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Analysis of Hokies at the NFL combine

Virginia Tech had six players earn invitations to the this week's NFL combine in Indianapolis. And now, with the combine completed, here's an analysis of how the Hokies performed before a cast of NFL scouts.

Brent Bowden
punter, 6 feet 1, 202 pounds

One of five punters invited to the combine, Bowden was able to display his impressive size and strength. He has the body that most scouts would drool over when looking at punters, with the type of long legs that help him get leverage on each kick. At the NFL level, Bowden might need to add some hang time on his punts, but he is known for having good mechanics as a result of years of work with Fred Pinciaro, his punting coach, who has worked with professionals like Shayne Graham, Neil Rackers, Josh Brown, and Connor Barth. Bowden has rare build for a punter that could make him a draft-worthy special teams player in the later rounds.

Kam Chancellor
safety, 6 feet 3, 231 pounds

Virtually since he walked on Virginia Tech's campus, Chancellor has had an NFL-type body. At practices throughout the season, while speaking with scouts who attend regularly on Tuesdays, I learned that many NFL teams had taken a look at him based largely on his physique. While he showed flashes of his ability, Chancellor has not always played as good as he looks. He didn't have a strong showing in the combine.

With 22 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press, Chancellor displayed the strength that made him such a fierce hitter and an intimidating presence in the secondary. Torrian Gray, the Hokies' defensive backs coach, has said that Chancellor was basically forced to play free safety -- instead of strong safety, a more physical, contact-at-the-hole-type spot that might be his more natural position -- because Virginia Tech didn't have the athletes who could fill that role the way he could.

But Chancellor's reported time of 4.62 in the 40-yard dash will do him no favors with scouts looking for a more explosive presence in the secondary; he ranked 14th among 20 safeties that participated in the event. After an up-and-down year and a so-so combine performance, Chancellor might have seen his draft stock fall.

Cody Grimm
linebacker, 6 feet 1, 203 pounds

Grimm has been defying expectations since he arrived at Virginia Tech as a walk-on. And he didn't disappoint in Indianapolis. Grimm might have made himself a lot of money with his showing at the combine.

The biggest knock on Grimm has always been his size. At Virginia Tech, he was listed at 5 feet 11. But he might have been the only player ever under-estimated on team-issued rosters. Grimm stood a startling 6-1. (I say startling because he really doesn't look that tall when you stand beside him.) For a linebacker, that would be undersize for the NFL, but many personnel analysts suggested that Grimm was more fit to play safety at the next level. Grimm has shown his ability to drop into coverage against tight ends and to come of the edge with blitzes; he reinforced the idea that he might be a good fit in the secondary. Grimm also ran an eye-popping 6.58 in the three-cone drill, a mark which represented by far the fastest time of any true defensive player at the combine. To put that mark in perspective, the speedy former Louisiana State specialist Trindon Holliday ran a 6.54. So he showed he's got the type of agility to play in the defensive backfield.

Grimm ran the 40-yard dash in 4.64 seconds and had 21 reps on the bench press. The 40 time was fourth among linebackers, but isn't exactly the type of speed fit for an NFL secondary. Grimm would likely be exposed by speedy NFL wide receivers, and has not been asked to cover top targets, as opposed to bit players. His bench press numbers paled to the leading linebacker, former Washington star Donald Butler, who finished with 35 reps. But compared to safeties, his performance on the bench press would have been one of the best among safeties.

Grimm has game film working in his favor; he's not a combine hero. Despite the favorable reading from the tape measures in Indanapolis, Grimm still might be small for the NFL, but he is the rare type of instinctual football player. He has an uncanny knack for making plays, anticipating snap counts when blitzing and always seems to have his facemask at the bottom of the pile. Jim Cavanaugh, a Hokies linebackers coach, called Grimm's uncanny ability "a gift from God" and said his instincts are a "sixth sense."

