College players work out at NFL combine

Josh Rouse

The NFL Combine kicked off Saturday… literally.

Scouts and coaches were treated to a display of kicking prowess as the nation’s top special teamers worked out. Following the highly anticipated kick-capades, the offensive linemen and tight ends worked out. On Sunday, the skill positions provided a little more entertainment, as quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers gave NFL teams a chance to find a future star.

Today, the scouts are focusing on linebackers and defensive linemen, with defensive backs finishing out the combine on Tuesday.

Here are the top stories so far:

5. Pro Day – The Pro Day workout schedules were released Sunday, and the University of Kansas will be hosting theirs March 10. This is big news, especially for Washburn, because former Washburn defensive back/wide receiver/return man Cary Williams attended the KU Pro Day last year and was discovered by the 27 teams in attendance. Williams was later drafted by the Tennessee Titans with the 229th pick of the NFL Draft and is currently on the team’s injured reserve. A Washburn football player has been drafted in each of the past two NFL Drafts.

Kansas State has not yet released their schedule.

4. Willy nilly – Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman put his skills to the test Sunday, trying to prove that he deserved his ranking as the No. 3 quarterback in the draft class. Freeman, whose major strengths are his size, arm strength and scrambling ability, failed to crack the top 10 in 40-yard dash times for quarterbacks, which may hurt his prowess as a scrambling quarterback.

Freeman was able to show off his athletic ability, however, ranking second in the vertical jump, first in broad jump and making up for his 40-time by placing eight in the 20-yard shuttle.

Kansas State defensive end Ian Campbell, who is from Cimarron, Kan., is participating in today’s events, projects to be a “tweener”-either a defensive end or linebacker in the NFL.

No KU or Washburn players were invited to the combine.

3. Speed kills – This year’s draft class seems to be filled with some speedy players on the offensive side of the ball. Several players put up gaudy 40-yard dash times for their positions, including Maryland wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey posting a blazing 4.30 seconds. Three other wideouts also cracked the 4.40 mark. West Virginia quarterback Pat White posted a time of 4.55, and Virginia’s Cedric Peerman led the running backs with a time of 4.45.

South Carolina tight end Jared Cook, who reportedly clocked in at 4.37 in 2007, led tight ends with a slightly slower 4.50 and Nebraska offensive tackle Lydon Murtha blew by the rest of the offensive line with an impressive time of 4.89. Murtha, who stands at an imposing 6’7″ and tips the scales at 306 pounds, also led offensive linemen with a three-cone drill time of 7.06 seconds and a 20-yard shuttle time of 4.34 seconds, though he didn’t crack the top 13 in bench press.

2. Andre’s gigantic void – Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith went missing Saturday, a day after telling NFL scouts he was out of shape and that he was unsure if he was going to work out. Smith weighed in at 332 pounds.

An announcement over the speaker at Lucas Oil Stadium informed the teams of Smith’s departure. According to the NFL Network’s Adam Schefter, Smith had been booked on a 4 p.m. flight, but moved it up to 6 a.m. in order to get back and work out with his trainer in anticipation of his March 11 Pro Day at Alabama.

“If I had the chance to do it all over, I wouldn’t have handled it the way I did,” said Smith Saturday afternoon in a public statement. “I should have told my group leader that I was leaving, and I didn’t. I didn’t mean to ruffle any feathers or step on any toes. I didn’t mean to grandstand anyone at the combine. That was not my intention at all, and I apologize for my mistake.”

1. Crab caked – Standout Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree was sidelined for the combine with a stress fracture in his left foot, which he said occurred during the last game of the season.

“It’s an old injury I’ve been having,” said Crabtree. “I’ve never had any pain in it. I will run my 40, and after I do that, I will have surgery. I’m looking forward to going to the next level.”

Crabtree is believed by some to be a top five pick in the draft because of his playmaking ability. It will be interesting to see if his draft status falls and how long the injury and recovery prevent him from performing at 100 percent.