INDIANAPOLIS –LSU senior defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, whose grandmother died in the past month, has decided to work out at his Pro Day on March 26 rather than here at the NFL Combine.
He had gotten behind a few weeks in his training because of the death in the family and felt it was in his best interest to take a few more weeks to get in the best shape possible.
Dorsey will be full go for the March 26 on-campus workout, according to agent Joel Segal.
A good showing at the NFL Scouting Combine can make a major difference in where a player is drafted, and that's why this week is so important for everyone here.
"The NFL takes a lot out of these interviews," Arkansas guard Robert Felton said. "It's more than just an interview. In the past, guys have jumped up significantly in the rounds just from this part. They take a lot out of it, so it's worth a little bit more."
For the NFL coaches and scouts, the Combine is another step in an evaluation process that has gone on for months, if not years. Buffalo Bills coach Dick Jauron said after all the scouting is finished, the draft decision still comes down to an educated guess.
"Your top, top picks – you don't miss on a lot of those, but even those sometimes don't materialize," Jauron said. "This league is a different game. The speed, the size of the players, the intensity of the game. All this information definitely helps, and then everyone emphasizes areas they think are important."
After all the drills, interviews, meetings and tests, the NFL teams still aren't certain what they are getting or how the player will pan out. Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith said that's why meeting with the players off the field is just as important as evaluating them on the field. Pittsburgh Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert said 80 percent of the evaluation process takes place during the season.
"This is just part of the evaluation process," Smith said. "Players know how to answer a lot of the questions. They've been prepped on a lot of those things.
"You get a good chance to see guys running 40s. When you see guys go through the position drills, that only helps the evaluation process. This is only a part of it. Then you go back and analyze more video, have more of the one-on-one conversations with the guys."
Boise State offensive tackle Ryan Clady isn't ready to concede that Michigan's Jake Long will be the first lineman taken in the draft. Clady described himself as the best offensive tackle available in the upcoming draft.
"Just from my pass-blocking abilities and my footwork – I have good feet – I think that I can excel at the next level," Clady said.
While most draft services rate Clady as the No. 2 tackle behind Long, Clady certainly is working with the kinds of tutors who could help him close the gap quickly. Clady said that 12-time Pro Bowl selection Will Shields and Pro Football Hall of Famer Jackie Slater have assisted him in the weeks leading up to the Combine.
Rucker said the Big 12 tight ends benefited from all the competition within the conference.
"You always have to be on top of your game, not only around the league but especially when you have Chase Coffman on your own team," said Rucker, referring to a teammate who should be a high draft pick next year. "You've got to be on top of your game every day, and it pushes you to be that much better, work that much harder and be that much more of a leader."
Rucker tweaked a hamstring while preparing for the Combine and won't participate in any of the physical drills this week.
"It's nothing big, just a minor tweak," Rucker said.
CALL ME A GUARD
Virginia offensive lineman Branden Albert played a couple of games at left tackle last season because of injuries to teammate Eugene Monroe, but Albert indicated Thursday that his future probably is at guard.
Albert played left tackle in high school, but he moved to guard early in his Virginia career because former teammate D'Brickashaw Ferguson – a first-round pick of the New York Jets three years ago – already was manning the left side of the line. Albert was a three-year starter at guard before turning pro after his junior season.
"I'd say my primary position is guard, though I'm comfortable at tackle," Albert said. "Wherever a team wants me, whatever position, I'll feel comfortable playing."
Frank Coyle of draftinsiders.com rates Albert as the No. 2 guard in the nation, behind only UTEP's Oniel Cousins.
SUCKING IT UP
Tennessee offensive tackle Eric Young couldn't participate in any of the workouts because he tore the quadriceps tendon in his left knee last October, but that didn't stop him from making the trip to Indianapolis.
Young endured a grueling morning of physical exams before speaking with the media.
"It's been a long morning," Young said. "It is a relief (to be done with it). I've been nicked on, pulled on, MRI'd and X-rayed on every possible limb of my body."
Young said the MRI exam was the worst part of the experience. "You slide up in a little tunnel and can't move," he said. "You feel like you're being violated."
Young anchored a line that allowed the fewest sacks in the nation before he got hurt, though he expects to be healthy in time for training camp. Young believed attending the Combine and interviewing with teams would help his stock even without performing in the workouts.
"A lot of teams haven't seen or heard about you," Young said. "Once you get hurt, you kind of fall off the radar a little bit. It's good to get around coaches, interact, let them know your spirits aren't down and you're still doing what you possibly can to get back out there."
SCHUENING'S DREAM COMING TRUE
Oregon State guard Roy Schuening has dreamed about the NFL since he started playing football in the fourth grade, and now it's becoming a reality that he is months away from being drafted.
"Immediately, I fell in love with the game," Schuening said. "The first thing I thought about was the NFL. Last year and then this year, it has become a reality. Talk about a cool feeling when you accomplish one of your dreams."
Schuening, projected as the fourth-best guard available by draftinsiders.com, also played tackle this season. He said his versatility will make him more attractive to NFL teams.
As far as figuring out where he will get drafted, Schuening said he doesn't want to guess just yet.