I've heard that Grimm would be a wise seventh-round pick, ultimately fitting in as a special teams player and a backup in the secondary. But with his performance at the combine, he might have risen up draft boards. It would be yet another example of how Grimm has exceeded expectations. Regardless, Grimm will be one of the most interesting Hokies to follow on draft weekend.

Stephan Virgil
cornerback, 5 feet 11, 183 pounds

Virgil entered last season as Virginia Tech's best and most experienced cornerback. He never lived up to that billing after injuring his left knee in the Hokies' season-opening loss to Alabama and his career ended on a disappointing note after he was rule academically ineligible for the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Tennessee on Dec. 31. So his appearance in Indianapolis amounted to his opportunity to make up for some lost time.

But despite needing a strong showing to make up for his relative absence this season, Virgil didn't have a promising showing at the combine. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.69 seconds and did 12 reps on the bench press. Neither was very impressive. The question about Virgil is whether he can cover top-end NFL receivers, and with a relatively slow time in the 40-yard dash, he didn't do himself any favors. The fastest cornerbacks at the combine ran the 40-yard dash in underneath 4.5 seconds, and many top safeties like Taylor Mays and Eric Berry also ran it in underneath 4.5 seconds.

At Virginia Tech last season, Virgil was supposed to play boundary cornerback, which faces up against wide receivers in one-on-one coverage in the boundary. In that role, he played with an attacking, physical mind-set in run-support defense, before being injured and moving to the field cornerback position. He probably won't be utilized in a similarly isolated role at the next level because he doesn't have the speed to keep up, but Virgil might slip in the draft in the later rounds.

Ed Wang
offensive lineman, 6 feet 5, 314 pounds

While Wang doesn't have the typical build for a tackle, he has good size and an athletic build. He came to Virginia Tech as a tight end, so he has good footwork and agility, both of which are key ingredients to good lineplay; a lineman blocks with his feet and his hands simply follow. Wang shows some of that athleticism with his best time of 5.14 seconds in the 40-yard dash, which is a good showing for an offensive lineman. He also did 29 reps in the bench press, which is also a good mark for his position. But while Wang has a tall, leaner frame, the scouts take issue with his too-high pad level. That is a detriment because a lineman relies on leverage to get underneath defenders; a lineman who plays otherwise will have a high center of gravity and will be off balance. The indication is that Wang will be a late-round pick.

Jason Worilds
defensive lineman, 6 feet 1, 254 pounds

Worilds is perhaps the most intriguing former Virginia Tech player to track in this year's NFL draft. While he seemed set on returning for his senior season, Worilds made a surprise decision to forgo his senior year in order to enter the draft. While Worilds was, at times, a dominating player in the Atlantic Coast Conference, he didn't seem like a surefire NFL guy.

Although Worilds was undersize even for a college defensive lineman, he had pure strength and speed. He is a great pass rusher, with nimble footwork and strong techniques. But Worilds doesn't seem fit to play with his hand on the turf in the NFL, and projects best as an outside linebacker. And his solid, though not spectacular, showing at the combine seems to reinforce that. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.72 seconds, the three-cone drill in 6.95 seconds and the 20-yard shuttle in 4.29 seconds. All of those times ranked among the best defensive linemen and were more in line with the numbers posted by linebackers, although not overwhelming.

Worilds is cut out of the Corey Moore mold. At 6 feet and 215 pounds, Moore was undersize but also a standout defensive lineman for Virginia Tech. But his NFL career was brief. He was a third-round draft choice of the Buffalo Bills in 2000, played nine games as a rookie and only one the following season with the Miami Dolphins before stepping away from the game. Moore was made to be a linebacker, which some felt took away from his strength, which was putting his hand on the ground and getting off the ball with his explosive first step.

What will happen to Worilds remains to be seen. What do the scouts think about him? Did his combine performance help or hurt? Where will he be drafted? And what kind of NFL player will he turn out to be?

By Mark Viera  |  March 3, 2010; 10:00 AM ET
 
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Comments

what about sergio render? was he at the combine?

Posted by: bflo | March 3, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

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