We'll have full reports later on in the day, but in the meantime, here's what to watch for in today's USC Pro Day, which is scheduled to start at around 11 a.m. on Cromwell Field — rain or shine:
Thirteen Trojans from last year's squad with NFL Draft hopes will participate. If past years are any indication, we'll also see a number of former players come out of the woodwork to appear in minor roles. Last March, former tight end Dominique Byrd appeared at Pro Day and caught passes from Mark Sanchez in workouts and signed with the Arizona Cardinals two months later. As for 2009 Trojans, well:
Safeties Taylor Mays and Will Harris will gather a lot of interest — for different reasons. Mays was a polarizing figure at the NFL Combine last month with his 40-yard dash time and impressive performances in the bench press, vertical jump and broad jump, but somewhat disappointing showing in individual workouts. His NFL.com scouting report reads: "He can be inconsistent with his angles and technique but relies on his great athleticism to recover and make the play." A good performance in safety-specific workouts would help him. Mays said Tuesday he would not run the 40 at today's event. Harris started all of last season and some of 2008 but didn't get an invitation to the combine. He could impress scouts in a workout setting.
Offensive linemen Charles Brown, Jeff Byers, Nick Howell and Alex Parsons will all work out. Brown has a reasonable shot at going in the first round of the NFL Draft, but is perceived by some as being somewhat soft. He could help himself by displaying a mean streak in workouts and in the weight room today. Any boosts in athleticism and/or agility Byers shows will benefit his reputation as a slower, older prospect. Parsons didn't shine in any workout areas at the combine. If he could show excellence in any specific activity or workout, it would help his draft prospects significantly. Howell was not invited to the Senior Bowl or East-West Shrine Game but did play in the Texas vs. the Nation All-Star Game. He will need a marquee performance to get drafted in April.
Cornerbacks Josh Pinkard and Kevin Thomas face similar questions. Pinkard has great size but likely needs a sub 4.6 40-yard dash time to be thought of as a corner at the next level rather than a safety. At 6-foot and 192 pounds, Thomas has fine size but would do well to display improved footwork in workouts.
Receiver Damian Williams has nothing to prove when it comes to route-running — scouts know him as a premier receiver in that aspect. Where he could help himself out would be in the 40. At just 197 pounds, Williams could go a long way toward soothing scouts' thoughts that he is a little too slow for his small frame to succeed in the NFL if he were to run under 4.50 in the 40-yard dash.
Running backs Joe McKnight and Stafon Johnson are in different spots. Johnson is fully recovered from the tragic throat injury that derailed his 2009 season and performed decently at the combine. His size and speed combination is projectable to the next level, but right now he stands as a mid-round pick. McKnight ran a 4.47 at the combine, so the speed is there. He put up solid numbers receiving in his time at USC, and will likely display that pass-catching ability today, which could entice scouts.
The story with tight end Anthony McCoy is that he will always put up great numbers and measurables — but not great production. He had just 46 catches in his four-year USC career. Reads his NFL.com scouting report: "McCoy is a good looking tight end that does not quite play up to his numbers." His initial quickness on routes is also a question mark.
Defensive end Everson Griffen doesn't have much to prove. He's a known workout warrior; what scouts worry about is his game film. While his NFL.com scouting report terms him "not an impact player" as a pass rusher, he needs to show today that he is in fact just that as a defensive end. If he does so, a first-round selection could be in his future.