"I'm going to be with my family (on draft day). I'm from a small town (Pendleton, Ore.). There's probably going to be a draft party. My dad and his buddies want to do something, but before the draft I'm going to be a nervous wreck just waiting for that phone call. Maybe I'll shoot guns or something."
NOT IN KANSAS ANYMORE
Last season was a banner one for Kansas, and with a good year come big rewards. KU is represented at the Combine by five participants, led by cornerback Aqib Talib and offensive tackle Anthony Collins.
During Thursday's interview sessions, Collins said he's hoping players like him and Talib can set a new trend for KU football.
"There really hasn't been anybody since Dana Stubblefield and a couple more guys after that," Collins said. "Having Aqib going high in the first round, and hopefully I can slide into the first round – we've got to start a new trend. We went 12-1 and that was the best ever. So I love it and I love every minute of this."
Collins said he thought about returning for his senior season, but Jayhawks coach Mark Mangino encouraged him to make the jump.
"He felt it was time for me to come out and bring my talents to the next level," Collins said. "My coaches felt like I didn't have anything else to prove after a 12-1 season. After talking to Coach Mangino, I felt like we could win a national championship if I came back another year.
"But he was like, 'When you are hot, you need to come out.' He felt like my talent was ready to go to the next level, and I felt the same."
LONG ROAD TO INDIANAPOLIS
When you see St. Xavier kicker Shane Longest's name on the Combine roster, it's not a misprint.
Longest is his actual last name, and when you break down his four year career at St. Xavier, located in Chicago, there's nothing short about it. In 2007, he led all of NAIA with 27 field goals, along with being named an All-American punter with an average of 43.2 yards per punt.
His career long field goal in a game was 55 yards, and he said the longest kick he's made in practice was a 75-yarder.
Out of high school in Wilmington, Ill., Longest had walk-on opportunities at Northwestern, Northern Illinois and Northern Iowa, but chose St. Xavier because they allowed him to also play baseball. In 2007, Longest was St. Xavier's closer, with a fastball clocking in at 88 mph.
He joked that there are a lot of similarities with being a closer in baseball and a kicker in football.
"I like having the limited opportunities," Longest said. "It's not like I'm a quarterback where I have 20 or more passes in a game. I get an inning at most in baseball and maybe two field goals a game. The pressure situations have always been my thing."
NORTHERN IOWA COMBO PACKAGE
Don't let Northern Iowa's I-AA status fool you. The Panthers arguably have as much talent as some Division I-A teams, and that was apparent when Panthers offensive linemen Brandon Keith and Chad Rinehart trotted into the media room together on Thursday.
The 6-foot-5, 349 pound Keith started at right tackle for the Panthers, and the 6-5, 312 pound Rinehart worked as UNI's left tackle. Keith said he feels the 2007 Northern Iowa offensive line was as good as any in the nation.
"If people watch the tape of us, they'll see we are legit even though we played at a small school," Keith said. "With the record we had this year at 12-1, people shouldn't be shocked we have two linemen here."
Rinehart said it's just nice having one of his teammates with him this week to go through the Combine.
"At the Senior Bowl I felt kind of alone with USC having nine guys there," Rinehart said. "Having Brandon (Keith) here, though, it's nice just having somebody to talk to. He's a teammate who knows what I've been through, and we both have similar backgrounds."
HEY, I KNOW YOU
The one non Division I-A quarterback with a chance to be picked high in this draft is Delaware's Joe Flacco.
Flacco (6-6, 230 pounds) started his career at Pittsburgh before transferring to Delaware following the 2004 season. A two-year starter for the Blue Hens, Flacco threw for 4,263 yards and 23 touchdowns as senior.
Pitt tight end Darrell Strong said he's not surprised to see his former teammate's name high on the draft boards.
"I knew what type of athlete Joe Flacco was before he left," Strong said. "When I came into Pitt as a quarterback, he was in the quarterback room with me. After being around him and Tyler Palko, I knew it was going to be a challenge for me, especially after seeing Joe Flacco.
"Joe was the biggest quarterback, and he had the strongest arm out of all of us, so it comes as no surprise to me to see what he's accomplished."
SOSA LEADS RUTGERS RESURGENCE
Rutgers offensive tackle Pedro Sosa said the last time he allowed a sack was in the first game of the 2006 season, when Rutgers beat North Carolina 21-16 in Chapel Hill.
Sosa is considered the 17th-best offensive tackle in the draft by draftinsiders.com and the second-best player at his position from the Big East. Only Pittsburgh's Jeff Otah, at No. 5, is rated higher.
Sosa is one reason Rutgers has been able to turn around its program in recent season. Sosa opened up holes for tailback Ray Rice, who also is at the Combine.
"There are a lot of guys now that believe in what Coach (Greg) Schiano is trying to do, and we're keeping all the Jersey guys now," Sosa said. "Before, a lot of guys wouldn't come out to Rutgers just because where the program was then. Now, we're building on something, and it's time to launch and win national titles.
"Guys like me, (kicker) Jeremy (Ito), Ray – we believed in what (Schiano) was saying. Once you get a group of guys who believe in what he was saying and what he was trying to do, other guys are going to follow and be a part of that and make a great run."
(Sean Callahan of HuskersIllustrated.com, Adam Gorney of GatorBait.net, Rivals.com college football writer Steve Megargee and Yahoo!.com draft analyst John Murphy contributed to this report).