BY BOB HOLT
Posted on Wednesday, March 14, 2007
FAYETTEVILLE — Two NFL head coaches, Scott Linehan from the St. Louis Rams and Mike Tomlin from the Pittsburgh Steelers, were among the interested observers at Arkansas ’ pro day Tuesday at the Walker Pavilion.
There also were several defensive coordinators among the 58 NFL coaches, scouts and executives on hand.
“You don’t send your head coach or coordinator to look at third- or fourth-round picks,” said Rex Ryan, the Baltimore Ravens’ defensive coordinator. “We’re all here because Arkansas has guys that are going to be first-rounders.”
Defensive end Jamaal Anderson and cornerback Chris Houston, who made the decision to bypass their senior seasons at Arkansas to enter the NFL Draft, are projected as first-round picks and did well Tuesday, NFL coaches and scouts said.
Anderson, who didn’t work out at the NFL Scouting Combine last month because of a hamstring injury, said he still isn’t quite 100 percent healthy but ran the 40-yard dash in 4. 79 seconds and bench-pressed 225 pounds 22 times. Those aren’t eye-popping numbers but are solid for a player with Anderson’s size (6-6 and 284 pounds ) who led the
1 SEC last season with 13 / 2 sacks for 95 yards in losses and had 26 quarterback hurries. “Jamaal Anderson helped himself today,” Linehan said. “But what helps him the most is how he plays when you turn on the [game ] tapes. “ You can see he’s a prototypical NFL defensive end. He’s a guy who can play every down. He can play the run because he’s got the size, and he has pass rush ability. “ That’s a rare combination and maybe as hot a commodity as a [franchise ] quarterback in a lot of ways.”
Houston was a workout wonder at the combine, where he was the fastest (4. 34 in the 40 ) and strongest (27 bench presses for 225 pounds ) among defensive backs.
After putting up those numbers, there was no reason for Houston to do a full workout Tuesday, but he looked good running drills that showed off his pass coverage skills and ability to break on the ball.
“What [Houston ] did at the combine was impressive and he looked good [Tuesday ], no doubt he’s helped himself,” Tomlin said. “But the [game ] tape is your walking, talking, breathing resume, and he has the tape.”
Houston went against some of the top receivers in the country — Southern California’s Dwayne Jarrett, Tennessee’s Robert Meachem, LSU’s Dwayne Bowe, Auburn’s Courtney Taylor, South Carolina’s Sidney Rice and Florida’s Dallas Baker — and won his share of the matchups playing tight man-to-man coverage.
“All of his measurables are outstanding, but his audition was against all of those bigname receivers he played so well against,” Linehan said. “You’re going to have to play against those guys every week in the NFL, and he proved last season he could do that.”
Anderson said he felt some anxiousness about Tuesday’s workout but believed it went well.
“People wanted to see what I could do, and I feel I gave them a pretty good show,” Anderson said. “I feel like I showed great footwork and great fluidity in my running.
“ I definitely helped myself. Now it’s somewhat of a waiting game.”
The NFL Draft will be April 28-29, with three rounds on the first day and rounds four through seven on the second day.
“They won’t be sitting around long come draft weekend,” Tomlin said of Anderson and Houston. “They’re going to a draw a lot of interest.”
The Rams pick No. 13 in the first round and the Steelers No. 15, offering an indication of where Anderson and Houston may figure in the draft order.
“It’s a pretty big decision when you’re looking at the firstround guys, and we’re probably going to be looking at one of them,” Linehan said of Anderson and Houston. “There’s no doubt they’re both first-rounders.”
Houston said it felt good to perform the drills as well as he did Tuesday, but that he wasn’t nervous then or when he worked out at the combine.
“I just did what I’ve been doing all year at Arkansas,” Houston said. “There really wasn’t any reason to get nervous.”
Former Arkansas offensive tackle Tony Ugoh also is a possible first-round pick, but he didn’t work out Tuesday because he still is recovering from a pulled quadriceps muscle he sustained at the combine.
Ugoh said he plans to do a private workout for teams March 26 and might take part in Arkansas’ second pro day April 4.
“I’m not 100 percent right now,” Ugoh said. “So it doesn’t make sense for me to work out.”
Linehan said NFL teams have done their homework on Ugoh, too.
“Tony Ugoh is a good talent,” Linehan said. “I’d expect him to be a pretty high pick on the first day.”
In addition to Anderson and Houston, other former Razorbacks who helped themselves with Tuesday’s workout included cornerback Darius Vinnett, defensive tackle Keith Jackson Jr. and linebacker Sam Olajubutu.
Vinnett, who underwent surgery on both knees the past two years, ran 4. 32 in the 40.
“Both my knees are feeling great for the first time in a long time,” he said. “I think I helped myself a lot, showing that I don’t have any knee problems anymore and that I’m 100 percent.”
Jackson ran the 40 in 4. 82 to surpass the 5. 0 he ran at the combine.
“I wanted to prove that I’m faster than I showed before,” Jackson said. “This was a good showing for me, and I think it’s going to help raise my stock a little bit more.”
Olajubutu ran the 40 in 4. 57 seconds to better his time at the combine, which was 4. 64.
“Arkansas has a lot of good players, and looking down the road, they have some coming up, too,” said Steelers defensive line coach John Mitchell, a former Razorbacks assistant. “It’s going to be a situation in the next two or three years where a lot of us are going to come back here.”