March 14, 2013

'Confident' Bell showcases at MSU's Pro Day

EAST LANSING - With his confidence brimming, running back Le'Veon Bell, who had a good showing at the NFL Combine, came away feeling even better about his draft stock after he and a small group of his Michigan State teammates put their athleticism, agility and strength on display for a group of NFL team representatives during MSU's annual Pro Day on Wednesday at the Duffy Daugherty Football Building's indoor facility.

The lineup, which included running back Larry Caper, defensive backs Johnny Adams and Mitchell White, defensive end William Gholston, offensive guard Chris McDonald, tight end Dion Sims, defensive lineman Anthony Rashad White and kickers Dan Conroy and Brett Swenson were all looking to do enough in the hopes that an opportunity will come their way to play at the highest level.

"In talking with a lot of the scouts here, this is probably more important than the Combine, in the fact that you've got position coaches working with certain people that they are considering to draft,'' MSU coach Mark Dantonio said of the 38 reps that represented 29 of the NFL's 32 teams. "So you've got a guy in there working with a guy that he may coach. So it's a big day for them and just like a parent, you hope for the best and want the best for them.''

Bell, who didn't run the 40, after being clocked at 4.47 at the Combine, or do any of the weight or agility drills on Wednesday, choosing to sit on the numbers he posted at the Combine, did use Pro Day to give the scouts a better grasp on his explosiveness and pass-catching abilities out of the backfield.

Expecting to play at 230 pounds at the next level, after playing at 240 at MSU, the Ohio native showed no signs of lacking confidence about his abilities at the next level.

"I'm a lot more explosive, a lot quicker. Even when I was heavy, I still felt quick and explosive but the fact that I'm 12 pounds lighter, it really helped me out. It's just made me that much more quicker and that much more explosive. I'm still bigger than most of the backs in the country.''

Despite hearing that he could go late in the first round or early in the second, Bell expects to keep working through Draft Day to make sure he stays in peak physical condition.

"I felt like I had a pretty good workout today and helped my cause. I let people see me up close and personal. I just really wanted people to see I could catch the ball and get in and out of cuts. I just wanted to show them I could move and that I'm not just a bruiser type guy. I'm not just a 3rd-and-1 type guy. I'm an every-down back. That I could be in on 3rd-and-15 or 1st-and-10. It really doesn't matter. I came out here and caught every ball, and got in and out of my cuts.''

As for his draft stock, Bell said there's been about eight or nine teams that have reached out to him so far during the process.

Bell, who had four sitdowns with teams on Tuesday and two more on Wednesday before the Pro Day said those were more about teams getting to know him as a person, in addition to an athlete.

"I feel like I can play anywhere and I just want to show people that I'm capable of playing anywhere. Cold weather, warm weather. It really doesn't matter. I just want to show everybody I'm versatile at everything. I feel like I'm the best back in the draft, top to finish. I feel like I can do everything. I can be on punt return, kick return, I'm great at pass protection and I can consistently get four or five yards every time I get the ball. I just feel like I'm one of the more complete backs in this draft.''

ON A MISSION: Larry Caper refused to think of himself as the forgotten man in MSU's backfield but on Wednesday, much of his work served as a reminder of what kind of runner he could be on the NFL level.

"I definitely had to come out here and showcase my abilities but it was fun. I wouldn't say I wanted to remind them (of what I can do) but I just wanted to show them what they've been missing out on the last couple of years.''

Caper, who lost his starting spot to Bell in MSU's backfield after his sophomore season, looked ripped, cut up and quick as he put his talents and his 216-pound frame on display for the NFL's scouts.

With some phone conversations with some NFL teams already behind him Caper, he said he had lined up more meetings with teams next week.

That's probably when they will discuss his Pro Day performance which included a 35-inch standing vertical jump, 23 reps on the bench and a 40 time of about 4.45 or 4.5.

He even seemed to get a little extra attention from a Denver Broncos scout during Wednesday's activities.

I thought I did pretty good overall,'' said Caper, who said his playing weight will be 220. "I don't know all of my official times yet but I felt pretty fluid. There's not too many fast big guys out there who can catch also. So having the total package is definitely a plus.''

THE END ALL BE ALL: Tight end Dion Sims' focus was to make the Pro Day process as comfortable a situation as possible.

A slimmed down Sims, who played between 275-280 during his junior season, showcased at 262 pounds on Wednesday and said he would stay at that weight throughout the remainder of his training process and up through the NFL Draft.

"It's just another opportunity. I was fortunate enough to get invited to the Combine to show my talent there so coming in here, it was just cleaning up all of the stuff that I felt I needed to correct. It just an opportunity to help yourself out.''

Sims, who had four scheduled visits with NFL teams after Wednesday's workouts, expected a lot more before the draft but wanted to use Wednesday as a day to sure up some things in his pass catching skill set.

He said he had already had sitdowns with the Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins, Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals.

While he didn't run the 40, he did get up 26 reps on the bench. That was an improvement from his Combine total of 22 but was just under the 28 and 29 reps he was getting during training. Sims ran a 40 time of 4.75 at the Combine and had a couple unofficial 4.6s

''I felt I could do a little better at that (the bench) and then my short shuttle and three-cone. I'm not really sure what my times were here but I wasn't really satisfied at the Combine with them. Today, I just wanted to come here and do good in the position drills and show that I could catch the ball, go out and run routes and just be the all-around tight end that I am.''

