* The 2008 version of this event paled in comparison to the horde of NFL personnel on hand Tuesday, where upwards of 75 scouts and executives were in attendance to watch 12 current Tar Heels and former standouts Kendric Williams and Durell Mapp workout for their chance at fulfilling a professional football dream.
“It’s a great opportunity for our seniors to get a chance to showcase all of the things that they’ve learned over their careers at North Carolina,” Davis said. “It’s exciting, because certainly the young players get a glimpse into the future and the current players, obviously, there will be some of these guys that get drafted and hopefully there will be a couple of guys that get a chance to get into camps as free agents.”
One of the reasons for such a big turnout was the hype surrounding Nicks.
“There's a lot of buzz about many of these guys, certainly Hakeem is getting a lot of attention,” Davis said. “What we've told our guys is that if you're one of the highest-rated players on our team, the ultimate way that you can be a team player and make sacrifices for your teammates, is to workout. I'm really proud that Hakeem is here today. He's the draw that might help some of these other guys."
* Speaking of Nicks, the junior wideout’s primary concern heading into the NFL combine last month was cutting down his 40 time. After six weeks of training at Velocity Sports Performance in Naples, Fla. working on his start, the Charlotte, N.C. product ran a 4.49 in Indianapolis.
With a number like that to go along with his uncanny receiving ability, there’s only one place for Nicks’ stock to go – up.
“I’ve been hearing all first round,” Nicks said.
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound receiver has heard praise from scouts on his film, and recent inquiries have been based around his football intelligence and his academic situation. His primary efforts on Tuesday focused on route-running and showing off his knack for one-handed and back-bending catches.
“I feel pretty good about it,” Nicks said. “I feel like I’m right where I needed to be. It was a lot less pressure, being that I got the 40 yard out of the way.”
* Richard Quinn’s name may not have made many headlines during his career at North Carolina, including a 2008 season that parlayed eight receptions into 97 yards and a touchdown, but the Maple Heights, Ohio tight end boosted his draft status with a strong 40-yard dash.
“I think he had a very impressive combine, and he’s off to a good start [today],” Davis said. “One of his goals today was to run a better 40 time than what he ran at the combine. I think he was in the mid-4.8s, high-4.8s at the combine, and the word was that he ran a 4.75, 4.78 today, which is a significant help. They want to see him catch the football today and run routes…
“He’s already built up a great reputation as a really good on-the-line blocker. There’s so many tight ends in college football that are more receivers than they are blockers, and when you get to the NFL, they really want some guys to can pound and block big defensive ends, and Richard can do that. Because of that, he’s really gotten a lot of attention in the last couple of months.”
* While Tuesday was primarily about 40-yard dashes, L-cone drills and shuttles, one of the more anticipated moments occurred when one player jogged by himself on the edge of the practice field. That individual would be Brandon Tate, who has been sidelined since tearing his ACL and MCL against Notre Dame in October.
"I just wanted to show scouts that I'm gradually getting it back," said Tate, who indicated that he has not watched the film of his injury. "I was over there running for them and showing them that my knee is doing fine. I’m just getting the rhythm back of playing football.”
Tate indicated that he’s at “85 percent,” and fully expects to be at 100 percent by the NFL training camps open up in late summer.
“He’s on track, and maybe slightly ahead of schedule,” Davis said. “… It’s going to be a process. It’s probably still going to take him another two months or so before he’ll be able to run for time, which unfortunately for him will coincide after the draft.”
Davis suggested that the Burlington, N.C. speedster’s “great body of work” that includes vertical speed, play-making ability and standout kick-returner skills makes him a high commodity on the draft boards.
“He may fall a little bit, but I don’t know that he’s going to fall as much as some people thought that he might,” Davis said.
* If you had to pick somebody to woo the pro scouts at last month’s NFL combine, it would be weight room phenom Brooks Foster. But after having arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in early December, the Boiling Springs, S.C. product was unable to return to full health for the Senior Bowl or the combine.
Foster still managed to put up 225 pounds a stunning 27 times on the bench press at the combine, but his speed and lateral movements did not equal his peak performance.
“[The combine] was a lot more intense than this,” Foster said. “Out here you can have a lot more fun… I was kind of disappointed in myself. I wanted to go out there and show what I could do, but I wasn’t ready. I didn’t want to go out there and chance it, so I figured it would be smart to come here and impress. That’s what I tried to do today.”
His efforts appeared to pay off, as the wide receiver turned in a 4.39 in the 40-yard dash, while posting a 37-inch vertical and a standing broad jump of 10-4.
“He’s running really good,” Davis said. “Early reports were that he ran a 4.37 or a 4.38. I think that there’s a big ceiling on him. He’s going to continue to improve. One of the things that I think the scouts have been impressed with him – as well as some other guys – is their willingness to play out of their position, because if you’re going to make it in the NFL, you’ve got to be a significant contributor on special teams.”
* Davis also credited Garrett Reynolds’ appearance as being important in getting fellow offensive linemen Byron Bishop and Calvin Darity intense looks from NFL personnel. One line battle with Darity proved detrimental to Reynolds’ athletic t-shirt, leaving a large tear at his left shoulder.
The Knoxville, Tenn. native has enjoyed these early NFL stages.
“It’s been good,” Reynolds said. “It’s been a great learning experience and I’ve met a lot of cool people. I’ve been growing up a lot. You’ve got a lot of interviews and a bunch of that stuff going on. When you don’t have a whole team to go work out with every day, you’re just pushing yourself pretty much.”