NORMAN — Fresh off a second consecutive Big 12 championship and a Sugar Bowl title, the University of Oklahoma football team hosted its annual pro day Wednesday morning. Fifteen Sooners with NFL aspirations participated inside the Everest Training Center in front of 56 NFL personnel that included scouts, general managers and coaches, as well as a host of national and local media.
Jordan Evans Shines
Linebacker and Norman native Jordan Evans had perhaps the best showing among the 2017 Oklahoma Pro Day participants. After not being invited to the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine, Evans used Wednesday to prove he belongs among the best linebackers in this year’s draft class. He turned in great numbers across the board that are sure to help improve his draft stock.
“Overall I just wanted the scouts, when they wrote down some numbers, to be astonished and impressed,” Evans said of his big day. “I felt really good. From what I heard it was a really productive day. I’ll just let God take care of it from here.”
Starting with the leaping drills, Evans exploded for a 38.5-inch vertical that tied wideout Geno Lewis for the best of the day. The best vertical turned in by a linebacker at the NFL combine was 37.5 inches by Houston’s Tyus Bowser, placing Evans firmly at the top of his position group in terms of explosion.
“I think the highest I hit when I was training was 37 inches,” Evans said of the vertical leap. “So I was just trying to hit 35 or above and I got 38 and a half.”
Evans turned heads again with his 40-yard dash time. He ran 4.50 seconds on his first attempt and followed that with a 4.56 on his second. Linebacker/safety hybrid Jabrill Peppers from Michigan turned in the fastest 40 among linebackers at the NFL combine with a 4.46, but there is speculation among draft experts that Peppers will play safety at the next level. The second highest time at the combine, 4.58 from outside backer Duke Riley of LSU, came in slower than both of Evans’ attempts.
“At the end of the day you can’t control what people think of you,” Evans said. “I know what I can do and what I’m capable of. That was my No. 1 goal, to showcase my talents and my abilities and that’s what I did today.”
In addition to strong showings in explosion and speed, Evans had scouts buzzing with his great agility. He turned in a three-cone drill time of 7.03 seconds that would have been in the top 10 among linebackers at the combine, and then impressed yet again with a time of 11.35 seconds in the 60-yard shuttle that would have ranked third among all backers and second by an interior linebacker.
“I still remember my freshman year seeing pro day and it was crazy. I was saying there’s the Cowboys and there’s the Bengals,” Evans said with a smile. “There’s all these NFL teams and now I get to showcase my talents and these guys all know my name. It is just a dream come true and I’m blessed to have this opportunity. Like I said, I give God all the glory.”
After putting up big numbers all day, Evans couldn’t help but reflect on his success relative to the other linebackers in the 2017 draft class.
“Most definitely,” Evans answered when asked if he watched the NFL combine. “Obviously I’m competitive. I was watching all categories and there were some guys I was training with and the guys from OU I was supporting. But you better believe I was watching and comparing myself to the linebackers.”
Wide receiver Dede Westbrook posted maybe the single most impressive number of the day. The Heisman Trophy finalist and Biletnikoff Award winner turned in a pair of 40 times under the 4.4 mark, making him the fastest Sooner of the day. He clocked a 4.38 on his first run and then bested that time with his second attempt, turning in a blazing 4.34. That time would have ranked third among NFL combine receivers.
Despite his impressive time, Westbrook, who said he was hoping to run in the 4.2s, is confident he can still improve on those numbers.
“I’m all right,” he said. “I’m not happy with how things went as far as the 40 goes. I can run faster than that, but everything else went well and it was a pretty decent day.”
OU’s historic tandem of running backs had a great day on the 40-yard dash track Wednesday. Pflugerville, Texas, product Samaje Perine improved on the 4.65-second time he posted at the combine on both his attempts at pro day on Wednesday. His first run clocked in at 4.59 seconds while his second registered at 4.62, placing him firmly among the pack in terms of straight-line speed. Having already gone through the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine, Perine only participated in the 40-yard dash and position drills Wednesday.
One area in which Perine is certainly far ahead of the pack is strength. He led all running backs at the combine with 30 bench press reps of 225 pounds. That mark was higher than all the linebackers at the combine by three reps, tied for fourth among defensive linemen and was better than all but four offensive linemen. With elite strength, good speed and historic college production, Perine is sure to be sought after on draft day.
Mixon Checks All the Boxes
Fellow running back Joe Mixon impressed with his speed, as well. Mixon’s first and only 40 attempt saw him run a 4.43 that would have ranked fourth among backs at the combine, just .06 seconds behind T.J. Logan’s (North Carolina) leading time of 4.37.
Checking all the boxes all day, Mixon also turned in a time of 7.0 seconds in the three-cone drill, a test of short burst and agility. That time was met with plenty of positive talk among scouting personnel in attendance as it would have ranked sixth among running backs at the combine. At 6-0 and 222 pounds, Mixon displayed great straight-line speed as well as change of direction and burst.
On top of his running numbers, Mixon was great on bench press, as well, Wednesday. He put up 21 reps of 225 pounds that would have tied him for sixth among running backs at the combine.
While Dede Westbrook got most of the attention among the Oklahoma pass catchers in attendance, former Penn State transfer Geno Lewis improved his draft stock Wednesday. Lewis turned in a vertical leap of 38.5 inches that tied Evans for the best of the day. That mark would have been fourth best among combine receivers. Lewis also had the best broad jump of any Sooner with a mark of 10 feet, 9 inches.
Safety Ahmad Thomas also notched a good vertical leap, turning in a 36.5 inch jump that would have ranked sixth among combine safeties. Thomas turned in the best 20-yard shuttle time of the day as well, notching a 4.20.
Defensive tackle Jordan Wade had his best event on the bench press. He led all Sooner participants with 30 reps of 225 pounds, tying Perine’s combine mark. His 30 reps would have been tied for fourth most at the combine among linemen and the second most by a defensive tackle.