By Jonathan Okanes
Tuesday, March 11th, 2008 at 11:00 pm in off-season stuff.
Memorial Stadium was bustling with activity today as a handful of Cal’s potential pro prospects went through drills for NFL personnel. All 32 NFL teams were represented, including Kansas City Chiefs coach Herm Edwards and new Raiders wide receivers coach James Lofton.
Wide receiver Robert Jordan arguably had the biggest day. Depending on who you ask, he ran anywhere between a high 4.3 and a low 4.4 in the 40-yard dash. This was big for Jordan because he wasn’t invited to the NFL combine. Jordan said he thought there was a perception that he was more of a 4.6 receiver, and scouts there certainly took notice. Jordan seemed to create the most buzz of any Cal player working out. There seemed to be some question going in if Jordan would be drafted at all, but it seems to me that he is a solid second-day pick.
Fellow receiver Lavelle Hawkins also helped his cause with what was reported to be a 4.48 40. Hawkins had a disappointing 4.53 at the NFL combine and had hoped to improve on that Tuesday. Mission accomplished. Hawkins had really increased his stock at the Senior Bowl in January but his 40 time at the combine may have set him back a bit. Tuesday’s performance may have gotten him back on track. It looks like Hawkins could go in the second or third round.
Wide receiver DeSean Jackson didn’t run the 40 Tuesday. You wouldn’t either if you ran a 4.35 at the combine, the fastest of any receiver. He did go through some agility drills. Jerry Rice, who has become Jackson’s personal trainer in preparation for the draft, was on hand.
Rice, whose work ethic as a pro has been well-documented, said Jackson has been receptive to his teachings so far.
“I told him, ‘You come on board, you’ll have to work’,” Rice said. “His attitude is all about working, going out there and putting the time in and making the sacrifices. I want to teach him that he has to be a professional off the football field, that there is a certain standard that you have to go by. If he doesn’t listen, I’ll just have to work him a little harder.”
Running back Justin Forsett seemed a bit disappointed with his 40-time of 4.59. Forsett isn’t considered a speed burner but he said he had been running under 4.5 in personal workouts. Still, Forsett seemed optimistic about draft day, and singled out Philadelphia as one team that seems especially interested.
Among others who participated Tuesday were offensive lineman Mike Gibson and Brian De La Puente. Gibson reportedly opened some eyes at the NFL combine and Tedford said many teams are looking at him as a guard. Tight end Craig Stevens, who also had a strong combine, was believed to have another good workout Tuesday. Safety Thomas DeCoud, who ran a 4.5 at the combine, didn’t run the 40 Tuesday but participated in some of the other drills.
Another guy who worked out was defensive lineman Matt Malele. It was nice to see Malele out there, despite the fact that he’s probably a long shot to be drafted. But if Malele can get completely healthy, he could hook on somewhere as a free agent. If nothing else, it was nice to see Malele up and running again after missing the last three games of last year with knee problems, something that bothered him all year.
Many of Cal’s current players were on hand to watch and support their former teammates. A couple of the players I talked to, including linebacker Zack Follett, said the chemistry of the team has never been better. Of course, many of them said that before last season as well. But Tedford said the team has been spending more time off the field talking, holding meetings, getting things out in the open, etc. It became apparent by the end of last season that the chemistry wasn’t optimal, and it appears everyone in the program recognizes the need to get on the same page.
A bit of very good news for Cal fans – running back Jahvid Best was running drills with Shane Vereen and Michael Calvin up in the concourse with a ball machine. The trio was taking turns running pass routes while another ran the machine. The fact that Best was running and cutting is a good sign as he continues to recover from his hip injury toward the end of last season.
I chatted briefly with Alex Mack, who said he was looking forward to the battle for the two open spots alongside him on the offensive line. He seemed encouraged by the depth the Bears have on the line. He also modestly said he is going to compete for his job, although he joked “but I don’t plan on losing it.”