West Virginia Pro Day 2011
After a long, early morning drive to Morgantown, I finally arrived at the Mountaineers indoor practice facility to cover their pro day event. The WVU pro day was interesting as it featured two of the shortest at their positions (Noel Devine and Jock Sanders) as well as one of the tallest at their position (Robert Sands). A talented member of the Mountaineers team that wasn’t able to participate was CB Brandon Hogan, who is still recovering from a torn ACL. A decent turn out of scouts were on hand for the event but I didn’t observe any notable NFL personnel watching the workouts.
NFL team scouts I observed at the event were: New York Giants, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, St. Louis Rams, Baltimore Ravens, Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills, Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears, Arizona Cardinals, San Diego Chargers, New York Jets, New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles.
Noel Devine’s speed and quickness had the crowd watching the workout buzzing. Talking to various sources at the event, Devine was timed in the 40 yard dash between 4.26 and 4.38 (NFL Network later reported a time of 4.43). Devine’s quickness isn’t an illusion; his feet were practically a blur while running the cone drills and later during position drills.
Defensive backs were the first to take the field during the position drills and it wasn’t hard to spot the long and lean Robert Sands, otherwise known as “Predator 2.” In this environment, it was hard for Sands to show his best quality, which is as a hard hitting safety. During the position drills, Sands looked stiff in the hips and would frequently lose control and balance when changing directions or flipping his hips. However, Sands did make a very nice leaping grab on a deep pass that he used his long arms to stretch out and grab. The problem was, he followed that up by dropping two passes that were very catchable to finish up the drills. Afterwards, Sands spent some time talking with scouts from Atlanta Falcons and Minnesota Vikings.
The main event came next as Jock Sanders and Noel Devine took the field for positional drills. Interestingly enough, scouts had Sanders running routes not just as WR but as a RB out of the backfield. Both Devine and Sanders looked extremely quick and smooth. Both of these guys have some of the quickest feet of any prospect in this year’s draft class. Devine and Sanders are similar in size and stature and if you were watching form a distance, it would be easy to be confused as to who was who during the drills. Both caught the ball naturally with their hands and their ability to change directions without losing momentum was impressive. Clearly, size is working against both Devine and Sanders but it’s hard to avoid their playmaking abilities. While their height may keep them as later round picks, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see either of these guys contributing for an NFL team in some way. The only thing I could think of while watching Devine and Sanders was ‘Dexter McCluster.’
After drills were wrapped up, I spent a few minutes talking with Jock Sanders. When I asked him if he felt comfortable doing the receiving drills out of the backfield, he assured me by saying “I can do that in my sleep.” Sanders told me that most NFL teams are looking at him as a slot receiver and rotational back, comparatively to how Kansas City is utilizing Dexter McCluster. Sanders actually enjoys hearing that from NFL teams because, as he pointed out, he and McCluster grew up in the same area and played against each other while in high school.
I would anticipate that NFL teams are looking at Noel Devine in a similar fashion. If an NFL team can find a way to get the ball in the hands of Devine or Sanders, especially in space, good things can happen. Devine also spent some time off to the side with a scout from the Atlanta Falcons, which happens to be a team that knows how to utilize smaller backs.
Check out the video below for a closer look at Devine, Sanders and Sands in action during today’s workout.