NFL combine preview

The NFL combine begins Thursday in Indianapolis. Eight USC prospects have earned invites to the festivities and will attempt to showcase their talents to the bevy of coaches and scouts in attendance.

Let's take a look at each prospect, with an eye on draft position and potential workouts where they could excel during this next week. They're sorted in alphabetical order, with listed height and weights from their USC biographies. Keep in mind that these measurements will probably be heavily adjusted in the next week after players are officially measured by the NFL:

Allen Bradford, RB, 6-0, 235 pounds

Bradford has the body type NFL teams like to see in a big, bruising runner, but his speed is questionable at best. His goal in Indianapolis, then, is simple: run a 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds or faster to show scouts and coaches he can be more than just an occasional ball carrier.

Another necessary task to prove that: perform well in catching drills. Bradford caught only eight passes in four years at USC and has serious questions attached to his pass-play skills.

Jordan Cameron, TE, 6-5, 245 pounds

Cameron screams workout warrior in every sense of the phrase. He never produced much of anything while at USC -- he totaled 16 catches for 126 yards and 1 TD in two seasons, plus a redshirt year -- but always possessed the potential to start, the potential to be a great pass-catching weapon.

He still has that potential. Teams know he's quicker, more agile and in possession of better hands than the average tight end prospect. Where he needs to prove himself is in blocking, so he'll need to let loose on the weights and display that he has all of the necessary footwork down pat.

Jurrell Casey, DT, 6-1, 300 pounds

Casey has been criticized by scouts recently for not having an ideal body type. He's short and squatty, they say, and not a premiere athlete.

What's wrong with that? Casey is, regardless of natural athletic ability, one of the best run-stopping tackles in this draft, without a doubt. He won't be a 10-sack guy at the next level, but he's quick and smart enough to warrant selection as an early second-rounder. To do that, he's got to make a team fall in love with his motor and line-specific skills, so the defensive line drills will be big for him this week.

Showing up with a more chiseled upper body wouldn't hurt, either.

Stanley Havili, FB, 6-1, 225 pounds

Havili's the brain of the bunch, the guy respected enough by his teammates to be voted as a team captain shortly after breaking another teammate's cheekbone in a fight just before the start of the season. He does all the little things right on the football field and is a true competitor, but NFL scouts rightly question whether he's a true fullback at the next level. There's not much he can do at the combine to combat those beliefs, because he is, after all, a bit lacking in bulk for the spot, and he's also been limited by a shoulder injury in recent months. He'll shine in interviews, though, and that influence can't be understated.

And, for Havili, catching the ball out of the backfield has always been his calling card of sorts, so he needs to keep that up at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Ronald Johnson, WR, 6-0, 185 pounds

He's quick and his agile, but will he have enough size in the eyes of NFL scouts? Johnson will measure in at 5-11 or smaller and will probably be lucky to hit 185 pounds on the scale. Hands are another question for him, as perhaps his biggest nationally recognized play in a USC uniform was the drop at the end of the Notre Dame game in November.

Kristofer O'Dowd, C, 6-5, 300 pounds

O'Dowd's knees are a serious question mark and teams will surely wonder just how much potential he has left in him, but he's another example of a player who will impress in interviews and probably get himself drafted higher than his skills and measurables would suggest.

How will his mobility be? His frame is just about maxed out, so his speed won't be getting much better at the next level.

Tyron Smith, RT, 6-5, 291 pounds

Smith has become USC's hottest prospect in the 2011 draft and by far the Trojans' best hope to be selected in the first round. He's another example of a workout warrior, a player who never really dominated games at USC in his two seasons as a starter but always held his own and now suddenly finds his name in the mix to be the top offensive tackle selected in the draft.

He could easily be one of the most talked about players in the draft come next week, depending on his performances in the weight room and on the scale. His weight will be a big question teams want to find an immediate answer to.

Shareece Wright, CB, 5-11, 185 pounds

Wright wasn't super-productive as a Trojan, but he has a rare attribute for corners that NFL teams love: he's a good tackler. While a bit small for the position, Wright doesn't necessarily play small, and he was a fairly reliable tackler as a senior last year. His ball-hawking skills are another story, though, as he dropped a number of potential picks during the 2010 season.

He may fit best in a zone scheme at the NFL, as he's smart enough to really understand the diagnostics of it all and provide adequate support to safeties and other defensive backs when needed. Wright will also be able to salvage some opinions of him if he runs fast enough -- think under 4.5 seconds in the 40 -- so that'll be another drill to watch.

Other USC seniors who didn't get a combine invite but are expected to work out for NFL scouts at USC's pro day next month include, but are not necessarily limited to: linebackers Malcolm Smith and Michael Morgan, quarterback Mitch Mustain, running back C.J. Gable and receiver David Ausberry. Kicker Joe Houston, punter Jacob Harfman and offensive guards Butch Lewis and Zach Heberer are also possibilities.