and I think we could do that."
Brantley spent the last six weeks working at Tom Shaw's training program in Orlando and has been working with former NFL quarterback Charlie Frye. Brantley said he honed his footwork and his pocket skills. But will it help him get drafted?
"I just want to get my foot in the door, get a chance," he said. "As long as I get a chance, I'll be happy. It would be cool to get drafted. That would be really cool just to say that."
Thompson was timed between 4.27 and 4.33 in the 40-yard dash, and maybe more importantly, didn't drop a single pass. Drops plagued him the last two years.
"I know I don't have the numbers some of these guys had, but I know what I can do," Thompson said. "I'm going to play in the league for a long time. I'm going to be good."
Updated March 13, 2012