Sims was also asked if he had any second thoughts about his decision to go pro after his junior season.

"There's no doubt in my mind. Not at all. I felt like I was ready. I felt I could do a lot of things in the NFL to help myself out so I just felt like it was time to take my talent to the next level.''

BIG WILL'S STYLE: Maybe the most relaxed but enthusiastic performer on Wednesday was Gholston.

The defensive end sounded confident about his performance and came away with a good feeling about his future despite the pressure of being one of the more highly-touted underclassmen on defense.

"I was extremely anxious in the beginning but when it came to the drills I got more comfortable because that's more football geared. Really, the hardest part (of the whole process) was making the decision (to turn pro) Like I said, it's like I'm living the dream with my eyes wide open so I'm just enjoying it.

"(The best advice I've gotten from someone about this whole process) is to just remember that you're playing football. The Combine testing and the Combine specifics, that's important but you have to remember that you're playing football.''

Gholston, who did 21 reps on the bench and timed out at about 4.82 in the 40 said the atmosphere of Pro Day was definitely a help in showcasing his skills.

"They woke us up pretty early at the Combine, it was too early but I think I did pretty good (Wednesday). I ran faster (in the 40) and I feel I did really well in the drills,'' said Gholston, who ran a 4.9 at the Combine. "So I think it was an overall good day.''

In regards to draft projections and teams that he has talked to or planned to talk to, Gholston chose to withhold that information.

"People in my agency and in my camp that I surround myself with, we don't really talk about that. We just talk about what I need to do to get better. I just hope I go to the NFL (because) this is the opportunity of a lifetime. I know there's like millions of people that would try and trade places with me. So I'm just glad to be able to have this chance.''

While Gholston acknowledged that all of the physical testing was very important in enhancing his chances of playing at the next level, he understands there's something more that goes into playing on Sundays.

"Right now, what we're just focused on more is me being a better student of the game. Fundamentals and techniques, you have to do that every single day so we don't really count that as getting better. That's mandatory so I just want to be a better student of the game.''

ADELE, REALLY? Chris McDonald, all 300 pounds of offensive lineman, had to know it was a mistake as soon as it slipped off his tongue when he told the media part of his music list to get psyched for an event like Pro Day.

"I have the same few songs I listen to and the same routine of warmups (like he did prior to an MSU gameday),'' said McDonald, who worked out in New Jersey prior to Pro Day. "There's a process. I kind of listen to slow songs building up. I will say, one of the songs is (by) Adele. It is one of the first songs I listen to to calm me down. That's one of my things I gotta do. I did it all year. (The one from) 'Skyfall' is a good one, (because) that's one of my favorite movies. And the rainfall one. I think there's a rainfall one.''

Despite his musical tastes, he too had a solid showing in front of the NFL reps as he sought to raise his stock in the eyes of one or two teams in attendance.

"The biggest thing was I needed to gain weight and hold my weight, and be able to run quick with that weight. So I was focusing (during training) on getting good weight on and maintaining my speed.''

While he wasn't invited to the NFL Combine, McDonald, who was worked out at both center and guard, wanted to use Wednesday to make sure he left no stone unturned in his attempt to eventually land a job in the NFL.

"I came out here to do my thing,'' said McDonald, who got up 31 reps on the bench and ran about a 5.1 in the 40. "No regrets was my mentality so I just put my hand on the ground and went after it. During the training process, you focus on the little things, your technique, your arms, but when it comes down to Pro Day, you just have to go after it.

"If I want to be in the NFL, I've got to play any position. If they want me to play quarterback, I'll try but for an o-lineman, I feel personally, that I have to be a guard or center. So I've been snapping too. I played scout team center here my freshman year but anything that can help me out to get in there, I'm going to do it.''

IT'S EASY BEING GREEN: Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin may be all about the black and gold but he has no problems with the Green and White either.

For the second straight season, the Steelers sent the man in charge on the sidelines.

And while Tomlin may like the flavor of Spartan green for a few days, he did not waste any time getting to know two of MSU's players - in Bell and Sims - that could convert to black and gold.

Although there was no formal indication that Pittsburgh has been looking at either Spartan, Tomlin, Bell and Sims shared a meal at a restaurant the night before Wednesday's Pro Day activities.

"That was good, that was great. Talking to those guys is just like talking with normal people. You know they coach in the NFL and it's a blessing that you actually get to meet those guys and talk to them,'' Bell said. "I had already a little bit of communication with him (at the Combine). And I already know what he thinks of me. He thinks I'm a great player. So on Wednesday, I was just trying to help my cause and hopefully they pull the trigger. You never know but we'll see where we're at.''

Sims added: "It was just (about) getting to know us, he wanted to get to know us. We laughed a lot, joked a little bit and shared some personal stuff. He was here last year, so it seems like he likes Michigan State guys.''

Dantonio said during last season's sit down with Tomlin in the football office that the Steelers' coach all but predicted Gholston's early departure.

"He sat in there last year talking to me about William (Gholston),'' Dantonio said. "He made a couple if statements (to the effect of) 'I don't know if he's going to be with you next year,' and that's become a reality but there's a lot of guys here with a lot of credibility.''

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